Published by Scott Neilson on 01 Dec 2012

It doesn’t work like that…

Lately I have been getting a lot of requests to connect on LinkedIn.  That’s fine…I like LinkedIn and find it to be a great tool.  I also just genuinely enjoy staying connected with people.

The thing that I find disturbing about this is that many people only reach out when they are losing, or have just lost, their jobs.  You don’t hear from them for years until they need something.  Then you will not hear from them again after they have gotten what they want.  It is pretty obvious…and dissappointing.

Unfortunately, our world has become more and more about “ME” and what I want…what I need.  There is not enough about what value can I add…what can I bring to the situation or the relationship.

Networking is like any other relationship.  Your network takes time to develop.  You need to nurture it and enable it to grow.  It is like working out and developing your strength.  You cannot sit around and do nothing for years and then expect to jump up and run a marathon.

FYI…the same applies in your relationships with customers…employees…and any other stakeholder of your business.  New Year’s Resolution…Get back in shape!


Published by Scott Neilson on 07 Nov 2012

Management malpractice?

I was asked this question yesterday.  Should management be held to the same type of malpractice standards as doctors?

I am sure we have all experienced or heard of a new leadership team coming in to lead a company just to have them destroy the value in the business and walk away as multi-millionaires with giant golden parachutes.  Now, I am not talking about illegal actions as we experienced a few years ago.   This is referring simply to mismanagement.

Should they be held personally liable for these types of failures?  If so, how do you do that and to what extent?

Love to hear your thoughts.  Click on Comments below at lower right to reply.  Again, the response function on this blog does not identify the person replying so your response is anonymous.

Published by Scott Neilson on 29 Aug 2012

What have we done…or not done?

I was thinking the other day about the condition in which we find the world today.  There are certainly a million different facets to this subject, but, in particular, I was thinking about:

  • problems with the environment;
  • corruption in governments and businesses;
  • terrorism and oppression of certain religious and ethnic groups.

These same things were going on when I was a kid (50’s and 60’s).  We tend to think of them as current phenomena…but they are not.  The difference now is that they are much more widespread and getting worse, not better.

In the 60’s and early 70’s we spent a lot of time protesting many of these issues.  We had great dreams…the right dreams…about how to make it better.  Where did that go?  We have moved from having a sense of unity around a common cause and an interest in the well being of everyone, to a society in which the focus is on self.  We have let this happen.

It seems that we have become preoccupied with careers and achievement, and we have become seduced by money and all the spoils of it.  We have forgotten about those dreams.

Where would the world be today if we had fought for those dreams…what can the world be tomorrow if we pick up the sword again?

Do one thing today, and everyday, that is for the greater good…that is in the interest of someone else…that makes the world a better place.  It is a small step, but an easy one, and it is a step in the right direction.

Pass this link on to as many people as you can…and add your thoughts in the comments area.


Published by Scott Neilson on 23 Aug 2012

Is Charisma an essential leadership skill?

I keep getting asked this question, so I think it is worthy of revisiting a previous post on the subject.

I think NOT!  I have had experience with people who had little, if any, charisma and yet were superb leaders.  I have also had experience with people who had tremendous charisma but were awful leaders.

Is charisma an essential leadership skill?  Absolutely not.

I have never heard a person say that charisma was the main skill they relied upon to successfully lead a company…EVER!

There are many leadership skills which can be learned…in fact, most.  If you look through the literature on leadership you will find that most of the books are listings of skills which have worked for someone at some point in time or some situation.  Any one of those skills can be learned or developed.

Can charisma help?  I guess so.  It really depends on what is meant by charisma?  That, in and of itself, spawns quite a debate.

Wikipedia describes it as “a trait found in persons with a facile personality, characterized by personal charm, along with innate and powerfully sophisticated abilities of interpersonal communication and persuasion. One who is charismatic is said to be capable of using their personal being, rather than just speech or logic alone, to interface with other human beings in a personal and direct manner, and effectively communicate an argument or concept to them.”

If you look at that definition of charisma, you will see that most of the elements in THIS definition are skills or attributes that can be learned or developed…communication, persuasion, speech, logic, directness.

I think that charisma is one element of many that CAN help make a person an effective leader.  However, I believe it is a nice to have.  I believe it can make a good leader a great leader, but it is not a requirement to be either a good leader or a great leader.  Further, without any other skills, charisma alone will not make a person a successful leader.  I think it is interesting to note that no successful leader has ever cited charisma as the skill they relied upon to successfully lead a company.

I think charisma refers to an ability to connect with other people…to relate to them.  If that is true, then I also think that some of the fundamental elements of charisma can be learned.  Think about it.  What does it take to connect with other people?

  • truly listening to what someone says (putting aside all other distractions and being totally engaged)
  • respecting and valuing their opinion (requires being open-minded and perhaps puttings one’s own ego aside!)
  • empathizing with what they are saying (caring? how often do we really do that, especially in a business situation?)
  • responding in a supportive way (again, how often do we do that in a business situation?)
  • doing what you say you will do (walking the talk…actions speaking louder than words)

Charisma is often described as hard to define, and I agree, as I am sure you do.  Is it an essential skill?  No way!

I would love to hear your thoughts about this since I am sure the debate will continue to rage in my fall programs.

Published by Scott Neilson on 13 Aug 2012

Get outta town…

I received a comment on the blog about one of my previous posts…and they had asked for a response.  The comment was…

I read your reflection and I think it is very interesting. But I don’t fully agree on the point of Japanese culture being blindly obedient. I just read an article that came to my mind when I read your post.  Can you please read it and let me know what you think of it?  To me, it discusses the same concern you are having, to some extent.



Great article, and thank you for sending it to me.  I urge you all to have a read.

I absolutely agree with the overarching idea of that article.  There are many things that we can and should learn about how people do things in other parts of the world.  There are many things that are done differently, with many having better end results or other effects such as more efficient use of resources, less waste, safer processes, etc.

I totally endorse the idea of learning about how things are done in other cultures, countries, and companies.  I have spent most of my life in international business and have spent large amounts of time in other cultures.  Not only has my life been enriched by this experience, but I have had the opportunity to see many different ways of doing things from one society to the next…some of which I have copied.  I am frequently surprised by how much opportunity still remains for “cross-fertilization” of ideas.

So, why are we not doing more of this?

From one perspective you could argue that many companies DO do this…as in companies looking for best practices.  Unfortunately, often they only look within their own company, which, of course, limits their pool of possible opportunities.  Still worse, even within companies I have seen cases in which best practices from other parts of the world (OTHER than that of corporate HQ) go unrecognized.  A real missed opportunity.  Remember too, when you allow this failure to occur, not only do you miss the opportunity to benefit from other approaches, but it is demotivating and disenfranchising to the people from those other parts of the operation who have the the good ideas.  It is a failure to recognize their value in the organization.

There is nothing unpatriotic about companies that keep their eyes open for best practices and copy them.  In business school you learn of the “Follower” Strategy of growing and developing your business.  Burger King in the US is a good example of this.  Everywhere McDonalds puts up a restaurant, Burger King puts one up.  Basically they are letting McDonalds do the market research to identify the best locations, and they are just following.  It is not a bad way to save money and reduce risk.  Burger King has done quite well with that strategy.

Similarly, I am sure that you have heard it said that you should shop your competition…contact them and pretend you are a potential customer to find out about their products or services so you can compare to your own and identify ways to improve your own offerings.  How many of us really do that?

I think that one impediment is fear of the unknown.  I truly believe that often people do not want to know if there is a better way.  It means that they are failing or will fail.  Yet, they still do not want to acknowledge it.  It is almost as if it does not exist if they do not know about it.

Another is fear of change and all that goes with changing the way things are done…selling the new approach, getting the buy-in, orchestrating the change process, dealing with the resistance to change.  People often do not want to put in the effort.

Well, there are many different ways of doing things around the world…many differences…many advantages to different ways.

Get outta town and look around!

Thanks for sharing.

Published by Scott Neilson on 14 May 2012

And the beat goes on…

I got an interesting piece from one of my readers over the weekend.  Check it out below.

I think that we, in the business world, are starting to experience the effect of parents having given their kids everything they wanted as soon as they wanted it. 


Did you ever wonder why leaders of today stamp their feet and scream and yell and beat on people to get results?  It is because it worked for them as a child!  Simple…they are acting out!

Did you ever wonder why so many businesses today rise and fall so quickly?   It is because there is no real substance behind them.  Why?  Because their leadership stamped their feet and beat people to get immediate results but did not build the basic infrastructure to make it sustainable.

Did you ever wonder why economies have become so fragile?  It is because the businesses that make up those economies are built on fragile foundations…foundations that are built on businesses which are led by people stamping their feet to deliver quick, but generally not sustainable, results.

The research shows that the roots of this phenomenon are in child rearing.  Parents were so interested in helping their kids “win” or “get what they want” in this world, that they may not have been as conscious of helping them learn to do, and be satisfied with taking the time to do, the things that enable them to build a strong foundation for success.  As a result, many leaders of today know only of instant gratification.  They want it now!  They do not know how to systematically create something sustainable.  The only thing they know is how loud they have to scream…and for how long…to get what they want.  They are acting out as they did as children.  Only now they have power.

What is really appalling to watch is how they support each other in their temper tantrums.  The people who demonstrate that innate ability to beat and subjugate others are the ones who get rewarded.  And the beat goes on!

My personal thoughts.

The lessons here are several…

  • You can learn a lot about good leadership by watching bad leaders.
    • Sometimes we have to sacrifice the short term win for the long term sustained success.
      • Some leadership lessons and behaviors are learned very early…think about that!

(Would love to know how they did the research!)

Let’s hear your thoughts on this one.  Click on “Leave a Comment” below.  ALL COMMENTS ARE ANONYMOUS.

Published by Scott Neilson on 07 May 2012

What can I do?

I had a very interesting question/concern posed by a programme participant which I was unable to answer.  I offered to post it on the blog to see if any of you had some thoughts you could share.  If so, click on comments below and reply right on the blog so she can read them.  (Your comments are anonymous)  Thanks.

The question was…

One of my most concerning weaknesses is the inability to take responsibility for my failures and, subsequently, the missed opportunity to learn from them. 

I admire people that are able to admit their mistakes, and I consider it to be respectful especially when it has been effecting others.  But what I admire most is their ability to bring out the positive side and to be able to change in order to get better. 

I find myself unable to achieve this and, even if I sometimes admit my misteakes to others, I never admit them to myself.  What can I do?

Published by Scott Neilson on 15 Feb 2012

Discussion: Managing Up

Discussion question submitted by a reader.

Ever experience someone who is a terror to his/her employees but a kiss-up to the boss?  Why is it that these people always seem to rise to the senior most positions in the organization?  Doesn’t the boss see it?


I am sure we have all run into people like this.

What are their patterns of behavior?  How do they do it?  Why doesn’t the boss get it?  What should bosses be looking for?

Reply in the comment section (over on the right side under the line…click on Comments) and I will post it. That section does not have ANY identifiers like email addresses, even to me!  It’s safe!  Just don’t sign your name.

Published by Scott Neilson on 11 Dec 2011

Follow-up question on Strengths and Weaknesses

Still additional question though – do you think that giving feedback on someone’s strengths & weaknesses is the right way to address this issue? What I mean is – if I know that that person can hardly improve it (it is not an action, but rather a personal characterstic which can be changed only with great difficulty, OR values of that person etc) I will not include this into the feedback. What are your thoughts on this?


Hey Tomas…great question again!

Yes, I still think it is important to give that feedback.  It does not matter if it is a value, a personal characteristic, or a particular skill. 

First, you need to decide if the employee is not performing up to expectations…i.e., this characteristic or value is effecting their performance in the role.  Second, you need to decide if you NEED a higher level of performance than you are getting from that employee.   If you do not, then you take those related responsibilities out of the job, change the job description and increase the clarity around what you DO expect in that role. 

However, if you DO need that level of performance in the job and they cannot deliver it, for whatever reason, then you must have that discussion with them.  That feedback conversation then becomes the first step in documenting the weakness (or value difference) and managing them out of that job. 

Moving an employee out of a job they cannot do is better for both the employee and the company since not doing so will just become a source of frustration for them, and failure for the business.

Another key point here is to make feedback about an action and a result, not about the person.  This is true with values, characteristics and specific skills.  For example, I once had an employee who had a serious EGO issue and did not work in a collaborative way with other parts of the organization.  In order to maintain control and power, she would withhold certain information from other teams within our organization.  The impact was that is was causing great tension and animosity between the groups.  This effected our efficiency as well as our image with the customer. 

I discussed this with her in terms of information that was not being shared, and the impact it was having…the action (or lack thereof) and the result.  However, her need for control and power was something she could not manage.  She did not change this characteristic, and it became a very short process for moving her out of that job and improving the whole dynamic within our team, and the performance for the Customer.  Having the conversation enabled us to move the organization forward. 

An interesting side note in that example, the Customers saw this cause and effect long before it became evident to me.  That is another issue…about being able to get the information you need as a leader.  Will tackle that one in the next post.

Thanks for your question.  FYI…you may also want to look at my post on Managing Performance (http://www.scottneilson.com/?p=391).

Published by Scott Neilson on 06 Jul 2010

Discussion: Who makes a better business leader, a technical expert or a business professional?

Who is better at leading a technically oriented business; a person trained in a related technical area or a person trained in business?  The raging debate continues.  Which do you think is best and why?

In my industry, drug development services (the D side of R&D), there seems to be a never-ending debate over the skill set required for business leaders.  The question is, what is the best educational background, technical (meaning scientific – Ph.D. in some related area) or business (meaning a specific business degree such as Finance or Marketing, or an MBA)? 

First, here are some clarifications.  In this case we are talking about:

  • GM and CEO positions (senior leadership roles);
  • businesses that are established, not in the start-up phase;

Weigh in with your thoughts!  I will try to keep track of them all and try to distill the responses into some overall conclusion.

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