Drucker’s Insights On Leadership

The Effective Leader

Bob Stinson RLS Focused Solutions

leader In two previous articles, we discussed results-based leadership and some of the possible methods of making that happen. I want to share with you some of the thoughts written by the late Peter F. Drucker in an article entitled What Makes an Effective Executive published in the June 2004 issue of Harvard Business Review. In this article, he provides excellent insights into the development of your leadership style. His analysis is broken down into three major categories with steps within each. They include:

  • Get the knowledge you need
    • What needs to be done?
    • What is the right thing to do?
    • Convert the knowledge into action
      • Develop an Action Plan
      • Take Responsibility for Decisions
      • Take Responsibility for Communicating
      • Focus on Opportunities, Not Problems
      • Ensure Company-wide Accountability
        • Run Productive Meetings
        • Think and say “WE” not “I”

What Needs to Be Done?

Yes, what needs to be done, not what you need to do. Often a leader enters into a new position with a preconceived idea of what he wants to get done and, upon arrival, finds that there are issues of greater importance. This is true in business, charitable organizations and government. When George H. Bush ran for President in 1988, his most remembered campaign promise was, “read my lips, no new taxes”. But when he was elected and his understanding of the issues involved, he had to ask for an increase in taxes. The pundits ridiculed him for breaking a campaign promise, but in fact he showed great leadership in addressing the issue.

As a result of this knowledge gathering exercise, not just one but many issues will be identified. Trying to address them all at the same time will lead to a lack of focus and a diluted effort. The question becomes, “What needs to be done right now?” Prioritization of issues to be addressed must occur to effectively make progress.

What is the Right Thing to Do?

What is the right thing to do for the enterprise? Not, what is the right thing to do for me, the owners, the stockholders, the employees, or the executives?  Agonizing over the shareholders should become secondary.

The great majority of businesses in our county are family owned. Often family considerations need to be included in decision making. When it comes to promotions or the filling of a vacant position, a family member should not be considered unless they are the best qualified. Family members should join the firm at an entry level position and rise through the ranks based upon their abilities not their relationships.

Developing an Action Plan

The first stage of converting the acquired knowledge into action is the development of an Action Plan. That plan should include a step-by-step list of actions items to be completed, the reposnsibilty of those who must complete each item and a deadline for the completion of each action. The amount of time required to complete the overall plan may be 6 months, 12 months or longer. It is all dependent on the complexity of the plan.

An action plan is the basis for time management for those involved. Since the organization has focused on a priority issue to be achieved, the manager who is responsible for completing an action item should dedicate the required time to meet the deadline. The basis of any time management exercise is to establish a priority on the use of time during the day.

An action plan is a statement of intention, not commitment. Each plan needs to be reviewed on a regular basis and changes made as appropriate. It is not a strait jacket. Drucker points out, “Napoleon allegedly said that no successful battle ever followed its plan.”

Take Responsibility for Decisions

A leader must hold those who are responsible for completing action steps accountable, while also helping them overcome obstacles. There needs to be the acknowledgment of the completion of a step as a job well done. There also needs to be negative consequences for individuals who are not regularly completing tasks. Progress against the action plan needs to be the subject of regular meetings where everyone reports tasks completed and issues encountered.

Communication to all those directly affected by the plan is a key element. They must understand how it affects them personally and how it effects the things they do. Communication to those who are not directly affected is also needed to apprise them of the changing environment.

Focus on Opportunities, Not Problems.

That is not to say that you sweep problems under the rug. They need to be taken care of, but their solution returns the organization to the status quo. Opportunities produce results which help the firm grow and prosper.

Change needs to be considered an opportunity, not a threat. Look for the gap between what is and what could be. Look for unexpected failures which might be a learning experience, unveiling a new opportunity. Look for innovative processes, products and services both within your industry and in another industry. Look for demographic changes which show the way to the need for specialized services or products. Don’t be threatened by technological change, embrace it.

Think and say “We” not “I”

If you want to take all the credit for success, you may find you are on your own. In 1993, theleader computer giant was in deep trouble and on the verge of going out of business. Computer technology had changed drastically and IBM needed to go through a revolutionary strategic and cultural change. The Board brought in a new CEO, Louis Gerstner Jr, who had been CEO at RJR Nabisco, and had little knowledge of computer technology. His accounting of the turnaround at IBM is chronicled in his book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance. Unlike many industry leaders who tell how they developed their organizations and take the credit, Mr. Gerstner dedicates the book to the team who made it happen and praises them for their efforts. The book is worth reading.

RLS Focused Solutions is a firm dedicated to the development of individual and organizational leaders. Through our many programs we first seek knowledge, then development plans, and finally work with our partners on implementation. Lets start a conversation today. Email bob@plangoals.com or call (910) 55-1286.

Coaching People to Think

Coaching People to ThinkBob & Linda Stinson

As a young co-op student with General Motors, one of my first assignments was to work in the personnel department (we now call it HumanRelations). People would come in to apply for work. We would tell them to fill out an application and we would keep it on file. One day I was standing at the counter talking to a supervisor in the department when an applicant came through the door and asked, “What are the qualifications necessary to work here”. The supervisor replied, “Just a strong back and a weak mind”

Decades ago those were the qualifications for many jobs in the manufacturing sector. But today our requirements for employees, even in the manufacturing sector, have drastically changed. Those simple repetitive job functions have been replaced by robotic or computerized devices. And when automation is uneconomical, the job has been transferred to a low-skill, low wage geographic area of the world. This trend is evident not only in manufacturing, but in all other sectors of the economy.

Employees now need to make decisions, do problem solving, and be creative. Delegation and empowerment are the keys to flatten organizational structures and increasing productivity. The need for a strong back has given way to the need for a strong mind. This drastically changes the role of a manager or supervisor from that of giving intimate direction and control of their staff, to that of encouraging them to think for themselves. This calls for leaders to become the coaches of their team members, requiring new skills and attitudes.

In increasing employee performance, some have adopted the iceberg model, which suggests that although some of behaviors are visible, most of our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings lurk below the surface.

Many employees are highly capable individuals who want to work and be smarter. They are crying for help and it is up to business leaders to learn how to ask the right questions and conduct truly engaging coaching conversations. Dr David Rock, author of Quiet Leadership, Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work, suggests the following five-steps for establishing a coaching conversation and enabling self-directed learning:

  • Let the employee think through his specific issue. Avoid telling him what to do or giving advice. Ask questions about his though process.

  • Keep him focused on solutions not problems.

  • Challenge him to expand his thinking and stretch himself, instead of clinging to his comfort zone.

  • Focus on what he is doing well so you can play to his strengths.

  • Make sure there are clear processes behind every conversation. To be truly helpful, a coaching conversation requires permission to ask questions and explore possibilities.

As business and leadership coaches, we are continuously trying to see what lurks below the surface of the iceberg and help individuals achieve their full potential. All business leaders and managers need to develop these techniques. It is a key to business success in the 21st century and coaching can help. 

RLS Focused Solutions works on the development the full potential of organizations and individuals. Lets continue this conversation. Contact at bob@plangoals.com or call (910) 575-1286. Visit our Website: www.plangoals.com

Buidling More Effective and Impactful Boards

By Jim Thompson, CAE, IOM

In a recent BoardSource Non Profit Governance Index (CLICK HERE), CEOs and Board Members were asked to grade their Board performance. The results were very telling.

Several areas rated C or below and in many cases the board and the CEO agreed on those ratings. Some areas of agreement were: increasing diversity, community outreach, recruiting new board members, strategic planning/thinking, monitoring performance, and understanding their role.

While there was agreement, there was also disagreement. There were about four areas where the CEO rated a C and the Board gave itself a B (We always think better of ourselves, don’t we?).
The areas where they differed were: evaluating the Chief Executive, knowledge of organization’s programs, commitment and involvement, and guidance of the chief executive.

For the moment, I am just going to focus on the areas of disagreement.

One of these feeds the other. The reason many boards are not familiar with the organization’s programs is because of their level of commitment and involvement. And many studies, including the Governance Index, say that an informed and engaged board leads to a board that is effective and has impact.

So, how do you inform them and engage them?
It first starts with orientation. In the BoardSource study, it said that 90% of boards that have an orientation were rated as somewhat effective to very effective. Boards that did not have an orientation came in at 67%.

The relationship between the CEO and Board is supposed to be a partnership. And for a partnership to be successful each side needs to understand its role and also have clear definitions of what success is and how we measure that success. Perhaps this is the reason for the differences between CEOs and Boards in the area of evaluation and guidance.

One of the ways we improve this is for each group to have a job description and to have yearly evaluations based on goals created and agreed on by both parties.
Evaluations are not the most fun experience to go through and it was apparent by the survey that showed over 30% of CEOs had either never had an evaluation or it had been over a year. On the flip side, and one thing the BoardSource study didn’t address, is the evaluation of the board. All sides should have an annual evaluation. Its important for each side to know what went well, what didn’t and why and how to fix the problem?

In addition, take a look at this summary (CLICK HERE) by AENC member Jim Booth, on the Carver Governance Model. This is a great tool to more effective boards.

In a recent AENC Association Executive Roundtable we talked about the overall issues of board governance and there were several positive things that organizations are doing to make our boards more effective and engaged and there is more work ahead.

One success area was attributed to creating an operational plan that tied into the strategic plan. This idea was echoed as a way to get the committees more engaged in the process. Now they know what needs to be done because the board created a road map. And as your planning that road map, make sure you involve everyone in the planning process, especially staff. This helps really show the board all that goes on within the organization, an area where CEO’s ranked really low and the Board ranked higher. If staff is in the conversation, it makes it much easier to see why sometimes simply adding another program doesn’t make sense unless your willing quit doing something else.

Board member recruitment was one area both CEO and Board agreed. It was also an area of concern at our Roundtable. Boards are struggling to diversify and look more their existing members and also like their market potential.

Diversity we discovered wasn’t just about race or gender. There is also a big move to getting more young people involved. And even the definition of youth itself can be debated. There are young people in age and young people in terms of career. Some organizations are creating leadership academies or teams. Some are even given a seat at the board table as either ad-hoc members or in some cases an at-large position at the table.

The challenge for an association when it thinks about diversity is to go into it with a plan. In other words, don’t just recruit a young person for the sake of saying you have a young person, figure out why you want a young person and make sure you recruit the right young people that can help make it happen.
The Roundtable brought out several other issues.

  1. Trying to figure out how to communicate more effectively with the board
  2. How to get the board to be more innovative
  3. Strategy vs. Operational – the fine balance between the two
  4. Managing the growth of an organization
  5. The feeling we’ve lost that one-on-one approach
  6. Anxiety within the industry
  7. Disconnect between what the members see as important and board sees as important
  8. Getting boards to be more proactive than reactive

On the first issue, as we discussed earlier, part of the challenge of communicating to the board is what do you tell them? A well-craft strategic plan, with the accompanying operational plan, provides great conversation items that you can include in a regular email to the executive committee/board. Also, figure out unique ways to deliver information and engage them in the process. One way to tackle this and it brings back that one-on-one, have meetings with folks and go over the successes. Tell your story.

When it comes to having more innovative boards, this is where the diversity comes into play. If you want to continue going on the same path, keep doing things like they’ve always been done. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must become the change we want to see.”

The conflict between being strategic and being operational will always be present in board governance. There are times the CEO needs a board member for their brains and there are times when they are needed for their brawn. Again, going back to the orientation, as long as the board member understands that role and is evaluated regularly, we can mitigate some of that. As was suggested in the Roundtable a “Bored” board member will micro-manage. These folks are your 20%. They are the best and the brightest, so you better have something for them to do or they will find something to do. And worse yet, if you are trying to recruit younger members or those who are busy, nothing will be more of a turn-off than to be on a board that is a wastes their precious time.

When it comes to managing growth and getting boards to be proactive not reactive, you must make a serious commitment to strategic planning and getting more voices heard. Its not enough to know the needs of your board, you need to know member needs, potential member needs and even the needs of the general public. This will also help with the feeling of disconnect between members and the board of directors.

Here’s to helping your organization become more effective and create impact!

Women Leaders Making A Difference

By Guest Blogger – Pat Wilkins, Junior League of Raleigh President

Although the Junior League is more than 80 years old, I feel connected to the women who started the original association, which has grown into 293 Leagues across North America and in Great Britain. We are an organization of women motivated to make a difference in our communities and in the lives of the people who live there. We believe that women in our community have great potential to make positive changes and make lasting impressions, which is why we have worked for decades to train women as strong and respected leaders.

Why Focus On Women As Leaders?

As a women’s organization, we have an outstanding opportunity to equip the next generation of women leaders. The women with whom we work are passionate about service and their communities, and they want to show their colleagues and families what kind of influence community involvement can have. What we have discovered in the past century is that with many women’s unique skill sets, combined to accomplish common goals, can make a much greater difference than many people could working individually. Unfortunately, we have a shortage of women leaders in areas varying from business to nonprofit organizations, which is something we feel strongly about changing. As we work with talented and capable women, it is clear that they do not simply want to be a member of a community, but want to make it better.

Leaders Versus Volunteers

Volunteering, including the much-appreciated giving of time and service, is essential to the success of organizations and community groups. Many people, however, do good works within their community and world without the needed training to make a lasting impact for years to come. When volunteerism is combined with solid leadership training, the result is unmatched. We have been able to create a model that has made a significant impact on League operations, in addition to being an effective guide for other organizations to follow. Our system is simple and yet sets the Junior League apart from other organizations – we train our volunteers as leaders. League members are trained and equipped with the skills and knowledge that will help them take initiative to drive positive change wherever they work and serve. Once they have received training within the League, our members share their knowledge with organizations and other volunteers with whom they work. We have seen firsthand the difference it makes when a person with expertise and the proper training is the one to establish new community centers or mentoring programs. They have the confidence to identify and solve problems, as well as to take the necessary steps to make a new program successful.

Strong Leaders’ Positive Impact On Their Community

These women can take the training they receive in the League and go out into the community as advocates and leaders in many different areas, focusing on places where they see unmet needs or on causes that are of personal significance. In the past, we have had women open advocacy centers, start foundations, fundraise, run their own boards and coordinate countless volunteer efforts. When there is a need in the community, we are committed to recognizing and remedying it.

One of my favorite examples is the SAFEchild child-abuse prevention and intervention organization that the Junior League of Raleigh established in 1992. There was an unmet need in Raleigh to protect children from abusive situations, and the League sent members to staff the newly created organization as it began serving the community. We continue to serve and support SAFEchild, but this outstanding group now stands strongly on its own, effectively serving our area’s children. This is a classic example of the way our members equip others with the leadership skills necessary for an organization to thrive.

Our members are busy – 90 percent work outside of the home, and 50 percent work outside the home and have children – but their commitment to the local community and the League is the driving force behind their desire to give such dedicated service. The success of our organization is the direct result of effective leadership training, whether it’s learning to lead a fundraising team such as our successful A Shopping SPREE!, a community team such as SAFEchild or an in-League team that handles the League’s public relations or publishing our magazine. We are proud to be able to capitalize on the opportunities that exist to equip women with the tools they need to succeed.

Why Re-Evaluate Your Company Culture?

By Guest Blogger Douglas David

Even a great company culture can eventually break down and need repair if it is not tended to regularly. Best practices are based on the four business outcomes of profitability, productivity, staff retention and customer loyalty—and any one of these outcomes can become broken over time.

To prevent a nose dive in your company’s profitability, low staff morale, lack of productivity, or customers that drift away and do not return to do business with you, it is important for a company to re-evaluate and fine tune its culture on a periodic basis.

Begin With Your Inner Circle

The shared values and knowledge of a company culture begin with the “inner circle” of management. This is the group of individuals you trust and turn to the most. If relationships are not right within this circle, the devastation settles like a poisonous fog over the rest of the company. For instance, if two members of the inner circle cannot agree and take opposing, hostile stances, you will end up having a polarized company—which usually means a paralyzed one.

When re-evaluating your company culture, examine and work with your inner circle first to build trust among the individuals involved. This group must banish any power games of ego and control, and ensure team effort instead. Creating extraordinary customer experiences and satisfaction requires a coordinated team effort. To ensure a team attitude, for example, my company works under a Team-Based Pay (TBP) system rather than a traditional commission-based system, which is the norm for the beauty industry. But sometimes re-evaluating culture means going against the norm.

Review Profitability Constantly

The trusted inner circle should know the business’s cash flow, break-even point, income and expenses. As the leaders, they should know where your company stands every week on purchasing, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Without the constant review of the company financials, leaders cannot make informed decisions about expanding operations, purchasing new assets or developing a new product or service. Shared knowledge about profitability is vital to the health of your company culture.

Examine Productivity and Staff Retention Issues

Staff satisfaction, productivity and retention are all related strongly to company culture. Here again, knowledge is power, and it is important to know how people feel about working for your company, what motivates them, why they stay and why they leave. Keep tabs on these factors through feedback meetings, surveys and other forms of communication, and continuously work to keep employees engaged.

Cultivate Customer Loyalty

Cash flow is related strongly to customer loyalty. It is important to know who your best and worst customers are, and to cultivate the best ones. Are relationships healthy between your staff and your customers? These are issues you cannot afford to ignore.

Neglect your company culture and your business will fail to thrive. Re-evaluate and repair that culture regularly to ensure a smooth-running organization. You will be rewarded with longevity in your business, productivity among your employees and loyalty from your customers.

Douglas David is a star stylist and leader in the beauty industry who is a member of Intercoiffure, the most powerful and influential organization in the hair dressing industry. He is the founder of the nationally and internationally recognized Douglas Carroll Salon, located at 6325-27 Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh. For more information, visit http://www.douglascarrollsalon.com.

Building the Involvement of Women at all Levels of Governance in North Carolina

By Guest Blogger Annette Taylor

Women come from every industry to run for public office or dedicate themselves to public service work. They are business entrepreneurs, health care workers, nonprofit volunteers, executives, scientists, government employees, housewives and more—their backgrounds are as varied as one can imagine.

Political decisions are often made with small business in mind, however, so an understanding of how business operates is very helpful. Raleigh’s own Mayor Nancy McFarlane, for example, is the owner and founder of MedPro Rx, Inc., an accredited specialty infusion pharmacy that provides infusion medications and services to clients with chronic illnesses.

Sometimes women may start out as a volunteer with the school system before launching themselves into public office. They might be homemakers who have volunteered their efforts to their local neighborhood association. One county commissioner in Hillsborough grew tired of the unfinished buildings she kept seeing on the roadside, so she began asking around to find out what the issue was behind these eyesores. Someone suggested to her, “Why don’t you get on the planning committee?” and that became her start. After her advocacy led to some changes, she left for vacation one day, and when she returned, the mayor asked her to run for office!

To serve on appointed boards and commissions or win an appointed or elected office, women must have a passion for a particular issue. That is the true ticket to public service. It takes understanding of how to turn that passion into action in order to take advocacy to the next level. If you want change to happen, you must be a part of that change.


From a practical viewpoint, though, it often takes a mentor for a woman to succeed in public office or public service work. Many women do not know that programs such as ours exist. The North Carolina Center for Women in Public Service (NCCWPS) is a nonpartisan organization that prepares women to seek and serve in elected and appointed office, advocates for systems and structures that facilitate women’s involvement, and promotes the value of women’s participation in governance.

We offer two major programs:

  • Women on Board Workshops – A one-day interactive workshop in which participants are prepared to seek and serve in appointed positions. Individuals learn about the barriers women face, how to navigate boards and commissions, and develop strategies and next steps to appointed office.
  • Women in Office Institute – A six-day residential intensive leadership academy where participants gain knowledge about the political process and gain the confidence to explore or pursue governmental leadership. Participants hone their leadership skills, prepare for political campaigning, and develop tools for effective and ethical public service.

Of the 103 graduates of the Women in Office Institute since 2004, 50 percent are now directly involved in public service through either an appointed or elected position, 22 percent have run for or been elected to office, and 31 percent have secured appointments.  More than 200 community leaders have participated in the Women on Board workshops, and approximately 15 percent have reported pursuing a local advisory board appointment.

In our workshops, one of the most exciting segments is the panel discussion, which features three female elected officials who share their public service experience and answer participants’ questions. An ideal audience size for the Women on Board workshops is about 25 women, but we have hosted as many as 40. Women must submit an application and $30 fee to participate in workshops. For acceptance into the Women in Office Institute, an interview process is expected.  The ideal class size for the Institute is 16 to 18 women. Ideal candidates will indicate a commitment to public service, express clearly their passion for an issue or cause, as well as interest in addressing the societal problems that exist.


We teach women all the fundamentals of political campaigning, ethics, public speaking strategies and, communications—including social media—and fundraising. We believe that appointed boards and commissions are the springboards for elected office. Before we go into a town and hold a workshop, we do our own research and find out what vacancies exist on the boards or commissions, and we provide workshop attendees with that information.

Through building the involvement of women at all levels of governance in North Carolina, the NCCWPS helps women channel their passion, find their voice, expand their support network and ultimately get elected or appointed to a position where they can be an influential leader and make a real change through public service.

Annette Taylor is executive director for the North Carolina Center for Women in Public Service (NCCWPS), a nonpartisan organization that prepares women for elected and appointed offices statewide. For more information, call (919) 832-9996 or visit http://www.nccwps.org.

20-Seconds of Insane Courage

Over the Christmas vacation, my wife and I went to see the film “We Bought a Zoo”. It was a comedy/drama and was one of those movies that the kids would have thought funny, at times and would have been really confused or sad during others.

Our story begins with Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), recently widowed, trying to cope with the death of his wife and having to raise a 14-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. In order to get a new start and escape all the sad memories, Mee decides to give his kids a new experience and purchases an old zoo.  Click here for the  trailer.

He takes many chances in this film and ultimately saves the zoo, its staff and reconciles with his son, whom he fights with throughout the movie, and gives his daughter some very special memories. It’s a movie that is quite funny, extremely emotional in several parts and teaches a very important lesson that Mee is able to demonstrate on many levels throughout the movie to the zoo employees and his children and brother.

During one of the last scenes of the movie, Mee and his son have a great heart-to-heart about love and life and he tells his son, “All you need is 20-seconds of insane courage, and I promise you, something great will come of it.”

This movie is a great example of what associations have to have sometimes to be successful. And whether its you as the CEO that feels like this or whether you inspire your staff to think like this, sometimes you have to put your shield on and have 20-seconds of insane courage to make something happen and fulfill your mission as an organization. Or, make a change to a policy or event. 20-seconds of insane courage can be something you celebrate if you just take the chance.

Where do you need 20-seconds of courage?