2010.09.10: September 10, 2010: Turkey RPCV Jim Kouzes is a well-renowned leadership scholar with executive experience
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2010.09.10: September 10, 2010: Turkey RPCV Jim Kouzes is a well-renowned leadership scholar with executive experience
Turkey RPCV Jim Kouzes is a well-renowned leadership scholar with executive experience
I got started in the training and development field in 1969 after I came back from serving two years in the Peace Corps. It was my training there that first exposed me to the applied behavioral sciences. I was introduced to some very unique methods of teaching and training that were unfamiliar to me when I went through school. In grade school through university we were taught by a teacher lecturing in a classroom while standing in front of a blackboard. But here we were in a training setting where people were developing interpersonal skills sitting in a circle and talking about our feelings. We also did learning exercises to look at teamwork and interpersonal effectiveness. I found all that extremely fascinating. When I returned from two years in Turkey I got a job in the U.S. with a program called the Community Action Program Training Institute. It was in that program where I was reintroduced to this experiential approach to learning and development, and it was very compelling to me. It was also an opportunity to get exposed to training people in managerial positions. It was that early experience from 1969 through 1972 that brought me into the field. The main lesson I took away from that job is that the best teachers are the best learners.
Turkey RPCV Jim Kouzes is a well-renowned leadership scholar with executive experience
Dean's Executive Professor of Leadership
Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University
Kouzes is a well-renowned leadership scholar with executive experience. From 1988 to 2000, he served as president, and then CEO and chairman of the Tom Peters Company. He also led the Executive Development Center at Santa Clara University from 1981 to 1987. His distinctions include receiving the Golden Gavel from Toastmasters International (their highest honor) in 2006 and the 2010 Thought Leadership Award from the Instructional Systems Association, and being cited as one of the 12 best executive educators in the United States by The Wall Street Journal.
Along with his collaborator, Barry Posner, Kouzes co-authored the bestselling The Leadership Challenge, named one of the top 10 books on leadership in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. Posner and Kouzes have written more than a dozen leadership books and developed the Leadership Practices Inventory. For their work, they have received ASTD's award for distinguished contribution to workplace learning and performance, as well as being named Management/Leadership Educators of the Year by the International Management Council.
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Q| What was your first job, and what lesson did you take away from it?
I got started in the training and development field in 1969 after I came back from serving two years in the Peace Corps. It was my training there that first exposed me to the applied behavioral sciences.
I was introduced to some very unique methods of teaching and training that were unfamiliar to me when I went through school. In grade school through university we were taught by a teacher lecturing in a classroom while standing in front of a blackboard. But here we were in a training setting where people were developing interpersonal skills sitting in a circle and talking about our feelings. We also did learning exercises to look at teamwork and interpersonal effectiveness. I found all that extremely fascinating.
When I returned from two years in Turkey I got a job in the U.S. with a program called the Community Action Program Training Institute. It was in that program where I was reintroduced to this experiential approach to learning and development, and it was very compelling to me. It was also an opportunity to get exposed to training people in managerial positions. It was that early experience from 1969 through 1972 that brought me into the field. The main lesson I took away from that job is that the best teachers are the best learners.
Fred Margolis, an NTL Institute trainer, was one of my early mentors and friends. I went through Train-the-Trainer with Fred, and he was a master. A few years after I participated in Fred's workshop, he and I met for lunch in downtown Washington DC. Between bites of lasagna, Fred asked me, "Jim, what's the best way to learn something?" Because I had been through his experiential learning approach, I said, "Fred, obviously the best way to learn something is to experience it." And Fred said, "No, the best way to learn something is to teach it to somebody else." That was a very profound comment to me.
What occurred to me is that if we could recreate that type of experience with our participants in the classroom, not only would they be learning from us, but they would be learning from each other by conveying their own lessons from their individual experiences. It would be a much more effective way of teaching. So I've tried to apply that lesson that we learn best when we teach someone else by having participants become the teachers themselves in the classroom.
Q| How did you first become interested in studying leadership and leadership development?
My father, Tom Kouzes, was a civil servant for over 30 years. His final career assignment was Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Labor. In addition to his regular job, he also loved teaching and training. Often times, in the library at home, I'd see these books on his shelf by Peter Drucker and his collections of experiential learning exercises he used in his teaching. I became fascinated by the topic of management and leadership through these daily encounters with my dad.
In addition, because I grew up in Washington D.C., I had the good fortune of growing up in a place where there was rich opportunity to be exposed to some very influential leaders, and to experience their impact firsthand. I had the opportunity to be there when Martin Luther King Jr. was involved in the great march on Washington. (I wasn't actually present at the march, but my mother and brother were.) I was also an Eagle Scout, and I served in John Kennedy's Honor Guard. The words he spoke in his inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," stayed with me throughout my high school years and into college. As a result of being influenced by Kennedy and the people in government at the time, I wanted to join the Peace Corps after I graduated.
I began to study leadership seriously when I joined the staff of Santa Clara University in 1981. My colleague and now co-author, Barry Posner, stopped by my office on my first day of work and said, "Jim, if there's anything I can do to help you since I've been here a little bit longer, just let me know." Little did he realize I would take his offer very seriously, and we both found out that he and I had a common interest in corporate culture and managerial values. That shared interest led to writing a paper together. A year later, we were writing our first book, The Leadership Challenge.
Q| What impact do you think the recession has had on the leadership in organizations around the world? What do you think are the implications of it?
One of the most frequent requests I get these days is to talk to audiences about leading in turbulent times. That is directly related to the recession and the economic conditions. Whenever people are challenged by this type of adversity, they want to know what leaders can do. My clients, like most leaders, have been challenged by the pressures to lay people off, cut budgets, delay investments in new products, and postpone plans for growth. People feel more uncertain about their jobs, and young people just graduating are having a very difficult time finding employment at all. People are anxious to know what they can do to be more effective in times like these. One of the more interesting implications of all this comes from research by the Gallup organization. They found "the gains in economic confidence among U.S. employees between January and April of 2009 were predominantly accounted for by those who said someone at work encourages their development." Imagine that! Those of us in training and development can have an impact on people's confidence in the macro economy by paying attention to their development. We play quite an important role in times like these.
Q| Do you have any memorable experiences from working with such a vast group of organizations including Apple, L.L. Bean, Verizon, and The Walt Disney Company?
Let me tell you two stories. One is a positive and the other is a negative, or as we say in the trade, a learning experience.
One of the things I write and talk about a lot is personal credibility. Credibility is the foundation of all leadership. I was talking about it in front of a group of about 3,000 store managers from around the country of a big retail organization at their annual conference in Las Vegas. I was making a point about being competent, and I was referring to the CEO of this company by his first name-let's call him Dan. I would say, "As Dan said" because I had the opportunity to interview him before the event. Then, about the third time I quoted him, someone in the back said "It's David." I had been misspeaking his name the whole time, and it was very embarrassing! But it was a wonderful learning opportunity to point out to the audience that I had been talking about credibility, and I just diminished my own by calling somebody by the wrong name. Sometimes the best lessons in life come when you screw up.
Another memorable opportunity for me was when I was conducting a public seminar for a relatively small group of people. I had invited, as a guest to come and observe, John W. Gardner, former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, founder of Common Cause, someone who had served five U.S. presidents, author on leadership, and who happened to be teaching at Stanford not too far away from where we happened to be holding the seminar on the coast of California.
John, who was one of the more senior statesmen in the field of leadership, came and participated. When somebody of that stature shows up, not only does it encourage and support the work, but it speaks to the genuineness and authenticity of someone like him. It's one thing to write about leadership, and another thing to show up and be present.
What I took away from that experience was that as authors we need to model what we write about. Everything that our participants do, we need to do ourselves. We not only need to do it in the classroom, but outside the classroom as well. It makes us more credible, and it makes our words more meaningful. It also keeps us learning. I tell people that I continue to stay in this field because every day that I'm working with our clients, I learn something new. Once I stop learning, I think that's when I'll retire, but so far, that hasn't happened.
Q| What are qualities of an effective executive coach?
Credibility is the foundation of leadership, and credibility is also the foundation of effective coaching.
The first quality that any executive coach has to develop is a trusting relationship with their client. That relationship is based on the ability to establish rapport (based on interpersonal competence), and also on our willingness to tell the truth. It's about being able to communicate honest, reliable, and useful information to people, and getting them to accept it. It's what I call being a loving critic. That also requires a coach to do some very effective assessments using 360-degree feedback tools, surveys, and interviews, as well as the ability to provide that feedback in such a way that the client can hear it.
Another key ingredient of credibility is that you have to be perceived by your client as knowing and understanding what she does day in and day out, not necessarily on the technical level, but what it's like to be an executive. What are the challenges she faces? What's going on in her world? What does her day look and feel like? Your client needs to have the sense that you're not just coming from an academic perspective, but there's practical application to what you're doing.
The other piece of this is the ability to help your client develop a plan of action he can use to improve his capacity. Perhaps the most important factor is to get him to follow up on it. Marshall Goldsmith, a good friend of mine, and one of the best executive coaches in the world, has found consistently in his research that follow-up is absolutely key to success. You can be brilliant in a coaching session, but if there is no follow-up, you and your client might as well have stayed home. In fact, Marshall put this into practice in his own life by engaging in daily phone calls with a colleague about how well he was doing at keeping his agreements to engage in certain behaviors every day.
The best coaching framework I can think of was developed by Chris Argyris years ago. He had a three-step process. First, you have to collect valid and useful information. People have to make decisions about what they are going to do with the feedback they get from you, so you have to provide information that is accurate and corresponds to the real world. The second step is guiding them through the process of making free and informed choices. They have to own their decisions and they have to make them because they want to, not because they have to. The third phase is having the clients make behavioral commitments to facilitate change. You ask them, "What are you going to do now that you've decided to make this change? What steps are you going to take?" Then you follow up with them to make sure they've done it. This simple model has been extremely useful to me.
Q| What are ways in which leaders can embrace the future in terms of trends such as globalization and social media?
One of the more immediate ways we can embrace it is to buy a lot of plane tickets. While we have the virtual ability to be global 24/7, it's really important to get to know people in their own setting. It's one thing for me to be on a phone call or doing a webinar or chatting on Skype with somebody in Hong Kong, but it's another thing to be there, and to see how people live and to visit them and to work and live in that culture.
Social media, of course, allows us to do things we couldn't do physically. Not only does it permit us to stay in constant contact with those individuals we meet in person, it enables us to get acquainted with people we might never have had the chance to know. In our newest book, The Truth About Leadership, we tell the story of Ivana Sendecka. She initially got in touch with me through Facebook, and I wrote her back. Had there been no Facebook, I doubt I would have ever heard about her. In learning more about her, I was fascinated with her leadership story and, as a consequence, we communicated back and forth many times, and she ended up being a central story in a chapter in the book. These tools provide us with ways to meet and get to know people in ways we would have never known before.
Q| What is one change you'd like to see in the field of leadership development within the next decade?
The most compelling issue for me right now is how we make leadership development a daily activity and not an episodic or event-driven process. Much of leadership development is still driven by events, and we all make promises about what we're going to do, and then we go back to work and we have very little in the way of follow-up or support. I think the biggest challenge in leadership development right now is making sure that we integrate these new practices into our way of doing things on a daily basis.
I'll give you two examples.
My son Nicholas is a tennis player who plays Division I men's tennis for UC Davis. He'll be a senior this year. When he was being recruited to play tennis in college after high school, my wife and I had the opportunity to talk to a number of coaches, one of them being Glenn Michibata from Princeton University.
I was asking Glenn about how many days a week his players practice. He said, "I tell my players they have to practice two hours a day just to stay the same, and more if they want to get better." I began to wonder how many executives that I work with or how many managers inside organizations ask themselves, "How am I going to practice leadership today for two hours?"
On another occasion, I was talking to the Chinese pianist Lang Lang, after a performance he gave in San Francisco. I asked when he started to play, and he told me three years old. I also asked, "How many hours a day did you practice?" And he said, "Six to eight hours a day when I was in school, but once I became a professional, now I only practice three." The consistent message I get from people-whether they're in performing arts, athletics, or other fields that demand the maintenance of sharp skills-is that they engage in learning activities on a regular basis.
Leadership development isn't something that happens on a weekend or at a course or online when we participate in a webinar. Those activities might be part of my plan, but I've got to have the discipline to do something every day. Until we can have a way of deliberately doing something to better our abilities for 15 or 30 minutes at a time, we're performing as amateurs, not professionals. We have to become more mindful of improving our skills.
I think the most important change we need to see in leadership development is to bring deliberate practice into the routine of leaders on a daily basis. Once we develop cultures where people see leadership development as a daily activity, then we'll have made great strides in improving the skills and abilities of our leaders.
Q| Are you currently working on any new books or projects?
Barry and I finished a new book called The Truth About Leadership that came out in August 2010. Also on my desk is the manuscript for a new edition of Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, and Why People Demand It.
After that, in 2011, we will be working on the 5th edition of The Leadership Challenge, our first book. In 2012 it will be the 25th anniversary of its first release, so we're planning a Silver Anniversary publication of that book.
We also finished eight other projects this past year including our new book, The Truth About Leadership, updates of The Leadership Challenge workshop materials, several new workbooks, a new online learning program, a collection of leadership training activities, and a coaches' guide to our work. It was a very busy year!
Q| How do you enjoy spending your free time?
Since our son plays tennis, my family watches a lot of matches. Not only do we watch him play, but we all got up early to catch the Wimbledon on TV and we went to the U.S. Open in New York.
I enjoy traveling with my wife Tae. We were in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and Australia last year. This summer, we will be going off to Mackinac Island in Michigan and to a family reunion in Washington State.
Tae and I also play golf, and once a year, I go off with my buddies to play golf with them too.
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