Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lipstick on a Pig? 10 Ways to Improve Your “Executive Presence”

When I work with senior managers on their development plans, or facilitate talent review meetings, one of the most frequently mentioned development needs is a thing called “executive presence”, or “leadership presence”.

“Presence” is one of those mysterious leadership competencies, and is a label that’s often used to describe a myriad of behaviors, including image, confidence, command skills, influence, high impact communication, authenticity, and yes, even a firm handshake.

A CEO once described it to me as “when they speak in the boardroom, do people listen? Can they command a room”?

It’s a competency that becomes increasingly important the higher a leader moves up in an organization. It’s less important for a working supervisor; critical for a CEO.

While putting a label on it and being able to describe what it looks like (and what it doesn’t) certainly helps, knowing how to improve it is even harder.

Fear not, it’s not impossible. Presence is not something babies are born with, it’s not some latent gene that comes alive when promoted. While it’s one of the harder leadership competencies to develop, it can be done.

It’s taken me a while, through trial and error, to come up with solid development actions to address this need. So if you aspire to be an executive, or already are and have been told you are lacking presence, here are 10 things you can pick from for your development plan:

1. Get feedback. And don’t just ask anyone, because presence is often defined differently. Find out from those that are making promotional decisions, either directly or indirectly, what it means and what it looks like. Every company culture is different. I mentioned the CEO example – his definition may not be perfect, but it certainly described what he was looking for.
Your friendly neighborhood HR Director or VP will often have valuable insight in this area, and would be glad to tell you in a tactful way what it is and how you stack up.
And by the way – when you ask for feedback, be prepared to listen. See 18 Tips for Receiving Feedback.

2. Get advice. Knowing where you stand against the target is important; so is getting advice on what to do differently. Your manager, mentor, HR pro, or trusted colleagues are all sources of advice.

3. Observe role models. Start paying attention to those that look and act the part. Watch how they conduct themselves, and see if there are things you can pick up.

4. Hire an executive coach. External executive coaches are often used to help prepare high potential leaders to get ready for or transition into senior positions, and are often called on to assist with presence.

5. Take a presentations skills course. A lot of leadership presence has to do with forceful presentation skills. Giving good presentations is a known technology, and there are several workshops you can take, including:
- Blessing White’s Leading Out Loud
- Communispond’s Executive Presentation Skills
- Dale Carnegie has a number of programs
- Join your local Toastmaster’s

6. Take a media training course. While learning how to deal with the media is something only the highest ranking executives will need to learn, you can use the same techniques to improve how you field tough questions thrown at you in the board room.
There are also executive presentation and media training coaches, sort of a combination of 4,5,and 6.


7. Hire an image consultant. This is a resource and industry I’ve only recently become familiar with. I was asked to find help for a rising senior manager that needs a bit of a “makeover”. After some research, it turns out there’s actually an Association for Image Consultants International that provides professional certification and a consultant directly. Who knew? Although I haven’t quite figured out how to make the referral… wish me luck on this one.

8. Take acting lessons. I’m serious. There’s a company called The Ariel Group that uses techniques developed and honed in the performing arts to help business leaders develop leadership presence. The programs are all are led by facilitators from theater backgrounds. Many of the leading university based executive education programs use them.

9. Learn how to lead meetings. Meetings are where we “show up” as a leader. Like presentation skills, there’s a science to meeting management that can be learned. And honing your meeting leadership skills helps you become a better meeting participant. Ask a skilled trainer to teach you "facilitation" (how to lead a discussion) skills.

10. Read. I’ve listed this last, because it’s probably one of the least effective development methods for improving leadership presence, but when combined with others, sure can help. Looks for books on leadership, presentation skills, and biographies of role model leaders.

Are there other ways to improve leadership presence? Please comment with your ideas.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recent Survey Results: Leader’s No Longer Concerned About Talent Management

Personnel Decisions International, a leading talent management consulting, training, and research firm, recently asked leaders around the world to provide feedback on their top business strategies during these tough economic times. The study was conducted from December 2008 to January 2009.

More than 500 leaders responded—67 percent were HR leaders and 51 percent were director level or above; 79 percent of respondents were from for-profit businesses and more than 50 percent were from companies with more than 5,000 employees. The survey included 63 percent of respondents from North America, 26 percent from Europe, 9 percent from Asia-Pacific, and 2 percent from other regions.

I was one of the survey participants and was provided a summary of the findings.

It's no surprise that global leaders raked financial pressures to cut costs (82.95%) and rapid market decline (54.36%) as their toughest business challenges.

Unfortunately, "Loss of leaders in key areas or insufficient talent to quickly adapt to change" (5.30%) fell to the bottom of the list.

The latest findings are in stark contrast to a 2006–2008 study conducted by PDI, in which company leaders said top-line growth and talent management were their key issues.

I can understand the how the pressures of crisis management can distract leaders from the more strategic, but less urgent issue of talent management. When the house is burning, it's not the time to be replacing the siding.

But to go from second to last place in only a year? Wow, is the war for talent over? Did I miss the announcement?

PDI suggests, and I strongly agree, that leaders need to be careful they don't go completely to sleep and wake up in worse shape than they were before the downturn. The companies that continue to pay attention to hiring, retaining, and developing the best talent will more likely emerge stronger than their competition when the economy recovers.

A wise CEO once said, "In tough times, the strong prey on the weak". When it comes to talent, are you allowing yourself to become the prey?

Developing and retaining top-performing employees is essential in any business strategy, even—and especially—at a time of economic crisis.

To read the full summary, go here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How to “Score” Leadership Potential When Using the Performance and Potential Matrix


Managers can usually assess performance, but they struggle assessing potential.

In this post, we’re look at why this is and I’ll offer a “formula” to help assess potential.

I’ve written posts on how to use the nine-box performance and potential matrix, and numerous posts on how to develop A, B, and C players.

I’ve also written quite a few posts on how to identity potential; in other words, what criteria do you look for? What’s that magical, predictive “right stuff”?

If you’re familiar with the nine-box method for assessing talent, you know that performance is defined as:

A= outstanding performance
B= good performance
C= poor performance

Managers usually are able to rate their employees fairly accurately and with confidence when it comes to assessing performance. The discussions are also pretty unemotional and non-controversial. They often bring copies of employee performance appraisals or business scorecards to talent review meetings, and come up with some kind of algorithm that translates to A, B, or C performance.

When it comes to assessing potential, that’s a whole different animal. Again, using the nine-box method, potential is often defined as:

1= high potential
2= medium potential
3= low potential

This is where the science of leadership assessment takes a left turn to the art of predicting potential. It’s easier to look back and assign a grade; but when assessing potential, you’re forced to look into the future and predict performance. If predicting the future were easy, we’d all be rich from the stock market and gambling on sports, and there would be no #1 draft pick busts in sports.

Given this murkiness around assessing potential, managers will often ask for a “formula”; some way to assign numbers to grading potential. To address this, here’s a scorecard, adapted from Harvard ManageMentor, for managers to assign numbers to their judgment.

Scorecard for Assessing Leadership Potential (answer yes or no to each question):

1. Could the employee perform at a higher level, in a different position or take on increased responsibilities within the next year (consider the person’s ability only, not whether there is a position available to support this growth)?

2. Could the employee perform at a higher level, in a different position, or take on increased responsibilities within the next three years (consider the person’s ability only, not whether there is a position available to support this growth)?

3. Can you envision this employee performing two levels above his or her current position in the next five to six years?

4. Is the organization likely to value growth of the skills and competencies of this employee over the next several years?

5. Could the employee learn the additional skills and competencies he or she needs to be able to perform at a higher or different level?

6. Does the employee demonstrate leadership ability—by showing initiative and vision, delivering on promised results, communicating effectively, and taking appropriate risks?

7. Does the employee demonstrate an ability to comfortably interact with people at a higher level or in different areas?

8. Does the employee demonstrate comfort with a broader company perspective than his or her job currently requires?

9. Does the employee demonstrate flexibility and motivation to move into a job that might be different than any that currently exist?

10. Does the employee welcome opportunities for learning and development?

To evaluate this employee’s potential, calculate the total number of “yes” responses and use the following scoring:

0-3 = Low; 4-7 = Medium; 8-10 = High

Keep in mind, there’s a danger to putting a number to a subjective assessment – it can create the illusion of certainty. While the numbers only provide a way to quantify judgment, having a common scoring system might help improve predictability and at least reduce some of the anxiety for managers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to Design a Frugal Leadership Development Program


I recently wrote a post proposing a “The Leadership Development Economic Stimulus Package”, which included instructions on how to design a three million dollar leadership development program.

The post was meant to be satire, but I’ve heard some thought I was serious.

I wish I could spend that kind of money on a leadership program; even better, I’d like to attend that program as a participant. I know of companies that do, and I applaud them for their commitment to the development of their leaders. I just published a list of the 2008 Best Companies for Leaders, and you don’t show up on these lists without a serious investment in leadership development.

I also had no intention of throwing stones at the excellent institutions that provide the kind of services and products I included in my fictional program. Each and every design element had merit, and if done correctly, can be well worth the investment.

The reality is, especially in these challenging economic times, is that many companies can’t afford to spend that kind of money. Even in prosperous times, I don’t think I would anyways. I’m pretty frugal to begin with, and I tend to spend my company’s money like it’s my own.

At the end of that post, I promised to show how to design a similar program, but at a fraction of the cost. I’ve written articles on low cost leadership development before, including “Leadership Development on the Cheap”, “What if Leaders Designed their own Programs”, and “Leadership Development is a Sunk Cost”.

So let’s see how much we can trim off the 3.1 million dollar program, without losing any of the benefits. The original elements are in black, the frugal alternatives in red italics.

How to Design a Frugal Leadership Development Program

1. First of all, let’s start with the assumption that this will be a two week program, with 40 participants. That’s about the longest any program should be, with the maximum number of participants.
Two weeks is overkill, and who can afford to be away from the office for that long? Let’s trim the program to six days, but break it up into two separate three day sessions, with lots of pre and post work in between. We’ll use webinars and conference calls before and after each session. We’ll keep the participant size the same, and use small groups for maximum involvement.

2. Go to one of the top 10 business schools or big 10 consulting firms and pay them to do comprehensive needs assessment. Invite in a team of professors and consultants into your business to do interviews, research, and everything needed to ensure the program is addressing strategic business objectives and developing the right competencies. The university will benefit from this research as well; it keeps the professors connected to the latest business issues and makes for great future case studies. Cost: $200,000, includes travel
Do the needs assessment yourself. Why would you want to outsource these kind of conversations? Cost: $0.

3. Hire the same university or consulting firm to design a custom program just for you. Yes, the program on the surface may look just like any other program, but rest assured, the money you spent on the needs assessment will guarantee the program addresses your unique needs. Cost: $300,000 (does not include licensing fees)
Do the design yourself. If you’re not sure how, learn how. Do some networking. Or, hire an independent, low-cost niche consultant who has designed programs for other companies and has just gone independent (get references). Cost: $0-$20,000.

4. For pre-work, develop a customized, online, media rich, interactive, game-like business simulation. Cost: $200,000
For pre-work, point participants to free online articles, have them purchase a book, do some interviews, background investigation, or shadowing.
Cost for 40 books: $800

5. For additional pre-work, send each participant to a two-day assessment center, where they will go through an intense, comprehensive assessment process to determine their individual development needs. Cost: 40x$8000 each= $320,000+$80,000 travel=$400,000
In additional to the strategic needs assessment, it’s always good for individuals to identify their own personal development needs. They could do a self-assessment, ask their manager, a few peers and direct reports for feedback, or do a formal 360 assessment. Cost for 40 360 assessments if purchased: $4000

6. Get a top notch, luxury conference center in a resort location. It’s hard to learn when you’re uncomfortable and hungry. Spare no expense on the food and amenities. Cost: $500,000
Stay at a nice, but reasonably priced off-season hotel and meeting room. Most of your time is spend in a room anyways. Yes, participants will need to eat, but you don’t need to serve a grand buffet for every meal. Cost: $50,000

7. Have the participants fly in on either private planes or first class. Private limos to the hotel. Cost: $100,000
Use a sharp corporate travel agent and centrally manage the travel arraignments. Use low cost economy fares, share rental cars, and use off-site parking. Cost for two trips: $40,000

8. Hire the most famous management gurus as instructors. Throw in a few rock star keynotes. Cost: $500,000
If you want to learn from a guru, read the guru’s book. You don’t need to pay a $20,000 per day speaker’s fee. Have participants work on real company issues. See posts on action learning by Chris Morgan on how to do this. Use internal experts and senior managers for your instructors. Or, if needed, hire an expert (another one of those niche players) for about $3000 per day to compliment your internal experts. Cost for two days: $6000

9. Hire personal executive coaches for every participant. Not just any coaches – hire the best, those famous CEO coaches we always hear about. Cost: 40x$20,000 each= $800,000
Use a peer coaching process: teach participants how to coach each other as a part of the program. Cost: $0

10. You can’t have all work and no play. Participants need a chance to relax, unwind, bond, and reflect on their development. Throw in an afternoon of golf, a dinner cruise, a private rock band performance, three receptions, and a weekend spa treatments. Cost: $100,000
It’s not a vacation, it's work. And the rest of the team is back at the office covering for participants while they’re gone.
Cost of two dinners together at decent restaurants, drinks not included (you can’t learn hung over): $2000

11. Every participant needs something to remember the program by, an “anchor”, as we like to call it in the OD and training business. Engraved crystals and team jackets usually do the trick. Cost: $10,000
A small, but personal memento for each participant, and a warm hug. Cost: $800

12. Lost opportunity costs from having your top leaders away from the business for two weeks: priceless.
Payback for return on action learning projects: priceless.

Total costs: $3,110,000
Total cost for the frugal program: $123,600
Savings: $2,986,400

So there you have it! Now go invest in your leaders, and take the rest of that money and stimulate the economy in some other way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The 2008 Best Companies for Leaders

From a February 2, 2009 press release:
The world’s Best Companies for Leaders—among the world’s most respected—are focused on developing leaders who will not only survive and thrive in the current financial crisis but will be well positioned for growth once the economy improves.

The 2008 Best Companies for Leaders survey—conducted by management consultancy Hay Group and Chief Executive Magazine—identifies the top 20 best-in class companies (see below) as well as the attributes that make these companies known for great leadership. The research suggests a number of best practices to help organizations and their leaders navigate the significant challenges brought on by the economic downturn as well as key tips to prepare for the upswing.

Surviving the downturn
When asked what organizations value the most in leaders, 83 percent of the best in class organizations as compared to others said “execution.” Organizations value leaders who can achieve results through others. These leaders create a climate in which people know exactly what is expected of them. In ideal times, the survey results showed, people value authoritative and democratic styles of leadership in comparison to the other four styles of coercive, affiliative, pacesetting and coaching. In tough economic times, employees’ desire more communication and clarity around goals. They want their leaders to become more visible and to be leading from the front. Typical leadership styles which accomplish this include authoritative with some coercive and pacesetting when needed.

During tough economic times, best-in-class companies create clarity, encourage development, drive accountability and recognize successful leaders. 65 percent of the top twenty companies on the list hold senior managers accountable for commitments versus 36 percent for all others. 63 percent create a sense of purpose for employees by communicating values versus 43 percent for all other companies. 45 percent honor leaders within the organization versus 32 percent for all other companies.

In addition, 62 percent of respondents indicated that matrixed roles are increasing in their organizations. Managing in a matrix poses its own set of challenges, including the need for collaboration, creating a cohesive team, not having authority over resources, managing conflicts over differing agendas, goals or priorities, and minimizing confusion over roles, decision-making and accountability.

Hay Group says that there will be an increased emphasis on the skills needed to work in a matrix environment. Relationship building, influencing, adaptability, interpersonal skills and collaboration skills will all be more important in the future workplace.

“The conventional top-down chain of command is yielding to decision-making that’s spread across business units, executive teams with far-reaching authority and other activities that reflect a brave, new, flat business world,” said Rick Lash Hay Group’s national practice leader for leadership and talent.

Preparing for the upswing
The Hay Group/Chief Executive survey reveals that the top 20 best companies for leaders make leadership development a priority. 70 percent of the top 20 companies say they have a formal process to identify individuals for leadership roles, versus 37 percent of all companies. 65 percent of companies say that talent management is driven by a clear business strategy versus 39 percent of all other companies. 55 percent have formal programs to accelerate leader development versus 34 percent of all other companies.

“What we have been seeing in these uncertain times is that organizations are not pulling back on their development of leaders, primarily because organizations recognize they don’t have the depth of leadership they need to meet future demands,” said Lash. “This year we have seen the best in class organizations become more focused, investing their assessment and development on their best leadership talent, rather then providing across the board development for everyone”, he said. “The Best Companies for Leaders are making serious investments in leadership development,” said Lash. “Development opportunities include special projects, assignments, and online training programs.”

2008 Best Companies for Leaders
1. 3M Company (15)
2. Procter & Gamble (2)
3. General Electric (1)
4. Coca-Cola (5)
5. HSBC Holdings (14)
6. ABB
7. Southwest Airlines
8. IBM
9. Hewlett-Packard (10)
10. PepsiCo (7)
11. Nokia
12. Accenture Ltd.
13. FedEx
14. Infosys Technologies Ltd.
15. McDonald's Corporation (18)
16. Caterpillar
17. American Express
18. Cisco Systems
19. Oracle
20. Intel Corporation

Numbers shown in ( ) indicate rankings from 2007

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Leadership Development Economic Stimulus Package


We’ve been reading a lot of good articles on how to lead in a tough economy, how to do more with less, and how to train and develop leaders on a budget. All good stuff for sure.

However, given the recent passage of the near trillion dollar economic stimulus package, maybe we’re looking at this all wrong and missing an opportunity here. Why cut back on our leadership development programs? Don’t we need strong leaders now more than ever? Maybe now is the time to double, heck, even quadruple our spending on leadership development? And just where are we going to get the money for this kind of massive, yet important investment in our future? We’ll ask the government for it!

Yes, now is the time for the Leadership Development Economic Stimulus Package.

After all, money spent on leadership development will help create jobs for consultants, coaches, instructional designers, trainers, professors, and others in the travel and hotel business. These programs will help managers improve, which will help employees grow and be more productive, which will help businesses thrive and grow, and create even more jobs.

Now, some of these stimulus plans are weak on details. So instead of just saying “spend more on leadership development”, I’m going to provide a detailed program design.

Given our objective is to develop leaders and stimulate the economy, I’ve spared no expense. However, all of the design elements are based on real programs that I’ve heard about from networking and benchmarking with colleagues in the leadership development business. Really, none of these are made up or overly exaggerated. The costs are realistic, even conservative estimates – and it was surprisingly easy to get to three million dollars.

How to Design a Three Million Dollar Leadership Development Program

1. First of all, let’s start with the assumption that this will be a two week program, with 40 participants. That’s about the longest any program should be, with the maximum number of participants.

2. Go to one of the top 10 business schools or big 10 consulting firms and pay them to do comprehensive needs assessment. Invite in a team of professors and consultants into your business to do interviews, research, and everything needed to ensure the program is addressing strategic business objectives and developing the right competencies. The university will benefit from this research as well; it keeps the professors connected to the latest business issues and makes for great future case studies. Cost: $200,000, includes travel

3. Hire the same university or consulting firm to design a custom program just for you. Yes, the program on the surface may look just like any other program, but rest assured, the money you spent on the needs assessment will guarantee the program addresses your unique needs. Cost: $300,000 (does not include licensing fees)

4. For pre-work, develop a customized, online, media rich, interactive, game-like business simulation. Cost: $200,000

5. For additional pre-work, send each participant to a two-day assessment center, where they will go through an intense, comprehensive assessment process to determine their individual development needs. Cost: 40x$8000 each= $320,000+$80,000 travel=$400,000

6. Get a top notch, luxury conference center in a resort location. It’s hard to learn when you’re uncomfortable and hungry. Spare no expense on the food and amenities. Cost: $500,000

7. Have the participants fly in on either private planes or first class. Private limos to the hotel. Cost: $100,000

8. Hire the most famous management gurus as instructors. Throw in a few rock star keynotes. Cost: $500,000

9. Hire personal executive coaches for every participant. Not just any coaches – hire the best, those famous CEO coaches we always hear about. Cost: 40x$20,000 each= $800,000

10. You can’t have all work and no play. Participants need a chance to relax, unwind, bond, and reflect on their development. Throw in an afternoon of golf, a dinner cruise, a private rock band performance, three receptions, and a weekend spa treatments. Cost: $100,000

11. Every participant needs something to remember the program by, an “anchor”, as we like to call it in the OD and training business. Engraved crystals and team jackets usually do the trick. Cost: $10,000

12. Lost opportunity costs from having your top leaders away from the business for two weeks: priceless.

Total costs: $3,110,000

Cost if every Fortune 500 company ran two programs: Just a wee bit over one billion dollars. A drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the package.

Seriously, even if we could spend this kind of money (and companies have), should we?

Would it be irresponsible and have a questionable ROI? Actually, you might be able to justify the ROI – just think of the cost of one really bad strategic decision. But I’m convinced we can design programs that are just as effective, for a fraction of the cost.

In an upcoming post, I’ll tell you how.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

10 Tips on How to Lead a Global Virtual Team

A question from a reader:

I have really enjoyed reading you blog and have found it to be extremely useful. I am now in a difficult position as my management team have asked for guidance either through information or strategies on how to successfully manage a virtual team. Many of the management team have asked for it and to be honest I find the content on the internet to be more IT related than dealing with the issue of how to successfully manage a team that is based in many different countries.I would be grateful for any help you could give me.

I’m surprised you haven’t been able to find more content on the topic of global virtual teams. I’d have thought this was getting to be a common way of managing work. So if you’ve already Googled it, I won’t bother; I’ll just shoot from the hip and provide some tips based on my own experience. I’ve led a number of successful global projects, including the implementation of an e-learning strategy, two leadership development programs, and a quality program. All of these projects involved forming and leading teams with members spread out around the world.

Here’s what worked for me:

1. For a long term project or newly formed team, try to have a live kickoff meeting if at all possible. Even in today’s virtual, technology enhanced world, here’s no better way to build a strong foundation than spending a few days together. Although it may appear on the surface to be an unrealistic expense, for high priority projects, it’s an investment that will have a high return in the long run.

2. As the team or project leader, pay extra attention to the basic mechanics of good meeting and project management. The importance of agendas, role clarification, project charters, action items, and documentation all magnify when leading a virtual team. For a one hour conference call, expect to spend 4X the time in “administrative” preparation and follow-up.

3. Be sensitive to time zones. If you are a U.S. based team leader, don’t always expect your European or Asian team members to conference call in the evenings. The unfortunate thing is that with a global team, there is no time that’s good for everyone, so you’ll just have to take turns being inconvenienced. Again, because of the time zone challenges, try to keep your full team calls to one hour.

4. Spend a lot of time “off-line” with individual team members. Schedule 1on1s in-between full team calls with each team member for coaching, feedback, reinforcement, and relationship building. It took me a couple projects to learn this, and I was amazed how well it helped maximize the full team calls and advance our work.

5. Build in time for some formal and informal team building during and after your kickoff. If you can’t have a live kick-off, set up a website to share pictures and personal information. Getting to know someone as a person, and not just a resource goes along way in building trust, cooperation, and commitment.

6. Study up on cultures; learn a few phrases, at least learn how to say and write “hello” and “thank-you”. You don’t have to be fluent - your global team members will appreciate the effort as a show of respect.
A word of caution here on cultural sensitivity: I’ve found that new global team leaders often tend to go overboard trying to show respect, and fail to hold everyone to the same high standards. So yes, be culturally aware and respectful, but you don’t have to treat team members with kid gloves.

7. Use technology, but don’t depend on it. Weconferences, team rooms, idea exchanges, blogs, videoconferences…. Yes, they can all be useful, and leverage them to your advantage. Just don’t get too caught up in the bells and whistles, and don’t be shocked if team members are slow to embrace your new toys. When it comes to virtual teamwork, the best technology available is still the telephone (I’ve never had a successful video conference).

8. Use global English. Although English is the international language of business, keep your language free of local acronyms, analogies, metaphors, and buzzwords. It takes a while – ask for help from teams members to stop you and ask for clarification.
True story: I embarrassed myself pretty good when I referenced the movie "Free Willy" with a few of my U.K. colleagues. I couldn't figure out why they were laughing hysterically. My U.K. readers will get it.

9. Send material ahead of time. Global team members often like to have materials translated, or at least have time to read it ahead of time. It’s extra challenging to read and understand complex information in your second language.

10. I’ve saved the most off-the-wall yet important tip for last: Don’t allow co-located team members to gather in a conference room during team conference calls. This is one of the hardest norms to break, and will surely meet with resistance. Set a ground rule that everyone calls in on their own phone. It will level the playing field. If you have ever been the person on the other end of a conference call with a co-located group, you will know exactly why this is important. You can’t hear the side conversations, can’t get a word in edgewise, and tend to check out.
TRY it. The group dynamics will drastically change. The co-locaters will complain, but stick to it. They’ll get over it and get used to it, and the rest of the team members will emerge as stronger contributors.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The February Leadership Development Carnival


Welcome the the February edition of the Leadership Development Carnival!

Each month bloggers from around the blogosphere are invited to submit their best posts about leadership and leadership development. Once again, I've received over 100 submissions. After "vetting" out the irrelevant posts (i.e., "How to make money on-line in 10 easy steps"), anything with an annoying pop-up (sorry, automatic delete), and multiple posts by the same author, I've culled the herd to the following 32 posts.

If you can't read them all, then start with the "Featured posts". Most of these are "FOGLs" (friends of Great Leadership); they are all good, and tend to stick with the leadership development theme of the carnival. However, the rest are worth taking a look at too. Many of these are more personal development and self-help - but hey, we can all use a little self-help, even if it's not leadership development.

Featured Posts:

We'll lead off with Nina Simosko and What Leaders Can Learn from Chesley Sullenberger posted at NinaSimosko.com. "Captain Sullenberger demonstrated astounding leadership qualities during this mid-air crisis. He showed how a leader can keep an otherwise turbulent [no pun intended] situation where chaos might be expected, calm and orderly."

Next up is Mike King presenting Leadership: Know Yourself and Your Capabilities posted at Learn This.

Here's a new blogger, former Royal Marine Steve Goodwill presenting Good Advice from High Flying Leaders posted at Learning Through Experience.

Shawn M. Driscoll presents What’s Your Compelling Vision? posted at Shawn Driscoll.

Wally Bock presents Getting Real about Deliberate Practice and Leadership Development posted at Three Star Leadership Blog. Because Wally has a second blog.... and he's a charter FOGL, he gets a second post, Preparation of a Hero posted at his career advice blog, Momentor.

Simon Stapleton presents How To Stimulate a Constructive Performance Appraisal/Review SimonStapleton.com posted at SimonStapleton.com. "Ah.. Your Performance Appraisal (or Review). A time for reflection on past performance and discussion about how to do better, with less. A time for exploring new avenues and ideas. It’s a time for creativity and construction the future with the art of the possible. Yes? No? Or is it a humdrum activity ‘done’ to you twice a year where you receive arbitrary scores for doing stuff?"

Coaching guru Mary Jo Asmus presents Leading with Purpose posted at Intentional Leadership.

Pawel Brodzinski, and frequent GL commenter, presents Evolving From Manager to Leader posted at Software Project Management.

Prem Rao presents A leader can't please everybody posted at People at Work & Play.

"Peter Drucker is the father of modern management and leadership thinking. Jeffrey Krames' book, Inside Drucker's Brain is a terrific introduction to this giant. He talks to Cranky Middle Manager, Wayne Turmel." The Cranky Middle Manager Show #178 Inside Drucker?s Brain- Jeffrey Krames posted at TPN :: The Cranky Middle Manager Show.

Anna Farmery presents If you could live your life over....? posted at The Engaging Brand.

Sarah Scrafford presents Top 100 Leadership Blogs posted at Best Universities.

"Does President Obama's charisma undermine his ability to be a Level 5 Leader (a la "Good to Great")? Can having a "Team of Rivals" counteract the tendency for underlings to resist telling bad news to a charismatic leader?" Amy Wilson presents Obama: a Level 5 Leader? posted at TalentedApps.

GeekMBA360 presents What if you have five 17-year old Kobe Bryants on your team? (And why you should never hire someone directly from McKinsey to run your business.) posted at GeekMBA360.

A Friend presents Personal responsibility posted at Literal Thinking. "This article presents a case about taking personal responsibility. True leaders first ensure that they do the best they can to work within the parameters of a challenging situation before even contemplating shifting the blame or responsibility to others."

Erik Samdahl presents Intimations of Mortality: What Happens When the CEO Falls Ill? - i4cp posted at Katherine Fair. "Katherine Fair, an analyst at i4cp, talks about Steve Jobs, succession planning and how to plan for CEOs who are suffering from an illness."

Alice Snell presents Repurpose Recruiting posted at Taleo Blog - Talent Management Solutions. "In a down economy, repurpose recruiters to other talent functions such as succession planning."

Jim Stroup presents Absentee owners and stakeholders posted at Managing Leadership. "
Why do you suppose it is that most of the controversy over how businesses interact with a wide range of “stakeholders” is about large publicly held corporations owned by anonymous shareholders?"

The Best of the Rest:

Susan Heathfield presents Network Your Way to Professional Success posted at About.com Human Resources. "Harvey Mackay, well-known, irreverent speaker and author of Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, tells you that networking is a full time job no matter your career or business. And, you want to have a professional network established long before you need a network."

Phil for Humanity presents Overcoming Fear « Phil for Humanity posted at Phil for Humanity.

Heather Jumah presents 5 Reasons to Make Marketing a Priority for Your Business posted at Wealth Success and Women. "Part of being a good leader is knowing when it's time to pay attention to marketing."

Woman Tribune presents A Success Guide for Women Entrepreneurs posted at Woman Tribune.

Broderick Allen presents Suspend Disbelief posted at Broderick Allen - Personal Growth and Enjoying Life's Journey.

Joshua Seth presents The Process of Persuasion posted at Joshua Seth Blog. "The first philosopher of note to break down the process of persuasion was Aristotle. He determined that there are three components necessary to effective persuasion: • Logos - which is the application of a logical argument • Ethos - which is basically the integrity of the messenger • Pathos - which is the emotional connection that that drives the action."

Tushar Mathur presents Exiting Your Business, What You Need to Know posted at Everything Finance. "A business exit is a vital part of your overall business planning. Properly done, an exit plan will provide a roadmap to your personal freedom - a disengagement from the business - as well as assure that your hard-earned illiquid business wealth is protected. Executing a plan that provides freedom and wealth protection can require as much thought as the building of a business, sometimes more."

Ralph Jean-Paul presents How To Make Important Decisions Quickly posted at Potential 2 Success. "Quick decision making is critical in just about every aspect of life. Every decision you make produces a result. In every line of business, quick decision making is crucial for success."

Raily Arena presents Understanding ISO Standards posted at Iso9001compliance's Blog.

Patricia Turner presents What’s the Mark of a True Leader? posted at Top Online Engineering Degree.

Stephen Pierce presents Want To Know How To Play To Win? posted at DTAlpha TalkBack. "Some choose to not play at all… they sit on the sidelines of life and just watch it go by. Some choose to play to not lose… always playing defense, protecting what is instead of creating what could be. And then there are those who choose to PLAY TO WIN… the unreasonable person who doesn’t go after what they think they can get, but goes after exactly what they want."

myln presents 13 time management hacks that can change your life posted at Change Your Life Hacks. "If you want to make a real change in your life you should first start by learning how to efficiently manage your time. Anyone who knows how to manage time also knows how to manage life. Good time management means proper prioritization, and therefore proper management of your live. The quality of your life depends on the intelligent management of your time and not by the amount of energy you consume on what you do."

Alvaro Fernandez presents Learning about Learning: an Interview with Joshua Waitzkin posted at SharpBrains.

JobandCareer Advice presents Understanding Resume Styles posted at Job and Career Advice.

That's it for this month! The next Leadership Development Carnival will be hosted right here on March 8th. If you would like to submit a post, please use the Carnival Submission Form on the sidebar.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

10 Ways to Avoid the Arrogance of Power


I just read a great piece on SmartBrief on Leadership by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. He wrote it for the Washingtonpost.com/On Leadership blog, and it’s called “The Arrogance of Power”.

In it, he says “Research in social psychology consistently reveals the corrupting effects of power: disinhibition and a diminished focus on those with less power. Influence distances those with it from those with less influence. At the same time, the ability to understand another's point of view, and to put oneself in the other's place, is one of the most critical factors that affects ability to obtain influence and is a critical skill for everyone, including organizational leaders.”

He goes on to say “There is also evidence, including some wonderful studies by business school professor Don Hambrick at Penn State, that shows the corroding effects of ego. Leaders filled with hubris are more likely to overpay for acquisitions and engage in other risky strategies. Leaders ought to cultivate humility. They certainly need to build cultures in which people can and will disagree with them over substantive decisions. They ought to get out and experience the world as others see it--maybe actually meet customers and shareholders, and they need to talk less and listen more.”

I can really relate to the phenomenon he’s described. Although I’ve never personally been in a “CEO like” position of power, I’ve been a manager for over 20 years, and if you’re not careful, anybody in a position of authority can lose their perspective. I’ve also seen it happen to newly promoted executives. They start off humble and with good intentions, but after a while, begin to get give in the drug of power, become isolated, lose touch, and start making bad decisions.

So how can a CEO, or anyone on a position of power and authority, avoid this trap? Here’s a starter list, and I’ll invite readers to add your own ideas.

10 Ways to Avoid the Arrogance of Power

1. I’m going to begin with a few of the ideas mentioned by Jeffrey Pfeffer, starting with encourage and reward dissent. I know this is easier said than done, it fact, it’s extremely difficult, and in reality, could be borderline anarchy. As an alternative to having dissent from everyone, a leader can cultivate a cadre of trusted advisors from all levels, inside and outside of the company. At a minimum, we can always rely on our closest loved one to keep us grounded!

2. Spend time with customers. I’m not talking about formal visits with your favorite customer’s top executives. Go out with your sales reps; sit in and listen to calls at your call center; take a tour of your customer’s business to see how they use your product; be a “mystery shopper” for your own product or service.

3. Read and answer your own email. Encourage employees at all levels to email you with questions, concerns, and suggestions. Let employees know that you may not be able to answer every one of them, but you will read them.

4. Be visible and accessible. Eat in the company cafeteria; attend company events; drop in on training programs. Don’t just sit with other executives – sit by yourself and ask employees to join you, or invite yourself to join other employees.

5. Have regular “fireside chats” with randomly selected, vertical slices of employees. Don’t do all of the talking; in fact, do as little talking as possible. I’ve seen executives show up at these things, talk about company strategy, entertain a few questions, and leave. While they may have left a positive impact, which is great, they learn absolutely nothing. Ask lot’s of questions and do a lot of listening.

6. Do regular “deep dives” with as many departments as possible. Spend a ½ - to a full day meeting with as many people as possible, touring the building, listening to presentations, asking questions, looking under the hood and kicking the tires.

7. Call the corporate travel agent and schedule a road trip. Take a few of your managers with you. Hit as many offices in a region, country, state, or some other geographic territory as possible. Schedule time with key customers, local management teams, high potentials, and other key local stakeholders. Do all employee meetings, formal tours, and when you can, lose your handlers and just wander around and ask questions.

8. Conduct regular employee and customer surveys. Don’t just read the executive summary – study the data, read the raw comments, and ask questions.

9. Work with an executive coach who’s willing to get in your face and tell it like it is.

10. Leverage technology and social networking. Start your own blog; provide your customers and employees a confidential forum to post comments.

What’s worked for you? How do you stay grounded, humble, and in touch with reality? What have you seen CEOs and other leaders do to avoid the arrogance of power?
_______________________________________________________________
Special bulletin:

The 2/4/09 Carnival of HR is being hosting by Wally Bock, one of my all time favorite leadership development bloggers, over at his Three Star Leadership Blog. Take a look, I promise it will be well worth your time. There’s 21 recent articles from the greatest HR bloggers on earth!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Great Leadership for Challenging Times


I know this is a long overdue post. After all, this blog is supposed to be all about leadership and leadership development, and while there have been hundreds of articles written about how to lead during these challenging economic times, I’ve yet to add my own two cents.

I guess there are two reasons why I haven’t up until now. I’ve stubbornly been hanging on to the notion that the principles of great leadership shouldn’t change based on economic swings. During the last bull market, how many articles did you read that gave advice on how to lead during prosperous times?

Well, if that’s how I’ve felt, than I need to say it. There’s no silver bullets, no magic pills. The competencies required for great leadership haven’t changed much since Attila led the Huns over the Alps. Business strategies change; processes change; markets change; technology changes; but the fundamental elements of leadership don’t.

Second, everyone else was doing it, so I didn’t see the need too. It seemed unoriginal and uninspiring.

So why now? Well, for one thing, the leaders I serve keep asking for it. They’re working their tails off, are struggling, and are looking for some help. So I need to let go of my stubbornness and throw a lifeline.

I thought I could address the need by just forwarding articles and resources, like this recent article and white paper by DDI, this one by G.L. Hoffman, and countless others. There’s certainly some good stuff out there.

However, I’ve found it helps me to write about it in order to understand it and internalize it myself. That’s been one of the nice personal side effects of blogging about leadership; it’s been good for my own development as a leader.

So with pen to legal pad, here are the 10 tips I came up with for leading in challenging times. I’m sure they are no better or worse than the rest, but they resonate for me, and I sincerely hope they will for you too.

1. Work hard and perform. Wow, isn’t that profound? I’m serious, though. As leaders, these are times that require sacrifice, hard work, and perseverance. This is how battles are won and great companies get turned around. It’s the collective hard work from each and every one of us, especially our leaders. No one’s going to put in the extra effort if they see their leaders coasting.

2. Radiate confidence and optimism. Another well known blogger said that if a CEO did this, it showed he was clueless. I strongly disagree. Our people need to see that their leaders are not afraid, that we believe in our organization, and that we are committed to success. In recent SmartBreif reader poll, most business leaders said the media’s focus on the negative is hurting businesses. I think it’s true for leaders too – fear and pessimism will make your situation worse.

3. On the other hand… that doesn’t mean we hide the truth and sugar coat bad news. We can do both. Let people know exactly what the situation is and what needs to be done. Ask for their help. Yes, they can “handle the truth”, and once they get over it, will want to pitch in and be willing to sacrifice in the short term for the greater good.

4. Enlist your team’s help. Give them a sense of control, something to do to help make a difference, even if it’s just a small difference. In a crisis, leaders make sure everyone is focused and engaged.

5. Don’t bad mouth your manager, your company, or your co-workers. Don’t point fingers, make excuses, or look for pity or a bailout. Focus on what you and your team can do, and offer to help your manager and co-workers.

6. Don’t take advantage of low turnover and a tight job market to screw your employees, just because you CAN. Again, this is counter to some advice I’ve been reading, and it seems freezing 401K contributions is becoming the latest cost-cutting fad. Screw your employees now, and they will screw you back the first chance they get.

7. Tough times are an opportunity to drive change and innovation. No one wants to listen to your radical ideas during good times – there’s no reason to change. Just be smart about it. I’m not talking about panic-driven change, rather well though out process improvements and innovation. It’s a great opportunity to ask “what if…”, and “why not?”

8. Now’s the time to collaborate across functions. Big problems require big, enterprise-wide solutions, so tear down the walls and start working across boundaries. Think task forces, committees, action learning, and Kaizen workshops. Even sworn enemies should be able to band together to fight off an invasion of a common foe.

9. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. I’ve already written about it.

10. It’s a leadership development opportunity - really. As leaders, we all need to learn how to lead during tough times, and how to turn around a struggling organization. It’s a required course in your leadership curriculum. Ask yourself; ten years from now, what would I have liked to learn from all this? And more importantly, how would you like this chapter to read when your leadership biography is written?

By the way, do you recognize the scene in the picture? It’s Reverend Frank Scott, from the 1972 disaster movie, The Poseidon Adventure, leading passengers to safety against all odds. I thought of him as I was coming up with my list. And Chesley Sullenberger.

Hang in there; stand tall; and LEAD.