Episode 43: Steve Drotter On Managing Managers & The Leadership Pipeline [The Amiel Show]

We talk a lot on the podcast about stages of development within adults–why they matter and what you find while transitioning to a new stage.

But what about levels within organizations? What new capacities does each call for? What happens when you’re not doing the work of that level–or haven’t developed the inner and outer capacities to do it well?

To explore these questions, I turned to one of the world’s top experts on succession planning: Steve Drotter. When I say “top,” I mean it. Steve has advised half of the Fortune 10 on CEO succession and decades ago helped build GE’s famous succession planning machine.

And then he wrote a book with Ram Charan.

In 2001, Steve partnered with Charan and Jim Noel on The Leadership Pipeline.  It filled a massive void in succession planning by defining six key leadership passages in organizations. And it sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

But that’s not all. In 2011, Steve wrote The Performance Pipeline, which identifies the work to be done at each level of leadership.

Recently, Steve and I chatted for an hour about these two books and how they are reshaping our view of leadership and organizational success. We explore:

  • How is managing managers dramatically different from managing individual contributors?
  • Why do function managers often feel like they aren’t accomplishing much?
  • What makes it important for business managers to bring together multifunctional teams?
  • Why is being a group manager less fun than you might think?
  • What are CEOs truly responsible for?

Leadership PipelineSteve DrotterPerformance Pipeline

Highlights

  • 8:00 Steve’s work with John Reed at Citibank on succession planning
  • 12:30  Your first job out of school—learning time discipline and adopting company values
  • 15:30 #1: First line manager = 100% change in the work requirements
  • 18:00 #2: Manager of managers, another major transition
  • 32:00 The first question to ask when work isn’t getting done (as manager of managers)
  • 33:00 #3: Function manager—the first strategic layer
  • 42:15 #4: Business manager—ask how the business makes money
  • 43:45 #5: Group manager—connect all the businesses to the enterprise
  • 47:00 #6: CEO—setting enterprise direction, attending to culture
  • 54:30 The sweet spot with the pipeline model: $100M-$5B companies
  • 57:00 Coaching leaders using the pipeline framework
  • 1:04:00 Steve’s transition from top HR executive to external consultant

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“I can name ten Fortune 100 companies without high enough expectations for managers of managers”

–Stephen Drotter  Tweet this quote

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Episode 42: Lisa Marshall On Exiting, Firing, and Burnout Nation [The Amiel Show]

Sometimes it takes a wise voice unperturbed by convention to make us radically rethink everyday acts. Consider these questions:

  • How do you lay someone off?
  • How can you exit an organization gracefully?
  • What does it take to make meetings juicier?

Lisa Marshall wants you to consider these questions with greater maturity, clarity, and thoughtfulness. That way, in the very act of doing what you’re paid to do, you can grow into a leader others want to hire, partner with, and follow.

Listen in as this seasoned leadership coach and author breathes new life into old questions.

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Highlights

  • 5:00  We still live in Burnout Nation
  • 13:30 Why Lisa insists on putting her coachee’s interests first
  • 16:15 Meaningless meetings vs environments rich in stories of helping customers
  • 22:30 Why the juiciest subjects belong at the start of meetings
  • 25:30 Body language tells you whether a “yes” is genuine
  • 32:30 How to tell someone they’ve been laid off
  • 38:00 Leaders hold the walls of the container
  • 49:30 How to leave an organization gracefully
  • 1:00:00 Saying “I’m sorry” before you leave the organization
  • 1:07:30 Why maturity matters
  • 1:11:30 Why Lisa gardens

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Any meeting without an agenda is almost by definition a waste of time.

–Lisa Marshall  Tweet this quote

‘Thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ are the two key elements of completion.

–Lisa Marshall  Tweet this quote

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Episode 41: Peter Block On Ambition, Authenticity, And Community [The Amiel Show]

One of my favorites interviews of all time!

In the consulting field Peter Block is a giant. His book Flawless Consulting–now in its third edition–taught us how to show up in client relationships with authenticity, rigor, and an eye for potential pitfalls.

Peter also influenced a generation of managers with his book The Empowered Manager. Today, he brings his passion to building local community around people’s assets.

In this interview, Peter and I walk through the trajectory of his career–his earlier years as an ambitious internal consultant, the decision (unusual at the time) to start an external consultancy, how he learned to build relationships with others despite being a self-described “loner,” and the questions and commitments that have pulled him in and shifted how he works.

For a serious conversation about big ideas and a full life, this was a heck of a lot of fun.  Enjoy–and share widely!

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Highlights

  • 5:00 Getting into the field by accident & influence of Chris Argyris
  • 12:30 A loner finds connection in Gestalt and T-groups
  • 16:30 Early years of restless ambition and almost getting fired
  • 22:30 The risks of being authentic
  • 25:30 Influence of Werner Erhard, language, and speech acts
  • 31:30 The Philippines—working with citizens and loving it
  • 37:00 Taking two years off to raise kids
  • 42:00 Peter tells me, “You’re amazing. You frighten me.”
  • 47:30 Why focus on gifts rather than deficiencies
  • 50:30 John McKnight’s work on asset-base community development
  • 58:30 Contracting in place-based communities

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Authenticity–putting into words what you see happening–is risky.

–Peter Block   Tweet this quote

As soon as you acknowledge your gifts, you become accountable.

–Peter Block   Tweet this quote

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Episode 39: Elizabeth Doty On Making Only Promises You Can Keep [The Amiel Show]

Elizabeth Doty is on a mission to focus leaders on their most critical commitments. In Episode 39 of the podcast, this seasoned consultant, author, and frequent contributor to Strategy + Business joins me to ask:

  • What if we were to take our commitments to each other so seriously that we made only the ones we knew we could keep?
  • What if companies recognized that the reliability of their promises to customers and society was central to their success?
  • What if teams stopped waiting around for new leaders to define direction and instead said, “Here’s a proposal for the next three months. Can you support this?”

I think you’ll get great value from this invigorating, high impact conversation. Please share with your friends!

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Highlights

  • 5:00 “The company made me a liar.”
  • 7:20 When businesses drift from their promises
  • 13:30 Why scapegoating CEOs or “rogue employees” doesn’t improve outcomes
  • 16:30 Creating shared maps of different parts of the system
  • 18:00 The peril of new leaders ignoring existing commitments
  • 27:00 The measurable benefits of companies keeping commitments
  • 33:00 A “no harm” diamond company commits to a simple rule
  • 41:00 What teams can do during leadership changes instead of waiting for direction
  • 46:30 Why keeping your head down is risky
  • 48:00 The power of “irrational generosity” during downward spirals
  • 52:30 A hopeful story about promises, money, and career trajectories

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There is an art in crafting commitments and being clear what we’re committing to.

–Elizabeth Doty   Tweet this quote

A recipe for stalling: change your leaders often or put your strategy into question.

–Elizabeth Doty   Tweet this quote

Explore Additional Resources

Liberating structures, a concept introduced by Bill Torbert
Strategy maps—articles by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in Strategic Finance and HBR

New to Podcasts?

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Episode 7: Bob Dunham On Reliable Promises And Listening For Commitment

Amazing things happen when you remove your blinders and see what it actually takes to coordinate action with others. First, you focus on how we make commitments to each other through conversation. Then, you realize that listening isn’t about being nice. It’s about producing reliable promises. Finally, you take seriously the notion that your public identity–or “personal brand”–depends on your understanding of others’ concerns, the offers you make to address those concerns, and your emotional mood as you walk down the hallway.

Bob Dunham has been introducing leaders and coaches to these points for three decades–and helping them practice their way to excellence. In Episode 7 of The Amiel Show, Bob distilled these lessons into an hour of actionable insights. Bob and I discussed:

  • 2:00 Our blindness that action starts with commitment
  • 7:00 How understanding conversations demystifies innovation
  • 13:00 Bob’s rapid success as a manager by evoking reliable promises
  • 21:00 The conversation for action, listening acts, emotions, and body language
  • 33:30 Getting people to say “yes” is an absolute disaster
  • 40:00 Having opinions but no evidence
  • 51:00 Personal brands and influencing senior leaders
  • 57:30 What Bob is personally practicing in his life

BD-edited

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Politics Is Not Optional: The Case of the Weakened Boss

The three biggest mistakes I’ve made as an executive coach in the past decade have one thing in common: organizational politics. In each case, I failed to sufficiently prepare the leaders I was coaching for power moves at senior levels that could—and did—affect them.

Here’s the thing. Few people would call me naive. I’m biologically wired to see what could go wrong and warn people about it. I’m also fascinated by the darkest guides to power and influence (e.g. Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power). However, with these three leaders, I missed key dynamics to which they were also blind, and it ended up costing them.

In this post, I share one of those stories. My intent is two-fold: first, to demonstrate that in organizations politics is not optional; and, second, to illustrate the level of acumen required to navigate politics skillfully.

Deer wounded in road

Case 1: The Weakened Boss

Linda was a highly successful senior manager with an amazing network at her company. When I met her, she had recently been brought onto a senior team in order to introduce a new business model, one more suited to the radically new market dynamics. Many of her colleagues were not enthusiastic about this business model. Some, in fact, were bitterly opposed to it. They had earned their stripes and had success in the prior business model. What did this new person think she was doing trying to change things?