Amy Edmondson

Psychological safety takes off the brakes that keep people from achieving what’s possible. But it’s not the fuel that powers the car. In any challenging industry setting, leaders have two vital tasks. One, they must build psychological safety to spur learning and avoid preventable failures; two, they must set high standards and inspire and enable people to reach them.

Maud Lindley, Jeffrey Schwartz, and Malcolm Thompson

Why should organizations care about groupthink? Why not just let the prevailing point of view stand? That may be an expedient solution, but it can cause problems in the long run. An innovative enterprise needs employees who feel that they can contribute freely and bring their whole selves to work. If people are expected to rise above the status quo and challenge their competitors, they … [ Read more ]

Maud Lindley, Jeffrey Schwartz, and Malcolm Thompson

If you’re a leader taking a stand on values in your enterprise, you have a seemingly Herculean task: to engage all your employees, regardless of their attitudes and backgrounds. It’s not possible to achieve your goal by excluding the people who disagree with the prevailing corporate point of view. Nor can you avoid values altogether these days; some topics, including diversity and inclusion, LGBT identity, … [ Read more ]

Howard Yu

In the midst of predictive analytics and machine learning, with big data sweeping across sectors and industries, the importance of small data cannot be overstated. Big data and machine learning concern themselves with correlation, not causation. Computers excel at precision, rigor, and consistency, but they are not designed to integrate social interactions across domains, or traverse data online and offline, or come up with a … [ Read more ]

Liz Sweigart

I’ve seen senior executives become entranced by profitability, resource production, asset utilization, top-line revenue, and any one of a number of other measures. As a result, they take their eye off cash. The outcome is predictable: The income statement strengthens while the balance sheet weakens and, ultimately, the company falters because it can’t pay its bills.

Liz Sweigart

If cash is king, why is it treated as a by-product rather than a focus? I argue that the most important thing to look at in evaluating business performance is cash accessibility, or the ability of a company to use its free cash when and where it needs it. Businesses may have cash tied up in different places for a variety of reasons — often … [ Read more ]

David Reimer, Adam Bryant, Harry Feuerstein

Our work with succession candidates indicates that a track record of grooming multiple effective leaders is an oft-overlooked measure of authentic leadership capability, yet a reliable predictor of C-suite performance. It is also a measure of self-awareness; people who rise quickly in an organization usually have bosses who are looking out for their best interests.

A leader who develops leaders is also more likely to … [ Read more ]

Changing the Game for Women

Increasing the number of women at every level of an organization is possible if its leaders are ready to use practical solutions.

Michael Pennisi

All leaders cast a shadow. It’s really easy to be a star when times are good. But when things are difficult, and particularly during times of great change, you learn what leaders are made of. People want confidence that you know where this is going. Then they’ll follow you.

Jim Clifton

Most well-meaning people are wrong about where startups come from. They believe startups come from innovation. But we found that startups come from what we call the “builder” quality: the entrepreneurial personality that leads people to start new ventures and bring them to success.

Deniz Caglar, John Ranke

Although executives intuitively know that taxes are important to the company’s ultimate profitability (and income available to shareholders), they don’t often evaluate these costs as part of the restructuring effort. Rather, they treat taxes as a cost of compliance, after the major decisions are made. Consequently, they are likely either to create tax inefficiencies or to miss opportunities to put their companies in a better … [ Read more ]

Sally Helgesen, Marshall Goldsmith

Trying to master every detail of your job in order to become an expert is a great strategy for keeping the job you have. But if your goal is to move to a higher level, your expertise is probably not going to get you there. In fact, such mastery often serves to trap you in your current role. […] Of course, we’re not advocating sloppy … [ Read more ]

Sally Helgesen, Marshall Goldsmith

People buy what you’re selling because they like and trust you, and because they believe that what you offer may have value for them. Why do they believe this? Because you so obviously do. Mesmerizing belief in the product is the secret of every great salesperson.

John K. Coyle

All of us — individuals, teams, and organizations — have weaknesses. These are not skill gaps; those can be corrected with learning. Weaknesses are inherent deficiencies of talent or capability that do not change even after aggressive efforts to improve them. Pride and our ingrained work ethic may cause us to deny our weaknesses, but acceptance is the first step toward designing for strength.

[…] … [ Read more ]

Taya Cohen

Moral character is a broad dimension of personality that captures a person’s tendency to think, feel, and behave in ethical ways. It subsumes a number of more specific traits. For example, guilt proneness is an important moral character trait. People who have high levels of guilt proneness have a strong conscience — they feel guilty when they make mistakes or let others down. Moreover, they … [ Read more ]

Freek Vermeulen

Stopping doing certain things is a different route to innovation.

Freek Vermeulen

Benchmarking is by definition where companies look at the best-performing companies in their industry. What companies don’t look at is the bottom-performing ones. Companies therefore are inclined to imitate the practice and strategies of the top 10 performing companies — whichever they pick in the benchmarking exercise. But of course different strategies and practices are often associated with different risks. Some strategies may, on average, … [ Read more ]

Freek Vermeulen

Lots of companies talk about agility and flexibility and change. I have some doubt about the importance of those attributes. There are still many relatively stable and homogeneous industries around. But also, understanding the need for change on an abstract level is different from understanding a specific case: saying, “Hey, this process, why are we doing it this way?” There’s a gap between having an … [ Read more ]

Strategy Talk: What’s the Right Mix of Organic Growth and Acquisitions?

If your team is debating the right mix of organic growth and acquisitions, don’t start by asking, What’s the right mix of growing organically and by acquisition? Instead, have your team focus on three different questions: How can we stretch the definition of our target customer, add to our value proposition, and commercialize our best capabilities in new ways? You and your colleagues have to … [ Read more ]

Aaron Gilcreast and Larry Jones

You can sometimes develop discrete measurements of what a company’s intrinsic value might be under different operators by conducting due diligence for a merger or acquisition. But even in the absence of a potential transaction, you should still assess the hypothetical intrinsic value of your businesses if they were operated by someone else. This can help you establish strategies that maximize value. If one of … [ Read more ]