Leadership: Being 'Acutely Clear'

off target “If you expect performance, then make it [meaning your expectations] ’acutely clear’ so people have the opportunity to succeed.” -- Jim Moats A very thoughtful leader, friend, and fellow Vistage Chair posted, “The Way Things Work” on his Peer Place blog and got me thinking about a provocative question one of our CEO clients asked the other day. We were discussing one of the people in his firm who has been producing extraordinary results from being in a coaching program. Her performance had become a major turn-around. Her comment to our coach was, “why didn’t anyone ever tell me…?” meaning, she had no idea she had been "missing the mark" to such an extent. When discussing this with the CEO, his question was “ I wonder how many good people are let go every year because no one ever communicated or invested in their success?"

This is an absolutely critical question to think about as a leader. How many good people reporting to you have "failed" and how many good people have you let go during your career because you didn't communicate clearly enough, effectively enough, or invest in their success? And, what is the cause of so much ineffective communication and such a plain lack of communication about something as critical and fundamental as job performance and success?

Sometimes it seems that unclear expectations are part of an instant, automatic and unexamined control mechanism. If as a leader, you are unclear, then you can leave others off balance. They really can't fully succeed and you are in control.  (Some part of you may even relish playing a "savior" role.) If your ideas weren't all that sound, and you were vague, you can always say “that's not what I really meant” if things start to go awry. Worse, if your team nails it and gets close to stellar performance, you can move the target. All of these are very unconscious ways to maintain leadership control and they can also be very destructive to your team. It's control in a delusional sort of way!

There is also a sort of laziness to being unclear. You can continue with a "ready, fire, aim" approach and just keep moving. While many entrepreneurs and leaders are extremely fond of this approach it also lets them off the hook. They don't really have to be rigorous. They don't have to think things through and they don't have to take personal responsibility because the ideas have "been delegated." If/when an idea fails it's because the team didn't perform.

Business Employee Climbs Up Evaluation Improvement FormBeing 'acutely clear,' (as Jim Moats describes), and in partnership with those around you, puts you in what we call in our book "Accelerate," the Productive Dialogue Zone.  It takes courage and a willingness to give up control in favor of the outcomes you want.  It also takes letting others participate in the “how” of getting there. By doing this you will need to challenge yourself to receive feedback on ideas and not take it personally. This actually makes your life as a leader easier. Allow your team to be rigorous and help think things through. Take the burden off of yourself and be inclusive.

In his blog, Jim further points out, “Setting acutely clear expectations rules out “trying” and creates the need for learning from each setback or unexpected obstacle.  Training makes average people strong, while trying makes strong people average.”

The trade off for apparent loss of control is dramatically increasing the odds of getting what you want, having real partnerships with people, and unleashing all kinds of creativity around you.

Do you recognize yourself or your leadership style here?  What do you REALLY want and are you willing to be rigorous with yourself and open and inclusive with others to get it?

Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today's World Is Here

Debut Book From Suzanne Mayo Frindt and Dwight Frindt Provides a Simple, Elegant and Insightful Approach to Consistently Produce Extraordinary Results


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA--(Marketwire - November 15, 2010) - Suzanne Mayo Frindt and Dwight Frindt work closely with leaders and executive teams to unleash creativity and effectiveness throughout their organizations. Their practical methodologies reduce the friction and waste in daily conversations and inspire highly productive teams that regularly deliver on bold commitments. Their collaborative leadership practices are not steeped in academia -- they are carefully crafted methodologies based on their years of hands-on experience counseling executives combined with a global business perspective derived from their active involvement with business cultures around the world. The Frindts are co-founders of 2130 Partners (www.2130Partners.com), a leadership development and education firm training leaders to create focus, alignment, and collaboration for a sustainable shared vision. In their debut book, Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today's World, the authors provide a remarkably simple, elegant and insightful approach to consistently producing extraordinary results.

We live in a world of unprecedented and accelerating changes in our lives and work. Now, at a time when previous business models and assumptions are being turned on their heads, individual livelihoods and whole firms are disappearing or springing up newly on a regular basis. Successful businesses are transforming themselves and finding ways to prosper in the evolving new realities. The leadership required for these firms is radically agile, proactive, and creative. Success will accrue to those who learn to tap the creativity and productivity gains available through being aware and effective in the human, collaborative dimension, while laggards will suffer in the face of the unrelenting change.

Accelerate is a match for the challenging times in which we live, where leaders are facing problems and issues that are complex beyond any previous era. The authors provide readers with deceptively simple access to meaningful transformation in their work and lives. Unlike other leadership books, Accelerate starts with whom to BE rather than what to DO to produce effective leadership. You will find proven principles and practices to expand your leadership capacities for productive thought and interaction, to create a culture of self-generated accountability, and to turn friction and waste into real productivity gains.

Always with a keen eye on the future, the authors have just returned from several weeks in China, now eclipsing Japan as the second largest economy in the world. There they participated in The World Academy for the Future of Women, and in the Fourth Annual Women's Symposium at Sias International University (www.sias.edu.cn/en). Suzanne Mayo Frindt created curriculum, both served as instructors for the Academy, and Dwight Frindt delivered a keynote speech at the Symposium.

Sias University is the first solely owned American university in Central China. It develops well-rounded trans-national professionals by combining Chinese and Western educational philosophies, providing students with a broad based learning perspective and alternative ways of thinking about their lives, careers, and leadership aspirations.

About Suzanne Mayo Frindt and Dwight Frindt The Frindts are co-founders of 2130 Partners, a leadership development and education firm founded in 1990. 2130 Partners is dedicated to facilitating executive leadership potential through Vision-Focused Leadership™, a methodology grounded in shared vision and built through collaboration.

They are often called upon to give keynotes and lead programs in such diverse locations as Bismarck, North Dakota and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. In addition to their extensive business leadership experience and educational credentials, they credit their 30 plus years as investors in, and activists for, The Hunger Project (http://www.thp.org) for its profound influence on their work and lives. They have traveled throughout Africa, India, Bangladesh and Latin America to support the organization's goals in mobilizing local people to create lasting society-wide progress in health, education, nutrition, family incomes and the empowerment of women.

Events 2130 Partners will hold public workshops and book signing events:

November 2010 19 -- Seattle, Wash.

December 2010 3 -- Orange County, Calif.

February 2011 2 -- Los Angeles, Calif.

For event information, please go to: www.2130partners.com/whats-new.

About 2130 Partners 2130 Partners is celebrating its 20th year of facilitating executive leadership potential. The name 2130 Partners and the firm's core philosophy are derived from the Native American principle that leaders are accountable in their decision making for their impact on each of the next seven generations. Seven generations from its founding in 1990, or 140 years, is year 2130. Clients and 2130 Partners are asked to consider what input we might get from the people who will be alive in the year 2130 about how we spend our lives, the decisions we make and the focus of our leadership. The firm serves clients around the world, with offices in Orange County, Calif. and Seattle, Wash. Visit www.2130partners.com.

Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today's World ISBN: 143926664, available at www.2130partners.com/accelerate-the-book or amazon.com Authors: Suzanne Mayo Frindt and Dwight Frindt Published in 2010

For more information about Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today's World, please visit www.2130partners.com/accelerate-the-book or contact: Kathleen Janson, (949) 654-2512


Why Would We Say "Don't Read Our New Book?"

Accelerate book coverOur book, "Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today's World" actually debuted in July of this year. We haven't been saying alot about it and doing lots of publicity and such because first, we wanted to find out if it had value to readers. We spent more than five years developing the content; researching, writing and editing it and it's based on 20 years experience in the field of executive leadership development. We have literally put tens of thousands of hours into working with leaders and their teams and we compiled this knowledge into a book we are very proud of, but the question still remained, would it be of use to anybody else? So we decided to do a "soft launch" and we have been using the book with clients, soliciting feedback from peers and colleagues and conducting "informal testing" of the material.  We now have enough feedback from enough people to feel like we can say with all humility, we have actually written a very valuable book, (and we are SO grateful to all who have put in time and given us this feedback!)  What we have heard is that the book is dense with rich content and yet easy to read It has breakthrough mental models, powerful Operating Principles, and a set of Practical Applications that are all immediately useful.  So why is the title of this blog post, "don't read our new book?"

We all know there are lots of great books to "read" and there are lots of great leadership books to read. What he have found with the folks who have invested time with our book is that the best way to use our book is as a reference manual and resource for solving your leadership issues for when you truly don't know how to get into action, have already failed over and over, or simply would rather have a root canal than even try. It's a real world guide for real issues that leaders face day in and day out.

So don't "read" our book from cover-to-cover, and then put it on the book shelf where it joins your other volumes of "shelf help," (books you enjoyed, had "a ha" moments while reading, then put away and forgot about). If you want a reference to help you navigate your daily leadership challenges buy the book and get familiar with the table of contents, the models, the nature of the Operating Principles, and the subject of each of the Practical Applications.

When you are ready to start building your conversational capacities, use it like you were going to the gym. Pick out an Essential Notion, an Operating Principle and a Practical Application that call to you. Read them and practice in your real life situations during the week. In the following week, pick another set, read, and practice. Within three months you will build a new basic level of leadership effectiveness in your interactions.  Then you can start the process over again and raise yourself another level.

When you confront communication breakdowns, organizational upsets, resistance to change, or any of the many the other leadership issues that drive you crazy, grab the book and read the relevant sections.  Fill out the the worksheet in the Practical Applications section, meet with the appropriate people, and get to work. 

Keep your focus on learning and applying, rather than "reading" and filling your brain with new intellectual notions and you will achieve real results!  Meanwhile you can "read" all those other books piled on your night stand ;-)

Leadership: What You Can’t Be With Owns Your Life

"Under The Circumstances" In her November 5, 2009 blog post entitled, “Courage is a decision we make every day”, Seattle-based speaker and author Nancy D. Solomon draws a distinction between courage and deliberate courage

Nancy defines deliberate courage as “...an attitude or a frame of mind; it’s a way of being in the world where the intention behind our actions points in a singular direction—to our authenticity.  Yes, real courage is the willingness, the intention, the ambition of being authentic; of dropping pretense, ego and arrogance in favor of truth, transparency and transformation.”

While we use different language in our book “Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today's World” to get at these "distinctions in being," I was immediately sparked and moved into reflection by reading Nancy’s wonderful definition.  To me, in the phrase ‘the intention behind our actions points in a singular direction,” the intention that is being pointed to is your ‘Yonder Star’ (which we define as your vision, mission, and purpose).  The authenticity she speaks of is an absolute prerequisite for real, meaningful progress in fulfilling your Yonder Star.

The biggest detractors from that pursuit are our fears and circumstances, (see our Leadership Choice Point model and related discussion in "Accelerate"). We're not talking about any old circumstances, since, after all, circumstances are all around us all the time.  Specifically, we are referencing the circumstances to which we give over our power. When circumstances have power your ability to be an effective leader and really, your ability to lead at all are significantly hampered.

It’s the “I can’t do that because of ...[insert person, place, or thing du jour]. " It’s the circumstances that seem to justify playing small or not doing anything at all. It’s the distraction that jumps up in the middle of a situation where deliberate courage would be required to keep moving you forward and yet the circumstance seems to require “taking a breather,” “handling another responsibility,” or simply “shutting down."

The toughest of all is the circumstance you simply can’t face. This is the one that runs the show instead of your dedication to your Yonder Star

Deliberate courage is required in this case. What this means is letting the situation "be," and giving up the meaning you were putting on it. The moment you give circumstances power, you have lost yours.  The circumstance owns your life unless and until you give it up and let it be. 

So where in your life are there circumstances to which you are obsessively attached or feel anxiety when you think about them?  Perhaps you spend time talking with others about it, (time you could have been working on your Yonder Star).  Right now I hear lots of our clients who are frozen in inaction by the economic conversations, the political wrangling, or the pace of global change. Some get all caught up in family and relationship drama, and are some are enfeebled by a grieving cycle.  I mean no disrespect and I am not asserting that these things aren’t “real.” I am saying that giving your power over to any such conversation blocks you from choice and powerful action towards your Yonder Star.  Letting go of your attachment, letting it be, and deliberate courage are the antidote.

Try identifying three circumstances, beliefs, or relationships that you have been saying you can’t change, can’t stand, or always upset you.  Ask yourself if you are willing to let go?  What would be lost if you did?  How much of your time would be freed up? What power would you gain? What joy and satisfaction might be available to you and those around you?  What return might be available from devoting your newfound time and energy to fulfilling your Yonder Star?  How about getting to work?!

(Footnote: Apologies to whoever it was that first spoke the line that is my title today.  I have no idea where I got it, I rely on it often for my own freedom, and I greatly appreciate the gift.)

Dwight and Suzanne Frindt Featured in Lighthouse Consulting Article

The work of 2130 Partners is featured in this article by Dana Borowka of Lighthouse Consulting. Recently, we have had a number of conversations with CEOs and key executives regarding what they are planning for their businesses for 2011. We have found two categories of individuals. Those that have a vision through listening to others in the market place, reaching out for support, gathering industry data, looking for trends and opportunities. The other group is totally focused on overhead reduction, darting around and focusing on the bad news in the world, taxes, health bills, and any information that they can grab onto to help justify why they are so scared.


Here is the Question for the Day

Which category do you fit into? Your answer will determine how your company is doing today and will be doing in the future. Those that think they know everything are closing themselves off from amazing opportunities.

Certainly all companies need to be constantly looking at overhead and keeping up with the news. However, when the focus is fear driven then our thoughts begin to justify our fears. That wastes time as it creates the continual loop of fear, depression, anxiety, etc.

The group that is forward thinking has a completely different outlook on life. That’s not to say that they don’t have concerns but rather they are using this time to plan ahead, remain clear headed and open to ideas. That is the key – to be still enough in order to listen. Then act on what we are seeing as immediate and future potential for new products and services, improvement in retention of current business as well as ideas for gaining additional market share.

Your focus will tell you immediately where you stand! First, we will explore leadership and how to deal with the fear. Then we’ll share what a group of business owners did that has separated them from many other companies.

How to Become a Vision-Focused Leader

The answer is leadership. It is time to become a vision-focused leader around whom issues can be raised and resolved productively. That’s the view of Suzanne and Dwight Frindt, the founders of 2130 Partners, a leadership development and education firm that facilitates focused vision, inspired teams, and sustained commitment for its clients and co-authors of Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your conversations with your team generating the results you want?
  • Does your team successfully raise and resolve issues relevant to business success?
  • Can you identify and deal with emotional upsets, in both yourself and others?

Exactly what is this leadership that is vision-focused? "We love Warren Bennis’ definition: 'Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it,'" says Suzanne Frindt. "Our approach is the same whether we are working with individuals or with entire leadership teams. We believe the greatest opportunities are created by the development of people and action in a coordinated direction. We assert that the only sustainable strategies engage the heart and soul and are simultaneously grounded in sound business practices."

Power of Shared Vision

In a 1996 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled "Building Your Company’s Vision," Jim Collins and Jerry Porras said that companies that enjoy enduring success have a core purpose and core values that remain fixed while their strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. The rare ability to balance continuity and change—requiring a consciously practiced discipline—is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision.

"Without a vision, what is the point?" says Suzanne Frindt. "A Yonder Star unleashes the energy to galvanize yourself and your employees so you can achieve phenomenal things."

When group members share a vision, it creates an opportunity for totally different conversations between a manager and members of their team. Focus on the shared vision creates alignment and provides a powerful context for creating mission, strategic initiatives, objectives, goals, roles, and finally all the way down through action plans.

Being a manager means making choices. At any moment in time you have a decision to make. Suzanne urges that when it comes time to make a decision being present in the moment, not on automatic pilot, is essential to the quality and relevance of the decision. You can then make the choice based on your Yonder Star, your shared vision of something to which you aspire, versus more of the same or your fear of some worst-case scenario.

"Worries are about envisioning a worst-case scenario, what you fear most," says Suzanne Frindt. "Whatever we envision is affecting us right now. What we envision impacts us in this moment. There are consequences for managing based on fears that you may not want. Your Yonder Star is the shared vision you aspire to. The star is what you envision, and what you envision shapes both the present moment and the quality of your choices about your actions."

Something else she recommends avoiding is being past-focused. This is when you make decisions based solely on what you have done in the past. Instead of having an inspiring vision for your team, all you are working for with a past based focus is attempting to minimize perceived risk and making incremental improvements.

"Many companies are past-focused when they do strategic planning," says Suzanne Frindt. "What did the company do last year and then let’s add 10 percent or 20 percent. We are all tempted to try hard to make yesterday look like today. Or if we didn’t like yesterday, then we try to make it different or better."

She adds that only by having a vision, a Yonder Star, can teams create breakthroughs to unprecedented results. Equally important is that it is a shared vision, one that is based on shared values and shared operating principles. This is how you create an environment for real collaboration.

Overcoming Emotional Barriers

 "The ability to identify and clear upsets, in myself and others, is the single most significant key to productivity gains in our economy today," says Dwight Frindt. "We have asked our executive-leadership clients a simple question: 'What time could you go home if everyone in the company simply came to work, did their jobs, and went home?' The answer used to surprise us until it kept being repeated. On average, our clients say, ‘Between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.'"

That begs a second question. If so many executives claim they could go home before lunch if everyone just showed up and did their work, what’s taking so much of our leaders' time? The Frindts' clients tell them flat out: distress, commonly known as upsets. The most time-consuming part of their job is managing the distressed interactions within their teams so that those teams can actually get to the business at hand.

"Even if executives will never be able to consistently leave by noon, it is entirely reasonable for them to expect to save at least two hours of their time, every day. Alternatively they could increase their productivity 15–30%" says Dwight Frindt.

That’s nearly 500 extra hours a year leaders can devote to creative thinking, visioning, and strategizing rather than on repairing relationships and soothing bruised egos. At the opportunity cost of most executives’ time, that amounts to very substantial savings. Of course, the same can be said for everyone in the organization. An inordinate amount of productive time and payroll dollars and worse yet, opportunities, are lost daily, monthly and annually to the distraction caused by unresolved emotional distress.

Replacing that time, energy, and resource loss is of paramount importance. Doing so can create a culture that is both highly productive and emotionally resilient and rewarding. It requires a fundamental, transformative shift in two steps: 1) fewer emotionally driven issues in the workplace; and 2) leaders and their team members becoming self-sufficient in handling emotional distress issues when they occur.

"Let’s clarify what we mean by emotional distress," says Dwight Frindt. "We’re using the term to summarize a wide range of reactions that temporarily disable people with regard to thoughtful and productive behavior. These reactions can vary from mild frustration to full-blown anger, and include embarrassment, sadness, impatience, agitation, worry, and fear. In each case the person is left in a condition where, whether realized or not, they are acting as if their very survival is threatened."

The Causes of Emotional Distress

The Frindts' studies and their clients' experiences make it clear that the most common root causes of workplace emotional distress are 1) the perception that a promise has been broken (usually by leadership); 2) when positive intentions "fail"; and 3) when commitments seem thwarted. In addition to these three internal triggers, there are many times when personal distress is brought to the workplace from the rest of the person’s life. These other sources can be especially difficult to address, due to varying perspectives on what constitutes personal-professional boundaries.

The impact on the productivity and organizational effectiveness of people attempting to work while "stressed out" (or surrounded by others who are) is enormous. Yet it’s been the Frindts’ observation that most leaders overlook this as the place to start any efforts in business improvement. Most are far more comfortable with cost cutting, process development, process improvement, reorganizing, or some other business change that does not directly address the human dimension.

Long Term Vision & Working the Plan

Back in 2006/2007, a group of business owners saw the writing on the wall regarding the long term economic change. While some people thumbed their noses at the possibility and buried their heads in the sand… purely out of fear. The forward looking group sought feedback from others who had been through similar business cycles and discovered the following ideas:

  • Create your vision: The goal is to have a long range vision for your company.
  • Think outside your box: What else can you provide? What other opportunities can you look at? What are some other possibilities that will help others to fulfill their vision?
  • What is needed: Listen to the market place and offer valuable services.
  • Know your numbers: Where are you and where are you going?
  • Work the plan: Develop measurable marketing, sales, financial, internal operations plans then execute and don’t wait. This avoids waste and preserves valuable resources. Through proper planning the dollars can be used to gain market share while other organizations could be financially drained and in a constant state of fear! The forward business group took a three year outlook and developed various action plans and worked the plan.
  • Be on the lookout for top "A" and "B" players for hiring top people who have vision.
  • Team vision: Have clear goals and objectives for all staff members.
  • For new hires at all levels do the most thorough interviewing based on 30-60-90-180-12 month goals.
  • Do in-depth work style and personality assessment testing to get a clear picture of who you are about to bring aboard to best manage the individuals so they can be successful.
  • Maintain a collaborative team environment where everyone can provide input to create internal efficiencies, all are listening to customer and market needs, and respond in a timely way so your company is always engaged as the business environment has needs.

This is the time to be moving forward by offering fresh ideas, solutions, and support that will add value to all those you come in contact with and in return your business will thrive!

To find out more about these topics you can read our book, Cracking The Personality Code by visiting www.lighthouseconsulting.com. Or if you’d like to find out about the various workshops we provide to help your organization lead into the future visits www.crackingthepersonalitycode.com. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

We offer monthly Open Line web conferences on topics ranging from creating a collaborative environment, how to offer incentives to staff during challenging time, and how to turn fear into strength. We will be having a global futurist as a guest – so please join us. Visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com for a list of our programs.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2010

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA  90403 & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, workshops, and executive & employee coaching.  To order the book, "Cracking the Personality Code" please go to www.crackingthepersonalitycode.com