Sunday, September 28, 2008

20 Best Leadership Movies; Break Out the Popcorn

Movies are a great way to learn about leadership!

Here’s CCL’s Clemson Turregano, who has facilitated "leadership at the movies" sessions for years:

"I started using movies when I was teaching at West Point and then at the Naval War College," he notes. "Movies, like a case study, offer real-life portrayals of examples of leadership in crisis. Viewers can use these portrayals to discuss the behaviors they would like to emulate or avoid during similar circumstances."
Movie watching is also a great way to model complex ideas for people who are more visual in their learning preference. For instance, Turregano has used the 1957 drama 12 Angry Men to illustrate Jim Collins' ideas in the best-selling book Good to Great, and the classic It's a Wonderful Life to model Robert Greenleaf's ideas of servant leadership.
The key that turns entertainment into a foundation for dialogue and learning, according to Turregano, is purposeful viewing — watching the film with a goal in mind. Give the viewers an assignment to find examples, themes or behaviors that translate to the topic being studied.

"Using purposeful viewing, participants can key into leadership behaviors that are both positive and negative," says Turregano. "They can reflect on their own reactions to those behaviors and whether the behaviors are conducive to good leadership."

During a recent workshop, for example, Turregano featured the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, the 2000 film about a golfer and his mystical caddy, Bagger Vance, played by Will Smith. "I asked one group in the audience to look at the relationship and how Bagger developed and built on it. Another group was asked to view how Bagger assessed the golfer's ability, while a third group was asked to comment on the golfer's challenges and how Bagger supported him through these challenges. This provided excellent commentary for discussion around themes of coaching and developing others."

I’ve had teams watch full movies as an evening activity at an off-site, and have used short clips during training sessions or team development workshops. YouTube provides us with a searchable library of leadership content on any topic.

Movies are also a great way for leaders to learn about leadership on their own!

Here’s a list of my 20 favorite leadership movies, updated with links to purchase the DVD on Amazon. See the comments section for lots of other reader suggestions.

1. Braveheart

2. Office Space (funny examples of what not to do; can also use scenes from “The Office” television series)

3. Dead Poet’s Society

4. Apollo Thirteen

5. The Great Escape

6. Miracle

7. Twelve O'Clock High

8. Remember the Titans

9. Mr. Holland's Opus

10. The Lion King

11. The Firm

12. In Good Company

13. Hoosiers

14. Glengarry Glen Ross

15. The Bridge on the River Kwai

16. Wall Street

17. It’s a Wonderful Life

18. We Were Soldiers

19. Lord of the Rings

20. The Thing

I’m always updating my list, so if you have a favorite, please comment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Six Roadblocks for Top-Level Teams -- And How to Get Around Them

The September issue of the Center for Creative Leadership's Leading Effectively newsletter offers this article on why it's so difficult to build a senior level (CEO and direct reports) leadership team.

CCL's Doug Riddle reveals six inherent roadblocks to successful top-level teams:

1. The spotlight is bright. Everyone in the organization scrutinizes the team members' every move. So does the competition and investors. This does not encourage an environment of reflection or open disclosure.

2. Power dynamics are ever present. Every decision made is influenced by desired organizational outcomes but also by how they affect the future plans of each of the members. Contributing to the complexity is the fact that the CEO is both the leader of the team and the head of the organization.

3. Competition for the top spot is a reality. Tension exists between the cooperation needed to work as an enterprise team and the implicit competition of people who are crowded around the door to the CEO's position.

4. Superstar syndrome dominates. The individuals on a senior leadership team are typically stars in their own fields. They typically have an excess of overconfidence about their abilities - along with poorly managed anxiety about how to deal with each other and the challenges they face as a team.

5. Leaders hold their cards close. Common to most teams is the difficulty of establishing a climate that encourages transparency with each other in a way that enables joint work. As a result of the four roadblocks mentioned above, the pressure to avoid addressing team challenges and personal roles is particularly significant in senior leadership teams.

6. Managing conflicting roles adds strain. Perhaps the biggest roadblock for effective senior leadership teams is the conflict inherent in playing multiple roles. For example, each head of a function is expected to maximize the effectiveness of that function. At the same time, the enterprise strategy requires that resources be allocated (money, time, attention, promotion, etc.) in a way that maximizes the benefit to the organization as a whole. To be a good enterprise player requires some functions to experience restriction for a time for the benefit of the whole organization.

He then offers the following conclusion and solution:

As a result of these major roadblocks, more and more senior leadership teams are seeking the support of experienced team coaches to improve their effectiveness, notes Riddle, who manages CCL's coaching practices.
"Coaching individuals can be valuable," he says, "but by working with the entire team, we can help a group move toward becoming a real team by bringing the hidden dynamics out so they can be managed. Good team coaching also helps the group take charge of their key team functions: setting direction, creating alignment throughout the organization and building the commitment of everyone needed to accomplish organizational objectives."

Dan's commentary:

I get the value of team development, and using an external coach, I really do. I've done it with my own team, and I've done it as an internal consultant with leadership teams. Quite frankly, I've had mixed results. I've found that if a team already consists of high performers, team development can only enhance the team's collective performance. But if the team is dysfunctional (and many are) - then a teambuilding experience conducted by an external coach can be excruciating painful, and often even make the situation worse. (And please, it's never effective to try to use team development to address individual performance problems!)

So back to senior teams. It's been my experience that the barriers listed are real, and all too common. However, I've never seen a successful example of these barriers overcome by using an external coach and team development process. Maybe I've just never experienced the benefits of a really good one. What tend to happen is that senior team members play along to appease the CEO (they're smart, they know how blow smoke with the best of them), but there's usually no real change. And it often takes years of wasted time and money for the CEO to catch on.

So - what else can a senior leader, CEO, or savvy HR partner do do address team issues with a senior team?

With apologies to my executive coaching colleagues, here's a few ideas for leaders:

1. Start by being a role model, well before you're promoted into the position. Extolling the virtues of teamwork won't work if you left a trail of bodies on your way to the top.

2. Set clear expectations for teamwork, and consequences for a lack of. Don't wait for it to become a problem. Be aware of the barriers, and set realistic expectations, but don't use them as excuses.

3. Then, follow-up. Reward team behavior and punish the lack of. Public coronations (promotions) and hangings (demotions or dismissals) can be a powerful way to establish organizational culture and norms.

It sends an even more powerful message when an top performing executive is fired that's running a successful function, but can't get along with their peers.

Too simplistic? (I often can be) Harsh? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nine Leadership Development Strategies for a Performance and Potential Matrix

I've written previous posts on how to use a 9-box performance and potential matrix for assessing leadership performance and potential.

I've also provided three general development strategies to use once leaders are assessed:

I'm often asked for more specific information and development strategies for each of the nine boxes on the grid.
Here's a breakdown for each of the nine boxes. These are of course just general guidelines, and judgement needs to be applied depending on context and the unique needs of the individual leader.

1A (high potential, high performance):
· Stretch assignments, things they don’t already know how to do, assignments that take them beyond their current role; high profile, where stakes are high
· Give them a “start-up” assignment, something no one has done, a new product, process, territory, etc…
· Give them a “fix-it” assignment, a chance to step in and solve a problem or repair someone else’s mess
· Job change, rotations, job swaps, - an opportunity to experience a brand new role, short term or long term
· Help them build cross-functional relationships with other A players
· Find them a mentor – at least one level up. Provide an internal or external coach
· Access to exclusive training opportunities
· Access to meetings, committees, etc… one level up; exposure to senior managers, VPs; advisory Councils
· Watch out for signs of burnout
· Watch for signs of retention risks; know how to “save” a hi-po
· Next level up exposure, responsibilities, shadowing

2A (high performance, moderate potential):
· Development activities similar to 1A
· Difference is often degree of “readiness” for larger roles. Development is preparation for longer term opportunities

3A (high performance, limited potential):
· Ask what motivates them and how they want to develop
· Provide recognition, praise, and rewards
· Provide opportunities to develop in current role, to grow deeper and broader capabilities and knowledge
· Provide honest feedback about their opportunities for advancement if asked
· Watch for signs of retention risks; know how to “save” a “hi-pro” (high professional)
· Ask them to mentor, teach, and coach others
· Allow them to share what they know, presentations at company meetings, external conferences, to be “the highly valued expert”

1B (good/average performance, high potential):
· Development activities similar to 1A
· Difference is current performance level
· Focus more on competency gaps that will move them from B to A performance; good to great performance

2B: (good/average performance, moderate potential):
· May not be eager or able to advance; don’t push them, allow them to stay where they are
· Continuously check-in regarding willingness to advance, relocate
· Provide occasional opportunities to “test” them
· Provide stretch assignments
· Provide coaching and training
· Help them move from “good to great”
· Tell them they are valued
· Listen to their ideas
· Praise their accomplishments
· Trust them

3B (good/average performance, limited potential):
· Combination of performance management, training, and coaching to help them move from “OK to good”
· Provide honest feedback about their opportunities for advancement if asked

1C (poor performance, high potential):
· Find out the root cause of poor performance and together develop an action plan to improve
· Consider moving the high potential to a different role (may have been a poor fit)
· Provide additional support, resources
· Look for ways to “attach” to 1As, 1Bs, or 2As
· After a “reasonable” period of time, if performance does not improve, then re-examine your potential assessment
2C (often used for leaders too new to rate):
· Focus is on boarding, orientation, relationship building
· Provide a peer mentor
- Provide formal new leader training

3C (poor performance, limited potential):
· Use a performance management approach, not a developmental approach
· Improvement action plan vs. an IDP
· Clarify expectations
· Identify and remove “blockers”, poor performers that are standing in the way of high potentials · Provide clearly defined goals
· Be explicit about the ways in which they must improve
· Provide remedial coaching and feedback
· After trying all of the above, after a ”reasonable” amount of time, move the person out of the role. Dismiss or move to individual contributor role

This post was sponsored by Atlantic Global, experts in developing and delivering cost-effective
 project management software.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to Hire High Performers

You may have seen me write about Topgrading before. I’ve been using and teaching this talent management sytem for a couple of years now.

Founder Brad Smart has fine-tuned best practices to help every manager hire better and nudge out chronic underperformers. Brad’s consultation with General Electric and other leading companies showed that almost all managers can at least double their hiring success, and if you really master the commonsense Topgrading methods, you might achieve 90% success.

I'm pleased to annouce that Brad has agreed to be an occasional guest blogger for Great Leadership!

He's provided the following short article, and at the end of it he explains how you can get a free 50-page eBook.

How to Hire High Performers

The old adag “People are your most important assets turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”
— Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

“Topgrading is a continuous process of identifying and developing top talent to enhance overall organizational vitality.”
Bill Conaty, Sr., V.P. Human Resources,
General Electric

As reported in the classic Topgrading: How Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People, world-class companies have achieved 90% hiring success. This article tells how these techniques can help you at least double your success hiring.

If you are reading this article, you value talent, you really do! But if you’re like most managers, hiring people is a major challenge and source of frustration. Recruiters don’t do a good job screening people, resumes are deceptive, so-called competency interviews are easy for candidates to fake, and candidates only want reference checks with their buddies. Surveys of thousands of managers show that only 25% of people they hire turn out to be the high performers they feel they’re paying for. Another 50% are “disappointing but adequate.”

The good news is that you can dramatically improve your hiring success by using commonsense methods you’ll learn in this article. I’ve conducted 65,000 verbal case studies, asking managers to describe their hiring methods. I’ve borrowed some of their successful methods, added some ideas of my own, and for three decades have fine-tuned the most practical advice. This article explains four practical methods that have helped companies such as GE, Barclays, American Heart Association, and Lincoln Financial achieve 80% - 90% success selecting talent.

1. Early in the hiring process, let candidates know that in order to get a job offer, they will (at an appropriate time) be asked to arrange for personal reference calls with former bosses. High performers, the people you want to hire, will be happy to do this, and C player candidates will withdraw. Perfect! And all candidates will be quite honest in interviews, knowing they will be arranging reference calls. Despite the fact that most companies prohibit managers from taking reference calls, high performers get their former bosses to talk 90% of the time.

Suggestion: If you use recruiters, require them to tell candidates this requirement.

2. Recruit from your network of high performers you know or have personally worked with. The thousands of high performers I’ve worked with say recruiting from your network is quick (high performers are in your PDA), effective (candidates are already prescreened), and inexpensive (no recruiter fees).

My son Geoff is CEO of the largest Topgrading company and author of Who: The A Method for Hiring, in which dozens of billionaires share their most valuable recruitment method: hire from your own network and get high performers to refer more high performers.

Suggestion: Ask all your high performers to stay in touch with the sharpest people they know, people you might consider hiring.

3. Use the chronological Topgrading Interview, the most powerful hiring tool. If you use round-robin competency interviews, keep them and allow time for candidates to ask questions about the company, culture, etc. Competency interviews ask questions such as, “When was a time you were a good team player?” Such questions are easily faked by candidates, so only 25% high performers are hired.

The Topgrading Interview is the “silver bullet. All managers we know of hiring 90% high performers use the Topgrading Interview Guide. It’s a “road map” for interviewers.

Key questions from this guide, questions that will enable you to immediately hire better are:


a) What were your major successes (and how did you achieve them)?

b) What were mistakes or things you wish you’d done differently?

For a) and b) use follow up questions to get specifics about every key decision and every key relationship.

c) Who was your boss, and what were his/her strengths and weaker points?

d) What would that boss tell me were your strengths, weaker points, and overall performance … in a personal reference call we might ask you to arrange?

The chronological interview reveals patterns of how the person evolved over time, and that is what enables you to clearly understand what the person is apt to be like in the near future. It works.

Suggestion: Use a tandem partner – two heads are a lot better than one and the two of you ask the most follow up questions for the most recent jobs. About 12 years ago Jack Welch approved the tandem process at GE, and GE’s success picking top talent improved from 50% to over 90%.

4. Ask finalist candidates to arrange personal reference calls with former bosses. As stated in #1, high performers are happy to do this, and 90% of former bosses will talk. C players can’t get those former bosses to accept reference calls – gee, I wonder why!

Suggestion: You and your tandem interviewer make half the calls each, after the candidate gives you the times references are available and the numbers to call.


Use these four of the ten most important Topgrading best practices, and you will join the ranks of thousands of managers who have found the solution to the chronic problem of hiring the best people available for the pay. You will definitely improve your hiring success!

Would you like to learn about all ten Topgrading hiring methods? Go to, sign up for the monthly newsletter, Topgrading Tips and you can immediately download the 50-page eBook, Avoid Costly Mis-Hires.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is it Ever OK for a Leader to “Cross the Line”?

There’s been a storm of controversy these days about the use of employer sponsored wellness programs as a way to get a handle on sky-rocketing health care costs. The proponents of this strategy argue that employee health care costs are a business issue, they’re controllable to some extent, and that wellness programs can only be a win-win for the employee and the company.

Companies are also offering financial fitness programs, recognizing that if employees are having personal financial problems, these problems can spill over to the workplace and affect job performance.

The critics of these programs say companies have no right to intrude into an employee’s personal lives; that these kinds of big brother programs and policies are “crossing the line”.

While I find it to be a fascinating debate (and I’m right in the middle of it at my own company), I find it just as interesting to ponder the implications for leaders.

Here’s the scenario: let’s say you’re a great leader. (So, that rules out all of the idiot bosses out there – we’re not talking about them). And as a great leader, you fully embrace your responsibility for the success of your organization and your employees.

As a great leader, you also genuinely care about your employees. They’re not just disposable human capital assets or resources – they are people, with families, part of a community, as well as an important and valued member of your team. They matter to you.

What if you’re aware of some kind of behavior or issue that’s having or could have a detrimental personal impact on the employee?

Now we all know what the HR policy, management 101 answer would be: “it’s none of a manager’s business as long as it’s not having an impact on job performance.”

But is that an acceptable answer for the kind of scenario and leader I’ve described? “Yes, it’s OK that your employee is flushing their lives down the crapper, as long as they’re hitting those productivity targets!”

What if you’re watching your employee smoke, overeat, not exercise, drink too much, etc…. and you’re thinking to yourself, “omg, old Fred’s killing himself, and he’s going to leave his wife a widow and his kids without a Dad?” As a great leader, is it OK to have a heart to heart with him about his habits?

What if you’re watching one of your employees drown in dept, not contribute anything to her 401K, and compulsively max out her charge cards on lavish toys and entertainment? Would it be OK to sit her down and counsel her on responsible prudent financial management?

How about if you’ve gotten to know one of your employee’s family, and you find out he’s been a frequent escort service customer (“Elliot, are you out of your freaking mind!?”)?

Or you notice one of your employees is been consistently “down in the dumps”, and you wish they could be happy?

How about if you were convinced that if your employee would only improve their sloppy appearance that it would translate to greater success (yes, studies have shown that looks do matter - watch out for the ugly police)?

Perhaps it’s helpful to look at this as an employee too: if you had a great leader for a manager (with a trusting relationship), how you react if your manager approached you on one of these topics?

I’m genuinely torn on this (shocker, no “10 ways to do this or that” list). For the most part, I’ve stayed on the safe and proper side of the line, and maybe dipped a toe over now and then on a rare occasion.

How about you? I’d love to hear from managers, employees, executive coaches (the same question could apply to you too, unless you market yourself as a “life coach”), and HR pros.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How to Develop a Leadership Competency Model

A leadership competency model should serve as the foundation for any organization’s leadership development system. An effective model allows an organization to clearly define what leadership competencies are required in order for an organization to be successful, both now and in the future. Leadership development systems (selection, assessment, development, performance management, succession planning) can then be aligned to support the development of these competencies.

While the idea has been around for at least 20 years, a recent Right Management survey says that half of all corporations today have no model for identifying and developing the leadership competencies needed to drive change in their organizations.

I’ve had the opportunity to develop leadership competency models at a variety of different organizations. At my current company, there was no common model when I first got here. In fact, there were over 20 different models. We now have one, with a fully aligned system aligned around it. At my last company, I was involved in the development of two company-wide models, for two different CEOs. (Question: How often should you change a leadership model? Answer: Either when there’s a significant shift in the business strategy that requires new skills, or when a new CEO comes in and decides that everything the previous CEO did was wrong.)

Each time, I’ve learned a few things and have refined the approach. I’m sure it’s not perfect, and I’m very sure it’s not what the textbooks would say, but it’s worked for me. I’ll also provide a list of other options, along with my opinion of the pro’s and cons for each.

Option 1: Hire a top-notch consultant that specializes in leadership competency modeling.
There are some great companies out there, like Hay, Hewitt, Right, and many other that will come in and work with you to understand your business strategy, interview top performers and key stakeholders, develop, test, and validate a model with behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARS), and develop an implementation strategy. Actually, with an unlimited budget, this is probably the best approach. You know you’re getting a valid and reliable model. The disadvantages of this approach are money and time. I’ve never worked in an organization with an unlimited budget (maybe, someday), and CEOs usually have little patience when you tell them something like this is going to take 14 months – and cost $100,000.

Option 2: Read a book, go to a seminar, and try to do option 1 yourself.
Not a bad option if you’re a do-it-yourselfer with a limited budget. However, it may actually take you more time because you’ve never done it before, you’ll make a lot of mistakes, and you may end up with an invalid model that’s worthless. I’ve witnessed this approach – it’s a long and lengthy process (if you follow what the book or guru says to do), and by the time the model is finished, there’s no time, patience, or interest left in actually doing something with the model.

Option 3: Buy a model.
The argument for this approach is “why re-invent the wheel”? There are already research-based, proven, tested and validated leadership models out there, like PDI, CCL, Lominger, and DDI. They’re all good; I’d recommend any of them. By buying an existing model, you also save time that would be wasted developing the model and can re-direct that time to assessment, selection, and development. There would be some cost involved – for a license to use the model (no, you can’t use them without paying for them, please) – but not as much as the build option.

The only disadvantage of this approach is stakeholder buy-in. That may sound like a flimsy reason, and perhaps even weak HR leadership. After all, we wouldn’t ask for “buy-in” to the periodic table of elements, right? If it’s right, it’s right, no questions asked. However, I’ve tried it, and so far I have yet to find a CEO or management team that’s willing to take a “generic” model and apply it to their organization. These are big, strong egos, and that’s a powerful force to overcome.

Option 4: Hybrid (my recommendation):
This is a practical, cost-effective, yet effective version of options 1-3 combined.

1. Obtain all of the business strategy documentation you can get your hands on. Conduct executive interviews to learn about business challenges and leadership requirements to address those challenges. Start with the CEO and work you way down a couple layers.

2. Review existing competency models (from option 3). Learn the language and terminology. In a way, they’re all saying the same thing in slightly different ways.

Line them all up and look for the common themes, combining or changing terms so that they make sense to your organization. Avoid “HR-speak”, and stick to common sense, business language.

3. Pick out the key competencies that would really make the biggest difference in the success of your business. Go back to your interview notes and highlight the phases that you heard over and over. Use that same language (for buy-in), but cross-reference the phrase to ensure they are part of at least two research-based models.

8-12 competencies is probably a good number, if only for focus. (a good test one year later is to ask managers if they can name them all).

4. Review the competency model with your senior team for refinement and buy-in. Repeat the process with the next level of management and other key stakeholders, each time tweaking the model less but allowing ample time for discussion and understanding.

Finally, create a strategic leadership development model (1-2 pages, or slides) – to show the connection between the business strategy, the competency model, and the alignment of the leadership system. Polish up the model, make it sing - get some professional help if you need it.

Review this with the senior team, along with a communication plan to support the introduction of the model to the rest of the organization.

By the way, while the development of a leadership competency model is critical, deployment of that model is even more important. But that’s the topic of another article.

Please leave a comment if you have questions or other tips you'd like to pass along.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

How to Encourage a Candidate to Admit Their Weaknesses in a Job Interview

“This phenomenon is such a weird combination of naivete, arrogance, and lack of thoughtfulness, and it is happening so much lately that it's making me want to stab someone with a fork.”

She’s so right, the reason we want to know about weaknesses is so we can ensure a candidate is a good match for the job. If someone takes a job they’re not suited for, they’ll be set up to fail – no one wins.

But wait, before you go running for the flatware, here’s a technique I’ve been using that seems to get people to open up about their weaknesses. It’s part of the Topgrading interviewing process for hiring “A” players, pioneered by Brad Smart.

Tell the candidate right up front if they end up being a final candidate, you’ll be asking them to set up phone calls for you to talk to their last 3-4 managers. A players are usually very willing to do this, having left on good terms with previous bosses. The C players will offer up all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t do that. Amazingly, ALL of their previous managers have entered witness protection problems and couldn’t possibly be located.

As you chronologically review each job on their resume, at the end, ask for their manager’s name and write it down. Then, ask them to describe their manager’s strengths, then weaknesses. They usually have no problem at all with this. You’ll get lots of very useful information. If they talk about how every boss’s biggest weakness was micromanaging, and you tend to micromanage, this person might not be the best fit for your style of management.

When they’re done describing their manager, ask “so when I talk to so and so, and ask them the same questions about you, what do you think they’ll tell me you’re biggest strengths and weaknesses were back then?” The phrase “back then” is critical, because it allows them a chance to talk about prior weakness that may have been since addressed.

It’s amazing how candidates will open up using this technique. First of all, you’ve already told them you’re going to call, so they know they better not b.s. you. There’s also this weird kind of reciprocal thing that goes on, in that they just told you all kinds of things about their manager, so it’s like they feel obligated to share just as much about themselves.

If they have trouble coming up with what their manager will say, prompt them with “look, we all have relative strengths and weaknesses, what were yours back when you were a so and so working for so and so?” Silence works very well too. Wait. People usually feel very compelled to fill that dead air.

A players usually do very well with this question. They tend to be very self-aware of their own weaknesses – in fact, they are their own worse critic. They also have the ability to be open to feedback, learn, and then either correct them or figure out a way to work around them. Their career is a continuous path of self-improvement.

Having and overcoming weaknesses is normal and perfectly acceptable. The red flags are when those weaknesses keep emerging throughout the interview as a pattern, they’re still there, and they would set the candidate up for failure if hired.

If someone still can’t come up with a legitimate weakness – and by legitimate, something that’s not “oh, I was just too much of a perfectionist”, or, “I was a workaholic”, then this should be a red flag that the candidate either has low self-awareness, is arrogant, or they have something to hide. In any case, you’ll probably want to take a pass on this person.

Breath a sigh of relief – you just did yourself and the candidate a big favor.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Leadership Development Carnival #3: Special Sarah Palin Edition

Welcome to the 3rd edition of The Leadership Development Carnival!

This month's edition takes a political flavor. Recently, a new vice-president candidate has emerged out of nowhere, Sarah Palin, from "the great state of Alaska". She's taken a lot of media criticism for her lack of leadership experience, so I thought I'd dedicate this carnival to her, as a way to help get her ramped up for her new potential leadership role.

I received over 60 submissions, and after sifting through the duplicates and irrelevant ones, settled on the following 42. Like last month, I've put a few selected posts into a very biased and partisan "featured attractions" category. While these are the ones I thought were the best of the best, the rest are pretty darn good too.

So Sarah, here's a slate of leadership development advice from bloggers all around the world:

Featured Attractions:

I'll start with advice on the importance of listening, from Nina Simosko, a strong proponent of woman leaders, with I'm Sorry, Did You Say Something? posted at

Next up Art Petty, with some advice on how to engage your staff, with Do Your Employees Truly Believe That They Can Make A Difference? posted at Art Petty on Management.

You should always pay attention to whatever Wally Bock says. Here's Interpersonal skills and leadership development posted at Three Star Leadership Blog.

Make sure your staff knows exactly what's expected of them with Chris Young's Improving Employee Performance Through Coaching Score Cards posted at Maximize Possibility Blog.

Sarah, you'll be needing to "gut it out" in the upcoming months, so here's Jim Stroup on Staying the course when the work is tough Managing Leadership posted at Managing Leadership.

Perhaps a little "Zen" might help, so here's Mark Stelzner on Zen and the Art of HR Industry Survival posted at Inflexion Point.

You'll need to pay attention to the importance of culture, so here's Natalie Cooper with Does a business need a soul? The key for competitiveness and growth posted at Changeboard.

OK, this next one's not has nothing to do about leadership development, it's about that hair. I'm just a big fan of Laurie Ruettimann's Punk Rock HR and her newly branded HRM Today.

How can those who want to change their environment do it? Wayne Turmel, the Cranky Middle Manager, talks to Art Kleiner about his book “The Age of Heretics”…check it out.

You'll need a leadership philosophy, so take a look at Phil's Leadership Philosophy: it's the little things that count! posted at What's New On The Happy Manager.

And, as you are selecting your new staff, remember, talent is everything. Bruce Lewin presents The war for talent is over and we’ve won! posted at Four Groups' Blog.

Sarah, please don't stop reading now! You've still got a lot to learn (hey, don't we all) as a leader, so here's some more great leadership development advice:

Mary Jo Asmus presents Increasing Your Social IQ posted at Intentional Leadership.

Mag Herrera presents A Shining Job Interview: How to Succeed posted at Life, Money & Development.

Anya presents My favourite personal development books posted at Gavin Ingham.

Sally Huss presents WHAT SURROUNDS YOU? by Sally Huss posted at Sally Huss - Addicted to Happiness!.

Alvaro Fernandez presents Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains posted at SharpBrains:.

Ann Covey presents Deciding To Decide posted at Janice Bastani Women In Business Blog.

Vidyut Kale presents Leadership and Leaders posted at Adventures in India.

George L Smyth presents One Minute How-To - How To Uncover Extraordinary Breakthroughs posted at George L Smyth.

Louise Manning presents Wasting energy posted at The Human Imprint.

Stan Ward presents Think Different posted at Idea Leaders.

Dawn Abraham Life Coach presents At Last New and Invigorating Ways to Build Motivation posted at Qualified Life Coach.Com.

Nadege presents Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose? posted at Clearly Envision.

Mitesh Solanki presents 10 Greatest Mistakes While Brainstorming posted at Invent Creativity.

Dr. Joe Capista presents How a Vision Statement Can Influence Your Business Success posted at The Success Triangle.

Ed Konczal presents The Best Companies For Leaders Surveys Humm, I have a Problem Corporate Eye posted at Corporate Eye.

Stephen Martile presents A Sign of a Great Leader posted at by Stephen Martile.

axel presents Learning To Apologize posted at axel g.

Shawn Driscoll presents 3 Leadership Traps posted at Shawn Driscoll.

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

Mike King presents Determining and Sharing Your Core Values posted at Learn This.

Shamelle presents 7 Career Advancing Tips To build An Impeccable Relationship With Your Boss posted at Enhance Life.

Chris Bailey presents Bring Your Staff Into Your Community posted at Connection Cafe - A nonprofit technology and online philanthropy blog by Convio.

Rich Maltzman, PMP presents Scrappiest Project Management Contest Ever posted at Scope crêpe.

Elizabeth Harrin presents Book review: Leadership Skills for Project and Programme Managers posted at A Girl's Guide to Project Management.

Peter Murphy presents How To Keep A Conversation Going - The 10 Simple Steps posted at Communication Skills Power.

Gergely Gazdag presents Solving problems as a leader posted at

Erik Samdahl presents Workforce planning: Building the yellow brick road posted at Productivity Blog.

Chris presents Get Promoted Faster by Looking After Your Boss - Part 1 posted at

Drew presents 10 Tips on How to Speak Effectively in Public posted at Learning the Art of English Conversation.

Elle presents It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy posted at defining someday.

And finally, sneaking in with a late 3:00am post, Anne Maybus presents The Connected and Committed Leader - a review posted at The Tall Poppy.

That's it! Sarah, I hope you, and the rest of our readers, benefit from this wealth of advice and knowledge. Go get 'em!
The next issue of the Leadership Development Carnival will be on October 4th, with submissions due on October 3rd, using the carnival submission form.

Monday, September 1, 2008

How to Measure the Impact of “Soft Skills”

Here’s a recent reader question:

"A question on talent pools. We have a talent pool comprising executives of different ranks. After putting them through a development phase (different soft skills), the question is how do we evaluate the impact of all these soft skills. As you know it is really hard to do that. How would you approach this situation? Any ideas welcome."

First of you, good for you for establishing a “talent pool”, instead of lists of replacements for specific positions. Other than a few critical positions (i.e., CEO, CFO, CTO), I think that’s the way to go. Although I’d advise not mixing levels in the same pool.

I do have to take issue with the term “soft skills”. I hate the term. I know it’s a commonly used term with line managers, and I’m all for using simple terms that managers can relate to (like ROI, P&L). However, I think we owe it to ourselves to educate ourselves and our managers about what’s important when assessing, hiring, and developing senior leaders. “Soft skills” sounds like fluff, while “hard skills” must be more important.

Here’s a typical success profile for a senior manager:
- Creates strategic advantage
- Promotes a global perspective
- Uses sound judgment
- Uses financial acumen
- Manages and improves processes
- Leads change
- Coaches and develops people
- Inspire trust

So OK, which of these are “soft” and which are “hard”? Or are they all just critical skills needed to be effective as a senior leader?

Most companies – or leaders – don’t fail because of a lack of technical skills. It’s almost always due to what many would call a lack of a critical “soft” capability.

Back to your question – if you’re trying to improve these skills, how to you know if you have or haven’t? And if you have, what’s the impact?

That’s a question the training industry has been struggling with since the early cavemen were teaching fire-starting and wooly mammoth hunting techniques. There have been stacks of books and research that address that topic, and quite frankly, I think it’s something we in the training industry obsess about too much. I suspect a lot of training measurement activity is self-serving, and if we were doing a good job, line executives wouldn’t really care. Think about it – does the finance and accounting

Given that, it is important to have some sense of if what you’re doing is working. I’ve written a previous post called “Six Ways to Measure the Impact of Leadership Development” that provides some guidance on high-level measures.

Here’s a few ways to measure the impact of a specific program:

1. Ask the members of your talent pool. Either through interviews, surveys, or focus groups, you can ask them:
- How satisfied they were with the development
- Their perception of their skill improvement
- Their perception of their behavior change
- Their perception of the business results achieved as a result of the development. Even better if they can put an estimated dollar amount on the ROI.

2. You could also ask, using the same methods, their employees, managers, peers, or customers.
The time to think about measurement is really BEFORE you design a development program, that way you can get a baseline of current skill level. That way you can compare before and after. Again, you can use surveys or self-assessment, you can even administer before and after 360 degree assessments (make sure you allow 3-6 months for the change in behaviors to become noticeable).

3. If you really want to get academic, you can even use “control” groups – that is, do the same assessment with a group of managers that didn’t get development. But again, to me, this is time-wasting activity that could better be spent developing managers.

4. Ask those high level executives that are responding to surveys saying they are or aren’t satisfied with their company’s leadership development efforts. After all, at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.