March 12, 2012

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Each of us approaches problems and relationships with a particular style, or from an individual point of view. There are dozens of personality and interpersonal style models (DISC, Myers-Briggs, and so on).

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.42.25 PMHowever, my favorite individual style model is based on the Clifton StrengthsFinder© assessment first defined by Marcus Buckingham and Donald. O. Clifton of the Gallup Organization. Two of the many books describing the model and how to apply it are well worth getting and devouring: Now, Discover Your Strengths (Buckingham and Clifton); and StrengthsQuest (Clifton and Anderson).

The StrengthsFinder model identifies 34 core talent themes that each of us has in some degree. More importantly, it assesses individual strengths and tendencies within each of those 34 dimensions, producing an individual talents profile.

The most important insight that Buckingham and his team brought to the search for peak performance [click to continue…]


Distributed MeetingOn the eve of IFMA’s annual World Workplace conference, which I am attending this week in Denver, it seems appropriate to think for a moment about meetings that don’t take place in a “place.” I’m thinking of course of meetings where everyone is somewhere else – what most of us call “distributed” meetings.

One distributed meeting practice I hold very dear is this [New Rule]: Do not schedule a “mixed meeting” unless there is absolutely no alternative.

A mixed meeting is one that includes two or more people in the same place plus one or more others calling in from somewhere else.

I’ve almost never seen a mixed meeting go well; some organizations actively prohibit them – if anyone is participating remotely, everyone calls in, even when some participants are located close together. [click to continue…]

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Goldfish jumping out of bowlThe best definition I’ve ever heard of effective leadership goes like this:

“A good leader doesn’t make people do what he (or she) wants; a good leader makes others want what (s)he wants.”

In other words, leadership is about engaging people’s hearts even more than their minds. If your staff shares your vision of what’s possible, understands why what’s possible is desirable, and shares your desire to make that vision come alive, they’ll do what they need to do to make it happen.

That all sounds good. However, in my experience that’s only the beginning. [click to continue…]


Biz_Innovators_LogoJim Ware was  featured in a Business Innovators Radio interview by host Andrew Curry, published on September 22, 2015.

Our 17-minute conversation about flexible work, managing remote workers, and leading effective meetings is available at this link:

Business Innovators Radio – Interview with James Ware – Professional Speaker.

We welcome your comments, reactions, and further questions.


Making Meetings Matter

September 21, 2015

NoC&CLast week I called for an end to the “Command and Control” model of leadership (“Rethinking Leadership: Death to Taylorism!”).

We must think about leadership very differently for the richly interconnected world we now live in – an economy and a society that futurist Don Tapscott calls “The Age of Networked Knowledge” (see “Four Principles for the Open World,” Tapscott’s 2012 TEDGlobal talk).

A twenty-something German blogger named Philipp Riederle understands better than anyone else I know just what “networked knowledge” means for the way we live and work.

In Riederle’s view there are at least three very profound ways that our information access and personal communications have changed in the last decade – three realities that most of the world now takes for granted, but that are absolutely unprecedented in human history. [click to continue…]


Magnifying glass on the word Redefine

I’ve been thinking and writing about leadership for a long time. Here’s why we should be having a national conversation about the need to redefine what kind of leadership we want and need – whether it’s in the White House, the corporate corner office, or the conference rooms where so many of us spend so much of our time at work.

For more than 150 years (and actually much longer than that) leadership has meant being in charge. Leaders took command and exercised control because they knew more than their subordinates, or they had more power. Originally, of course, power meant physical strength, or control over powerful resources, like armies or ships, and weapons. Or financial capital, or technical know-how.

Here is a brief (6 -minute) video summary of the ideas contained here. I recorded it this morning for a live Periscope broadcast. Note that the video is essentially a brief restatement of this post:

For over a century most organizational leaders embraced the concept of “Scientific Management” generally credited to Frederick Taylor. Taylor argued that the job of managers was to think, and the job of workers was to do. And anyone who challenged a manager’s directions was viewed as insubordinate. [click to continue…]


Earlier today I did my first live Periscope video broadcast. It was a reprise of a newsletter/blog post I wrote in early August (“Why are There So Many Bad Meetings?“).

Here is an unedited replay of the 10-minute Scope video:

I intend to produce simple, short video messages like this on a regular basis. In fact, right now my next Scope is scheduled for Tuesday, September 15, at 8:30 AM Pacific time. I hope you will join me! Download the Periscope app to follow me there (@thefutureofwork) and follow me on Twitter for tweets when I go live.


Labor Day signLabor Day in the United States honors the American labor movement and the contributions to our economic and social well-being made by millions of American workers. It has also become a marker of the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Most of us are now moving past vacations and casual work hours to a more serious and focused time at work.

I want to use this occasion to reflect on how work itself has changed, and in particular to call for a new kind of leadership that values collaboration, diversity, and mutual respect 365 days a year, not just on one national holiday.

As I have noted many times in the past, the Gallup organization reports that only about 30% of workers in the United States today are positively engaged ( State of the American Workplace) . The low or negative engagement of the other 70% is costing U.S. companies more than half a trillion dollars a year in lost productivity (and the numbers are even worse outside the United States).

Engagement is somewhat similar to job satisfaction and motivation, but it is a more intense state of mind. People who are engaged with their work and their employer typically work harder, are more productive, and feel more accomplished than those who are neutral or actively disengaged.

I am convinced that the “Command-and-Control” mindset of most senior executives, which remains prevalent in most organizations, is the primary reason we have such low levels of employee engagement and such high levels of employee turnover.

Too many leaders still see their job as directing the activities of their subordinates, not as drawing out (and benefiting from) the incredible diversity of skills, experiences, and ideas that those people have to offer.

Think about this for a moment: when you were in college did your professor ever tell you where to read the homework assignment or what time to write the term paper? No, of course not. There were classes you could choose to attend, and there was an exam, but other than that, you were treated as a responsible adult fully capable of making your own choices about where, when, and how to study.

Some of us misused that freedom and blew off some of our classes or even entire courses. But most of us learned how to make the choices that gave us both a good time and a good education.

Then what happens when newly-hired recruits walk into a corporation? They’re told in so many words, “Be in that seat at 8:30 AM and stay there until 5:30 PM – and in the meantime, be creative.”

The industrial model of organization that we all know and grew up with (and most of us are still living in) was based on “Command and Control.” During the industrial revolution managers were understandably excited about the newly-invented steam engine and all kinds of other machines, which were very precise and efficient instruments that did the same things over and over and over again, and did them very well. The Industrial Age was all about mass production.

The parts of those machines had to fit together exactly and operate reliably; and we designed bureaucratic organizations to do the same thing. The underlying assumption was that the best way to get work done was to divide it up into small, controllable tasks, separate those tasks, and train the workers to be specialists – to be very good at doing one thing over and over again. The job of the manager then was to coordinate all of those separate tasks – and to make sure people did what they were told to do.

That model may have been very appropriate for the industrial economy, and it is still important for some businesses. We do not want the head of a nuclear power plant or an automobile assembly line saying, “Just keep the place operating 24×7, and figure out for yourself how to do it.”

But Command and Control is the wrong way to manage creative talent and generate innovation.. We need a new kind of 21st-century leadership that blends the capabilities that every single individual brings to the workplace every single day.

Team CollaborationThe economy in 2015 is based on mass collaboration, not mass production (thanks to author Rod Collins for that insight). We need leaders who know how to engage well-educated, independent knowledge workers, and to turn our individual intelligences into a collective intelligence.

Let’s honor labor this year, and every year, by offering people opportunities to express themselves, and to apply their experiences and insights to the big challenges of our time. In my humble opinion, that’s by far the best way to engage them, and to produce value in an economy driven by knowledge and innovation.

Contact me for a free one-hour consultation about how you can design and lead corporate conversations that engage your staff, leverage their innate talents, and generate mass collaboration.



conversations1How often do you talk with your colleagues about the future and how it will affect your organization?

As I have mentioned many, many times here and elsewhere, most leadership teams spend less than 3% of their collective time talking with each other about the future – of their company, their industry, and the world in general.

In my experience, most of us live day to day assuming that the future will be just like the recent past. We realize that there are some predictable trends, and that some things (like the weather) go through regular cycles, but for the most part we expect tomorrow to be similar to today.

Well, to be more accurate, we either expect sameness, or we are so overwhelmed by change, uncertainty, and innovation that we hunker down and live in fear that our lives are out of control. We worry – often rightfully so – about being blindsided by new products, new competitors, or new rules and regulations that put control of our businesses in someone else’s hands. And that kind of worry actually leads to believing, or at least hoping, that tomorrow will be just like today. [click to continue…]