Leadership Decisions: Why We Don’t Notice
What We Need to Notice


Why don’t we notice what needs to be noticed when making key leadership decisions? I’ve been fascinated by Harvard Professor Max Bazerman’s book The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See (Simon & Schuster, 2014). It’s really caused me to think deeply about how leaders often miss key data for decisions – either by ignoring it – or because of influence by others and attention to the wrong things.

If we’re going to be successful leading organizations we can’t afford to be narrow-focused. As I posted previously, getting leadership decisions right hinges on noticing what we need to see, even when it’s inconvenient.

When a situation doesn’t seem quite right, we cannot afford to ignore data that flies in the face of commonly accepted values. This is not the time to accept insufficient evidence, refuse to raise questions, be unwilling to badger people or avoid upsetting the apple cart.

Silence and complacency promote corruption. Nonetheless, we tend to wait. We hope we’re not being overly sensitive or alarmist. We trust that others will notice and speak up for us. Read More »

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Leadership Decision-Making:
The Problems with Oversight

Decision-Making-OversightThe best leadership decisions are never made in isolation. In public companies, government offices and non-profits, regulation and oversight is required to ensure maximum outcomes for all stakeholders. But auditors and boards of directors often fail in their designated purpose.

In principle, regulatory boards are charged with overseeing leadership decision making. In reality, they often take direction from the leaders who appointed them in the first place. Boards with even the most skilled, highly educated and experienced members all too often fail to meet their fiduciary responsibilities.

In The Power of Noticing, Harvard Professor Max Bazerman presents case studies of oversight irregularities that have had catastrophic outcomes, along with revealing why this will continue to happen. Read More »

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Business Decision-Making:
The Rule of WYSINATI

Business-decision-makingWhen it comes to making successful business decisions, what you see is rarely all there is. Harvard Business School Professor Max Bazerman writes about this in his book, The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

I’ve been posting about common decision-making errors here and here, and how leaders can improve the skill of noticing.

More than a decade of research shows that when leaders take no notice of critical, readily available information in their environment, catastrophic outcomes can occur. This happens when they have blinders on, focusing on limited information they’ve predetermined to be necessary to make good decisions.

Making successful leadership decisions require vigilance. Leaders often fail to notice when: Read More »

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Business Decisions: What Are You Not Noticing?

Business-DecisionsAs a leader, you’re responsible for making key business decisions each day. But how confident are you in your ability to notice all pertinent information?

If you’re like most leaders, you probably believe your perception skills are keen. As convinced as you may be, it’s possible that you’re overestimating your aptitude.

Leaders often fail to notice when they are obsessed by other issues, when they are motivated to not notice, and when there are other people in their environment working hard to keep them from noticing. ~ Harvard Business School Professor Max Bazerman, The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See (Simon & Schuster, 2014)

What’s in front of you is rarely all there is. Read More »

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Business Decisions: Is There a Gorilla on the Court?

business-decisionsWhen you’re charged with making important business decisions, how good are you at noticing all details? If you play a sport, you’ve probably trained yourself to watch the ball carefully and to predict where it’s going. But do you focus so intently you miss other important data?

In several popular YouTube videos, people are entertained by social science experiments on noticing skills. In one, you are asked to watch a basketball game and tally up the number of passes made.

But the real question is not whether you get the number of passes correct, but whether you notice a man in a gorilla suit walk onto the court. (In earlier research, this was a woman with a red umbrella.) You can search for these experiments on YouTube with the terms attentional blindness, selective attention, or gorilla on basketball court. Read More »

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Three Fundamental Leadership Truths

Leadership-TruthsIf there are any fundamental leadership truths about what it takes to lead others effectively, these three principles should never be forgotten by anyone in charge of people. In the bestselling book, Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? authors Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones identify three fundamental truths about leadership:

  1. What’s required of leaders will always be influenced by the situation. An effective leader observes and understands existing situations, a skill called situation sensing. Great leaders excel at this. They’re in tune with what’s going on beneath the surface, adapting and selecting their skills to form the most effective response. At times, they may choose to conform; in other situations, they’re unafraid to risk being different. They deploy their best personal assets according to context. Not only do they reframe situations; they influence and reshape them to benefit the organization and the people they lead.
  2. Authority alone is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for exercising leadership and driving performance. Effective leaders exist at all levels, and successful organizations seek to build leadership capability widely.
  3. Leadership is always a social construct created by relationships. You cannot lead without followers. Followers, in turn, want their leaders to express feelings of excitement, meaning and personal significance; they want to be part of something bigger. That’s why we seek authenticity from our leaders. We need to be able to trust.

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Leadership Purpose: The Quest for Authenticity

Leadership-Purpose-and-Principles-Defining your leadership purpose has never been more important, if you are to be perceived as a truly authentic leader. Although some see it as a buzz word, the demand for authentic leadership has never been more evident. As hierarchies dissolve, only authentic leaders can fill the void. Power, trust and followership depend on leaders who know their purpose, express it in words and deeds, and help others find and implement their own raison d’être.

For most of us, it means we now realize that we need personal meaning and purpose more than ever to guide us. No corporation is going to provide it for us. We must also communicate our purpose more openly if anyone is going to follow us.

Without a clearly articulated purpose, meaning is elusive. People may know what’s expected of them, but they may not recognize why they should care. Leaders who know themselves and what truly matters express authenticity and inspire others to follow suit. Authentic leadership has become the most prized organizational and individual asset. Read More »

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3 Steps to Find Your Leadership Purpose

Leadership-PurposeFinding your leadership purpose is not easy. If it were, we’d all know exactly why we’re here and be living it every minute of every day. But it’s one of the most important things you need to do if you want to grow and develop into an even more effective leader.

Here’s how: You can begin to identify your leadership purpose by:

  1. Developing Your Stories. Mine your life story for common threads and major themes. Your goal is to identify your core strengths, values and passions—the pursuits that energize you and bring you joy. The following prompts may prove helpful:

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Know Your Leadership Purpose

Leadership-PurposeDo you know, understand and frequently articulate your core leadership purpose? How can we expect our leaders to provide us a sense of meaning and purpose when they themselves struggle with self-knowledge, meaning and fulfillment?

“We’ve found that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose,” confirm Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook in “From Purpose to Impact,” published in the May 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review. “Even fewer can distill their purpose into a concrete statement.”

Here’s what happens when I’m coaching executives in organizations: When interviewed at work about what gives their lives meaning, leaders parrot the latest corporate propaganda: Read More »

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Leadership Purpose: Why Should Anyone
Be Led by You?

Leadership-PurposeLet me ask you this: Have you identified your leadership purpose, and are you expressing it in every moment? Don’t worry if you haven’t, only about 20% of leaders say they have.

From what I see when I’m coaching leaders in organizations, there is a deepening disenchantment with traditional-style management. People are increasingly suspicious of the skilled and charismatic boss who echoes corporate mission statements and jargon. The search for authenticity in those who lead us has never been more pressing. Read More »

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