Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Power of a Written Individual Development Plan

I’ve always been a strong proponent of the importance of having a written individual development plan (IDP) for leadership development. That is, identifying:

- What you want to get better at
- How you’re going to do it
- When you’re going to do it

I have one. I make sure my employees have one. And I try to encourage all employees to have one, not just managers.

The idea is often met with resistance. I hear things like “I’m developing all the time, why do I need to write it down?”, or “I don’t have time to do that”, or “That’s just some form HR makes us fill out… it’s worthless”, and on and on.

There’s some truth to all of these comments. Perhaps at one time you were forced to fill out a form, or maybe someone even wrote one for you. Maybe it was the last page of a performance appraisal.
There was little substance, little buy-in, and it really was just extra work that no one has time for.

When I conduct workshops on how to develop as a leader, or am coaching a leader, I usually get pretty good buy-in until we get to the point where it’s time to put it in writing. The moment of truth, time to make a commitment. Then, for some, picking up that pen is met with staunch resistance.
I heard a story that convinced me of the power of having written goals that I often tell to try to get people over this hump. It turns out I’ve had a few of the facts wrong, but it’s been close enough to often make the point and change some minds.
The Harvard Business School Goal Story
In the book What They Don't Teach You in the Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack tells a study conducted on students in the 1979 Harvard MBA program.

In that year, the students were asked, "Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?" Only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and a whopping 84 percent had no specific goals at all.

Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings, while somewhat predictable, were nonetheless astonishing. The 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. And what about the three percent who had clear, written goals? They were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

While this story is about financial goals, the same concept applies to leadership development goals.

You can sit back and float though life hoping you’ll get better as a leader. And if you’re lucky, you will. Development will come to us.

But why not increase your chances of success ten times simply by putting your development goals in writing? Do it. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.

The October 29th Carnival of HR

Welcome to the latest edition of the Carnival of Human Resources!

The Carnival of HR is collection of 25 recent HR articles written by some of the best HR bloggers from around the world. The tradition was started by The Evil HR Lady and is now hosted by a different blogger every two weeks.

This edition of the Carnival, hosted by Great Leadership, takes on a Halloween theme. It’s a frightening collection of horror stories guaranteed to scare you into improving your company’s bottom line performance through better HR practices.

So turn up the lights, don’t read these alone (share them with others), and be sure to read every one of them in order to scare off vampire lawsuits, werewolf managers, and zombie employees.

There’s no way to prioritize these, they’re all TREATS, so I’ll just list them in the order I received them.

We’ll start with Revisiting the HBR 2002 paper “Everything I Know about Business I Learned from Monopoly" , posted at The Emerging Role of the Learning and Development Consultant. This post draws parallels from the principles of great game design to engaging leadership.

Next, Nina Simosko discusses the benefits of "hands-off" management wherein the whole organization or business unit is engaged, working in synchronicity and moving cohesively towards a clearly articulated goal.

The Cranky Middle Manager gives us Two Faces of Leadership, looking at the upcoming US elections to discuss what makes a good leader.

The Carnival’s founder, The Evil HR Lady, answers a reader’s HR horror story about a tuition policy problem.

Incentive Intelligence advises us to give our employees permission with Permission-Based Management. Now that’s a scary thought.

Jon Ingram’s Strategic HCM Blog writes about banking bonuses, ROWEs and the need to manage behaviours in a post called Would a ROWE get The right results.

HR Observations terrifies us with What the Future of HR Looks Like in 2009.

Compensation Force tells us: “(Hey Leaders!) Communication is Critical in Tough Times”.

Three Star Leadership gives us Abolish the performance review. Dr. Samuel Culbert offers a new and different, but wrong-headed, idea for changing the way companies do performance appraisals. Wally Bock is for getting rid of the current performance appraisal system, but not Dr. Culbert's way.

Art Petty on Management scares us with In Search of A Quantifiable Return on Leadership Development.

Gautam Ghosh, management consultant guru, gives us a treat with Going Cross Functional.

Strategic Workforce Planning is back in the Carnival, with Will the Election Impact your Workforce.

Fellow Bloghound Flip Chart Fairy Tales gives us a post for our UK readers, but it also has generic appeal in that it is about leaders staying within their comfort zones and creating crises.

The Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog weighs in with Employer's Guide to the Election.

i4cp gives us Fear and loathing in Atlanta, part 1.

Managing Leadership offers up some deep insights on leadership with Showing Leadership.

Simplicity at the other side of complexity is in search of a “sharp” employee value proposition that is different from (and perceived to be different from) what other companies are offering.

McArthur’s Rant surveyed LinkedIn readers and put a presentation on Slideshare together called a LinkedIn view of the credit crunch.

The Career Encouragement Blog asks us, “What are you scared of”? Now that’s very appropriate for this Halloween theme, nice job.

Here’s a perfect post from The Engaging Brand, What is perfection?

Maximize Possibility responds to a passionate post I wrote with Four Employee Engagement Drivers of Passion for One’s Job.

Are you interested in discovering your employees’ most serious complaints?
If so, read all about it at the Human Resources Blog , An Employee Complaint Is a Gift.

Here’s Advice from a Moron: Self-Deprecation Matters, from Inflexion Advisors.

All Things Workplace invites HR to the table, with Why This Is An Important Moment For HR.

And just sneaking in past the deadline is Fortify Your Oasis, with How Not to Conduct a Selection Interview.

I hope you enjoyed the Carnival!!

The next HR Carnival will be November 12th, hosted by Ask a Manager.

Also - I’ll be hosting another Leadership Development Carnival on December 6th.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Great Leadership’s One Year Birthday!

Great Leadership is one year old today! Woo hoo.

One year ago today, on October 28, 2007, I launched Great Leadership with this lame post. No readers, no comments, and no clue about what I was doing.

People have all sorts of cool reasons why they got into blogging, some of them really inspirational. I really admire that.

My inspiration was Jerry Alonzy and Jerrold Foutz, a couple old guys who struck it rich with ads by Google.

I soon realized I wasn’t going to get rich and retire from blogging, but by then, it was too late. I was hopelessly addicted.

One of the greatest benefits of blogging for me has been a renewed passion for what I do – leadership development. It has enabled me to stay fresh and aware of happenings in the field, and has given me a creative and fun outlet to share what I’ve learned.

I’ve also enjoyed the social networking and web marketing (they go hand in hand). The people I’ve “met” on line have been awesome, way too many to mention. I’ll always remember and appreciate those who early on answered my beginner questions, gave me advice, and were always willing to lend a hand.

I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of starting and growing a “business”. I’m not ashamed to admit I watch the numbers – hits, subscribers, ad revenue, ratings – as well as take pride in the awards and publicity. I may have been an entrepreneur or a carnival barker in a past life.

So thanks to all you who subscribe to Great Leadership, stop by now and then, or just stumble upon it by accident. I’m grateful for your interest and support.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Best of Great Leadership: Eight Step Guide to Developing Your Leadership Skills

As I approach the one year anniversary of Great Leadership (10/28), I was looking back at a few of the first posts I wrote. This one, Eight Step Guide to Developing Your Leadership Skills, is a process I often refer to and use in workshops or to coach leaders.

The problem is, when I first posted it, I probably had about three readers, including myself.

So here's my first "best of" Great Leadership with a few updates and links to other supporting posts.

And yes, it's also a lazy way not to have to write new content today.

Here’s how to develop your leadership skills, adapted from Lombardo and Eichenger’s Leadership Machine.

1. Know what the target looks like.There are hundreds of books out there that claim to offer the secrets of how to be a great leader or manager, including “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” to “Leadership the Soprano’s Way”. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and sometimes contradictory.

So what’s an aspiring leader to do? This is why as a practitioner (someone who’s responsible for leadership development within a company), it’s important to clearly define the critical leadership competencies that are required now and in the future in order for the business to succeed.

There are great research-based models to pick from (Lominger, CCL, PDI, DDI), so there’s no need to start from scratch. I’ve found it’s best to first understand your company’s strategy and leadership requirements, create a draft competency model, then engage your CEO and senior executives, as well as other key stakeholders to validate the model.

If you’re an aspiring leader with no company model, then study the successful leaders in your company. Talk to them, ask them how they’ve been successful, then supplement this information with a couple good books (see amazon list on this sidebar).

2. Know where you stand against the target – seek out feedback.
If you have access to one, a 360 degree assessment is a great way to gather confidential feedback on your leadership skills. Even better if the assessment is based on your company’s leadership model.

You can also ask trusted colleagues for ongoing feedback. If there’s something specific you’re trying to improve, like listening skills, or assertiveness, you can ask your manager, a coach, or colleague to observe you and give you feedback on that skill. While feedback is one of the most powerful sources of development, unfortunately, it’s often lacking. First of all, managers just aren’t good at it. In fact, most people aren’t comfortable giving feedback. That, combined with our own natural emotional response to feedback (fight or flight), we often don’t get enough of it. And it gets worse the higher we get in an organization (the “it’s lonely at the top” syndrome).

3. Have a reason to develop – be motivated.
It’s almost impossible for someone to develop if they don’t want to. The motivation has to come from within, some kind driving force. That’s usually not a problem with successful, ambitious people – improving leadership their leadership skills is often seen as a key to their success. For others, becoming a great leader is almost a calling, part of a purpose driven-driven life.

4. Get specific.
I’ve seen so many development plans that say things like, “improve my leadership skills”, or “become a better leader”. Nice intentions, but pretty worthless when it comes to real development. You need to drill down and uncover the behaviors that if improved, will make the greatest improvement in your effectiveness as a leader.

And oh by the way – with all due respects to Marcus Buckingham (Discover you Strengths), weaknesses do matter. It’s your weaknesses that will hold you back, so find out what they are and fix them.

5. Create a plan – and put your plan in writing.
The research is clear – people that set goals are more successful than those that don’t, even better if they are written and even better if they are specific. Create your own “Individual Development Plan” (IDP). Do it – you deserve it.

6. Hit the need or needs with every learning method available.
For some big needs, a job change may be the best development remedy (and the most powerful). In lieu of that, look for projects that require you to use the skill you are trying to develop. For example, if you’re trying to become a better listener, lead a project where you’re not the subject matter expert, so you’re forced to listen to others.

Learn from other people (experts, mentors, coaches, etc…), from courses and books. Whatever you do, make sure you’re really challenging yourself. A robust development plan should make you a little queasy just thinking about it, there should be a risk of failure. It’s that “development heat” that causes the most impactful behavioral changes.

7. Make sense of it all.
Think about what you did, what you read, what you learned. What were the lessons? What should you incorporate as a permanent part of your repertoire? What should you reject? What did you learn about yourself? It’s often helpful to have a trusted coach or mentor to help you with those “V8 moments”.

8. Finally, develop a sense of “learning agility”.
A recent study showed that learning agility was the single most significant predictor of leadership success. Be curious, be open to new experiences, try new things, experiment, and take pride in being able to tackle the new and unknown.

Enjoy the journey!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What if Leaders Were Allowed to Design and Deliver Their Own Leadership Training Programs?

Here are a few questions for leaders and leadership development practitioners to ponder:

What if leaders were allowed to design and deliver their own leadership training programs? Would there be anarchy? Would the Dow Jones plummet?

What if there was no training department, human resources, leadership training providers, or seasoned and expert leadership development practitioners (yikes!) and they were left to their own devices?

Could they do it? Would they do it? Would they be allowed to do it? And if the answer to those three questions was yes, how effective would it be?

One of the things I hope my readers like about Great Leadership is that most of what I write about is grounded in a practical reality. Just as Scott Adams used to get his best Dilbert ideas from working in a cubicle, I get a lot of my ideas from my own day job.

I had a humbling experience this week. I took a back seat support role and watched three executives design and deliver one of the best leadership training programs I’ve ever experienced.

It was their idea. For the most part, they designed it. They taught 90% of it. The participants loved it, having just left with pages of action items that will produce immediate and long term revenue and employee motivation.

Best of all, they pulled it off in 30 days with no costs other than travel.

There was no sophisticated needs assessment, competency modeling, job analysis, learning objectives, lesson plans, or thick participant binders. Absent were all of the overly hyped latest and greatest learning technologies, online collaboration, wikkis, blogs, learning management systems, and other bells and whistles that are supposed to transform the way we learn.

No action learning, break-outs, role plays, case studies, simulations, or any of the other leadership training tools we’ve grown to love.

There were no professors, consultants, trainers, coaches, facilitators, PhDs, or other learning experts. Just a few “amateur”, but well meaning executives.

How did they do it? It was really pretty simple:

1. The most important thing they did was to decide that they wanted to do it and commit to it. They each had a few recently promoted managers, and thought it would be a good idea to gather them together for two days to help them be successful. It never fails to amaze me what savvy successful leaders can accomplish when they decide something’s important.

2. We sent out a simple survey, asking the new managers what they wanted to learn and had them hold the days and make travel plans.

3. We worked with the three executives to design a high level, two day agenda, helping them decide which topics they wanted to cover.

4. The executives took the new managers to dinner the night before the program, then spent the next two days sharing their collective wisdom, advice, tools, war stories, and authentic commitment and passion to helping these new managers be successful. It was messy; they jumped around, didn’t follow the outline, and frequently strayed off topic. Worst of all, their flip chart skills were horrible.

5. The new managers eagerly listened, took notes, asked questions, and reflected on what they learned.

6. They all committed to stay connected as a cohort, and agreed to review their action plans with the executives at regular intervals.

That’s it. The managers loved the attention, took away pages of concrete solutions and new ideas, and left feeling sky high. One of them asked at the end: “What was the name of this program, anyway?” We had to make one up on the spot, along with a catchy acronym.

So here’s my message to senior leaders: You don’t have to leave leadership development up to the training or HR departments. You can do it, with a lot of commitment and perhaps little bit of help. Instead of bemoaning the lack of training budget and formal programs, take matters into your own hands and do it yourselves. You have a proven track record of success – why not share what you know with others and watch your business grow?

And for my practitioner colleagues: If you hear about one of these rouge training programs, reach out and offer your expertise to enhance and support it. Don’t kill the initiative, reward it.
At another company, I watched a leadership development “expert” ridicule and put a stop to one of these misguided efforts. The “right” solution would cost $350,000. And of course, nothing happened.
Keep an open mind – don’t insist on perfection as we define it. You might even learn something.

By the way, the learning methods I've poked fun at really do enhance learning. We use them all (except for the thick binders), and I'm proud of what I consider to be world class leadership development programs.

The key is to combine the best of both – a partnership between enthusiastic and successful leaders who want to teach and the learning & development experts who can help them do it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

10 “Off-the-Job” Leadership Development Opportunities

Life’s one long leadership development class.

There are opportunities to develop as leaders all around us, inside and outside of our Monday – Friday, 8-5 existence.

As you identify leadership capabilities you’d like to development, here is a list of 10 “off-the-job”, “non-work” experiences that you can incorporate into your individual development plan (IDP), along with the leadership lessons they can teach us:

1. Coaching a team: developing others, teamwork, building and leading a team, motivation, performance management

2. Parenting: coaching, development, patience, interpersonal skills, selflessness, stewardship

3. Step-parenting: Dealing with inherited problems, taking over and owning a project that wasn’t your idea, solving problems and dealing with significant stakeholders, overcoming resistance to change

4. Marriage (or being with a significant other): listening, patience, negotiation, collaboration

5. Being an in-law or dealing with in-laws: dealing with diversity, collaboration, acceptance of cultural differences, building and maintaining positive relationships

6. Managing a family: budgeting, financial planning, multi-tasking, planning and scheduling, resolving conflicts, setting priorities, resource utilization, leading change

7. Leading a community organization: an opportunity to practice leadership and receive feedback in a less risky environment

8. Planning a school or social event: project management, planning, budgeting, goal setting, building consensus, dealing with opposition

9. Home improvement projects: learning from mistakes, planning, patience, reflection

10. Joining a weight loss or exercise program: goal setting, motivation, discipline, reward and recognition

Can you think of others? How else can we develop our leadership skills when we’re not being paid?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Topgrading In a Down Economy – a Good Time to Hire!

This article is submitted by Brad Smart, one of the world’s foremost experts on hiring and a guest blogger at Great Leadership. Brad has published six books on hiring including the best seller "Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People" and "Topgrading for Sales: World-Class Methods to Interview, Hire, and Coach Top Sales Representatives". Brad’s Topgrading methods have enabled leading companies such as General Electric, Barclays, and American Heart Association (and my own company) to more than triple their success picking talent.

During the past 35 years I’ve observed talent management practices in up markets and down markets, and the two conclusions discussed in this article are:

1. Almost all companies talk a good (talent) game, but most admit they fall short, and

2. During a down economy is a good time to Topgrade, because there is more talent available, at lower comp levels.


Remember the bubble days? Of course you do! Talent was so scarce that any kid with 47 body piercings and a purple Mohawk could walk out of his office, toss his Frisbee in any direction, watch it land in front of a business, walk in, and get a job. Cisco Systems bought entire companies, companies NOT necessarily in high tech, just to get bodies. Companies paid huge amounts to entice candidates. EMC bragged that it paid its sales reps the most of all high tech companies – up to $3 million. Then the bubble broke. Ouch! Déjà vu?

I talked to Jack Welch recently about the go-go years of the 1990s, when a few General Electric companies had gotten a bit casual in talent management: B players had received A player ratings that were not deserved.

Is there any chance you became a bit casual in your talent management processes during recent up market years? An article (Making Talent Management a Strategic Priority) in the Fall, 2008, issue of McKinsey Quarterly revisits the War For Talent a decade after their first ground-breaking research. These quotes might disturb you:

“… respondents … regarded finding talented people likely to be the single most important managerial preoccupation for the rest of the decade.” Yet …

“Too many firms still dismiss talent management as a short-term, tactical problem rather than an integral part of a long-term business strategy …”

“To a considerable extent management must blame themselves for their current talent woes.”


Sorry if I seem like a nag with trite admonitions. Your investment advisor might be saying, “The market is down – buy now! Buy low sell high, right?” You know that when your portfolio is down 25% it probably is smart to cash in some bonds and invest in equities, but most of us are chicken, fearing the worst is yet to come.

Similarly, if your business is down, the idea of incurring the cost of hiring is painful, so limping along with some underperformers seems best. Yet we’re talking to managers every day who are Topgrading, now, right in the midst of an economic slump. I should have a teleconference in which they talk, but if you don’t mind my speaking for them, here’s why business leaders who are Topgrading in this down market would say NOW is a good time to Topgrade:

1. More talent is available at lower comp. This happens in every economic downturn – more people are out looking for jobs, A players can be attracted more easily, and you have the luxury of being able to get more talent cheaper. A client is recruiting a head of Human Resources and despite the fact that their business is down, they have more and better candidates than they did just months ago (when the economy did not appear so bad). Hiring is all about supply and demand, and when supply of talent is up (businesses folding or laying off people), and demand is down (most businesses not hiring), talent is cheaper to hire. When the economy improves, be sure not to underpay your people!

2. Underperformers expect to be let go. If two sales reps (out of 10) account for 80% of sales, and your business is very profitable, the two or three sales reps selling practically nothing will not be surprised when receiving the pink slip. You’re running a business and not a social service organization, so do what is right for the business.

3. Talent is an investment, not a cost (despite what accountants say). Only Topgraders really believe this. Most managers hire 25% high performers, 50% “so-so” performers and 25% lousy performers, so 75% of the people they spend money hiring turn out to be disappointments. But Topgraders achieving 75% or even 90% hiring success experience sky-high ROI when they hire.

4. Sales is the most important area to Topgrade in a downturn. Last week two well-known companies who implemented Topgrading programs (based on the 2008 release Topgrading for Sales) told me they have replaced mediocre reps with top producers and those companies are not even lowering their sales targets for the year! These will be case studies in future articles.

If you are an experienced Topgrader, I’m preaching to the choir. If you are new to Topgrading, maybe the first step is to read the free 50-page eBook, Avoid Costly Mis-Hires. It summarizes all the Topgrading best practices and you can get it by simply going to, and signing up for the free quarterly newsletter, Topgrading Tips. Instantly you can download the eBook. It will show you the commonsense methods that can help you improve your hiring “batting average” right away. By the way, in the McKinsey article Jack Welch suggests that every manager should be held accountable for a good hiring batting average.

Summary: You can improve talent in your organization cheaper (because comp is down) and easier (because zillions of candidates are available) now, in a down market.

This is in the “proud Dad” category, so please forgive me. My son Geoff wrote a book just released: "Who: The A Method for Hiring" (Random House). Geoff interviewed hundreds of Fortune 500 CEOs and billionaires, and integrates their proven methods into Topgrading values and methods. In the first week it leapt to not just the #1 management book, but to the single best selling of all books sold on Amazon. I think it’s a great book, and adds new Topgrading-related topics, like how to sell candidates. But I might be biased!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The HR Carnival is Back!

Hooray, the HR Carnival is back!

The Carnival of HR: National Bosses Day Edition has been resurrected over at Totally Consumed.

You'll find 13 all about bosses articles, including my own, 10 Ways to Get Off on the Right Foot with Your New Manager.

I'll be hosting the next HR Scary Carnival on October 29th. If you'd like to submit an article, email me a link to the article by October 24th.

Looking for a Few Great Bosses - Free Books Still Up for Grabs!

10/29 update - we have a winner!!

From Michelle Bennett:

Jeff Perkins is the best boss I have ever had. Actually he is more than a boss, he is a leader. He has a unique ability to get inside of everyone’s mind and relate with them on a level that nobody ever can. He is the best teacher I have ever had as well. He was kind enough to share his wealth of knowledge with me and help mold me into a leader that will hopefully be as good as him someday.

Congratulations, Michelle!

Two free books (I even pay shipping) are still up for grabs. I haven't received a single "best Boss" (actually great leader) nomination.

Here's a perfect opportunity to say a few nice words about a current or former leader who's made a difference in your life, just in time for National Bosses Day tomorrow. You can score a few brownie points and save money on a card!

Your nomination may not just be the best entry - it may be the only one. Come on, there must be a few good leaders out there worth mentioning?

Great Leadership's Best Leader Contest

There's a lot of boss bashing going on these days.
Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, holds a "bad boss" contest every year in which people tell their bad-boss stories. The three best (worst?) just got published published.
Take a look at the "winners".

There's a site called "badbossology", kind of a resource for strategies on how to cope with a difficult boss, and there's ", with more of the same.

And when I first started this blog, I piled on with my list of the "Worst Leaders of All Time".

Being a manager makes you an easy target. And while I'm sure there are a lot of bad bosses out there, I'll bet there's even more leaders that day in and day out are doing their best to enable their organizations and employees achieve extraordinary results.

So, with National Bosses Day coming up on October 16th, I thought I'd run a "Best Boss" contest. (Actually, it's more of a "best leader" contest, given that "boss" is really a double SOB spelled backwards.)

Please leave a comment or send me an email with a brief description of that leader in your life that enabled you to achieve extraordinary results. Someone who inspired you, helped your grow, and made a difference.

It could be a current or former manager, coach, or anyone in a leadership position.

Please also let me know what you learned from that person about leadership. What did that person do or say that taught you a valuable lesson about leadership that you carry with you today?

I'll select and publish the winner and two runner-ups in time for Boss's Day on October 16.
The winner will receive a set of two recent leadership books (sent to be by the author's publicists):
"Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands", lessons in non-linear leadership, by Nancy Ortberg,
and "Lead Well and Prosper", 15 strategies for becoming a good manager, by Nick McCormack.

Oh - and win or lose - why not send a note to that person and let them know you nominated them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More on Passion: Send 'em to Passion Training!

My last post Is “Passion” a Reasonable Performance Expectation? generated a lot of insightful and helpful comments. That's what's so great about this new world of blogging and social networking; throw a question out here and you'll find a lot of practical advice and information from experts in the trenches.

I also got a chuckle when I opened this week's issue of and saw this teaser:

Leaders Need Passionate Teams, Especially in Tough Times Difficult times call for difficult measures. As Jacqueline Throop-Robinson explains, leaders need to bring Passion back to the workplace.More...

How timely! That's sounds like what I need. So I did a quick Google search, and I found the author's website, called PassionWorks!

It turns out we can send our employees to passion training. Really, I'm not making this up. It's even in, so it must be legit!

But wait, there's more! They even have an electronic diagnostic assessment that measures passion:

"If you are a leader looking to stimulate passion in your people - this diagnostic tool is for you. Leaders use our diagnostic tool to help their direct reports become more accountable for creating and sustaining the specific conditions that create PassionFlow™ within them. You can’t make someone else passionate, but you can help a colleague to take control over their own passion at work!"

How cool is that? I'm all for stimulating a little passion flow in the workplace. I am so in.

Maybe I can get a handle on that sarcasm and cynicism that rears its ugly head now and then.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Is “Passion” a Reasonable Performance Expectation?

I love what I do. I’m totally jazzed about leadership, leadership development, my department, and my company. I’m a rah rah, a cheerleader, and try hard never to be cynical or critical.

In other words, I’m PASSIONATE about my work.

Not every day, 100% of the time. I have my moments. But most of the time.

It’s not my nature to be this way. I have to work at it. I consider it an important part of my job as a leader. I’ve also found I’m more successful and satisfied when I feel this way about my job and company.

Here’s the dilemma, though. As a leader, is it a fair and reasonable expectation to expect our employees to be passionate about their work? What if an employee’s doing an adequate job, but just don’t give a @#%*?

I think I know what the HR answer would be: probably not. I’ve never seen “passion” in a job description or a performance appraisal. Somehow I don’t firing someone for a lack of passion holding up in court.

But as a leader, I don’t just want someone that’s just good at what they do; I want them to be good and love it. To me, it’s that enthusiasm for the job that separates most “A” players from the rest of the pack. Those kinds of employees raise the spirit and performance of those around them.

While I realize all organizations have a bell performance distribution curve, I’m greedy – I want ALL “A” players on my team. Shouldn’t every leader? Isn’t that the kind or leader, and organization, you’d rather work for?

But what about “mundane” jobs – how can you possibly get passionate about, say, delivering mail for the US postal service? Fred can. How about a Walmart greeter? Marty did.

Am I out of line here? Passion, commitment and enthusiasm about our work is a personal choice. Can we as leaders, expect it from our employees? Or do we just hope for it and appreciate it when we get it?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Best Coaching You Will Ever Get By Marshall Goldsmith

I've recently been using an exercise by Marshall Goldsmith (giving full credit, of course) as a way to close leadership development workshops and presentations. It's been very powerful, and participants have told me afterwards it's had a big impact on their lives.

Here's a video of Marshall conducting the exercise to the employees of ASTD for Employee Learning Week. I've also included a written version at the end.

The Best Coaching You Will Ever Get
By Marshall Goldsmith

You are now about to receive the best coaching advice that you will ever get in this—or perhaps any other—lifetime! You are about to receive advice from a very wise old person. Listen very carefully to what this wise old person says.

First, take a deep breath. Take a deeper breath. Now, imagine that you are 95 years old and you are just about to die. Here comes your last breath. But before you take your last breath, you are being given a wonderful, beautiful gift: the ability to travel back in time and talk with the person who is reading this column. The 95-year-old you has been given the chance to help the you of today to have a great career and, much more important, to have a great life.

Figure Out What Counts
The 95-year-old you knows what was really important and what wasn't; what really mattered and what didn't; what really counted and what didn't count at all. What advice does the wise "old you" have for the you reading this column? Take your time. Jot down the answers on two levels: personal advice and professional advice. And once you have written down these words, take them to heart.

In the world of performance appraisals, this may well be the one that matters most. At the end of life, if the old you thinks that you did the right thing, you probably did. If the old you thinks that you screwed up, you probably did. At the end of life, you don't have to impress anyone else—just that person you see in the mirror.

A friend of mine actually had the opportunity to talk with old people who were facing death and to ask them what advice they would have had for themselves. Their answers were filled with wisdom. One recurring theme was to take the time to reflect on life and find happiness and meaning now. A frequent comment from old people runs along the lines of: "I got so wrapped up in looking at what I didn't have that I missed what I did have. I had almost everything. I wish I had taken more time to appreciate it."

Look to the Present
The great Western disease of "I will be happy when…" is sweeping the world (see, 3/21/07, "Dogged by a Daydream"). You know the symptoms. You start thinking: I will be happy when I get that…BMW…that promotion…that status…that money. The only way to cure the disease is to find happiness and meaning now.

A second theme from old folks was friends and family. You may work for a wonderful company and believe that your contribution is very important. But when you are 95 and you look around your death bed, very few of your fellow employees will be waving goodbye! Your friends and family will probably be the only people who care.
Don't get so lost in pleasing the people who don't care that you neglect the people who do.

Give It a Try!
Another recurring theme was to follow your dreams. Older people who tried to achieve their dreams were happier with their lives. None of us will ever achieve all of our dreams. If we do, we will just make up new ones! If we go for it, we can at least say at the end, "I tried!" instead of, "Why didn't I at least try?"

In conducting research for one of my books, my co-author and I interviewed more than 200 high-potential leaders from around the world. A key question that we asked was: "If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?"

The top three answers:
1. "I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting, and I love what I am doing."
2. "I like the people here. They are my friends. This feels like a team—like a family. I might make more money if I left, but I don't want to leave the people here."
3. "I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me the chance to grow and do what I really want to do in life."

When my friend asked people who were on their death beds what really mattered in life, and when I asked young, high-potential leaders what really mattered at work, we heard about the same thing.

If you want to make a new beginning in life—look ahead to the end. Then decide what to do.

Originally published in Business Week
Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, measurable change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams. His latest book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, won the Harold Longman Award for best business book of 2007. Marshall invites you to visit his library ( for articles and resources you can use.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Strategic vs. Operational Leaders

Here's an interesting piece of information from DDI's (Development Dimensions International) Directions newsletter:

"According to DDI's 2008/2009 Global Leadership Forecast, 39% of respondents rated making the shift from a frontline leader to an operational leader, or leader of leaders, difficult to very difficult. A whopping 52% rated making the transition to strategic leader at that same difficultly level. Astonishingly, over half of the organizations surveyed had no formal development plan for their leaders making this transition.

With the increase in responsibility, it's crucial to ensure these leaders are receiving the guidance and development they need to take on their new role. DDI's new white papers provide additional guidance around those steps: identifying potential and assessing readiness; assessing performance; and developing your operational and strategic leaders. But first, you need to know what these leaders look like. In the following article we'll show the Success ProfilesSM for operational and strategic leaders. Read the article."

I like the success profiles DDI has put together. We often tend to mis-characterize the value of operational leaders. For example, when assessing talent, if someone is labeled "a good operational leader, but not strategic", it's often code words for career limiting. Most business need both types of leaders to be successful, and I've seen managers make very successful careers at being strong operational leaders. I'd even argue that a well-rounded, developed leader should try to get experience and development in both roles (although they may be more suited to one or the other).

Here's DDI's success profiles:

At this level, look for the ability to be innovative and think “out-of-the-box” when introducing and managing change. Additionally, operational leaders will need to develop strong internal partnerships across departments or work groups, and build strategic relationships with external clients to ensure loyalty and satisfaction.

Knowledge: An operational leader candidate should demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the company’s business model, financials, and competitive landscape. Further, they should have an understanding of the other business units’ processes, products and procedures in all markets—domestic and international.

Experience: Operational leaders should have some experience in the following areas: leading a business unit with profit/loss accountabilities, leading cross-functional teams, preparation of business plans, and managing a significant function.

Personal Attributes: Finally, your candidate should exhibit personal attributes like receptivity to feedback, flexibility/adaptability, a strong desire for continued growth and development, and acceptable risk-taking.

Competencies: At this level, leaders must exhibit succinct and compelling communication, the ability to inspire and lead organization-wide change, entrepreneurship, a passion for results, and tenacious drive for high performance at all levels.

Knowledge: Strategic leaders need to make well thought-out, long-range plans and thus must intimately understand their customers’ needs and the competitive landscape. They must also have the ability to understand and drive key talent management functions, such as compensation, training, and performance management and measurement.

Experience: Leaders at the strategic level need to have experience in creating a corporate culture, cost control, and global or expat leadership assignments. This is even more crucial at this level since these senior-level leaders drive the culture and direction of the organization.

Personal Attributes: Finally, your candidate should exhibit high levels of ambition, inquisitiveness, imagination and innovation, and a high learning orientation.

Where do you see yourself against these profiles? And are you willing to think of yourself as a strong operational leader, and be proud of it?

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Partnerships: Bloghounds and JobsOnline

I really enjoy the business development and collaborative aspects of blogging and social networking. I know some people blog purely for the sheer joy of writing, and I really appreciate and respect that. Not me – I fact, I find the creative part hard. I do, however, get a major buzz out of the challenge of marketing the site and building it up. I’ve never started and run a business before, so I guess I’ve discovered a bit of an entrepreneurial itch. And what it’s like to work for $2.00 an hour.

Last week was a busy and productive week for Great Leadership. In addition to preparing for another successful edition of the Leadership Development Carnival (over 70 posts submitted!), I established a couple of new blogging partnerships.

You may have noticed the cute hound dog on my sidebar, and a new “Bloghounds” blogroll. I discovered the Bloghounds through Rick over at Flip Chart Fairy Tales, applied for a membership, and they voted to let me in. The Bloghounds are a friendly, positive, and somewhat eclectic group of bloggers, mostly from the U.K.

They’re from all walks of life, and are committed to supporting each other’s blogs by linking to each other, commenting on each other’s sites, and helping and encouraging each other. I’m honored to be a member and look forward to getting to know some new bloggers. And I just couldn't resist the dog.

I’m also pleased to announce a new partnership with JobsOnline, a start-up online job board.

Here’s a description from the JobOnline site:

“If a job is posted anywhere online, chances are it's in the JobsOnline database. That's because we gather job postings from all over the Internet—niche sites, newspapers, major job boards, and everything in between—and list them for FREE on our site.

The process is simple: create a FREE resume, and we'll instantaneously search thousands of web sites, big and small, to find only those job opportunities that are perfectly suited to you.

Of course, you may not land a new job using our service, but we'll give you the best chance possible to locate that employer that's looking for someone just like you. Try it out. We think you'll be happy with the results. And remember, the JobsOnline service is absolutely FREE.

Who knows—your next boss might be a click away.”

JobsOnline is now an advertiser on Great Leadership (see “Great Partners” links on side bar). We’ll also be exploring other ways to help grow each other’s sites, possibly by trading guest posts.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Leadership Development Carnival #4: National Bosses Day Edition

October 16 is National Bosses day, a kind of "Hallmark Holiday", that's celebrated in The U.S., as well as England, Australia, and South Africa. I have mixed feeling about bosses day. On one hand, it's a nice opportunity to recognize that great boss who treats you with respect, trusts you, puts you in a position to succeed, and cuts you a break now and then. In other words, a leader.

The problem is, if you buy a gift, you could be seen as sucking up. But if you don't, and everyone else does, your might get stuck with being the safety coordinator for the next two years.
And what if you have a lousy boss? Then what do you do? Take the day off? Fake a seizure?

Well, how about giving the gift of leadership development? The best leaders I've known are always looking for new ideas and advice on how to improve their leadership skills. And if you're stuck with an average or lousy boss, who knows, maybe they'll accidentally pick up a few good ideas and surprise you.

So, in honor of Bosses Day, here's the 4th edition of the Leadership Development Carnival! Go ahead and forward it to your boss with a nice note.

Featured Posts: Here's the best of the best, in my completely subjective and biased opinion:

We'll start off with Amazing Things Are Happening Here! posted at Michael Lee Stallard. I've just exchanged blogroll links with Michael and really like what he has to say.

Next up is Steve Roesler, award winning leadership and talent management blogger, presenting How To Reduce Your Influence In A Few Easy Words posted at All Things Workplace.

Mary Jo Asmus makes it to the featured post list this month with Hit the Pause Button posted at Intentional Leadership.

Another newcomer, who I just started reading, is Prem Rao, with 7 Things Leadership Isn't About posted at People at Work & Play.

Art Petty writes a nice piece on the fine line between leadership arrogance and confidence, with The Hubris of Leaders posted at Art Petty on Management.

I always enjoy reading what Nina Simosko has to say on the topic of leadership. Here she gives us Leadership Is About Skills Not Gender posted at

Another newcomer to the Carnival is Gautam Ghosh. This was one of the first blogs I starting following, lost sight of for a while, and have just starting following it again. Welcome Gautam, with On Learning to Learn posted at Gautam Ghosh - Management Consultant.

I'm pleased to welcome Anna Farmery, from The Engaging Brand. Anna used to run her own leadership development carnival, and I'm honored she's given us Wind - Bad Condition for Leaders to Have!

It wouldn't be a leadership development carnival if Wally Bock didn't show up. Wally's submitted posts from both of his blogs, Birdshot for the first round posted at Three Star Leadership Blog, and Help! I’ve been merged! posted at Momentor.

Another blog on my regular "to read" list is Mark Stelzner, presenting Resurrecting the Golden Rule posted at Inflexion Point.

Welcome Miki Saxon to the festivities! Miki's also got a couple of nice blogs. Here's Leadership falls on its ass posted at Leadership Turn (couldn't resist the title), and A corporate culture for all seasons. posted at MAPping Company Success.

One of my favorite legal bloggers, Michael Moore, serves up Paul Newman: A Lesson in Leadership from Butch Cassidy posted at Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog.

And finally, the man who brings you the "Fab Five", Chris Young, presenting Employee Productivity Coaching Tip - Effective Time Management posted at Maximize Possibility Blog.

But wait, there's more!

Here's even more great leadership development posts, in chronological order, first submitted to last (yeah, I'm bending the "must be less than two weeks old" guideline - that's why they call it a guideline). I really tried to cut down on a lot of the personal development posts, only including those that I thought were relevant to leadership development.

Britannica Blog presents 6 Unwritten Rules to Advancement in the Workplace (Professional Networking 2.0) posted at Britannica Blog.

Ralph Jean-Paul presents Napoleon Bonaparte's Guide to Leadership posted at Potential 2 Success.

John Phillips presents Boeing Workers Strike Back posted at The Word On Employment Law.

Great Management presents How To Deal With Difficult Customers posted at Great Management Articles.

Simon Stapleton presents The Most Inspiring Book I Have Ever Read! Peter Drucker's 'The Effective Executive' posted at

Tim Abbott presents Balancing at Scale in a Sea of Trouble posted at Walking the Berkshires.

George L Smyth presents One Minute How-To - How To Tune In To Be A Successful Business Leader posted at George L Smyth.

Mitesh Solanki presents The Real Challenge of Creativity posted at Invent Creativity.

Psypo presents The Most Powerful Leadership Technique That Will Make Everyone Accept Your Opinion posted at [ Psypo - The Human Mind - Version 2 ].

Stan Ward presents Know your point - make your point. posted at Idea Leaders.

Mike King presents How to Empower Someone to Become a Learner posted at Learn This.

Erik Samdahl presents How to deal with managerial resistance to employee coaching posted at Productivity Blog.

Marcus A Smith presents Public Speaking Quick Tip: Find Positive Energy Sources in the Audience posted at

Kacper Wrzesniewski presents 15 Advices For Creative And Productive Brainstorming posted at

Mark McClure presents The Best Business Book I Have Ever Read posted at Mark McClure Today.

Michael Miles presents Effortless Abundance » The wisdom of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross posted at Effortless Abundance.

Alice Snell presents Taleo Blog - Talent Management Solutions - Succession Planning Strategies posted at Taleo Blog - Talent Management Solutions.

The Five Minute Mentor presents Managing employees layoff fears posted at The Five Minute Mentor.

Greg Shuey presents Which Comes First, Coaching or the Need for Coaching? Part 2 posted at CMOE- Coaching.

Shawn Driscoll presents What Should I Do For The Rest Of My Life? posted at Shawn Driscoll.

That's it!

The next edition of the Leadership Development Carnival won't be until December 6th. I'll be hosing the Carnival of HR on October 29th.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Guest Post: Management Styles

This guest post is by Paul Thornton, an author who contacted me about a new book he's written.

Management Styles

I believe there are three basic management styles:
· Directing
· Discussing
· Delegating.

Each style is unique in terms of how managers interact with their employees.

The Directing Style—The manager tells the employee or a group of employees the following:
- What to do
- How it’s to be done
- When to have it completed by

The manager assigns roles and responsibilities, sets standards, and defines expectations. The directing style is appropriate when employees lack experience and don’t know what to do. It’s also appropriate when there is a mandate from senior management that describes what must be done and how it must be done. The directing style is also appropriate in emergency situations.

How managers deliver the directions and instructions is important. Eric Berne’s book, Games People Play helps explain the tone and delivery some managers use. Berne described the three parts that exist in each of us—the parent, the child, and the adult.

- The child part in us is uninhibited, creative, curious, and impulsive.
- The parent in us wants control, order, and stability.
- The adult part of us is our mature, rational, problem-solving side.

According to Berne, the mature person has a balance of each of the three parts. But some managers take on the role of parent, forcing employees to assume the role of child. The unspoken message from the parent-manager to the subordinate-child is “I’m superior. Do what your told and don’t ask any questions.” This causes some managers to come across as being condescending and arrogant.

A healthier relationship between manager and employee is an adult to adult relationship. Employees want to be treated like an adult. When managers operate from this framework, they are respectful and treat employees as equals.

Bottom line—You need to organize your thoughts before you begin to direct others. Start with the big picture, and then discuss the details and due dates. If possible, show employees the desired output. Provide written instructions if the directions are complex or lengthy.

The Discussing Style—In some situations managing is more about asking the right questions than telling employees what to do. Using the discussing style managers ask focused questions to solicit ideas and opinions. They ask questions like the following:
- What’s our goal? What’s the problem? What are our options? What’s our plan?
- How should we proceed?
- When does it need to be done by?
- Who should do it?
- Why are we doing this?

Good questions get people talking and focus their thinking. The discussing style is appropriate when there are opportunities to influence goals, plans and assignments. It is effective when employees have ideas and confidence to speak up. Employee involvement increases their commitment to making it happen.

Managers need to ask genuine questions. Genuine questions come from curiosity and the manager’s desire to learn. “What do you think we should do?” Some managers ask rhetorical questions. They use questions to state their view. “Don’t you think it would be a good idea if we…”

Don’t ask questions from the parent-child mindset. Some managers ask questions more as a test to see if the employee can come up with the right answer. Finally don’t ask questions in a way that resemble an interrogation. “Where were you on Sept.8 between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00 pm?” Interrogations put the employees on the defensive. The best discussions happen when people are open and relaxed.

In group settings, managers should not allow one or two people to dominate the discussion. Ask questions and get everyone involved. One approach is to begin meetings by saying, “I want to start by giving each of you two minutes to discuss your views on this topic.” Managers should withhold their opinion until all employees have had a chance to comment.

Bottom line—when you use the discussing style you need to be open, curious, and interested in learning what each of your employees thinks. Probe and dig. Ask follow-up questions as needed. Observe body language. The non-verbal messages provide important information. Eventually get specific about assignments work and due dates.

Delegating Style—When using the delegating style, managers direct or discuss what needs to be accomplished and when it must be completed. However the how-to-do-it part of the equation is left up to the employee. It is expected that the employee will take action and make decisions. Employees are given power and authority to make it happen. Managers need to get feedback at appropriate intervals to insure appropriate progress is being made.

The delegating style is appropriate when employees have the experience, skills, and motivation to get the job done. Experienced employees want freedom to take action and solve problems on their own.

Certainly there are times when managers delegate tasks that are outside an employee’s comfort zone. Ineffective managers communicate doubt and questions about the person’s abilities to get the job done. “I’m taking a big risk giving you this project.” Effective managers do the opposite. They build confidence. “I’m confident you’re going to hit a homerun on this project.”

Bottom line--Delegate tasks that challenge employees but don’t overwhelm them. Don’t over-delegate to the same one or two “star” performers. When delegating a long-term project, establish specific follow up dates. It is useful for you to frequently ask yourself: Am I doing something I could easily delegate to someone else?


Each style is unique in terms of how managers interact with their employees. In essence managers can
* Direct—Tell employees what to do
* Discuss—Ask questions and listen
*Delegate—Let employees figure it out on their own

Like a good doctor, managers must diagnose the situation before deciding what management style to use. As employees gain experience, skills and confidence managers need to move from directing to discussing to delegating.

About the Author
Paul B. Thornton is a speaker and author. His latest book, The Big Three Management Styles (Multi-Media Publications) is available at and His e-mail address is

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Leadership Development on a Dime

A while ago, I wrote a post called “Leadership Development on the Cheap”, listing 10 ways to develop leaders without spending a lot of money.

I hope that kind of information is helpful to the majority of my readers that don’t have huge budgets for leadership development but still want to do the right thing.

As I come across quality low-cost or free resources, I’ll continue to share them. But I’m changing the series title to “Leadership Development on a Dime”, after one of my wife’s favorite Home and Garden Network shows, “Design on a Dime”. (The “On a Dime” series challenges designers to transform a room on a $500.00 budget.)

Free Coaching Videos

I was recently reviewing a batch of 360 assessments, preparing for upcoming debriefs. ALL of them had relatively low scores in the area of listening. So I did a little searching, looking for a good article I could offer on the topic. These were for senior managers, and realistically, they are not going to go to a training program or read a book. In this case, I need something simple, quick, yet on the mark.

I found a resource on the Marshall Goldsmith Library called "Athena Online, SmartBytes". It's a collection of FREE two-minute videos on a variety of leadership coaching topics. Some have corresponding articles.

Bingo - just what I needed. Check them out – they’re really good.

Cheap Succession Planning Software

I’ve written a lot of posts on how to use the 9-box performance and potential matrix tool for leadership assessment and development. I was on the ASTD discussion board a while ago, and came across a consultant, Andy Beaulieu. Andy developed a product called “Succession Planner”, a piece of software that uses the performance potential matrix tool and allows you to generate automated reports. You can do position profiles, replacement organization charts, risk reports, and other nice color-coded charts.

It also comes with a comprehensive user’s guide that walks you through a succession planning process using the tool.

I was impressed for a few reasons. First of all, it’s very similar to the approach I’ve used, and I’m sure many others. Secondly, I was impressed with Andy’s background. He’s been doing this for a while and really knows his stuff. Lastly, and why I’m mentioning it here, is that it’s really CHEAP – only $60.00 for a single user license! Most “talent management” software products will cost thousands of dollars. You can even download a demo copy for free.

Granted, it’s just a simple tool – an Excel file - but in many cases, that may be all you need.

I ended up emailing a bit with Andy about this product, and was surprised to learn he really hasn't sold a lot of copies. This is after spending hundreds of hours developing it. Good product, bad marketing. Perhaps after this post he’ll see some increased interest.

New Supervisor's Toolkit

One of my favorite leadership development blogs is Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership blog. It's always a great source of business and leadership information and news, and I really like Wally's opinions. You can tell he knows what he's talking about, based on good practical experience.

Wally's developed a "Working Supervisor's Support Kit" for new supervisors. For only $39.95, you get Wally's book, a comprehensive workbook, a complete set of forms (developed by supervisors that he's trained over twenty years), and a set of pocket reminder cards. Combined with your company specific HR training, it's pretty much a new supervisor training program in a box.

Stay tuned for more "Leadership Development on a Dime". The next edition will feature a new line of perfume and cologne that makes you smell like a leader. Only $19.99 a bottle. No, wait, that's for my "Real or Fake Leadership Program" series.