Executive Intelligence

Executive Intelligence – Book Review

Author: Justin Menkes

“In today’s workplace, an individual cannot become a star executive without possessing a set of business ‘smarts’ called executive intelligence”. “Smart” in different contexts could be positively viewed as well as negatively viewed. In either case, there is a reference to uncommon wisdom in problem-solving or decision-making. These people have a solution-driven mindset.

To illustrate, a truck was jammed underneath a highway overpass. This was causing long traffic behind. A frustrated driver walked forward to check what was happening. After receiving an explanation of how difficult it had been trying to remove the truck, that “that the bridge was not high enough”. The driver looked at it and responded by saying that it seemed that “the truck was not low enough”. The policeman did not get it. The man repeated himself and explained further what he meant, that reducing the air out of the tyres to free the truck would do the trick. And it did – that was it! The traffic was soon cleared.

This executive intelligence must be demonstrated clearly in three different areas:
1. Accomplishment of tasks – a strong task sense and juggling of priorities efficiently within timelines, set goals, and vision. To have the capacity to clearly decipher distractions or unnecessary detailing if not needed.

    1. Working with and through other people – people are the problem, people are the solution! So says a phrase. This is a fact that good leaders must accept, use and understand deeply. These are soft skills, implying emotional intelligence – EQ, is different from intelligence quotient – IQ. Leadership is understanding basic human nature and developing an effective philosophy in handling different personalities individually and collectively. Ignoring building a happy and dependable team is a personal risk.
  1. Judging oneself and adapting one’s behaviour accordingly – continuous and sincere self-appraisal, Self-discovery, and self-management skills are things effective leaders do often. Good leaders self-evaluate frequently and very frequently want feedback on decisions made. He is smart enough not to assume he should always have the final word but always knows where he is going.

Executive intelligence thus does not consist of a single ability or isolated skill. Rather, it is a blend of critical aptitudes that guides an individual’s decision-making process and behavioral path. Thus, you may find many specialists not being good leaders of large teams – an engineer or a doctor may be very good on the job, but not in leadership. This has its roots in critical thinking. This is also different from abstract logic or reasoning, these wild thoughts or theorizing in the air – thoughts that cannot be domiciled. Some brilliant people are distracted by this kind of thinking – such thoughts are often too idealistic to be on the ground.

A good knowledge base is very good but not all that is needed. We have also seen some not-so-educated very successful in managing their businesses to unbelievable heights – INNOSON MOTORS is a critical example!

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Time Quadrant and Your Planning Habits

Many years back, I found myself in training which exposed me to the time quadrant. It was interesting because it was an assignment for us all in the training. Most persons in the test chose to be in the first quadrant, as it looked busier and more serious. I will not share the box I fell into. You may guess at the end of the write-up.

We make decisions daily. How we make and execute them affects us holistically. Let me describe the Time quadrant. As a quadrant, it has four boxes. At the top of each of the squared boxes are titled:
Box 1: Urgent and Important.
Box 2: Not Urgent but important.
Box 3: Urgent but not important.
Box 4: Not urgent and not important.

These depict our attitude toward work planning and the decisions we take. They are all outcomes of our decisions and habits
Box one, “Urgent and important”: depicts the effects of poor planning and discipline leading to unnecessary pressure to get beat deadlines. The person is perceived as being busy but complains a lot of no time, the result of procrastination till he is choked for time. He often understands important things but fails to plan ahead of time. At a glance, the first box looks like the most important of the boxes showing a busy person. Such ones are late performers and latecomers often, they have broken down cars for poor maintenance habits and other crises situations.

Box Two, “Not urgent but Important”: depicts a person with a leader’s mentality, a good planner, and acts well ahead of time, balancing all activities with good planning, so that he is always calm as he has things under control. He maintains good relationships, has time to relax, and has high-quality output. Some may misjudge such persons as persons without a plan because of their visible calmness when others are agitated.

Box Three, “Urgent but not important”: depicts a person who creates a semblance of activities, but has no clear targets and plans, responds to all interrupters, all visitors, and phone calls at all times, without clear goals for the day. He appears busy but a mere deception, doing the minimum but looking active, forming activities to fill space and probably to impress. This person has a poor sense of duty and prioritization. He cannot be a leader and would detract and de-energize a team.

Box Four, “Not Urgent and Not Important”: This person is a loafer, a slacker, and self-indulgent in most things, thus busy on unimportant things or time wasters like excessive computer games, time on the internet, and too much TV viewing. Productivity is near zero. This one cannot deliver. He cannot lead any team; he would rather be a great distraction.

Do you connect with any of these? Some of us really get but at what? And probably achieving less than our peers. This would depend on our planning habits and forethought mentality. This reinforces the 80/20 rule of time management, where approximately 20 percent of our efforts produce 80 percent of the results with good forethought and planning. You cede out the less productive tasks for higher productivity and delegate responsibly.

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Building Workable and Sustainable Strategies and Niches – Why many Fail?

Strategies are statements of intent – a journey of purpose and how to get there, successfully anticipating obstacles and avoiding them. This is whether corporate or personal – yes, personal. Some just think strategies are only corporate. We all need one. Strategies were “once defined as the art of planning and directing large military movements and operations of war”.

Strategies often are long-term projects needing clarity of purpose and a well-defined map to success. This requires good thinking and strategic minds. Some minds are better at this if allowed to flourish in your organization. Some organizations suppress such minds as too excited or cerebral. A leader’s job is to identify such minds or potentially so and nature them. A study reveals that it is difficult to get ten percent of such ones in an organization. It does not have to be the CEO or top Management – it may just be a smart ICT staff or any line staff somewhere, that could be key to a major change.

Research units of a system are critical. Some organizations, sadly do not deem it fit to have one. If available, funding the unit is seen as a mere cost Centre. In Nigeria, when you get thrown into a research department, it is meant to be ‘punishment’, or a place to silence you. This is sad, as these are quantum opportunities missed to create niches and strategic values that could reposition the organization. Data analysis, demographics, technologies, cultures, etc., have hidden identifiable opportunities to carve a niche or reposition market share.

The ability to differentiate short-term and long-term thinking, and striking a balance are an integral part of strategies and this differentiates true leaders. This is the unison between vision and mission. Vision is the end destination and mission defines the vehicle and pathways, or a delicate blend between long and short goals to arrive at the destination point. Some leaders, and organizations allow short-term goals or achievements to consume the energies required for long-term strategies and objectives.

Many strategies fail because they were not strategies in the first place; they are just intentions. Defined paths are unclear, and responsibilities are hazy. Thus, the need for a timetable and a time-keeper cannot be over-emphasized. Defined action lines, responsible officers, delivery timelines, monitoring and control, and the entire project Manager responsible for reporting progress and challenges must be put in place. The SMART acronym must apply here – must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Frequent updates on successes and deviations are critical to successful implementation. It is good to acknowledge mileage covered, but suspend celebrations until the destination is achieved. It is a continuous iterative process until goals and objectives are achieved.

Key people involvement is imperative. And, involving them early is equally very important. This is not a situation of favouritism. Choosing only those who can deliver into critical positions is essential. They need to ‘mentally own’ the projects and be passionate about them to deliver on determined mileages. A known track record of delivery should help.

Further, investing in the capabilities is extremely vital. The human resources required do not only need to be acquired but maintained and sustained. An internal knowledge sharing and domiciliation system and infrastructure are good for the sustenance of drive. A good succession plan should be installed over time. Watching out for competition and market developments are very key to successful implementation.

The original objectives must be determined by value, not sentiments or personal preferences driven by executive powers or cliques in the system. Values must be based on end-user satisfaction. value creation for a clear differentiation should drive strategic objectives. Thus, adequate research and data gathering and analysis, implementation, and monitoring discipline are critical for good results and sustainability.

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Response-ability and Responsibility – How do They Matter?

Have you found yourself admiring a friend, workmate, or senior officer at the office who exudes relative and unusual confidence and calmness, in response to challenging situations? This comes with response-ability. This is different from being responsible. The similarity between the two words may be a bit confusing.

Huffpost.com publication of 19th February 2017 defines “Response-ability as ‘grounded-ness, mindfulness, ability to consciously and deliberately choose our responses with intention and care”. I found the definition to be deliberate with the choice of words – grounded-ness, mindfulness, ability to deliberately make choices and decisions with relative ease. As leaders, this is critical. This does not come by accident or sheer desire to be so.

How does Response-ability differ from being responsible?

Our knowledge, capacity for analysis, and self-assurance based on facts, knowledge, and cognate experience minimize error rates and guesswork, enhancing our response-ability. In life, it is driven by knowledge and understanding, experience and good advanced thinking habit, or a working mind.

There is generally a small distribution of such ‘cool-headed’ persons around us. Some are gifted by nature as you may find such brilliance in certain sports or fields by certain individuals. In other real-life’s situations, such persons have the edge of the ability to respond almost without thinking things too deeply but perfectly in response and appropriateness. However, we cannot wait for nature’s distribution alone in this matter.

The concept of Response-ability was brought about by John Cage, 1957, a modernist composer. He tried to shift emphasis from strict accountability to aesthetics of engagement.

Irresponsibility is not necessarily ‘recklessness or selfishness’, but the inability to respond to a given life situation is a firm, decisive and positive way. Being able to use all self-control, skill, and knowledge, especially in challenging situations. Thus Leadership is not ability, but a strong sense of responsibility combined with response-ability. This includes leadership at all levels – from the family, the basic of all institutions, to large corporate bodies, or governance in general.

Where do Response-ability and responsibility thus connect?

For clarity and function purpose, they are differentiated. In reality, they work hand-in-hand. One may have a sense of duty but lack the response-ability, he may thus look irresponsible. Response-ability thus drives home value of capacity. We have a critical need for mental capacity. This is fuelled by knowledge quest, skill acquisition, and continuous development. Knowledge is a continuum. Capacity development is a never-ending circle. Staying updated enhances our response-ability.

Many people are stuck for the lack of self-development and indeed fail to realize the reasons why they are hurting.  A self-development plan need not be a crazy, radical plan, but a steady quest for knowledge for updates, and simple certifications. This stimulates thinking and the mind’s capacity.

Capacity for deductive reasoning, decisiveness, steadiness, candour, and transparency can be developed for great leadership, without resorting to shortcuts and circumvention of situations. Decisions will be well-informed and consistent over time, standing the test of wind and storm.
The perception of transparency and capacity leads to high ratings and leadership loyalty!


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