Thursday, December 26, 2019

Three Ways to Improve Retention on Your Team


Guest post from Hilary Grosskopf:

Managing a team can sometimes feels more like managing a revolving door. When retention is poor, leaders spend valuable time interviewing and training rather than making progress. For organizations, attrition is an expensive issue that takes money away from impactful progress, innovation, employee benefits, and enjoyable team activities. Intelligent hiring decisions and satisfying paychecks are not enough to retain your best team members.

As a leader, it’s essential to be proactive about your approach to engagement in order to build your team and retain your best team members. Once your team is in place, team members must feel a sense of clarity, healthy challenge, and connection every day. When team members lose interest and motivation, they soon start to look for a new opportunity that fills this void.

Three practices that will help you retain your best team members and make more impactful progress:

1. Give Clear Direction

Leaders often give direction about responsibilities to individual team members when they join the team. Over time, meetings to review objectives, responsibilities, and progress move down on the priority list for busy leaders. However, it’s essential to give frequent, clear direction in team meetings as well as in one-on-one meetings with team members. Without clarity about objectives and priorities from the central perspective of the leader, team members work in different directions and people do redundant work. Misalignment around priorities and delegation breeds animosity amongst the team. When team members are not clear about their responsibilities and objectives, they become frustrated and lose motivation. Team members need clarity and connection to the purpose of their individual and the collective efforts. Spend time in team meetings reviewing team objectives and facilitating two-way dialogue about priorities and progress. Use a white board to write down objectives, talk through timelines, and delegate tasks together. Spend time in weekly one-on-one meetings reviewing individual objectives, responsibilities, and progress. 

2. Give Positive Acknowledgement

So many leaders overlook the simple yet powerful practice of acknowledgement. When days feel busy and getting the work done becomes a challenge in itself, leaders forget that acknowledgement is what keeps team members motivated and connected. Positive acknowledgement is a form of energy for team members. To fuel productivity and provide motivation, give acknowledgement for small and large accomplishments. A “thank you” in person or via e-mail goes a long way in making a team member feel valued and appreciated for his or her work. During team meetings or one-on-one meetings with team members, spend time acknowledging wins and milestones. Lead by example in giving positive acknowledgement and team members will start to give positive acknowledgement to each other as well. 

3. Give Opportunities for Development

Leaders often assume that opportunities for development and career growth only come with a promotion. However, the best team members are always looking for opportunities to learn, develop skills, and gain new experience. It’s up to the leader to support team members in continuously growing, even between promotions. The most engaging form of learning and development happens through special projects. A special project is a project that adds new value to the team while also allowing the team member to develop new skills. Is there a project you have been putting on the back burner for a while? Is there a task or project you could hand off to a team member? Spend time mentoring by transferring skills, giving knowledge, and providing feedback during and after the project. Ideally, a special project will help a team member prepare for the next level in his or her career by building new skills and knowledge in alignment with his or her interests. Other opportunities for development include team shadowing sessions where team members can share skills and ideas, educational field trips where team members can immerse in company context, and courses where team members can build relevant skills and knowledge.

Though retention is challenging in a fast-paced and competitive business environment, leaders have the power to retain team members with authentic offerings that money can’t buy. The best leaders provide clear direction, positive acknowledgement, and opportunities for development. These practices give team members peace of mind, healthy challenge, and genuine connection.



Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Magic Potion in Leadership

Guest post by Raghu Kalé:


IS leadership overrated? I have often grappled with this question. The fact that one holds a position barely qualifies one to be a leader. Some folks manage to deceive themselves into believing that they are leaders. Why? Because they hold a position?

In my life, I have worked with leaders who served for a cause. Some served as heads of businesses that operated across geographies in multiple countries and many continents.

Some leaders I thought I knew withered away after we moved on – out of sight, out of mind. We barely kept in touch. Then there were those who I truly respected, who turned out to be friends for life. I heard someone say, “… you may join a company – but when you move on – you leave a boss …”

Many consultants preach about how to become a great leader. Once we tear down the facade and peel away the layers, it comes down to what is left in the bare and naked form of humanity: the human personality. After all, you can’t teach people to be nice. Leadership traits are the same; either you have them, or you don’t. You can’t fake it for long. In some instances, I have seen how the dynamics of power-play work. Actions speak louder than words. Most often, people see games people play. I have witnessed how power-hungry managers wield power by inspiring a few for some time before the disillusion sets in.

In my experience, I witnessed my former boss and his uncanny skill at radiating a sense of anxiety—an illusion that transmitted unpredictability. On his retirement, my farewell words to him in my in-person chat said it all: “While our corporate signature line is Leadership with Trust— you symbolized Leadership with Thrust. Your pyrotechnics hidden in your false temper – simulation of stress you orchestrated was perhaps only to extract results from people you lead.” My words brought a smile to him. Despite his uncanny unpredictable ways, his ability to pay heed to genuine hearts was uncanny. His responsibility spanned vast geography that included regions under unrest. As the CEO, he was faced with a dilemma. One of his managers was kidnapped while on his way to the office, and the militants demanded a ransom. The demands were refused, and negotiations went on for over a year. Running the business and achieving profitability despite all odds was a business as usual challenge. The unusual part was in managing this crisis that attracted national headlines. It tested leadership mettle. His modulation of genuine concern on one extreme and pyrotechnic to manage anxiety and unpredictability on the other – for some, it continues to baffle. Perhaps it qualifies for an in-depth research study.

I know that fear, on the one hand, is a mediocre drug that treats a symptom that is best suited for lesser mortals. Inspiration, on the other hand, is the magic potion that develops leaders, thereby boundlessly uplifting the spirits that heal the soul – thus transcending its impact across generations with a lasting legacy.

I was fortunate to have worked with several leaders who lead with compassion and grace. A promise is a promise was their unspoken shackle bonded with truth and trust. I once asked my senior about leading with trust, since he served on several boards. He was conferred the Honorary Knighthood by Elizabeth II, along with several civilian awards that he was bestowed over time. His accolades are countless. His demeanor is humble. It was in the early years of my career when we had developed the corporate branding signature line: 'Leadership with Trust.' It was about reaffirming leadership in sectors in which the conglomerate operated. My simple question to him was: "You as a leader – what can you do to ensure we live by the corporate signature line of ‘Leadership with Trust?’" His response was simple. He said that he personally could not do much about trust directly, but what he strives to do is keep his word. Over time, he hopes that it will build personal credibility. He explained, “Trust, as I see, is an outcome,” over which he had no direct control. He explained that he has a much better influence over credibility. And so, I see it now that one must do what one has to do. Never give a diplomatic, soft-pedaling answer. Folks can see through it. After all, you can only be a leader if you have followers. You will have followers only if you can inspire, and you can inspire if you don’t try to fake it with a pep talk and rehearsed talk lines. You can’t preach people to be ethical and have moral standards and then show off a falsehood of high morality and ethics.

To be a great leader, you have to work hard to alter your personality to be worthy of being called a leader. Only on your tombstone and at your funeral will you know from the conversations others have about you, besides the eulogy, if you were liked for what you were or was only a fatal attraction about your position and the goodies you had as the paraphernalia of the leadership position you held.


About the Author:
Raghu Kalé is an accomplished communications professional who has positively impacted
business outcomes by supporting corporate and operational strategy. Formerly the Vice President in the Office of the Brand Custodian of Tata Sons, Mr. Kalé has supported brand and marketing thought leadership initiatives for over 25 years. He lives in New Jersey with his wife Ywin Shin, their two daughters, and a wise-eyed beagle named Skye. Loyalty & Sacrifice: Ushering New Horizons for Business Leaders in the Digital Age is his first book.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Great Leadership Development Disrupter: Leadership Rotation


Guest post from Dee Ann Turner:

During my tenured career at one organization, I had the “best of the best” leadership development opportunities. I attended multiple executive education courses at the top business schools in the United States. In that organization, no expense was spared for leadership development. Their program includes on-one coaching from some of the best leadership minds and constant exposure to top leadership conferences and speakers. The organization ensures participation in multiple mentoring programs, assignment to non-profit boards and engaging in a multitude of on-the-job experiences with most senior leaders in the company. While all of these leadership development tactics has the potential to contribute to leadership growth, none of them compared to the one that transformed me as a leader.

For 30 years, I worked in the same function within the organization – Human Resources, later renamed Talent. On my 30th anniversary with the company, I left the familiar and launched a new function and team, Enterprise Social Responsibility, something I knew very little about at the time. With the new assignment came a blank sheet of paper to develop a strategy, a new team to lead whom I did not select, a new leader in an unfamiliar area of the company and a charge to “figure it out.” It was single most effective leadership development activity of my entire career. Since then, I have become and advocate for organizations to formally adopt leadership rotation programs as part of the leadership development plans.

Often, businesses and even non-profits, anticipate the pain of change to be greater than the value of the learning, so they avoid leadership rotation, especially if things are going well. However, an organization cannot afford for their leaders to become complacent and their learning to atrophy. While the stability that tenured leadership at the highest levels creates some comfort for collaboration, it can adversely impact innovation. Furthermore, leaders who stay in a position too long can shift into an “automatic” mode in both strategic thinking and in their people management.

Consider these benefits of a leadership rotation program:

1. The leader learns the valuable skill of building trust with a team. True leadership does not require a leader to have expertise in a specific subject matter. Instead, it requires them to lead people who do. Leaders who lack subject matter competency have to rely on the subject matter experts on their team to provide information and help make the best decisions. Trust breeds trust. When the leader trusts the team members, the team members often reciprocate. Trust is foundational to the success of any leader.

2. The leader learns critical persuasion and negotiation skills. It is far easier to advocate and negotiate about a very familiar function. It’s much more challenging to so in unfamiliar territory. Yet, it is in the discomfort of the unfamiliar that promotes growth for the leader.  Significant challenge to thinking and planning skills helps the leader’s competencies evolve.

3. The leader is more likely to develop an innovation mindset. If a leader stays in one function too long, it is more difficult to think about doing things differently. A leadership rotation can reignite some of the ideation that is natural to the leader. New ideation can move the organization forward to meet future challenges.

4. The leader strengthens people management skills. In most cases, an established leader is selecting the talent for the team. That same talent is choosing to work for the leader. However, when a leader is reassigned to a team, it requires new skills in leading people. The leader did not select the team members and they did not select the leader. This situation requires the leader to focus on communication skills, role definition, goal setting, holding others accountable and performance management. All leaders on any team should be applying these skills, but doing so in a new environment with new team members accelerates leadership development.

5. The leader develops collaboration skills. When assigned to a new role, especially if the functional competencies are unfamiliar, the leader will not only grow trust with the team members, but will also grow collaboration skills with peers. The new subject matter will require the leader to seek input, counsel and feedback from other leaders in the organization. It’s not business as usual. Interdependency develops within the leadership team when the leaders are challenged by a new role.


Within tenured organizations, leadership development can be especially challenging. There are too few new activities or programs that disrupt the leader’s thinking and perspective. Consider the significant role leadership rotation can play in developing the leaders in your organization.

Dee Ann Turner is leading the modern conversation about talent in business. The in-demand speaker, author, executive coach, and consultant was the first female officer at Chick-fil-A, for whom she served as Vice President of Talent and later, Vice President of Sustainability. There, Dee Ann helped shape Chick-fil-A’s historically remarkable culture for more than 30 years. In her bestselling first book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture, Dee Ann took readers behind the scenes of Chick-fil-A for explanations and action steps any business could adopt. Released on September 3, 2019, her follow-up BET ON TALENT: HOW TO CREATE A REMARKABLE CULTURE THAT WINS THE HEARTS OF CUSTOMERS dissects the strategies of numerous industry-leading organizations alongside explanations of Dee Ann’s original approaches to the most crucial decisions in business. Today, she leads her own organization, Dee Ann Turner, LLC, writing books, speaking to over 50 audiences per year and consulting and coaching leaders globally. Dee Ann lives with her husband just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

#GreatLeadersCoach – 5 Coaching Skills Every Leader Should Have


Guest post from Phil Renshaw and Jenny Robinson:

For many years now there has been increasing recognition of the value professional coaches bring to managers and leaders in business. Given the power of coaching, it can benefit everyone. Both the supply and the demand for such coaches continues to increase. However, it is our belief that we are all missing a vital fact.

It is simply untenable to think that we can give a professional coach to everyone who would benefit from it - organisations cannot afford to give everyone a professional coach. And yet they can, and in our view should, give everyone a leader-coach.

Theories and leadership advocates have been arguing for decades (if not millennia) that the most effective leaders are great coaches because they use these skills to harness the potential of the whole team, not just the super stars.  These leaders recognise that they cannot lead alone.  

The first five fundamental skills of coaching can be learnt by anyone.  As you read the list take note if you are mentally yawning because you think “they’re not rocket science” or “these are obvious”.  It’s important to spot if you do this. Many do, and it means they fail to develop the nuances of these fundamentals. All skills require practice – we are not born with these skills!

1. Generative Listening
We need to hear the concerns of our colleagues, understand their issues and give them time to think if we are to be most useful. This is not simply listening. Rather it is giving your full attention, listening out for what is not said, the tone and language used, such that it prompts great questions and hence great thinking in your people. It is generative because it helps the speaker to generate their own solutions. This empowerment is the core to great coaches. Having the belief that your people will be able to find their own way forward is what generative listening demonstrates.

2. Questioning
Banish boring questions.  This is how you will bring alive your curiosity and help someone to see a new perspective.  It also makes it FUN!  We advocate left-field questions like: if you had a magic wand, what would you wish for? What would your kids say? How will you see this issue in twenty-five years-time?  Imaginative questions help to break old assumptions and are a powerful gateway to change.

3. Giving Feedback
Leaders who coach do not turn into “softies”. Coaching skills allow for more direct and straightforward conversations about performance and behaviour.  Key to this is establishing a relationship of trust, so that both people feel they are respected.  In this context, giving feedback becomes a gift because it now comes from a place of helpfulness.  When you are a leader who coaches, you hold the belief that people absolutely want to know if they are failing or acting in a way that is not helpful to others.  Notice now what happens for you, when you make this assumption. And now think about giving someone feedback. 

4. Changing Perspective
Have you ever had the experience of listening to a friend as they tell you a problem and from your point of view it is obvious what they should do?  Welcome to a new perspective.  Of course, your “obvious” might not be theirs, nor may it be right for them.  But the point is, there is always a fresh way to see things.  Leaders who coach help people to find that new perspective.  Ellen Langer, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard, says that new perspectives help us to break categorical thinking.  Categorical thinking is all about “right” “wrong” “should” “must” “ought”.  This is not helpful and not true. There is always more than one way.  Your job is to help your coachee find new ways.

5. Using Pause-Points™
We use the term Pause-Points to represent several related and yet crucial skills. For yourself, as a leader, Pause-Points are the brief moments that you take to notice what is happening around you. When you metaphorically step back, and reflect – what important things have happened today? What did I miss in the whirlwind of meetings and conversations today? For others around you, Pause-Points represent when you pause in conversation, when you use silence to encourage them to think more deeply and to draw out what is happening at a deeper level. Do it now – what has surprised you so far in this article?

Being an effective leader-coach requires awareness and practice – it’s a skill so this should be no surprise. The components of coaching often appear easy – and like the great sportsperson whose ability seems effortless, they are easy (or at least straight-forward) … provided you practice. If you’ve never been trained at these things, or never given them attention, why should you be any good at it? Being senior does not mean you can do these things, after all, as someone significant said: What got you here won’t get you there! (thanks Marshall Goldsmith).

And as Marshall also said, ‘Successful leaders achieve lasting change through effective coaching.’

PhilRenshaw and Jenny Robinson are leadership development experts and co-authors of new book, Coaching on the Go.