Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer / Getty

Late last week, it was revealed that after more than a decade as the head of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer would be stepping down within the next year. Over at Three Star Leadership, Wally Block has put together a few comments from other sources regarding Ballmer’s departure, and I wanted to add mine to the mix.

Ballmer’s resignation at this point in time is a failure of leadership. Barring extenuating circumstances, or a private matter, Ballmer did a disservice to the company he gave his life to and the employees he led. Here’s why:

Steve Ballmer put the company and its employees in a state of limbo.

Had Ballmer wanted to retire or resign, he should have done it before he stood in front of the media and announced Microsoft’s reorganization plan. Or, he should have waited out the transition, hoping it would work. At least give it another year.

By announcing that he was resigning/retiring when he did, he effectively killed the reorganization plan he just announced. There is no successor-in-waiting, so the person leading Microsoft next would not have been part of the reorganization process. It’s a hunt they don’t have a dog in.

As a leader, trying to implement another leader’s strategy is not something I would want to do, regardless of the company. And I wouldn’t do it. I would either develop my own strategy or just not take the position. My leadership style is not like Steve Ballmer’s. In fact, no one’s style or strategy is like Ballmer’s. It can’t be implemented like he would do. They don’t understand the strategy as he did.

Any leader worth his or her salt will implement his or her own strategy. The next CEO should not have …read more

How do we simplify in our organization?

A great question. We like to add projects, tasks, and features to our team or to our product but so much of leadership is knowing how and when to simply what we do. Trying to do too much leaves people as well as an organization tired and worn out. Plus, sometimes you just have to let things go because they don’t work or aren’t effective any more.

What can you do to stop excessive activities in your own organization? Here are three things from the Harvard Business Review blog to help:

  1. Separate cost-reduction from work-reduction. Since people are naturally (and understandably) protective of their livelihoods and careers, it’s difficult to ask them to do things that will result in the loss of their own job. So if cost-reduction is a key driver, try your best to eliminate jobs first. Only then should you work with the “survivors” to eliminate the unnecessary work.
  2. Make work elimination a group activity. While managers are hesitant to point out stoppage possibilities in their own areas, they often can see opportunities elsewhere. By bringing teams together across different business units and functions, you stand a better chance of surfacing activities that can be brought to a halt.
  3. Insert a “sunset clause” in the charter of all new committees, teams, and projects. Instead of swimming against the tide in trying to stop ongoing endeavors, make the shut-down process a natural event in the life cycle of organizational activities. If people know from the start that there is a beginning and an end, then managers will start to expect that things will be turned off at a specific time and can plan accordingly.

Click the link in the title to see the whole article. You can also click here.

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Defining Reality Leadership and Transitional Leadership

Transitions in business, or any organization for that matter, need connect how they start and how they end. Too often, leadership within many organizations seem to spend more time focusing on their future direction than where they are. And examining how the organization found themselves in their current reality rarely gets done.

Looking forward is laudable. Every organization should constantly look to the future, reading the signs of culture and trying to navigate the currents of the environments in which it sails. Semiotics is an important part of the future. Look at the signs and patterns within culture. What are they pointing to? What kind of future do they describe? As leaders, uncovering those patterns is essential for charting an unpredictable future.

But what many fail to do is to understand how the organization operates in the moment. What is needed is not to understand how leadership believes or thinks or assumes the organization operates. What is needed is to understand the current organizational culture and determine how, in reality, it is operating.

Leaders like to think that their organization works within the vision statement and the values they place on the placard in the company lobby. But it rarely works that way. Organizational leadership needs to fully understand the hidden culture within it and determine how that affects what happens. The hidden sub-culture is a powerful driver of corporate activity, and a failure to understand that within each department or corporate layer can be the downfall of many within leadership.

In any organization, at any point in its existence, one of the primary tasks of leadership is to define reality.

How do we do this?

First, start internal. Bring in people from multiple departments. These need to be leaders – those with titles and those without – in each of the various departments. Department …read more