Friday, October 8, 2010

Overconfidence is the Disease of Experts!

What does it mean for leaders to fail? In light of the failures recently experienced in this turbulent economy, Malcom Gladwell explored this question in a recent talk "Overconfidence and the Diseases of the Experts" at UTC. Gladwell is the author of bestsellers “The Tipping Point,” “Blink” and “Outliers”.

Using the power of a great civil war battle story, Gladwell contrasted the leadership styles of General Hooker of the Union Army, and General Lee of the Confederate Army, at the 1863 battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. General Hooker was known for his sophisticated approach for military intelligence and "knew more about Lee's army than Lee did", said Gladwell. Did more information, create greater leadership?

Gladwell went on to a share a research study which clearly demonstrated more information generates improved confidence but only marginal increases in performance. In fact, Gladwell went on to say, "more information potentially causes mis-calibration". Hooker was so confident his 130K strong army would prevail in battle over Lee's 64K strong army, he delayed the start of battle so the Union men could prepare, eat, and rest. Lee took this opportunity to drive south, giving the illusion of withdrawal, and then split his smaller army into mini battle units to infiltrate and surprise Hooker's men during their final meal. Lee prevailed! "Over confidence is the disease of experts. Incompetence is the disease of idiots. Incompetence annoys. Overconfidence hurts", said Gladwell.

"We don't need to rely on the expertise of leaders, we need to rely on the humility of our leaders", shared Gladwell. For the leaders who we charge with making expert decisions, they need to prevail in two critical capabilities: complexity of decision making AND the essentials of character. In my opinion said Gladwell, "it is the essentials of character that are in greater demand today!".

What do you think? What are the essentials of great leadership today? I would like to hear from you.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Attach the Candle to the Wall?

Suppose you were given the task of attaching a candle to the wall so that, when lit, no wax would drip on the floor. Your materials are a picture of a candle, a box of tacks, and a matchbook. In today's economy, it feels like we are often asked to do the impossible with limited resources. Creative solutions are king in today's competitive market place and those who bring great creativity to the table often win.

William Maddux of INSEAD, an international business school, and Adam D. Galinsky of Northwestern University ran five studies to gauge how well people solve "insight creativity tasks". Based on the candle problem outlined, for the participants who had lived abroad, 60 percent came up with the creative solution (using the empty box, tacked to the wall, as a candle holder), as compared with 42 percent of those who hadn't lived abroad. Their study suggest experiencing another culture may make you more creative.

"These effects likely have to do with acquiring what is called reflected knowledge- understanding how you look from another culture's point of view- as well as how much you internalize that view. Reflected knowledge allows you to see things as an outsider", according to Frank Bures, a writer for Esquire.

Seeing possibilities, questioning mental models, connecting things that don't appear to connect are one of the key foundations of creativity. We could all book a trip to an exotic new location to open our minds and reflective knowledge pool but I'm afraid most employers wouldn't see this as a reimbursable education venture. So, how do we provide provide opportunities for our leaders to see things differently? I would be interested in your point of view.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are you winning the Business War Game?

In today's competitive environment, many CEOs are feeling the impact of daily war gaming. How do you anticipate competitive moves and market shifts? Are the members of your executive team aligned on how your organization will respond?

We are incorporating two bodies of great work in this space in our accelerated decision offers: Business War Games by Benjamin Gilad, PhD, and Scenario Planning by Mats Lindgren and Has Banhold.

According to Gilad, "war games help discover problematic intelligence gaps, create buy-in, define strengths and weaknesses", and prepare you to formulate a better strategy, with a strong business case, and people alignment.

"Predicting competitors' moves is similar to predicting hurricanes", said Gilad. What is your methodology for preparing for a competitive hurricane?

Today, the link between future options and your strategy has to be organic. We are interested in hearing from you on what works in your organization.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Non-profits Collaborate - YEA!


With the state of the economy, non-profits are being squeezed from both sides with less contributions on the way in and more customers needing service. This sounds like an executive's worst night-mare.

Who was it that said "crisis is the mother of invention?". We are fortunate to be working with a number of non-profits who are saying "There has to be a better way!".

We salute a group of non-profit leaders in Chattanooga who are exploring collaboration to deliver more with less. If you know of a non-profit collaboration leading practice, we would love to hear about it!!

Here are the sites idenfitied thus for by the Chattanooga initiative:

Programs – The Center for Family Resources Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2009

If you don't hula, you can't play!

According to a report from the Center for Creative Leadership, 40 percent of new executives fail within the first 18 months. The report goes on to site lack of fit within the organizational culture as a primary reason. Organization values and performance standards for most companies are communicated in every conceivable way as attempts to educate employees on what it takes to be successful here. Most likely you would not see a sign that says "if you don't hula you can't play". But, in fact, that may be the case.

According to MIT's Edgar Schein, a guru on organizational culture, primary embedded mechanisms for organization culture are the "criteria used for allocation of rewards and status. These teach people what is really valued regardless of company rhetoric", says Schein.

Examples of these mechanisms include:
  • What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control on a regular basis.
  • How leaders react to critical incidents and organizational crises.
  • Observed criteria by which leaders allocate scarce resources.
  • Observed criteria by which leaders allocate rewards and status.
  • Observed criteria by which leaders recruit, select, promote, retire, and excommunicate organizational members.

Bridge's culture assessments and leadership development solutions help leaders see the unspoken rules for what they really are. We then guide leaders to make conscious choices in leading transparently with norms that are fully disclosed. Now, your talking performance and you can save the hula skirt for your next holiday.

Contact me at for more information on how to create and navigate culture change.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Majorette Becomes President

With great excitement, I attended a civic organization's inauguration of their first female president recently. Imagine a leading civic group with a 90+ year history, appointing a female to lead. Halalua! Was it the tortoise or the hare that said "slow and steady" wins the race?

As the new female president stepped to the podium to share her acceptance speech, she opened with humility and with a humorous look at how the group may fare with a female at the helm. She had captured the heart and interest of all.

She went on to share a powerful insight on the broad strengths and talents in the room and how this group had the potential to influence the future of the community. We should all celebrate the success of this new president and stand behind her with great resolve. I'm confident her leadership will be transformational.

How do we as women leaders effectively use soft and hard power to get the job done? How do we get comfortable breaking out of the mold?

According to Harvard professor and leadership expert, Joseph Nye, Jr., the balance of soft power and hard power combines as "smart power" and generates trust and mobilizes people around forward looking agendas. Hard power is considered directive, coercion type activities. While soft power is focuses on the tools of attraction and emotional appeal.

"If you think of classic women leaders- Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, and Golda Meir- they all came up fighting the gender stereotype and emphasizing the Iron Lady aspect of their leadership", writes Nye. He goes on to site several women leaders in our age that have achieved the use of smart power, but says women still have to play "against the gender stereotype that women are soft". With the prevailing view that business is becoming flatter and more dependent on networks with less hierarchy, business leaders in the future will need to exert more soft power.

So what does this mean for women as leaders today? I say turn in your baton!! You have the natural ability to use smart power. Lead!! Lead!! Lead!! That means inspire others with a compelling vision, define an organizational strategy to achieve the vision and mobilize people to perform.. then get out of the way!! Who knows, maybe you'll have time to help your daughter practice her fencing!

For more information about our executive coaching services for women leaders, contact me at

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saddle That Tiger!

With over 20 years experience in the healthcare industry, I've seen a lot of big hairy challenges appear for executives to wrestle. Most agree our health care delivery system needs some change. But the scope of change proposed in Mr. Obama's health care reform agenda is dramatic.

We will need our collective wisdom to find the right path forward to ensure quality health care at affordable costs stay within our reach. Harvard's Clayton Christensen and Micheal Overdorf present an approach for Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change that we should remember with challenges of this scale. The authors "suggest there are three critical factors that affect what and organization can or cannot do: its resources, its processes, and its values." My experience shows organizations often address the resources and processes to address a radical and significant change, but forget to consider the organizational values that may enhance or inhibit the move forward. Don't forget to SADDLE THAT TIGER before you ride it!!

Contact us to learn more about our Collaborative Solution Sessions where we put group wisdom to work to build bold solutions to complex and hairy problems. Email me for more info at

You can pick up Christensen's full white paper online at