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Tag Archives: leadership skills

Influential authority vs positional authority (and the chimpanzee Mike)

The topic of influential authority versus positional authority comes up often in my discussions with leaders.  Not long ago though, it came up in an unexpected context.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Dr. Birute Galdikas, renowned primatologist and one of the world’s leading experts in orangutans.  Just as Jane Goodall did for chimpanzees and Dian Fossey did for mountain gorillas, Dr. Birute has devoted her life to learning about and protecting orangutans.  As a (not-so-secret) all-things natural science geek all my life, meeting and conversing with her was definitely a bucket list item for me!  When Dr. Birute learned that I run a leadership development consultancy, she started drawing parallels between primate behaviour and leadership, and shared several behavioural examples and stories.

Mike, the chimpanzee, and his rising status

influential authority

One story in particular stuck with me, likely because her telling of it was so funny.  She told me about Mike, a chimpanzee that had been observed by Dr. Jane Goodall for many years.  Mike was a young male in a troupe, and quite submissive to all the other males.  That is, until one day when he accidentally discovered how he could intimidate all the other chimpanzees.  He started batting a gasoline can around, and realized quickly that all the loud thuds and irritating banging noises made the other chimpanzees nervous and apprehensive of him.  With some practice, Mike was able to run down the narrow forest Continue reading

Doing your job or doing your work?

jobAre you doing your job or are you doing your work?  Job and work.  Is there a difference? Absolutely.

A restaurant owner’s job is to produce great food.  But the best restaurants are the ones that also focus on giving their patrons an enjoyable dining experience.  That’s the owner’s work.

The front-desk receptionist’s primary responsibility may be to answer the phone pleasantly.  That’s his job.  But he also needs to think critically to solve problems, and adapt to shifting priorities.  That’s his work.

What about a doctor?  Sure, her job is to diagnose and cure diseases.  But the best doctors are the ones who ask questions, listen to the answers, and take the time to invest emotionally in their patients.  That’s her work.

Job versus work

The job is the hard skills, the expertise or the technical knowledge to get things done.  It’s what most of us study and train for.  But work incorporates the soft skills.  Continue reading

Don’t set employees up to fail

I often blog about how managers, sometimes inadvertently, set employees up to fail.  Unfortunately, this issue comes up repeatedly.  Which leads me to the opening question in today’s post: if you want to successfully run a marathon, would you do it blindfolded?

Would you run a marathon blindfolded?

set employees up to fail

Of course not.  Yet, it is exactly what is asked of so many employees by their managers in workplaces across the country!  And every time they do that (often unintentionally), they set employees up to fail.

When people are asked to complete tasks or fulfill responsibilities but they are not given the tools and information they need in order to successfully get the job done, it is the metaphoric equivalent of trying to run a marathon without the benefit of sight.  Even if there are people on the sidelines shouting out instructions, yelling louder does not get the runner to the finish line.  What the marathoner really needs to be successful is an overview of the course with a mental picture of the finish line, adequate running gear (shoes, etc.), mile markers at strategic points to indicate progress, onlookers offering encouragement along the way, and oh yes, the crystal-clear ability to see where s/he is going.

How would you remove the blindfold at work?

In a work environment, the metaphoric “removal of the blindfold” includes: Continue reading

5 Reasons Why Accountants Make Great Leaders

170108_CA-smI have such exciting news to share today!  I am delighted and honored to announce that I will be one of the regular Opinion columnists for the brand-new website Canadian Accountant that was just launched this week.  Canadian Accountant is Canada’s independent news source for the accounting profession and will focus on informational, motivational and aspirational content relevant to accounting and finance professionals.  It is the brainchild of my long-time professional colleague Colin Ellis, who is also the award-winning writer turned entrepreneur, and the former editor of D&A Magazine published by CPA Ontario.

Valuable information even if you’re not an accountant!

Now I am well aware that the vast majority of you who read this blog are likely not accountants, but I don’t want you to assume that the word “accountant” means that this site shouldn’t be of interest to you.   Quite the contrary!  Sure, there will be lots of accountant-specific stuff (like tax and financial reporting!), but there will also be plenty of content that is relevant to anyone who just works in the world of business (and I mean profit as well as not-for-profit).  Over the next few months, expect to see stories on business, leadership and strategy, all of which I know you’ll find useful. Continue reading