You have found BU's Leadership Corner. On this blog we explore the topic of leadership with our Masters of Science in Leadership community and the general public. We aim to provide quality content which will be useful to your everyday life. Leadership is not a simple subject, but through open discussion we may all advance. Explore, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The BUB Summer Newsletter is out!

Click the image below to access the full June/July BUB Newsletter:

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Leading your Team in a Complex Organization

It's all well and good to learn leadership skills if you're the boss of a small business, or otherwise have complete authority and position power over everyone else.  In such a position you aren't guaranteed to lead well or command the respect and motivation of your followers, but at least you have the advantage of formally being the one one top.
But most of us work at one level of a larger organization, where there are not only those below us but people in several layers above us.  How do we manage to carry out organizational and individual goals when our power is not absolute?

*you are here
You can manage up- using influence and persuasion to help shape the views and actions of those above you. You can also practice image management where you consciously help shape others' opinions of you.  If you lead a team, you can help make that team one of the strongest and most effective and motivated in the organization.

Actions that a leader can take to foster teamwork, using only their own resources, include:

  • Define the team's mission and tasks- Everyone wants to know answers to the same basic questions: What are we doing here?  Why are we a team?  Where are we going?  What are the steps to get there?  What is expected of me, both individually and as a member of the team?   People rise to expectations, and if they are not set, then everyone is left to their own devices to try to figure out the goals of the group and where they fit in.
  • Establish a climate of trust- This means as a leader you walk the talk.  Speak clearly and stick to your word.  A culture is top-down and this will set the tone for your group.  In addition, convey to your team members your confidence in their intentions and motives and the sincerity of their word.  If you are proven wrong, so be it, but begin from a position of trust.  Honor confidences.  If your team members know that they can come to you in confidence and what they say won't be let out or held against them, their loyalty will increase.  Focus on solving problems rather than assigning blame when something wrong happens.  Finally, admit mistakes.
  • Develop norms and expectations of team behavior, including bolstering team members' emotional intelligence skills.  You can take this as far as going through team role training, where everyone finds out what the ideal team composition is, and what role they excel at.  After this type of training you may even see an increase in the team's ability to manage itself.  
  • Share power- pay attention to who can wisely take on more responsibility and don't be afraid to give power away- it's one of the few things you get more of by giving away!
  • Establish and nurture a team identity and foster healthy competition with another team (the key word here is "healthy"!)
  • Lead by consensus and not absolute power- get team members' opinions on upcoming decisions and inform them of the pros and cons of each decision.  This doesn't mean that everything is decided by vote, or that everyone is happy in the end.  It means that you took the time to inform them, ask them what they thought, and weigh their perspective.
  • Encourage "inside jokes" and jargon- every culture has its own language, humor, and customs.  While you don't want to ostracize outsiders, a little inside humor- even something as simple as affectionate nicknames- can help build a stronger team.
  • Don't micromanage- This gets back to the trust issue.  Give your team members goals, and let them achieve them.  You don't have to check in every step of the way.  Manage them by objectives, not by micro-tasks.  Of course, this depends on the level of skill of your team, but in general, trust people to do what you ask of them until proven otherwise.  Part of this is making yourself available and approachable so that if they do encounter a problem, they will come to you early and often to help resolve it.  If you are distant and imposing, you may not hear of an issue until its blown out of control.  
This may seem like a simple list, but each one of these takes dedication and commitment on your part as the leader.  More so if you have already set the tone differently in your group.  But these are ways that you can increase the efficacy, efficiency, and atmosphere of your immediate group.  Who knows- you may even end up having more fun doing it.
Go Team!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The May BUB Newsletter is out!

The BU Brussels May Newsletter is Out. Click on the image below to access the full pdf:

If the above link doesn't work, click on the address below:

Monday, April 30, 2012

BUB Student Brings Value to her Employer with Assignment

As part of her course Project Risk and Cost Management, Hasnae took the opportunity to apply a class project to her intership experience. The result was not only a top-notch project, but real value delivered to her client- in this case, her employer.

The assignment tasked students with researching an company and its industry, identify and assess risks at both the industry and company-specific levels, develop a response plan with contingency planning and risk response control, and make a formal recommendation.

Hasnae is employed by an international company based in Antwerp and Paris. She took the initiative to meet with her company’s general manager on several occasions and delivered the final product to them. Impressed, they took her recommendations into consideration. Here, she answers a few questions on the project.

1) What was the greatest learning that you achieved from this project?

One of the best things I achieved from this project is being able to complete a risk management plan for a company who has great potential but who is facing serious issues which are currently affecting its business. To have the company’s manager and designer approve of my project and take into consideration what I had to say was in itself an achievement for me. I had to take the issues of the company and structure them in a way which was clear, concise, accurate, and well built. It was challenging but once the five projects were complete and all the pieces of the puzzle were put together, I read through all assignments to see whether they all fit together and as I was reading from one assignment to the next, solutions to the issues presented became more and more visible which is the goal of a risk management project. Being able to pinpoint the issues any business is facing and build a plan leading to solving these issues is a great achievement.

2) In what areas would you have done differently if you were starting this project again?

If I could do things differently, I would go into more detail in the project by having several meetings with the general manager in order to understand the details of how they run the company, and more importantly how they deal with issues on the spot. Being able to observe and work on my risk management plan at their office may have given my project the possibility of being more detailed and possibly being able to identify more issues and risks the company is faced with and even come up with better solutions to these issues.

3) How are you taking forward your final recommendations with the company?  (i.e. are you sharing this final report – are you planning to continue to work with them, etc.)

I am going to share my final report with the company. I will be having a meeting to present the rest of my project (since I have already presented them with the first part) and then I will have a third meeting to provide them with a detailed explanation on how they can proceed with the recommendations and how to take action. I will guide them through each step of the risk management plan if they are willing to implement it as soon as possible.

4) What is the most important element that you have in mind about risk management that you will carry over to any future projects that you do?

The most important element about the risk management plan and something that I will keep in mind and carry out in future projects is that the risk identification part of a project is the most important since that sets the ground work for the rest of the projects after this step. It is important to take the time to fully complete the risk identification project and ensure that all risks are identified.  Additionally, the more detailed a risk management plan is, the easier it is to implement it. This is something I would like to focus on on future projects, making the risk management very detailed and taking a good amount of time identifying risks.

An Interview with Charles Crouch

This month we bring you an interview with Charlie Crouch, who was a faculty member at BUB and now lives in Australia and works as the Executive Advisor at EMF - The Forum of e-Excellence.
His website is www.charlescrouch.com, where he’s posted a number of articles about getting started online, as well as a place to order his ebook.
Charlie, thanks for sitting down with us.  I say sitting down, but you and I are 17 time zones apart as we conduct this interview.  You've lived in all over the world- from San Francisco to Belgium and now Australia.  Many of our students live an international life as well.  Did you follow opportunity or was it wanderlust?

It was an opportunity to do something different. We had been living in Europe, London and then Brussels, for some time, and this is a chance to see another part of the world. Australia has a long cultural relationship with the West but is geographically located closer to the East. This gives the country an interesting outlook as the two swirl and mix together here.

You spent some time as an instructor at BUB.  Do you still currently teach?

Teaching at BUB was a great experience. Teachers do indeed learn as much as the students. I am not currently teaching, but I am looking for something similar here in Melbourne. In the meantime I have spoken and moderated sessions at a number of local conferences about doing business online. Going to them as a "lecturer in e-business from BUB" is a big plus, it differentiates me from the others on the program.

I understand you're in the final phases of publishing a book: How to Manage Your Website Project;What inspired you to write it? 

While teaching is important to me, I do spend a lot of my time consulting, helping companies improve their online performance. Typically these companies have a website, and it just isn't working. I have led a number of projects to build and rehabilitate websites, and I see the same issues coming up again and again. This book is a non-technical guide to help people who are running a website project, showing them what is different and offering tips and tools to better manage their project.

You mention in the introduction that assumptions one makes about a company, technology, and even customer behavior are different online.  Why does this seemingly small shift (offering goods and services online) change so many aspects of doing business?

Going online may appear to be a small, simple shift, but it is not. Setting up an online store is easy, today many services offer online stores, ready-to-go. But the online world operates by different rules, and not knowing or understanding these rules trips up many online ventures. For example, customers behave differently online, becoming more demanding and specific, but also willing to engage in conversations with companies that either infatuate or infuriate them. If one does not take these differences into account when setting up the store, then it will have problems.

Do you see the explosion of online retailing as a more of a challenge or an opportunity for businesses?  Would the answer be different for large businesses than for small ones? 

Online retailing is both a challenge and an opportunity. Going online exposes a business to new issues such as worldwide competition, different customer behaviors, and a reliance on complicated technology. On the other hand, the online marketplace is global, and your store is now open 24 hours a day for shopping. Most important, in the online world value for customers can be produced in new, different ways. Often the value is not the products or services, rather they are being offered for sale in a new and different manner which customers find valuable for themselves.

When I lived in Brussels I felt that many online offerings such as banking, insurance, and other services were extremely inconvenient compared to what I was used to in the US.  In some cases it was easier to walk to the bank in person (even not speaking the language!) than to try to figure out their website.  Do you notice a difference in how businesses approach the online platform in different parts of the world?

Yes, here in Australia they are behind in selling online by a couple of years. This is in part due to Australia's geographic isolation, smaller market, and local dominance by some big players. However the Internet has arrived, especially mobile, and foreign companies see Australia as a place for expansion and market share growth. Many foreign companies are setting up online stores especially for Australia, and the shipping companies are making it easy to deliver goods here. The local retail market is currently undergoing a great upheaval.

Your book touches on the subject of project management- do you have any advice for our project management students about to head out into the job market?

BUB gives you a great foundation of skills and knowledge. As you advance in your career, you will be presented with opportunities to learn new things and gain new experience, sometimes seemingly not related to project management. Do not pass these up, take advantage of them. Project management works across a wide range of disciplines, and you never know when something will be useful.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Techniques for Developing Charisma

Today we're going to take a look at eight ways that you can develop charisma.  Charismatic leaders maximize the relationship between themselves, group members (followers), and other stakeholders.  They increase their referent power (the ability to influence others because one is well liked) and expert power (the ability to influence others because of specialized skills or knowledge).

How, you might ask, do they increase these measures of power?  By painting a vivid picture or vision for others, being dramatic and unique, being a good storyteller, and being an affable "character."  Charismatic leaders are especially effective at what they do, and communicate using metaphors and analogies to inspire others.  They also know their audiences and tailor their messages accordingly.  After all, leading a pack of girl scouts takes different communication tactics than leading a squad of marines!

Undoubtedly, some are born more naturally charismatic than others.  Yet there are ways to develop charisma:*

1. Create vision for others.  Paint a picture of where you are all going, and how great it will be to get there.  Attract others to your vision by describing it in ways that are meaningful to them.

2. Be enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic.  Note: this does not mean be fake and inauthentic.  Cultivate your real enthusiasm and share it with others.

3. Be persistent.  Don't take no for an answer unless you really have no other option.  What does this mean?  Use energetic good-natured stubborness to push until you can't push anymore.  Then know when to change your strategy.

4. Remember people's names.  Everyone's loves hearing their own name.  Of course you can use tricks and techniques to remember names, but the good old fashioned (and best) way to learn people's names is to actually get to know them and care about them on a personal level.

5. Develop synchrony with others.  This hsa to do with connecting well- "clicking" with others.  Search the internet for an emotional intelligence self-test and find ways to develop your EI (emotional intelligence).

6. Develop a personal brand, including making an impressive appearance.  Be bold (but not ridiculous) and let your personality out a little bit.  As long as you have the skills and knowledge to back you up (and you are tactful - see #5 above), a little flair and confidence can go a long way. 

7. Be candid.  As long as you are adept at delivering difficult news, speak your mind and communicate directly.  You don't want to be abrasive, but simple effective communication is an asset for a leader.  Don't beat around the bush- get to the point while still being respectful and polite.

8. Don't be afraid to be tough and aggressive when needed.  Although this can isolate you from some people, if your assertiveness is warranted it can gain you a lot of respect from your followers.  For example, think of a bartender.  While it pays to be a nice guy and treat everyone well to get good tips, the best bartenders know when to lay down the law and get tough with unruly patrons.  Kicking out someone who is harassing others at the bar will win lots of goodwill (and tips!) from all the remaining good customers.

*List adapted from DuBrin's textbook Principles of Leadership, one of BUB's recommended core texts on leadership.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The April Newsletter is Out!

The BU Brussels April Newsletter is Out.  Click on the image below to access the full pdf:

If the above link doesn't work, click on the address below: