Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When Work Has Meaning, The Culture Changes

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
 
In order to value team members, or help them find meaning in their work - that is, contribution to the greater good, to their community or even society - you don’t need to start a formal organizational initiative. Helping employees find significance simply takes time, energy, and engagement.
 
Intention and attention from leaders can have a beneficial impact on employees feelings of contribution, value, and worth, which can boost productivity and service.
 
This was seen in a study called the Hawthorne Effect, which was run  by Elton Mayo at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works factory, outside of Chicago, IL, in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The purpose of the study was to analyze the effects of workplace conditions on individual productivity.
 
Mayo and his team focused on two groups – a control group which operated in an unchanging work environment, and a test group which endured the changes to their working conditions, including lighting, such as working hours, rest breaks, food offered during breaks, etc. Workers were involved in what changes were going to happen (how long and how frequently their breaks were, for example). Productivity was carefully monitored following each change. Workers were then asked if the change was beneficial, how it might be refined to test the change again, etc.
 
Mayo’s research found that, compared to the control group, nearly every change resulted in increased individual productivity. Even after all changes reverted to the original conditions, productivity increased.
 
The initial findings from this important study led to recommendations that leaders engage with members of the workforce. After all, it wasn’t the lighting or breaks that boosted performance, it was the engagement of the workers by the researchers.
 
The test team bonded together like no other team in that factory, because they felt their ideas were valued. They were working together to help work conditions be more beneficial for their peers across the factory – that gave their efforts meaning beyond the day-to-day production activities they faced.
 
This is the most significant finding from the Hawthorne Works research: Making team members and teams feel valued as well as helping them find meaning and purpose beyond their own tactical skill application boosts employee well-being and productivity.
 
What do you pay attention to in your work environment? Do you actively engage with players regularly to learn what’s going well and what’s not, or do they rarely see you? Or are you somewhere in between those extremes?
 
Leaders, it’s your job to engage. Embrace it and enjoy it!
 
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com. Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Leading a Board of Directors

Guest post by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman:
 
OK, you are now a confident leader.  Comfortably demonstrating the skill, character and emotional IQ required for successfully leading your team.  Keenly aware that while your title makes you manager, only your team makes you leader. Your people are challenged, delivering, growing and fulfilled.  But, what about your board?
 
Leading a board is so very different from leading your organization.  For one thing, your directors are peers, or even better, mentors, and often your bosses.  They have different needs, desires and ambitions.  Your status with them is less about title and more about performance and confidence.  It’s a tough audience.  What do you do?
 
First understand what makes a good board.  Boards are deliberative bodies, not confederations of individual.  You need them to operate as a great team, not functionaries.
 
Operational boards are more valuable than governance boards.  Governance is for governments, not dynamic enterprises. You are looking for people who can help you solve problems and anticipate issues.  To help you develop. People who can train their experience on you and your business.  But if you treat them like your judges and confessors, they will become your judges and confessors. Instead, put them to work – for you.
 
Small boards are better than big boards.  You want a collegial team around you that is motivated to participate and contribute, not content to sit back and listen to your canned presentations.  Big boards regress to the mean.  You don’t want average, you want exceptional.
 
And diverse boards are best.  Too many business leaders build boards that resemble themselves.  They may be easier to manage, but a lot less effective. Harvard Business School Professor, Paul Gompers found that among venture capitalists that shared work history the company results decreased by 17%, 19% if they shared an alma mater, and 20% if they shared ethnic backgrounds. If you have taken venture capital you probably have a few of these on your board.
 
Adding diverse directors can be challenging for a leader because of the ensuing creative friction.  While differing genders, race, ethnicity, national origins, socio-economics, age, etc. can provide you with a more well-rounded perspective, it also means actively leading respectful debates.  You want constructive disagreement.  In fact, too many unanimous decisions may mean your board is disempowered, unengaged or simply not stepping up.
 
Because outside investment usually comes with board participation, you may not have the diversity you need.  Use your independent board selections to add diversity. Choose directors who bring valuable experience, unique perspectives and team skills.  If you choose only “Indian Chiefs, you may well find the egos are more trouble than they are worth.
 
And enlist some assistance.  Lead investors, the investors who price a round and set the terms, can help manage the syndicate of shareholders.  Partner with them to make sure your stakeholders are informed and aligned. 
 
Also, you should appoint a lead director.  On many boards the CEO is also the Chairperson.  But you are missing an opportunity to add strength to your leadership.  A lead director can make your job much easier because they can run point on sensitive issues, poll the board for concerns, help build consensus, and give you much needed feedback and guidance.  The lead director chairs the closed session at the end of the board meetings where the directors can talk amongst themselves and share their impressions of you.  The lead director is the best translator of this information to keep you and the board on the same page.
 
Expose your team to your board so they can build rapport.  It’s a motivator for your team, a chance for them to hear directly from the board and for the board to evaluate them, and a call to action for addressing the key issues.  Your board should spend meaningful time with your team outside of the boardroom so they develop an appreciation of the tough tradeoffs you are making. 
 
Board meetings should not be dog and pony presentations.  If you have built the right board, they will want to dig in on meaty issues, not sleep through the recital of the slides. Don’t use precious board time to rehash reports and financial performance that can be shared in advance.  Provide key performance indicators regarding your critical initiatives beforehand so you can focus on the deviations that matter. 
 
Most of all, reserve substantial time for group discussions about the most important matters facing your business.  The things that keep you up at night. Encourage them to challenge you and each other so that you get the full benefit of your brain trust. Then make the best-informed decision you can, regardless of unanimity.
 
Never oversell your point of view; encourage debate.  Remember, your directors sell and are sold to every day, they will spot a hard sell a mile away. You may lose precious credibility as a consequence.
 
To focus board talent on important issues, organize your board into committees, like audit and compensation, strategy and compliance.  This permits you to lead qualified subgroups deeper into critical issues.  It is best if the committees report out to the entire board rather than making decisions themselves so that you can keep the entire board in lock stop.
 
Remember, you are the leader not just of your team but of your board as well.  The skills required are slightly different, but your character and integrity remain critical.
 
Don’t undermine yourself with a poorly functioning board. A good board can challenge you to greatness, but a bad board can kill a good business.
 
In our book, Straight Talk for Startups, 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds, we present the best practices not just for building and managing boards but also for addressing the fundamentals, choosing investors, fund raising, and achieving liquidity. As Tony Fadell, founder/CEO of Nest and the co-inventor of the iPod and iPhone says, “Straight Talk is filled with real, raw and fact-based ‘rules of the road’ that you need to know when diving into our ultra-competitive startup world.  A must-read and a re-read!” Enjoy.
 
Copyright © 2018 Randy Komisar, All rights reserved.
 
About the Authors:

Randy Komisar is the co-author of Straight Talk for Startups (HarperBusiness; June 2018). He is a venture capitalist with decades of experience with startups.
Jantoon Reigersman is the co-author of Straight Talk for Startups (HarperBusiness; June 2018). He’s a seasoned financial operator with extensive experience in startups and growth companies. He serves as Chief Financial Officer of publicly traded Leaf Group (NYSE: LFGR), a diversified consumer internet company.
For more information, please visit http://straighttalkforstartups.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A 5-Step Training Plan to Think like a Navy SEAL

Guest post from Mark Divine:

The world is more complex and faster than ever. As a retired Navy SEAL and founder of several multimillion-dollar companies, business seems increasingly like a “VUCA” battlefield in Afghanistan or Syria—it’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. 

Special Operators have thrived in these environments because of how they think. Fortunately for you, these skills can be trained. However, you need to know your starting point to customize your training. Here is a five-pronged plan for you:

1. Physical

Get fit. Being fit impacts everything else positively in your life: relationships, health, confidence, brain power, and more. So ask yourself: Do I follow a solid functional training regimen? Am I 100% conscious of what I eat and drink throughout the day? And am I free of injury and illness?

If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe” (meaning “I don’t know”), you’d greatly benefit from a good functional training program (using your whole body) for 30 minutes to one hour, three or four times a week: for example,
SEALFIT, CrossFit, martial arts, or yoga. 

If time is a challenge (and it is for all of us), then I encourage you to take moments during your day to do up to three “spot drills” such as 50 squats as fast as possible, 100 burpees, or
10 sun salutations, These drills will burn calories, get the blood flowing and lead to functional fitness over time.

2. Mental 

Get mentally strong. It makes things easier, and you’ll be harder to defeat. So ask yourself: Do I regularly train my mental strength? Do I calmly respond to stressful situations? Can I make quick, good decisions? Do I routinely persevere when faced with a big challenge?
If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe to most of the questions, then I recommend you start practicing the “Big Four” skills for mental toughness.

Practice controlled breathing every morning when you wake up. Next, mentally rehearse a challenging event before attempting it. Calmly see yourself dominating every task, with a smile on your face. Third, as you go about your day, interrupt negative internal dialogue with “power statements” such as “Easy day, I’ve got this,” or “Well, it could always be worse.” SEALs learn to resist the urge to gripe when things are tough, or go wrong. This is a good skill to learn. The fourth skill is to chunk overwhelming tasks into micro goals. For instance, at the start of the infamous Navy SEAL Hell Week (six days of non-stop training with only four hours sleep), I chunked my focus to making it until sunrise each night, then as things got harder, just the next meal, then even the next step.

3. Emotional 
Get emotionally balanced. It brings you more energy and improves your relationships. So ask yourself: Am I aware of my emotions? Do I express them in healthy, productive ways? Can I recognize what triggers negative states? Do I have strategies to transmute negative emotions into positive energy?

If you answered “no” or “maybe” to most, then it’s time to develop emotionally. One powerful method I teach is a practice called authentic communication. With difficult conversations, maintain focused awareness on what your partner says and relaxed awareness on your own thoughts and feelings. This type of active mindfulness takes patience. As you engage in conversation, only speak if what you have to say is truthful, adds value to the conversation, and comes with respect for the other party.

4. Intuitional

If you’re solid on the first three, expand your leadership skills by tapping into the deep intelligence of your intuition. So ask yourself: Do you pay attention to your gut? Do you know things without knowing how or why? Can you sense danger or opportunities before they present themselves? Do you even acknowledge that intuitive insight is real?

If you answered “no” or “maybe,” then it’s time to start trusting your gut to lead in today’s VUCA world where intuition is a core skill. You can start to still your mind and body to hear the inner voice with my “Still Water Runs Deep” visualization: After a few minutes of deep, diaphragmatic breathing, imagine laying in a pristine, still pond. Allow yourself to sink to the bottom, where you feel protected from the chaos of the world. Empty your mind as you stay focused on the image of the clear water above you, sunlight filtering down warming your body. Do this for at least five minutes, and you will connect to a deep inner peace, tapping your natural intuition. 

5. Kokoro 

Kokoro means “merging heart and mind into your actions.” I believe this could be the single most important skill a leader needs to develop today. This ancient warrior concept asks us to develop a deep understanding of our purpose in life and to live it full out. So ask yourself: Do I know my purpose, and am I directing my energy toward it? Can I see the “big picture” of my life through all the chaos, distractions and challenges that arise? Do I feel present and peaceful? 

If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe,” it’s time to cultivate a meditation practice. In your morning routine, find a quiet space to sit and clear your mind. I like to start with
box breathing, then say a mantra such as, “Day by day, I’m getting better and better,” and finally just drop into silence. Always have a journal handy to jot down arising insights or questions to clear your mind of them. Once you’re deeply centered, you can visualize completing a critical challenge, or conduct self-inquiry by asking compelling questions such as: Why am I here? Who am I really? What’s the one thing I need to do today to move me towards fulfilling my purpose better? 

In summary: Leading and succeeding at an elite level in today’s VUCA environment requires you to take total responsibility for your physical, mental, emotional, intuitive and “heart-mind” strength. The good news is that you can train all these aspects of yourself. But you have to do the work daily, or you won’t move the dial at all. If you feel can’t because you don’t have the time, then I say “embrace the suck.” Just go to bed earlier, take shorter showers, quit watching TV, remove unnecessary obligations or delegate anything not aligned with your unique offer and purpose. Soon these five domains will all improve, and you’ll become an admired leader with the focus to achieve your biggest dreams.


Mark Divine is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, founder of
Unbeatable Mind and
SEALFIT, and NYT bestselling author of The Way of The SEAL, updated and expanded for a new look at leadership and personal excellence in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Divine has taken his 20 years of experience as a Navy SEAL officer, flavored it with 25 years of martial arts and 15 years of yoga training, and pulled the lessons learned from founding six successful multimillion-dollar companies for unique, highly effective training that anyone can use to become an elite operator in business and life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Closing the Gap: How to Get Coaching


Guest post from Michael Bungay Stanier:

Over the last few years, the leadership world has begun to understand the importance of coaching in the workplace. But what has that really translated to?

Some companies went about implementing coaching by bringing in an executive coach to help develop their employees.

And while that can be a good introduction and yield great results, it can also be quite

expensive, the individual training can be a little inconsistent, and it doesn’t effectively implement coaching into the workplace long term.

So, although leaders have acknowledged the need for coaching within their organizations, they still aren’t 100% sure how to close the gap.

The key lies in turning existing managers into future coaches. And here’s how to get started.

Define What Coaching Will Mean to You

If you don’t know what coaching really means to your organization, what’s the point of trying to get into it?

“Coaching’ has been a bit of a buzzword over the last few years, and there are hundreds of definitions of it. One of my personal favorites, though, is this: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

That definition comes from Sir John Whitmore, and I think it’s a perfect way to introduce coaching. But that doesn’t mean you can’t alter it to best suit your organization’s goals.

Don’t Turn Coaching into a Big Deal

“Don’t turn coaching into a big deal.” By that I mean don’t try to create a coaching culture or make it a formal event.

Just because the HR industry has touted coaching as one of the best concepts ever in the leadership world, that doesn’t mean it’s a fix-all for your organization. True, successful coaching can improve the workplace in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it will immediately drive change and fix all the obstacles you’re tackling.

And that’s where trying too hard to make it part of your organization’s culture can get you into trouble.

Coaching is a tool that works best when it’s targeted toward one specific objective.

So instead of focusing on implementing a coaching culture, focus on that specific objective. Are you looking to increase customer retention? To better track website metrics? To improve operations budgets and procedures?

If you don’t outline exactly why you’re looking to implement coaching in the workplace, the whole concept of it may come across a little too vague and distanced from the busyness of the everyday workflow.

Make It Mean Something

Managers are busy enough as it is without having to feel like they’re going to be forced to learn a new skill. They need to understand a connection — that is, what’s in it for them? In order to bridge the gap and successfully implement coaching into their lives, they need to understand that, when done right, coaching can reduce their workload, make their teams less dependent and make their employees more accountable.

Once managers understand this, why wouldn’t they be more open to learning how to become more coach-like?

Show That It Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard

My experience these days, working with busy managers around the world, tells me that managers are stretched more thinly than ever. We thought we were busy in the year 2000, but that was nothing compared with today’s hyper-connected digital world.

So why would a manager want to take on the added task of coaching employees? Well, we’ve already settled that it will help alleviate some of their stress by encouraging their employees to be more autonomous. And I think it’s safe to say that a reduction in workload is a good reason to get started.

But what’s important to explain to your managers is that coaching doesn’t have to take more time, it doesn’t have to be an added task to a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Instead, it can be something done in passing, nothing more than a daily interaction that’s as easy as catching up by the water cooler.

Be Lazy, Be Curious, Be Often

Managers don’t need to become coaches; they simply need to become more coach-like. And the way to do that is for them to offer advice a little less often, and ask questions a little more often.

So, as a manager, the next time someone comes to you …

Be lazy. Don’t jump in right away to offer advice. Ask something like “How can I help?” This will work in two ways. First, it will force the other person to get clear on what it is they want or need from you. Second, it acts as a self-management tool that will keep you lazy — preventing you from running off to do things you think people want you to do.

Be curious. Instead of saying yes all the time or taking over, ask questions. “And what else?” leaves no rock unturned. The first answer someone gives to this question is never the only answer, and rarely is it the best one. There are always more answers to be found and ideas to be generated — and this question will keep you lazy and encourage others to come up with them. So, without coming up with the ideas yourself, and without taking on more work, you’ll get the answers out anyway — by helping your employee learn along the way.

Be often. Don’t set time aside to coach; rather, turn everyday conversations into insightful moments of coaching. Asking questions like the two noted above won’t take any more time out of your day, but the results will be noticeable.

So, instead of thinking of coaching as something else to add to your plate, think of it as an adaptable skill. It’s all about asking the right questions, asking them often and watching your employees learn through your daily conversations.

We’re all hardwired to give advice. But promoting a little more curiosity rather than expertise will create perfectly coach-like managers — and that, surely, will help bridge the gap.


Michael Bungay Stanier
Michael is the Senior Partner at Box of Crayons, a company that teaches 10-minute
coaching so that busy managers can build stronger teams and get better results. His most recent book, The Coaching Habit, has sold a quarter of a million copies. Along with David Creelman and Anna Tavis, Michael recently conducted and released a new piece of research, The Truth & Lies of Performance Management. Michael is a Rhodes Scholar and was recently recognized as the #3 Global Guru in coaching. Visit BoxofCrayons.com and http://boxofcrayons.com/pmresearch/ for more information.
 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Leadership Comes in Many Forms. Helping Business Save the Earth.

Guest post from Michael Lenox:
 
Humanity faces a number of critical sustainability challenges, global climate change chief among them.  In my new book with Ronnie Chatterji, Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability, we assert that to address these challenges requires substantial, disruptive innovation across a wide number of sectors.  Electrical vehicles in transportation.  Renewable energy in electricity generation.  Electrification in heavy industrials.  And the list goes on.
 
Such innovation cannot and will not happen without the active involvement of the business community.  Innovation is more than invention.  It is the creation of commercial viable products and service.  Markets are where the value of innovations are articulated.  Innovation requires creating value that exceeds the cost of production.  Business, and markets more broadly, are often the catalyst for innovation and are thus a critical players in our innovation challenge.
 
However, the burden of our sustainability challenges does not solely rest on business leaders.  Rather than berate business for inaction or implore them on the business case for sustainability, we assert that we need to think of the broader institutional envelope – the system – that shapes and influences how markets function.  This systems perspective highlights, in the famous worlds of Pogo, that “we have met the enemy and he is us”.  Or put more positively, we all have a responsibility to bear and a role to play.
 
This suggests a new type of leadership – one that Jeff Walker and his coauthors have referred to as “shapers”. Shapers understand that one must look for levers to influence the system – to shape it to desired ends.  Command and control does not work.  The innovation system has a momentum and logic of its own.  To increase the innovative output of business, especially the output of sustainable technologies, requires pushes and nudges along the edges.  Individual action may seem ineffectual, but collectively such action can have a profound impact on how the system behaves.
 
Business leaders clearly have a role to play in driving innovative new sustainable technologies that disrupt current markets.  So do customers that demand green goods and services and investors who seek out investment opportunities in sustainable technologies.  Government can both help create demand “pull” through pricing interventions and regulation and technology “push” by subsidizing R&D and funding university research.  Social ventures and NGO’s, of all shapes and sizes, can help catalyze the innovation ecosystem, for example, by creating market transparency through labeling initiatives or motivating corporate action through boycotts and protests.  Universities and national laboratories can provide the basic research that drives new technologies.  Entrepreneurial communities can incubate nascent technologies and ventures through accelerator programs and crowdfunding.  Banks can create green bonds and other novel forms of investing in sustainable technologies. And so on.
 
Ultimately, each one of us has an opportunity to lead, to shape the institutional environment so as to catalyze the innovation ecosystem to generate more of the disruptive sustainable technologies that we need to meet our sustainability challenges.  Time is of the essence.  Only through collective leadership can we meet the challenges before us.
 
 Michael Lenox is co-author of Can Business Save the Earth? and Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. His work has been cited by the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist. In 2009, he was recognized as a Faculty Pioneer by the Aspen Institute and as the top strategy professor under 40 by the Strategic Management Society. In 2011, he was named one of the top 40 business professors under 40 by Poets & Quants.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Beyond Self Awareness: Leadership’s Next Frontier

Guest post from Glain Roberts-McCabe:

This year, I published my first book. When I was trying to think of a book title, I reached out to our community of ambitious leaders for advice.
As I polled them with ideas (100 Ways to Bullet Proof Your Career, The No Bullshit Guide to Getting Ahead, Leadership Truths from the Trenches), the one that become the hands down winner was the one that I threw out as a joke: Did I REALLY Sign Up for This?!

Maybe I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. We are, after all, in a work world where we’re pulling terms from the US military to describe the levels of disruption we’re all feeling. VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) has gone mainstream.
Many of us feel like we’re going into battle each day. As leaders, we’re often simply trying to survive and make it to the next round of the fight.

No wonder we lose sight of our ‘why’. Work is exhausting. We’ve sped up technology and innovation but remain trapped in models, processes and working norms that were built in the early twentieth century. We are in the Age of Collaboration and yet bound by the Age of Industrialization.
We focus on the acquisition of knowledge and yet ignore how to increase our mind’s capacity to handle all this bombardment of data.

Where we used to think of self-insight and self-awareness as the ‘holy grail’ in leadership development, it is time to move beyond simply ‘knowing’ who we are as leaders to ‘reshaping’ who we are as leaders.
Here are three ways we can expand our individual and collective capacity in order to engage fully in this accelerated world of work.

1. Get Present
There’s a reason why mindfulness has gone mainstream. In a 24/7 world, our brains need some forced downtime. I tell my clients to grab an app (I recommend Headspace), join a program, download a podcast or simply start taking one purposeful breath before entering any room.

Seriously. Breathing alone will be a game changer. Check-in: where’s your breath right now as you read this? Is it shallow and at the top of your chest? Or nice and deep in your belly?

Take a breath. A nice, deep belly breath. Ah...

2. Manage Your Energy
For the past twenty years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about working to strengths but not enough time thinking about how we manage energy. Given that a strength is the intersection between our capability and our passion, our attention goes easily to cultivating capability but we assume that passion won’t falter.

To manage in a complex, challenging workplace, we need to pay attention to how we keep the energy that fuels our passion buoyant. By taking control of your calendar and putting your ‘big energy boosts’ in first, you increase your odds of maintaining your motivation for the tasks that drain you.

Managing energy is one of the keys to building resilience.
3. Be Intentional

With so much disruption around us, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia of our day-to-day leadership. We lose track of our higher purpose (our ‘why’ as Simon Sinek would say) and forget about the impact we can make on those around us. Maya Angelou famously said, ‘I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
How easy it is for our strengths to become overused in times of pressure. How quickly we can unintentionally succumb to behaviours that negatively impact those around us.

Leading with intention means stating your intention before the chips are down and the stress levels are high.
I am kind. I am patient. I am generous.

What are your intention statements? Read and repeat them every day, multiple times a day. Watch how your inner dialog changes as this mantra of intention takes hold.
Self-insight for leaders is great. Being self-absorbed with all this self-awareness is not. The future will belong to those leaders with the ability to expand their repertoire and adapt their approach to meet a world that’s accelerating at a pace never seen before.

This is the age of the mind and it’s time we start thinking about how we’re cultivating it.

Glain Roberts-McCabe is Founder of the Roundtable, a place where leaders cultivate their leadership, together through group and team coaching. She is the author of Did I REALLY Sign Up for This?! #leadership truths on how to drive, survive and thrive. The Roundtable was named the top External HR Advisory/Consultancy of the Year in 2016 by the Canadian HR Awards. Visit their website at www.goroundtable.com.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What's Your Leadership B Side?

Guest post by Suzanne Vickberg and Kim Christfort:


Some of you will remember the days when listening to music didn't mean streaming it on your phone but instead putting on a record. And if that record was a 45, after listening to the hit song on the A side, you had to flip that little black disc over to hear the other song (the B side). The A side was why you bought the record but you got the B side song too whether you wanted it or not. As a leader, you too have an A and a B side. The A side features those strengths that are most coveted by organizations and teams and that make you valuable. Maybe you spark energy and imagination, or instead you bring order and rigor. Perhaps you generate momentum, or rather you draw teams together. These contributions are what set you apart as a leader. But like those old-fashioned records, you have a B side whether you want it or not. These characteristics are the flip side of your strengths, and they’re part of who you are as a leader, too. How your B side will impact your team depends on your leadership style. If you’re the type who focuses on possibilities and inspiring creativity in others, you may also be so impractical that your team is left scratching their heads about how to execute on anything. Or, if instead you provide a stable foundation that mitigates risk and makes people feel secure, your team may end up being too cautious and inflexible for today's fast-paced environment. If your style is to push your team hard to excel and rise to a challenge, you might also prioritize results over people with detrimental effects on the way team members relate to one another. Or, if on the other hand you build trust by prioritizing people and a collaborative culture, you might overemphasize getting everyone to agree, which can discourage differing opinions and lead to Groupthink.

So what to do when you can’t escape your B side?

We suggest you don't go it alone. Leadership shouldn't be a solitary venture and neither should exploring how to manage your own strengths and weaknesses. Bring others into the effort by letting them know what you’re trying to do. Learn together about different working styles, both the positives and negatives that tend to accompany them. Acknowledge your own B side traits and ask for help in managing their impact on the team. The great thing about this strategy is that by making yourself vulnerable, you are building trust with others. And it also makes it okay for others to be vulnerable and to focus on their own improvements. So go ahead and admit to your weaknesses. Your team likely already sees them anyway.

Another way to offset your B side might be to consider taking on a leadership partner, or co-lead, with a different leadership style. If a co-lead of equal rank isn’t the right solution for you, a second-in-command who’s different can also be a good balance. If you tend to get bogged down in considering too many perspectives, choose someone who can help you decide when to cut off discussion and make a decision. If you tend to push your team too hard or fast, partner with someone who might be able to help you see when it’s important to take a breather. Your leadership partner will have a B side too, and assuming it's different from yours, you can also help shore them up. Your team will benefit from more diverse strengths (two A sides!), and the less desirable aspects of your leadership may have less impact too.

Kim Christfort is the national managing director of The Deloitte Greenhouse™ Experience
team, which helps executives tackle tough business challenges through immersive, facilitated Lab experiences, and client experience IP such as Business Chemistry. As part of this role, Kim leads US Deloitte Greenhouses, permanent spaces designed to promote exploration and problem solving away from business as usual.

Suzanne Vickberg, PhD (aka Dr. Suz) is The Deloitte Greenhouse™ Experience team’s very own social-personality psychologist and the Business Chemistry lead researcher, which means she studies how people’s thoughts, behaviors, and preferences are influenced by both who they are and the situations they’re in. She uses Business Chemistry to help teams explore how the mix of perspectives brought by their individual members influences their work together.