Sunday, November 30, 2008

Outliers Free Book Contest and Winners of Ted Turner Book

Here are the winners last last week’s Call me Ted book contest:

1. Antauria
2. Sharon 54330
3. Jon Housknecht
4. Michael Ray Hopkin
5. Vickie

Please send me an email with your shipping information so I can have the publisher send your free book. Congratulations!

Hachette Books has also given me five copies of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point, just in time for that perfect holiday gift. Here’s a brief description of the book:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. (Only one entry per person, please.) This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only (no PO Boxes, please). I will use to determine the winners. Contest ends at midnight EST, Saturday, December 6, 2008. Winners will be announced here on Sunday, December 7.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Smile and Move

I was in New York City recently to do a presentation for a Training Magazine sponsored event. As I was riding up the elevator, a young man looked me in the eye, smiled, stuck out his hand, and said hello to me using my name.

My first reaction was – OK, how did he know who I was? I have no idea who this guy is, but he sure seems to know me.

You know how sometimes when you go to a conference and forget to take your nametag off – and you’re caught off guard when someone calls you by your name? So I immediately looked down at my lapel – and duh, no name tag, I hadn’t even signed in yet.

He explained to me that he recognized my picture from the event brochure, and introduced himself as Sam Parker. I wasn’t sure what he did, but I noticed he had this kind of positive, confident, and authentic way about him.

Afterwards, he told me he’s an author, and founder of a company called Give More Media. And true to his company name, he gave me a copy of his recent booklet, called Smile and Move. It turns out I’m very familiar with one of his other publications, 212 the extra degree. I heard about 212 from our sales managers - they use the video and books as a way to fire up the sales troops. I told him I’d take a look at it and possibly mention it in my blog. I actually don’t do many book reviews – I’ll use them for contests, but don’t take the time to read and review each one. So I was really just being polite.

I read Smile and Move on the plane on the way home and really liked that little booklet. It’s a simple message – to be happy and do something – but described in a way that both inspires and instructs. And having even just briefly met the author gave it added credibility. Sam did what he wrote about- he made an impression on me with his positive attitude, and moved on the opportunity to talk to me about his book.

Here’s an excerpt, with a good Thanksgiving message:

Be Thankful

So many of us are lucky in some way. Some, even more so.

Occasionally, we'll have moments that remind us of our luck.

The positive moments...
- Our work is recognized as meaningful by a colleague, manager, or customer.
- A good friend or family member calls and brightens our day, reminding us of the wonderful people in our lives.
- We're finally able to buy that special thing we've always wanted.

The challenging moments...
- We'll see someone who appears less fortunate, or hear of a friend losing a job.
- We'll see someone working in a job that seems physically difficult, or learn of a friend or colleague's new illness.
We're reminded, but... a little time goes by. A few distractions play out. A couple of things get in the way of the easy, and we find ourselves back to less than thankful (perhaps even complaining... again).

Ever caught yourself beginning a sentence with "Knowing my luck..." and concluding with something negative?

For many of us (even you), perhaps it should be "Knowing my luck, I'll win the lottery."

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection".
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)Political theorist and writer

Research shows that, people who are encouraged to express gratitude report feeling happier, more excited and joyful, and even have fewer headaches and colds.

—"Counting blessings vs. burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective wellbeing in daily life," by R.A. Emmons and M.E. McCullough (2003).

We need to more consistently approach our days and work with gratitude and remember that we're not entitled to either – that they are gifts.

And the most powerful way to express our gratitude is by serving others as well as we possibly can, to put their needs before our own (in whatever role we're in).

To be unable to work, to serve, and to have meaning to others... that is truly unfortunate, unlucky.

We should be more thankful for the opportunities we're given.

Sam has an interesting business model; he actually lets you download the entire book for free from his website. He’s hoping if people like it, they’d be willing to buy the booklets in bulk for others, as well as maybe a few t-shirts, hats, duffel bags and other gear.

Makes sense. The booklet would make be great handout for your company’s service givers, and the Smile and Move message would make a good theme for a conference or meeting.

Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving HR Carnival and 12/6 Leadership Development Carnival Reminder

Let's give thanks to Rowan Manahan, from Fortify Your Oasis, for hosting a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner edition of the Carnival of HR.
Rowan, from Dublin, Ireland, has invited all the best HR and leadership bloggers to the table, and they've each come with a dish to pass.
Well done, Rowan!

And after skipping a month so that I could host last month's Carnival of HR, the Leadership Development Carnival will be back at Great Leadership on December 6.
If you'd like to submit an article, use the carnival submission form.

I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Write a Great Individual Development Plan (IDP)

An individual development plan (IDP) is a tool that helps facilitate employee development. It’s a two-way commitment between an employee and their manager on what they are going to do to grow.

IDPs are often used as a way to drive leadership development. Organizations like them because they are visible, tangible evidence that leadership development is taking place. They can be monitored and tracked as a measure of progress, used as a way to drive accountability for development, and most importantly, if they are well written and taken seriously, they really do work.

I’ve written about the importance of written individual development plans (IDPs) for leadership development, and how to develop your leadership skills, but not how to actually write one.

I’ll draw on my experience from having helped hundreds of leaders write IDPs, using them for my own employees, as well as my personal experience with my own IDPs (rule number 1: if you’re going to help someone else write an IDP, you’d better have current one yourself).

How to Write a Great Individual Development Plan (IDP)

1. Start with a goal; have a reason to develop.
There needs to be some kind of reason to develop. If there’s no reason to improve – or no motivation, then there’s no reason to have an IDP.

Here are the most typical reasons for an IDP:
· You’re new in a job, and want to get up to speed as fast as possible
· You’re struggling in your job, and want to improve
· You’d like to move to a new role, and want to prepare yourself for that new role
· You’re good at what you do, and have no immediate aspirations to move, but just want to get even better

2. Identify what you want to learn, or get better at.
Identify the three most important competencies (skills, knowledge, attributes) that you want to work on in order to achieve your goal. If you’re new in a role, these will most likely be the unfamiliar functional areas that you’ve had little prior experience with. Or it may be getting to know your new organization or team. If you’re struggling in a role, these things may have been identified in your performance appraisal, a 360 leadership assessment, or feedback from your manager or a coach. In order to prepare for a new role, you’ll need to identify the required competencies for that new role that you don’t yet have.

For leadership development, having access to a leadership competency model can help you identify the leadership competencies your company has identified as critical for any leader. You can either assess yourself, ask your manager for feedback, or ask for a 360 assessment.

When I work with a leader, I’ll ask questions to get at the what and why. That helps me identify the competency, the reason, and the relative importance. People sometimes struggle to put a “label” on the need, so having that competency model helps us do that (“OK, so it sounds like you want to work on your leadership presence, or strategic thinking, or you need to improve your financial acumen – is that right?”).

You might also want to identify your strengths. Strengths can often be enhanced and also be leveraged in order to address development needs.

3. Identify “development actions” to address the needs
Here are the most common development actions, listed in order of developmental impact:
1. Move to a new job
2. Take on a challenging assignment within your current job
3. Learn from someone else (your manager, a coach, a subject matter expert or role model)
4. Get educated on the topic: take a course, read up on the topic

Sometimes, if you aspire to a larger role, the most important step in your development plan is to identify the role or roles to take in order to get you ready, often a lateral move. However, given that job changes are significant and don’t happen all that often, a challenging assignment is usually the best way to develop a competency or competencies. It’s those “stretch assignments” that force us to perform, learn, and have the most impact. The other advantage of a developmental assignment is that they combine real work with development. Otherwise, an IDP can become an “extra” thing to do when you have time, and of course, never gets done.

Then, once that project is identified, identify people that can help you learn the new skills required to be successful with that project (the same skills identified in step 2). For example, if that new project is going to require you to lead change, find 2-3 people that are really good at leading change and go talk to them. An internal or external coach may be able to help with tough to learn attributes, like relationship building. A mentor can often help you develop political acumen, or organizational agility.

Finally, identify any courses, books, or websites on the topics you want to learn from.

4. Assign dates, costs, and who’s responsible for what. 
The date helps you get specific and keep your commitment. Any costs need to be approved by your manager. While you’ll be responsible for most of your plan, your manager may have s few things he/she commits to doing to support you.

5. Discuss your plan with your manager.
Although it’s possible to have your own plan and not involve your manager, it usually helps to get your manager’s feedback, involvement, and support. If for some reason you’d prefer not to do this (say, you work for a jerk, for instance), find a trusted coach or peer to talk it over with. By both of you signing the plan, it’s kind of a symbolic two-way commitment.

6. Implement the plan, follow-up often, and reflect on what you’ve learned.
Keep your plan in front of you at all times. Check off those items you complete, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. 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 manager, trusted coach or mentor to help you uncover those “V8 moments”.

What’s your experience been with IDPs? Would doing it this way be an improvement? Do you have any other tips to share?

If you’d like to assess the quality of your IDP, see my checklist for a great IDP.

Need some help becoming a great leader or developing your organization’s leaders? Contact me to discuss leadership assessment, coaching consulting or training. 

I no longer send out free templates. With the growth of my blog, the volume of requests got to be unmanageable. However, I’ve published an e-book, The GreatLeadership Development and Succession Planning Kit, which contains an IDP template and lots more. You can download it as a PDF from the above link for only $7.99, or purchase it as an eBook on Amazon, ITunes, and other outlets for the same price.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I've been Tagged!

I was tagged by Lisa, from HR Thoughts. I’m honored.

Here’s the rules:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they have been tagged.
As someone who’s not very comfortable with personal disclosure, this was a challenge for me, so here goes:

1. I used to be a bartender- way back when. I learned how to hustle, listen, juggle lemons, and light a match with one hand. Those were the days, when there were only two kinds of martinis – vodka and gin. And blenders were for sissies
2. My first real job out of college: working at a public utility in a call center. College didn’t prepare me for that – it was white collar hell
3. I’ve been married for 23 years, and fall in love over and over every year
4. I’d like to live on a lake or near the ocean some day
5. I once jumped out of an airplane. They say I dog paddled until my chute opened. My friend broke her leg when she hit a tree (“so that’s what those toggle thingies were for”)
6. I still watch American Idol
7. Favorite food: home-made (see #3) chocolate chip cookies

Here’s the seven bloggers I’m tagging - which includes a few you may not have seen before, so please check them out:
1. Scott Eblin at The Next Level
2. Eric Boehme at The Blogging Boss
3. Art Petty, at Art Petty on Management
4. Rick, at Flip Chart Fairy Tales
5. Donna Rawady, at Get Real
6. Michael Lee Stallard, at same
7. Raven Young, at Raven’s Brain

Tag, you’re it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Did You Know 3.0

Thanks AP for pointing me to this awesome video. It's about 5 minutes, with a good soundtrack.

Does it scare the living @#&% out of you or get you excited about the possibilities?

Here's one more "did you know". Thanks Molly, from the Delaware Employment Law Blog, for selecting Great Leadership as one of your favorite blogs on leadership and management. Twice.

Free Book Contest: Call Me Ted by Ted Turner

Hachette Books is allowing me to give away 5 copies of Call Me Ted by Ted Turner. This is Ted Turner’s long awaited memoir that was just released on November 10. Here’s a description:

“Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!”
These words of fatherly advice helped shape Ted Turner’s remarkable life, but they only begin to explain the colorful, energetic, and unique style that has made Ted into one of the most amazing personalities of our time. Along the way - among his numerous accomplishments — Ted became one of the richest men in the world, the largest land owner in the United States, revolutionized the television business with the creation of TBS and CNN, became a champion sailor and winner of the America’s Cup, and took home a World Series championship trophy in 1995 as owner of the Atlanta Braves.

You can read the full description here and listen to an excerpt here.

I’ll make this contest real easy as a way of saying thanks to my readers. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. (Only one entry per person, please.) This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only (no PO Boxes, please). I will use to determine the winners.

The contest ends at midnight EST, Saturday, November 29, 2008. Winners will be announced on Sunday, November 30. Check back to see if you’ve won, because you’ll need to send me your shipping information.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Big 3 CEO on C-SPAN: A Leadership Train Wreck

I had the opportunity to fly Jet Blue this week, with the comfy leather chairs and personal satellite televisions. So with time to kill, I was channel surfing and stopped on a live broadcast of the Big 3 bailout senate hearings.

I usually never watch cspan, but this was like watching a leadership train wreck. It was painfully riveting.

Here were three of our American captains of industry, from what used to be three of the most respected companies in the world, sitting together with the head of the UAW begging for handouts. On live television, four hours worth of it, for all of us to see. Sitting there being grilled, scrutinized, criticized, and humiliated by members of the senate (whom I don’t have a lot of respect for to begin with).

Look, I’m no expert in economics and the auto industry. I’m in no position to cast stones at GM, Ford, or Chrysler regarding what they have or haven’t done that’s contributing to the mess they’re all in. I know from personal experience what it's like to work at a struggling company, and it's no fun.

I also have my opinions on the whole idea of governments bailing out the private sector, but again, that’s not what this blog is all about either.

This blog is about Great Leadership. This I know. Or at least know it when I see it.

And what I saw yesterday was anything but.

Leadership is about having a compelling vision, a credible plan how to get there, and gaining commitment to that vision and plan. I didn’t hear enough of that to convince me these guys knew what they were doing. And I really wanted to believe them! I'd write a personal check if I thought it would help.

The Big 3 guys were all about doom and gloom, and probably ticked-off Washington and the public more than ever with their performance. A quick scan of the media reaction this morning verifies that – there’s little media, political, and public support.

Leadership is also about accountability, being able to recognize problems before they become big problems, admitting that you have a problem, and taking responsibility to fix it. Great leaders can admit their mistakes, learn from them, and move on with an uncanny sense of confidence.

I saw very little demonstration of accountability on cspan yesterday. Not much candor, and a lot of finger-pointing.

Then there’s authenticity; and humility; teamwork; and commitment. Now I don’t know any of these CEOs, I’ve not worked for them, and have not studied them. I’m only reacting to what I saw on television for 4 hours. Rick Wagoner came across as arrogant, defensive, and out of touch. Ford’s Alan Mulally pretty much threw him under the bus, saying he was only there because GM was there. And Chrysler’s Bob Nardelli acted like he didn’t even want to be there, like he was just waiting for it to be done with. At least Nardelli showed a little bit of authenticity. Maybe because he’s only been at the helm for about a year, he genuinely was less defensive?

I’ve got to believe that these guys are very talented businessmen, or they wouldn’t have risen to the positions they hold today. And who know, maybe they are great leaders, and this was just a terrible television performance.

Maybe the idea of asking for a handout was a last resort, a desperate last ditch attempt to save the companies they love.

But guys, you need to clean up your act. That performance scored a 12% on the leadership tomatometer.

Stand tall, and show some real leadership. Your companies and your country desperately need it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Leading Through Chaos; Does a Manager Need a Psychology Degree?

So I’m sitting at my computer on a rainy Sunday morning, with a cup of coffee, pondering what to write. I’ve been thinking about how challenging it is in these uncertain economic times to be a leader. What does it take to keep yourself and your people energized and motivated, while at the same time, keeping them realistically informed about the state of your business?

We spent some time brainstorming about this topic at work last Friday. Our managers, like most managers today, are faced with some tough challenges. This is not the time to be pushing anything their way that’s not directly relevant to improving sales, lowering expenses, or improving client service. At the same time, while focusing on the bottom line, they need to keep their teams productive and sane.

How can we support our managers? What tools or advice can we give them? How can we help them support their employees?

After a second cup of coffee, I came across a column in our local business section by Mimi Bacilek, a local executive coach and president of SuccessBuilders LLC . I’ve known Mimi for a while, and have always had a lot of respect for her and the work she does.

Here’s the introduction:

Change is assaulting leaders from all angles, driven externally and internally. The environment is uncertain. Budgets are being slashed, orders put on hold, positions placed in jeopardy. While your competitors are circling the wagons and slashing their way to greatness, you can ready your organization for the predictable turnaround.

Now is the time to invest in your business by deeply engaging your people to create the future. The cost to the leader is time and energy; the benefit is tapping into the amazing talents people bring to the workplace.

Mimi talks about six things a leader should do in tough times:
1. Focus on the future
2. Set the vision
3. Rally the troops
4. Empower teams
5. Monitor progress
6. Rewards success

I like the approach – it’s not overly complicated and seems like it would be effective in many cases.

However, simple doesn’t always mean easy, especially when it comes to great leadership. A leader needs to have the drive and passion to want to succeed under any conditions, and have a genuine desire to want their employees and company to succeed. Taking the time and effort to plan and implement these six steps, and other leadership best practices, is what sets a great leader apart from an average manager.

After pondering Mimi’s advice for a bit, I then opened up my email and read the following question from a reader (presumably from the other side of the world, because who other than deranged bloggers are at their computers at 5:30 in the morning?):

While I was reading yours and other Leadership blogs, another question appeared.

Quite a few friends of mine decided to take additional degree in psychology after graduating, claiming it would help being a manager. However, after reading articles online and also some other books on leadership, I came to conclusion, that experience and personality are more important for leader and manager than psychology degree, though some psychology knowledge helps, but it can be acquired outside of formal education.

I would like to hear your opinion on this matter.

I love the question! Sometimes, as a leader, it often feels like a degree in psychology is what it takes to be effective. After all, a large part of what it takes to be an effective leader is an understanding of people – what makes them tick and how to motivate them.

Managers are also overwhelmed with all kinds of leadership advice that to me just comes across as overly complicated, touchy- feely, psycho-babble, and probably written by pseudo-experts with little actually leadership experience.

Yes, being a great leader requires a good amount of emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, collaboration skills, and knowing how to inspire and motivate.

But is getting an advanced degree in psychology the best way to obtain these skills and knowledge? I don’t think so.

In fact, I’d be afraid that a manager armed with a toolkit full of Freudian and Jungian theory would end up just annoying people.

Certainly obtaining a college degree is a good way to start any career, and there’s merit to continuing on for an MBA or some other advanced degree. It’s even better if students can pick up some real work and leadership experience along the way, through internships, co-ops and plain old summer jobs.

The reader is right, in that, most of what’s written in this blog, as well as other research on what has made great leaders successful, is all about learning and development through experience.

When I talk to executive coaches, the ones that impress me the most are the ones who have had executive experience, much more so than the ones with professional coaching certification or psychology degrees. Often times, the ones who come at with too much of a psychosocial approach scare me a little.

So I’d say yes, go ahead and go for that advanced degree, but if your desired career path is management, I’d recommend a few years of work and then an MBA over staying in school to pursue an advanced degree in psychology.

And for you experienced managers, no, it’s not as complicated as we make it seem sometimes. Try following Mimi’s advice – invest your time and energy in leading your teams and we’ll all come out of this in a better place.

Friday, November 14, 2008

SmartBrief Rocks and the November 12 Carnival of HR

Here’s a couple of leadership development resources for you:

SmartBrief on Leadership.
I learned about this free newsletter a few months ago when a Great Leadership reader left a comment saying they found my blog on SmartBrief.
News to me.

I checked it out, loved what I saw, and signed up for their free newsletter. I have it delivered to my workplace email on a daily basis, and unlike a lot of the junk I sign up for, actually find myself looking forward to reading this one.

Here’s a pretty accurate description from their website:

SmartBrief on Leadership challenges conventional wisdom and delivers actionable insights daily. Our editors become your personal research assistants, handpicking, distilling and disseminating the best, most useful leadership stories from a wide range of sources.

We deliver hard-to-find articles you might not otherwise see to your desktop (and blackberry) before most people have even had breakfast.
In other words, we do all the research...and you get the innovative ideas you need to lead.

I was pleased to see they picked up another one of my posts yesterday, New Research on Causes of Executive Failure. It’s sure nice to get those reader spikes now and then.

Go here to sign up. I think you’ll like it.

2. The latest version of the Carnival of HR is up, hosted by Alison at Ask a Manager. It’s a collection of 26 posts from the HR and management blogging community, including my own, A Practical Guide for Developing Leaders.

The next Carnival, on November 26, will be hosted by Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis.

Also, I’ll be hosting the next Leadership Development Carnival right here on December 6th. See the submission form on the sidebar for guidelines and if you’d like to submit a post.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Research on Causes of Executive Failure

I’ve written before on the topic of executive “derailers”, citing research from the Center for Creative Leadership. In order to be a great leader, I think it’s just as important to understand why leaders fail as it is to understand why they are successful.

That’s why I was very interested in a new research report sent to me by Scott Eblin, an executive coach and occasional commenter on this blog. Scot’s the author of the book “The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success”, one of my favorite books on executive transition. Scott also writes a pretty nice leadership blog that you should add to your list of regular reads.

Here’s a summary of the research (information on how to order the full report follows):

The typical diagnoses of reasons for executive failure include general causes such as communications skills, relationship building and the always popular “poor fit with the job.” What is missing is insight into the specific behaviors that can trigger new executive failure.

The typical profile of a person who gets promoted to a senior management or executive position is the “go to person.” Understandably, they believe that the behaviors that led to their success at lower levels will serve them well at the next level. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Since late 2005, The Eblin Group has worked with over 300 high potential directors and vice presidents at companies representing the defense, financial services, computer services, media, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries in a group coaching program known as Next Level
Leadership™. As part of that program, they have conducted 360 degree assessments for participants on behaviors related to executive leadership presence.

Ranked in ascending order from the lowest scored item, here are the “bottom five” behaviors for the high potential leaders in The Eblin Group program:

1. Paces himself/herself by building in regular breaks from work.

2. Spends less time using his/her functional skills and more time encouraging team members to use theirs.

3. Manages workload so that he/she has time for unexpected problems or issues.

4. Focuses less on day to day issues and more on taking advantage of strategic opportunities.

5. Regularly takes time to step back and define or redefine what needs to be done.

The Eblin Group’s research shows that high potentials moving to or arriving at the executive level generally grapple with the same types of development opportunities as they make the transition upwards. The group coaching approach creates an opportunity for them to learn from each other and gain confidence from that process.

Go here to request a full copy of the research report.

So working harder does not always translate into executive success; in fact, it could end up contributing to failure. I feel a lot better about that day off I took Monday.

And if you’re reading this blog or Scott’s on company time, that’s good thing – it’ll address all five of the “bottom five” behaviors!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reader Question: Nine Box Performance and Potential Matrix Best Practices

A question from a reader around using the “nine box” (performance and potential matrix) to assess talent:

Emailing with a question I have been asked by my leadership team, that I hope you can help me answer.

We have been using the nine box for several years, and are now getting some push back from senior leadership about the percentage of our teams that are in the upper right corners in our "Hi Po" and "Future Star" boxes.

The team is concerned about not being able to grow these boxes (as some of them believe it's the key to growing their business). The team is also concerned about the reality that while you may be a Hi Po in 2008, you may not be in 2009, and how do we break this news to employees, and from that stems a want to widen the percentages we normally prefer for these boxes.

The team has requested that we research what a "best company" or "best practice" distribution across all the nine box is for a company that has been using the nine box to chart performance vs. potential for several years. Is there any research or information you could lead me to that would help satisfy their concerns? Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

I’ve been using the performance and potential matrix to assess talent for over ten years, for two different companies and a wide variety of teams. While I’m not sure if this qualifies as “best practice” material, I’ve picked up a few practical do’s and don’ts over the years.

I’ll break your question into two parts: distribution and notification.

1. Distribution
We’re getting some push back from the senior team about the percentage of our teams in the upper right corners (hi-po and future stars).

I usually define that “hi-po” group as the upper right hand quadrants 1A, 1B, and 2A. A good rule of thumb for any population is that about 20% of the team would fall into that category. I’m not sure if the “push back” you’re getting is about too many or not enough. The only kind of push back I’ve ever received, usually from the senior leader of the organization, is that there are too many names in those upper right hand quadrants. It’s the old performance appraisal “everybody’s a star” syndrome. The reality is, they probably aren’t, and even if they were, in an absolute way, there are usually not enough resources and opportunities for high potential development to address that many candidates.

There are a couple ways to address the “too many” issue. First, a good facilitator can encourage a candid dialog to compare employees, calibrate expectations and definitions, and redistribute a few names. Secondly, you could require a forced distribution – no more that 20% are allowed in the top 3 boxes, and 10% must be in the lower left hand box (3C). While that often will get you push back from those having to rate their teams, it forces a more realistic assessment and “spirited” dialog.

If you’re getting push back that there aren’t enough, I suppose that’s a good thing. Either your raters are setting the bar unreasonably high, or you really do have a talent shortage. I find it’s usually the later, and it should be a wake-up call to get moving on development. You’ll need to take a look at those in nearby quadrants and start doing some serious development, and start upgrading your talent though external hiring.

Perhaps the more important question is “what are the future needs of the organization and do we have enough talent in the pipeline to fill those needs?” For example, if an organization is projecting a need for 20 new sales managers per year in order to expand into a new market, then ideally you’d want 2-3 candidates to choose from for each open position. That would mean that in any year, you’re actively developing 40-60 candidates to get them ready for these opportunities.

However, if you have an organization with limited growth, low turnover (maybe even shrinking), with stable performance, then there’s really not much of a need to identify and develop hi-pos for larger roles. A better alternative would be to facilitate movement of those hi-pos to other areas of the company, and focus your development on getting better in current roles.

2. Notification
The team is also concerned about the reality that while you may be a Hi Po in 2008, you may not be in 2009, and how do we break this news to employees, and from that stems a want to widen the percentages we normally prefer for these boxes.

The notification process is always a tricky issue. I published an article, “High Potential Notification Tips”, on that topic a while back that gives some guidelines on notification.

It covers the pros and cons of telling and not telling, and some word tracks to use for these conversations.

I’ve always advocated not telling someone that they are a “1A”, or a “3C”, or even using labels like “hi-po”. I do think it’s important that every employee gets performance feedback and a candid assessment of their potential on an ongoing basis. Every employee deserves development; it’s just that that the development is different depending on where the employee is at the moment.

See “Nine Development Strategies for a Performance and Potential Matrix”, for specific development tips for each box.

I know that many of the readers of Great Leadership have experience using the nine-box, so I’d invite them to please add their thoughts as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh, Canada!

I was interviewed recently by Eleanor Beaton for a story in the print edition of Canada’s largest national newspaper, the Globe and Mail. It’s about if as a leader, if admitting your mistakes is good for your career.

Here’s the full article:
To err is human. To admit it is strength

I had no idea the Globe and Mail has been using my blog as a source of leadership information for a while now. I did a search and found these articles:

The do’s and don’ts of damage control

With a circulation of close to a million readers, I’m hoping that a few new readers might stop by and take a look at Great Leadership.

As a way of welcome, and to blatantly suck-up to my Canadian readers, here are 10 reasons why I love Canada:

1. My wife and I honeymooned in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island 23 years ago. The countryside was breathtaking. Halifax, Peggy’s Cove, and the ocean.

2. The beer. Moosehead, Labatt’s, Molson. The real stuff, 5%.

3. High school & college memories of driving on Sherkston Beach, Crystal Beach amusement park, beer runs across the Peace Bridge and road trips to Toronto.

4. Family trips to Toronto. Ours kids first theater experience (The Lion King). The science museum, the waterfront, shopping, and Pickles Deli.

5. Ottawa. Ice skating on the Rideau Canal. Beaver tails. Dog sledding at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello.

6. Niagara Falls. The casinos, Clifton Hill, and Niagara on the Lake.

7. Montreal. What an affordable getaway! The hotels, the food, shopping, festivals, and big time sports.

8. Quebec City. It feels like Europe. The Fairmont Le Ch√Ęteau Frontenac had to have been the finest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

9. Sports. Hockey Night in Canada. Ontario loves the Bills. Just don’t get too attached to them.

10. Captain Kirk, Neil Young, Michael J. Fox, Alanis Morissette, and Jim Carrey.

Oh, and of course, the Globe and Mail, especially Eleanor and Harvey. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reader question: How to Identify Critical Positions and Talent Pools

An email from a reader:

I don’t know if you can help me.
But I have a question. It’s about the planning in human resources.
I’m studying psychology and I need to investigate some strategies that companies uses for identifying critical positions and identifying talent pools.
I was thinking that these two topics can help a company to confront the financial crisis.
I hope that you can help me.

Thank you!!!!

Thanks for your questions. I’m pretty sure I can answer both, although I’m not sure I’m going to help resolve the global financial crisis.

I’ll start with what I consider to be the easier of your two questions:

How to Identify Critical Positions for Talent Management or Succession Planning

The answer to this is: it depends. It's all about company strategy. For a company that is banking on product innovation, critical positions for them might be its scientists or engineers. For another company, it might be their first level supervisors. For some, it might be marketing positions. For expansion into a new geography, it could be regional or country management.

The question to ask is: In order to successfully execute our strategy, which positions do we need to pay extra attention to? Where do we need to focus our sourcing, selection, development, and retention efforts?

For succession planning, a good question to ask is: which positions, if needed to be replaced, would the Board of Directors care about? Or, if the person were to leave the company, would leaving it vacant or not filling it with the right person have an adverse impact on the stock price?

While it’s important for any manager to pay attention to succession planning to some extent, the reality is, there are only a few positions that if left vacant, would have a serious impact on the company’s performance. Those critical few positions tend to be the “C” level positions - CEO and the CFO, maybe the CTO or CMO, and perhaps a handful of other senior level officer positions.

For the most part, the rest of us can win the lottery and quit and our company will manage just fine without us until we’re replaced.

So I’d recommend using a position based succession planning approach for only these critical few positions. All other positions can be addressed by establishing and focusing on “pools” of talent.

For example, you might have a senior management talent pool, or a marketing talent pool, or a middle management talent pool. Anyone in one of these pools could be developed to step into any of a number of larger roles.

Now on to the harder question:

How to Identify Talent Pools
I have a number of posts on this blog on how to identify high potentials, including:

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll improve your ability to identify high potentials for talent pools. However, assessing potential is about as accurate as drafting college or minor league athletes to compete in the pros. It’s part art and part science, with more busts than sure-fire picks. That’s why it’s important to develop your employees – so you can expand your pools and increase their chances of success.

Assessment centers are another more formal, and also more expensive, way to evaluate and test candidates for benchmarked positions. Because they’re so expensive, they are usually used for critical positions. For larger pools, companies sometimes establish internal assessment centers. These centers are sometimes staffed by psychologists, so perhaps you’ll end up working at one some day!

You’ve asked some big questions, and I’m sure I missed some key points. A lot of talent management professionals read this blog, so I’ll invite them to fill in the missing pieces.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Hard Drive is Dead!

My hard drive died yesterday. It’s totally corrupted, kaput, fried, toast, nuked.

I also lost ALL of my data – files, pictures, email folders, contact information, music, programs, EVERYTHING. Damn.

Oh, but surely you have a backup system, you must be asking yourself?

Duh! No.

Well, let this be a painful lesson to all of you: you should get one of those external hard drive thingies and back up your files on a regular basis.

You should also download the system restore files when you get a new computer. You know, those operating system programs that used to come with your computer on a disk? They don’t anymore.

Good thing my bargain ACER is still under warranty (I just bought it in March). After spending half my day on the phone with tech support, they’re going to send me a new hard drive. Swell. Another lesson: I’m getting a Mac next time.

Oh, here’s another tip for you: be nice to your company’s IT folks. Our IT guy did the testing for me and is going to install my new hard drive and OS on his own time. What do you think would be a good way to thank him? Would cash be tacky?

Fortunately, I can still access my email and the Internet remotely, so Great Leadership will limp along until I get my computer back.

If you’ve submitted anything to the December Leadership Development Carnival prior to 10/27, it’s gone, so please resubmit a more recent post.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Practical Guide for Developing Leaders

Here's a practical guide for developing leaders, adapted from June Delano, a colleague and mentor, now with Monitor Executive Development.

While the guide does not include everything a leader needs to learn, it does offer ideas for developing people before and during new leadership assignments. And of course, every company is different, so you'd need to adapt the list to fit your company's organizational structure.

Before selection as a supervisor, people should have development and some experience in:
· Team and project leadership
· Basic budgeting and accounting
· Communicating to individuals and small groups
· Training, peer coaching

As first-level supervisors, people should have development in basic supervisory skills:
· Coaching and giving feedback
· Managing performance
· Leading groups
· Developing people

Before selection as a manager, people should have development and some experience in:
· Leading multi-functional or cross-organizational teams
· Handling diverse and multiple tasks
· Influence and relationship-building (personal style and impact)
· Understanding the business system

As managers, people should have development in:
· Basic finance, marketing and commercialization
· Doing business globally and cross-culturally
· Communicating to large groups
· Recruiting and retaining talent
· Leading change and culture
· Developing and implementing strategy

Before selection as an executive, people should have development and some experience in:
· General management (including P&L management)
· Managing multiple functions and geographies
· Understanding your company’s business environment and industry trends
· Building external networks
· Working with senior executives
· Organizational leadership (personal style and impact)
· Line and staff assignments

As an executive, people should have development in:
· Handling media and government relations
· Managing organizations at different stages of maturity
· Recruiting and nurturing high-potential talent
· Developing and implementing growth strategies
· Working with alliances, mergers, JV’s and acquisitions
· Serving on external boards, projects and/or ventures

As an officer, people should have development in:
· Global trends affecting the business
· National and global politics
· Managing a global workforce
· Handling investor relations
· Working with the Board
· Board of Director assignments