Archive for the ‘Leadership Development’ category

Six Leadership Tips for Setting the Example

January 31, 2016

By Ty Hall

In order to be an effective leader, you must be able to influence those under you. Otherwise, there is no action to your leadership abilities. You’ll never have the respect of your subordinates if you say one thing and act another. You must set the example, no matter how difficult it may seem. This is how it’s done.

  1. Establish a clear vision.

Effective leaders know how and where they are leading the people who follow them. It’s imperative to set a clear vision for where you want to go, both for the organization as a whole and the individuals. If you haven’t established a vision for reaching the goals you wish, there is no way to lead effectively.

  1. Provide direction and chip in.

If an employee is failing at a certain project, offer your expertise in that area by giving suggestions and direction. An effective leader knows how to get the work done, and sets the example for struggling employees by doing it. Being a leader does not exempt you from the heavy lifting. If an employee is bogged down, happily offer your help. Servant leadership is one of the best examples you can set for your employees.

  1. Maintain communication.

Maintaining open lines of communication from the top down is one of the most important rules for effective communication. When the vision is established, leaders must direct their employees in the right direction, and the only way that’s possible is through communication. Share ideas across the organization and offer feedback as often as possible.

  1. Listen.

Another key component in communication is listening. Communication isn’t a one-way road, and listening is half the equation. Effective leadership cannot exist if it is not open to the ideas and suggestions of those it leads. Set the example here by making yourself accessible to employees. Make sure you clarify any questions or concerns when they are brought up to eliminate as much risk for miscommunication as possible.

  1. Command your employees’ attention.

When those you lead respect you, they will automatically give you their attention. One of the best ways to keep attention is to refrain from unimportant interactions, such as constantly joking or always being away from the office.

  1. Always be visible.

Let your employees actually see your work ethic by being visible. There’s absolutely no way to set a good example if no one sees what you’re doing.

Setting the example sets effective leadership apart from mediocre leadership. Be a part of your employees’ work lives—without micromanaging—and let them see how the job should be done, instead if simply iterating your expectations. No one likes double standards, and effective leadership doesn’t set them.

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The Paradox of Effective Leadership

November 17, 2014

General William Tecumseh Sherman, when he was being considered as a possible Republican candidate for the presidential election of 1884, famously said “If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.” This approach, research from the Harvard Business Review is showing, is the attitude of those in the workplace who rise through the ranks to achieve effective leadership and management skills. In today’s enterprises, leaders aren’t gaining power through title, but more by earning respect from their peers each and every day, reluctantly succeeding to leadership positions. It’s the paradox of modern leadership: the people most enthusiastically granted the power of leadership can be reluctant to lead. But every organization must have a leader, so how are the would-be leaders reaching this base? It seems these leaders are characterized by three attributes:

1. They are exemplary professionals, judged by their colleagues as capable of doing the basic work at the highest caliber of quality. They are seen by their peers as capable of leading as one of their own, and are thus trusted to delegate almost boundless decision-making authority.

2. The reluctant leaders are able to offer autonomy while retaining control. They allow room for other capable people to do their work, while ensuring that the company as a whole is heading forward in the right direction. Meanwhile, coworkers do not feel that they are being told what to do, as they feel that the team is working coherently together towards a common goal.

3. This is the hardest part—these would-be leaders have prodigious Shermanesque political skills. Essentially, aspiring leaders must build and sustain consensus among their colleagues, make trade-offs between competing interest groups, and offer incentives to individuals to lend their support, not unlike the lobbying and bargaining which occurs in political arenas. But there is always a constant abhorrence of political behavior in the workplace, and a belief that effective leadership is above politics. So leaders need to be capable of acting politically while appearing apolitical.

Which brings the conversation back around to the paradox of leadership. Effective management delights in granting autonomy and doing the fundamental work of the organization, all the while without exhibiting the political behavior associated with raw ambition. This creates another paradox: the paradox of the employee coworker—the autonomous follower—who can only be directed by the reluctant leader.

Today’s organizations depend on clever, capable, overly-competent talent, so some kind of paradoxical arrangement must be embraced. Models for enabling knowledge workers will have to be initiated to combine their energies, so that the unlimited potential goals this structure is capable of can be accomplished. In today’s workplace, everyone is capable of effective leadership, because everyone is capable of being effective.

2 Critical Questions to Ask for Effective Succession Planning

August 28, 2014

“One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.”

– Anne M. Mulcahy

Succession planning is often misunderstood or undervalued in the workplace. According to Talent Management magazine, about 70 percent of companies say they participate in some form of succession planning. However, 62 percent also report having too few candidates for organizational needs, and a third of organizations report no succession plan at all. These numbers are low relative to just how important succession planning is to an organization’s success.

Whether you’re a large corporation or small business, the economy is constantly changing and unpredictable. You never know when employees may leave or retire, leaving you with vacant job positions that are critical to your organization’s function. So, you need to be prepared! An effective succession plan benefits the organization and its employees in many ways, such as: identifying the current and future needs of the organization, identifying top performers and leaders, and assisting in employee development.

An article from Harvard Business Review suggests “changing the name from succession planning to succession development.” Effective succession planning helps organizations develop their internal talent in areas that will prepare them to succeed in higher-level and leadership positions. A great leader needs to be able to work effectively with people, and make successful transitions to higher levels of responsibility and accountability. Succession planning will identify the people who are capable of leadership, and identify the areas of development required to become successful.

The heart of succession planning is the evaluation of employees’ performance and potential. In doing this, you must ask these two questions:

1. How is the employee being perceived?
When evaluating and assessing employees, it’s important to know how they interact with others. Do they demonstrate leadership skills and confidence in the workplace? To gain this valuable information, it’s important to look at employees through the eyes of the coworkers and leaders with whom they interact on a day-to-day basis. That’s where surveys like the CheckPoint 360°™ can help. Three-sixty feedback tools evaluate a person’s leadership performance and potential with direct feedback from peers, supervisors, direct reports, and even customers or vendors.

2. What are the employee’s unique characteristics?
When looking at an employee’s performance and potential, you need to take into account what job positions and responsibilities will best fit them. To determine this, you need to know your employees’ behaviors, motivations, interests, and values. What makes them tick? Are they capable of working under more pressure? Will they be engaged by a role at a different level? How quickly can they assimilate into a new position. To gather this data objectively, you can use a total-person assessment. For example, the ProfileXT® measures over 20 characteristics, including behavioral tendencies, thinking and reasoning skills, aptitude, and interests. The assessment results indicate how strongly an employee matches different job positions, and identifies areas he or she needs to develop to become successful.

Protected: Coaching Your Team to Reach Their Maximum Potential

December 17, 2013

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A Fool-Proof Formula to Secure your Superstar Employees

September 23, 2013

                                                            by Aoife Gorey

We coach our clients, partners, and colleagues around the world on the importance of hiring right the first time.  Hiring the right person for the right job is inevitably the best way to reduce employee turnover.  Using employee assessments, talent management systems, and conducting background checks and interviews all come into play.  But, once you have secured your ideal candidate, how do you keep them?

Many factors affect employee satisfaction.  We can’t all offer unique and unusual employee perks like Google and Facebook, but we can still take a forward approach to keeping our people happy and attracting superstar candidates.

1. Evaluate your leadership
Measure employee turnover by manager; this can pinpoint a real problem.  Poor managers may cancel out all the positive effects that having an outstanding team may create.  If you identify problems with managers, help them.  Use leadership development tools to discover their individual leadership style and the dynamic of their team as a whole.  Effective management is the key to employee retention.

2. Recognize great performance
We are all motivated differently, but everyone loves to receive a compliment and credit for a job well done.  Give your managers the responsibility of creating awards for excellent performance.  Examples of employee recognition include: thank you notes, employee of the month awards, newsletter recognition, etc.  Here at Profiles, we award our employee of the month a cash bonus, extra casual clothes days, and their name on a banner facing the main street of our home office!  Thousands of people that pass by every day see their name on our mini- billboard!  Make sure you also recognize employees on a weekly basis, those that are working extremely hard but not necessarily employee-of-the-month level.  On an employee level, I always try to praise my coworkers and inform my boss when they do a great job on a project.  To me, the opinions of my colleagues are just as important!

3. Create an atmosphere of continuous self-improvement
For many people, each job acts as a stepping stone and learning experience to get to the next level of their career and achieve their personal goals.  Job candidates and employees want the opportunity to develop and to continually polish their skills, abilities, and experience.  Invest heavily in training and employee development, and encourage employees to take advantage of the programs offered.  Prove to your employees that there is no reason to leave when they can receive training from within the organization.  Here at Profiles, when I attended a new employee onboarding session, we were introduced to all the company executives.  Our president, Al Rainaldi told me, “Always be looking for ways to improve yourself so that you can be more effective on the job.  If there is a training program that you think would benefit you and your colleagues, bring it to the attention of your direct manager.”

4. Match people to jobs
Don’t hire just to fill a position, hire someone that is suited to be successful in the job you need filled!  Ensure people are matched to their jobs in terms of their abilities, interests, and personalities.  When people are placed in positions where job demand and abilities match, where job stimulation and interest match, and where cultural demands and personalities match, turnover decreases and productivity increases.

Organizations can use employee assessments to determine the requirement of each position.  Attracting and retaining the highest quality people takes time, money, and effort.  Applying the steps above can help you secure your own team of superstar employees.

Understanding What Managers Need to be Successful – How Assessments Help Managers

July 19, 2013

by Aoife Gorey

If a stranger asked you to rank your management team on a scale of one to ten in areas like communication, delegation, etc, what would you say?  Most people would rank them unrealistically high for fear that their answers would get back to their team.  How many of you can say that you would answer truthfully and honestly?

Despite all the training and coaching that management personnel can put employees through, a true manager also knows that they themselves are not perfect, and they can always improve on their management skills.  Most of us work with a variety of people, and all people require different levels and amounts of coaching and mentoring from their superiors.

Everybody cares about what others think of them – it’s human nature.  But what if you could find out exactly how you were perceived in your organization?  Think of all the things you could do with that information.  What if you knew how your employees really felt about you?  Think of the many ways you could use it to motivate and engage your employees more effectively.  Feedback programs (being assessed) can be a sensitive subject for all parties involved because of fear.  Managers fear they are not doing a sufficient job.  Employees fear if they are honest, they will get in trouble for any negative feedback about how a manager does their job.

As a manager, you may think you are an outstanding communicator, but how do you rank in the eyes of the people you are communicating with?  How are you perceived as a manager?

The CheckPoint360™ is a tool that looks at how a manager thinks he or she conducts work on a daily basis, and how the employees perceives the work of this manager.  Both parties (manager and employees) carry out the assessment and the end report shows two things:

1. Strengths – What you are great at.  You think you work well in this area and your employees agree – a happy team.  Keep it up!

2. Perception by others.  Areas that you may not be as strong as you could be.  This could be two things: one is a performance gap.  For example, you think you delegate work effectively on a day-to-day basis, however, your people may be unsatisfied with your method for doing so.  It could also be a perception gap.  You may in fact be delegating work effectively each day, but they perceive that you are not.  With these types of results, depending on the issue, the CheckPoint360™ report will provide you with a positive direction on how to change and raise your game.

Either way, now that you know how your people are thinking, you can modify your behavior, change the way you manage, work on your skills, and immediately raise your game to be a superior manager.

In the example of delegating work effectively, perhaps you need a weekly meeting, wherein employees outline the work that was appointed to them so all employees can see how you are delegating the work load.  The team will have a clear outline of what is required of them, and possibly notice ways that they can help each other to work more effectively.

The CheckPoint360™ is focused on strengths and development areas, not weaknesses.  It is not about attacking managers; it is about helping them with a strength analysis.

Equipping your organization with the CheckPoint360™ information has numerous benefits, but one in particular is priceless, and one that many managers will never have in their career.  The view of yourself in a working environment through the eyes of the people you are trying to motivate to work for you!

Can You Overdo People Skills?

June 24, 2013

Guest Post by Robert B. Kaiser and Robert E. Kaplan

In our work with leaders on overplayed strengths, people sometimes object to the idea that every strength can be taken too far.  For instance, an academic journal editor once held up publication of a research article stating flatly that “it is impossible for a leader to be too supportive, caring, and loyal.”

Did that journal editor have a point?  Recent interest in one of the greatest American presidents offers a fascinating example. Let there be no doubt that Abraham Lincoln was an extraordinary leader who galvanized a bitterly divided country and navigated it through phenomenal discord.  In fact, Lincoln is one of our personal favorite leaders. But his acclaimed biographer, Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of A Team of Rivals (which Steven Spielberg drew from in his recent film), turned up some counterintuitive insights in her penetrating research.  Taking into account aspects of Lincoln often neglected in the cultural lore, she considers the possibility that his leadership could have been even more effective had he not been quite so caring.

In a 2009 HBR interview Goodwin was fast to point out Lincoln’s tremendous gift of people skills.  She described his exceptional emotional intelligence, willingness to hear out opposing views, keen eye for talent, capacity for forgiveness, and ability to share credit for success but take blame for mistakes.  This constellation of admirable attributes earned him loyalty.  It was key to recruiting and managing the big talents, and big egos, that made up his cabinet who — despite many being from opposing political parties and former rivals in seeking the presidency — “ended up believing that he was as near a perfect man as anyone they’d ever met,” according to Goodwin.

However, Goodwin also concluded that “Lincoln’s greatest flaw came out of his strength, which was generally liking people and not wanting to hurt them.”  This seemed to color his judgment, and delay corrective action by giving people too many chances to turn things around.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the disastrous example of how Lincoln managed George McClellan, his general in the early stages of the Civil War.

McClellan had his own issues with overused strengths.  His confidence and pride could verge into arrogance.  Born to the upper class, McClellan was condescending and insubordinate toward his folksy commander-in-chief.  He referred to Lincoln as “a well-meaning baboon” and declared him an “idiot.”  McClellan’s tactical judgment soon proved to be questionable too.  Though a systematic and thorough planner who exercised careful judgment, McClellan was also a perfectionist who suffered from analysis-paralysis and struggled to take decisive action.  His excessively cautious approach is considered by military historians to be why the Union failed to quash the smaller Confederate forces early on in the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, the failure to seize the Confederate capital of Richmond, and the bloody draw against much smaller forces at Antietam.

Some believe that McClellan should have been removed well before Antietam.  In part, Lincoln may have been reluctant to make such a bold staffing move because he was new to warfare and military strategy.  Goodwin, however, concluded, “In the end it was his inability to hurt people that made Lincoln keep McClellan on far too long.”  By dragging his feet on this decision, the Confederacy managed to hold on despite long odds and the Union lost strategic ground and thousands of soldiers, including over 12,000 casualties at Antietam.  Six weeks later, Lincoln finally removed McClellan from command.

Lincoln was not alone in struggling with tough people calls.  In a recent HBR blog post, we documented how today over half of executives are too soft on accountability.  This shortfall is particularly common among those with strong people skills, who are bedeviled by two hazards when it comes to tackling performance issues.

The first hazard is that caring leaders tend not to be direct, especially when there’s a conflict.  They might avoid talking with the other person altogether; or soft-pedal the message to the point where the person walks out of the room blissfully unaware of the seriousness of the problem.  The hazard is augmented when leaders rationalize, usually by telling themselves, “I don’t want to make anyone upset.”  They’d like to believe they are being protective of the other person, when in fact they’re protecting themselves.

Leaders with strong people skills should also be aware of a second hazard: that they, like Lincoln with McClellan, will be much too slow to act.  Well-liked leaders, if they are honest with themselves, shy away from tough action because they fear it will hurt their reputation.  Another way that such leaders hang themselves up is by pointing to the subpar performer’s good points.  But if you wait until that person has no redeeming value, you’ll wait forever.  Finally, once these leaders do achieve clarity that the person needs to go, they let concerns about implementation delay action unnecessarily.  “It will be hard to find a replacement” or “It’s a bad idea to make a change now because there’s been so much instability lately.”  In attempting to rein in tendencies that impede your ability to deal with tough personnel issues, self-delusion is your biggest threat.

How do you prevent your valuable people skills from turning into a liability?  For one, wake up to the fact that that very aptitude puts you at risk of misapplying it.  Realize too that the more heavily you rely on those skills and the more deeply you believe in them, the graver the risk.  Second, wake up to the value of the antithesis of a strong people orientation — tough-mindedness about people.  Finally, be able to imagine that the height of people skill is to combine these seeming polar opposites — to take needed tough actions in a constructive, respectful way.

Rob Kaiser is president of Kaiser Leadership Solutions. Bob Kaplan is founding partner of Kaplan DeVries Inc.