Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ARGHHHHH! My new boss is 30-something with absolutely no leadership or management experience!

An email from a reader:


My new boss is 30-something with absolutely no leadership or management experience. We are a group of 10 field-based employees with backgrounds that range from brand new to the role all the way to PhD and everything in-between.
This woman is driving us all nuts with her knee-jerk reactions (project assistant sends an email reminder about time cards; then so does she. One team member sends her snail mail to boss's old address and the entire team has to re-send our CURRENT address for an "up-dated roster" and 3 emails about timelines.)

We are frequently 'blind-sided' by taking initiatives on our own....never knowing if we will be punished or praised.
This boss has favorites, but it's nice that they rotate without knowledge or reason....quietly wait for your turn to be in-her-good-light!

I hear little about my company goals, her goals or my goals. It is nose to the grind stone.

I LOVE WHAT I DO FOR WORK but hate the constant worry of one tiny slip up. I have to use my peers when I have a question or a problem as this woman can (knee-jerk) the wrong answer at 9 am and then rescind it at 3:20 pm!

I have gone to next layer of management with examples and asked for help. No obvious response from this except now all my emails are addressed by my given name, not my nickname.

Any ideas of how and old goat like me can get this problem dealt with? The team will not go above her seeing that I had little response and we all need jobs!

Thanks for your insight!

Reader, you’re not alone. Dealing with seemingly nutty bosses has been a part of work life since the dawn of time. I can empathize with your situation. It’s usually not the work that stresses us out or causes us to want to quit – it’s the manager and/or co-workers.

It sounds like to you your new manager is coming across as scatter-brained, inconsistent, playing favorites, and unpredictable, and to make matters worse, you’re getting no support from your boss’s manager.

Whenever I get these “help me my boss is driving me nuts” emails, I always try to take a look at the situation from both sides, although I never get the opportunity of hearing the other side directly. And quite frankly, given that my blog is a leadership & management blog, I may even give the manager more of a benefit of the doubt.
So my answers aren’t always what the reader wants to hear. In your case, however, it sounds like you have a legitimate gripe.

Here are a few options for you to consider:

1. Keep it in perspective, it could be worse.
Take a look at Stanley Bing’s Crazy Boss blog. It’s filled with horror stories from readers about crazy, narcissistic, and bully bosses that makes me want to laugh and then cry.

Here’s an example:
“My boss came into my department one day and was trying to get us to hurry an order that was to be picked up by the customer. The time frame from when the order was taken and the time they were picking it up was not even realistic. Nevertheless, we were working as fast as we could. But he just lost it and starting jumping up and down. He then laid on the floor on his back and started kicking his feet in the air like a bicycle and yelling, "just go, go, go, go."... His dad (the owner) was standing next to him and told him to get up off the floor and come outside for some conversation. He was about 34 years old at the time. I am glad there were two other witnesses in the room at the time, although I doubt his dad will ever admit it happened to anyone (which is part of the problem). This is one story of many.”

Misery loves company, and it might make you feel relatively better about yours.

2. We could outlaw bad bosses or turn to the government for a bailout.

3. Complain to your boss’s manager and/or HR

It’s sounds like you’ve already tried a version of this and it didn’t work. I’m not surprised; I’ve been there. I was once elected to take a sensitive issue to our manager in a meeting, and when I did and she overreacted, all of my peers all developed a sudden case of group laryngitis.

I’ve never been an advocate of taking issues over my manager’s head or to HR. In my experience, as an employee, manager, and HR manager, it has a higher potential to backfire and do more harm than good.

Although, not always. One of my best friend’s manager was driving him crazy and doing all sorts of abusive things to him. He asked me for advice. I told him to ride it out while he looks for another job, and not to go to HR. If he did, he’d probably be labeled a trouble maker and it wouldn’t serve him well in the long run. He wisely ignored my advice, went to HR, his manager was fired, and he was promoted.

OK, so it can work….but not usually.

4. Dear Lord, please grant me the serenity….
Yes, you could just cope, suffer in silence, lower your expectations, raise your tolerance level, etc… This is sometimes an OK strategy in the short term. I’ve been around a lot of bad bosses, and usually (not always), it catches up to them. Organizations generally in a Darwinian kind of way weed out incompetence.

5. Try to help your new manager be successful.
It looks like your manager is going the same painful learning curve most new managers go through. I think I made 50% of my managerial mistakes in the first year. Does your company offer any kind of training program for its new managers? Unfortunately, many don’t. If they did, they could speed up that learning curve, minimize those mistakes, and do us all a favor.
Even if she did go through training, she’s still going to make mistakes – its part of the learning process.
While I’m sure it’s been hard on you and your team, she doesn’t sound evil based on your description. She may have good intentions and just be tripping over herself. Given your experience, and perhaps informal leadership amongst your peers, have you tried helping her in a genuinely caring and constructive way? I know these are extremely tricky conversations to have, so I’d recommend reading the book Crucial Conversations in order to improve your chances of success.

5. When all else fails, leave.
I don’t like this option for you, because you love your job. But it’s a last resort – we all have choices when it comes to our jobs; no one’s a prisoner.

I hope this helps. Maybe a few of my readers may have a few more ideas for you, or want to disagree with mine.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Better Brand of Leadership

Guest post by Dave Esler and Myra Kruger, authors of The Pursuit of Something Better:

Is leadership defined solely by results? Most of the flood of leader literature makes that assumption. Leaders get things done. They win wars, championships, fortune, fame. They cure sick teams, organizations, whole countries. Not by themselves, of course – we followers have a limited role, as foot soldiers, employees, voters, or, as Michael Jordan once memorably described his Chicago Bulls teammates, “my supporting cast.” But the leader is that (usually) charismatic individual who is somehow able to motivate or drive or carry his/her team to achieve an (often) unlikely goal. Conversely, the absence of significant achievement generally signifies a leadership-free environment.

Much of what we think about leadership follows from this original assumption. We think, for example, that the tougher the goal, the greater the leader; our most iconic leaders – the Pattons, the Lombardis, the Iacoccas – were somehow able to achieve the impossible. It is the magnitude of their achievements that make them great leaders, not their methods; who cares, in fact, about their methods, as long as they were able to get something of extraordinary importance done?

As luck would have it, many of the leaders whose achievements capture the popular imagination are pretty tough cookies, so focused on winning that they are often willing to bend the social and organizational rules that bind us lesser mortals. Nevertheless, in a results-focused world, their achievements qualify them as leadership role models. Their successes explain the staying power of anti-social leadership mantras like “nice guys finish last” and “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

All this is fine for popular entertainment, but have you ever had to work with one of these results-obsessed types who has read one too many ego-drenched variations on “How I won the war?” Whatever short-term numerical advantage that “whatever it takes” approach may produce is surely offset by the long-term damage it does to organizational morale, pride, and reputation.

There is a better leadership model, and it has been systematically cultivated, tested, and measured over the past decade in one of the country’s most important and least known social experiments. The organization is U.S. Cellular, a regional wireless service provider whose nearly 9,000 employees specialize in delighting their six million customers and giving their giant competitors – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint – heartburn. The CEO is Jack Rooney, as forceful a man as any of his peers, but one who believes that effective leadership is defined as much by how a goal is accomplished as by the achievement itself.

U.S. Cellular is unknown in New York or Los Angeles, but it is a competitive terror through much of the Midwest and in regional pockets from Maine through Oklahoma to Washington. According to conventional business wisdom, however, it should not even exist. In 2000, the year Rooney started his tenure, it ranked eighth in an industry that has been consolidating aggressively ever since; today, all its midsize peers are gone, absorbed by giants. U.S. Cellular remains proudly independent, “the little engine that could” in corporate form.

It owes its survival to Rooney’s unique concept of leadership and its role in building a values-based culture that he calls “the Dynamic Organization.” Rooney’s leaders are expected to produce results, even more than they would be in most organizations; his underdog company’s survival depends on it.

Getting results, however, is only half the leadership story here. How those results are achieved is at least equally important – and that “how” is very specifically defined by the six Values and ten Behaviors of the Dynamic Organization. An annual survey of every one of the company’s employees (with an astounding participation rate that has never been lower than 92 percent in the ten years it has been conducted) assesses how well each leader has met that exacting standard, from the point of view of his/her direct reports. Those results play a critical role in evaluating leader performance, determining compensation, and defining future career paths.

Leadership in a company that takes concepts like ethics, respect, openness, and diversity as seriously as U.S. Cellular can look deceptively easy: no politics intrude, no bullies obstruct, open lines of communication beckon everywhere. On closer inspection, however, leadership turns out to be much more challenging than in most other companies. Leaders must “get it done” as aggressively as anywhere else; but they are held equally accountable for the Values and Behaviors.

This two-dimensional accountability for both the “what” and the “how” means that U.S. Cellular is one of the few companies on the planet where making the numbers – getting results – is not enough to win a leader job security, let along praise and honor. A result that is achieved the wrong way – in a way that violates the letter or spirit of the Dynamic Organization – does not count. Leaders would do better to fall short of a goal than to reach it unethically, or by taking advantage of a customer, or by treating peers, employees, vendors, or even competitors with disrespect.

Just-the-results leadership may achieve goals, but it has limited transformational power. It produces more and more of the same old stuff, and that’s fine, if the same old stuff is what the organization needs. The problematic outcome of this brand of leadership is often an admirably efficient vehicle with steering problems; the defects are rarely visible, but are liable to produce with distressing frequency an Enron, a General Motors, or an Iraq. When such disasters occur, we are always amazed in hindsight at the damage wrought by once-respected “leaders.”

The values-based leadership required by Jack Rooney insists on examining the messy details implied by “how?” and “why?” It may be less efficient than the “no questions asked” variety, and it takes time to reach critical mass; but now that U.S. Cellular has developed hundreds of leaders with the ability not only to get things done, but to go beyond the numbers to change lives for the better, it has a unique competitive advantage with limitless potential.

David Esler and Myra Kruger are the authors of the newly released book The Pursuit of Something Better (New Ridge Books), available at Amazon.com and bookstores nationwide. They combined their 30 years of corporate communication, human resources, and consulting experience into Esler Kruger Associates in 1987. Their consulting firm focuses on culture change, organizational surveys, and executive counsel in effective leadership. They are based in Highland Park, Illinois.

The Carnival of HR!
Check out this month's Carnival of HR, hosted by Mark Stelzner from Inflexion Advisors. It's an awesome collection of posts written by some of our best HR blogger experts. Mark's an all-around great guy and really knows his business - I always enjoy reading what he has to say and I think you will too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Beware of Cult-like Leadership Development Programs

I've been writing about wacky leadership development programs for a while now. These are silly, ineffective, but well intended programs designed to teach leadership using all kinds of "creative" training techniques. These programs, although a waste of a company's money, are basically harmless and can even be fun.

What I'm about to describe isn't harmless or fun. In fact, these programs can be dangerous. They can cause serious emotional and psychological damage, lower employee morale and productivity, and expose a company to costly lawsuits.

Do I have your attention? Good; then please read on. If you are a training manager, HR manager, training provider, or a buyer of training programs, it's absolutely critical that you are aware of this.

The kind of leadership training, or personal development training I'm talking about has been described as "cult-like" and "new-age" training.

However, these are not how the programs are described when marketed. You're more likely to see descriptors like:

- Personal Transformation,

- Transformational leadership,

- Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT),

- Imagination and creativity,

- Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and

- Self-help and self-actualization.

This stuff has been going on since the 1970's, and despite the warnings, lawsuits, and damage, they continue to spawn and emerge led by an army of disciples. Some of the early versions were Krone training, Erhard seminars, est, the Forum, and Lifespring. Here's a list of Large Group Awareness Training companies and their founders.

Today's popular versions include Tony Robbins, PSI Seminars, the Landmark Forum, and Pecos River.

So what's the problem? I'm no expert in the subject, so rather than repeat what's already been said very well, I'll defer to the following, and encourage you to read each one of these articles for a 30 minute tutorial on the subject:

1. Intruding into the Workplace, an excerpt from the book Cults In Our Midst, by Dr. Margaret Singer

2. The Siren Call of the Modern Pied Pipers, by Lawrence A. Pile

3. EEOC Notice N-915.022: Policy guidance on "new age" training programs which conflict with employees' religious beliefs

4. The Skeptic's Dictionary

5. And finally, for a more light-hearted view, read Dave Barry's hysterical description of his own personal 12 hour experience, Altered States.

There are countless more websites, articles, and books on the topic. However, most trainers, HR pros, and managers I talk to, especially those new to their jobs, are completely unaware of the potential dangers.

Now, I'm not saying that all of these programs are dangerous or bad. It's just that for corporate leadership development, we need to be aware of the potential problems and be informed. For example, if someone says they don't want to participate in one of these problems, then you better not make it mandatory, or there could be serious civil rights consequences.

You also have to ask yourself if employers have any business intruding into their employee's personal value and belief systems. There's some moral and ethical considerations to think about. Personally, I don't think there's any need for this stuff in the workplace. Companies should be concerned with performance, skills, and behaviors. What goes on in an employee's head or heart is none of their damn business.

We also need to be upfront with our employees and let them know what they are getting in to, so they can make their own informed choices.

This woman sure wasn't too pleased when her husband returned from a PSI seminar and decided he no longer wanted to be with her or their children.

How do you know the training you are considering might be crossing the line into possible cult-like brainwashing?

Here are 10 warning signs to watch out for:

1. There is secrecy around the processes and techniques used. "It can't be described, it has to be experienced" is what you'll hear. "Don't tell anyone about it, we don't want you to spoil it for others". Bull. Demand program objectives, outline, and a complete description.

2. Programs built on the ideas and/or leadership of one charismatic person. I'm always skeptical about any training program that's referred to by someones name, i.e., "Tony Robbins training", "Covey training", "Kroning", etc...

3. You have nagging doubts about the facilitators, staff or program content. Something just doesn't "feel" right. They act a little too "enlightened".

4. You get challenging, defensive or discounting responses to your questions about the program.

5. You get vague or over-general promises of participant success.

6. "Hard-sell" tactics. Pressure on graduates to recruit more participants. In corporations, individuals and departments are often pressured to "get with the program", and seen as resistant if they choose not to participate.

7. An unfamiliar set of jargon are used to describe key concepts of the programs.

8. Program facilitators use physical and emotional techniques to get people to "open up and share" (i.e., break them down and humiliate them).

9. It's impossible to measure and evaluate the outcomes.

10. Any of the following techniques are used: fire walking, chanting, hypnosis, meditation, massage, yoga, biofeedback, bizarre relaxation techniques, mind control, visualization, overly aggressive "attack" confrontational techniques, or excessive hugging and crying.

Any one of these by themselves is probably harmless, but if you pick up on three of more, then buyer beware.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How to Fix Succession Planning

Marshall Goldsmith and Patricia Wheeler’s latest edition of Leading News has a great article on succession planning that I have permission from Marshall to share.

The article resonates with me because I’m one of those guys who’s designed and managed “A” succession planning systems and processes but sometimes feel like I’m getting “C” results.

We’ll have our performance potential discussions, fill out talent profiles, create IDPs, design and deliver great leadership development programs, do coaching, provide feedback, and yet at the end of the day, benches are still too thin, key positions are filled with external hires, and CEOs and Boards are still not completely satisfied. According to Marshall, most of them are pretty dissatisfied.

So why is that? In his role as a trusted coach and advisor to a lot of CEOs, Marshall and his partner, Jim Moore, have some valuable insights to share on what’s wrong with succession planning and how to fix it…..

Four Tips for Efficient Succession Planning

By Marshall Goldsmith

One of the most common leadership development questions that I hear from executives is, "Why does succession planning feel like such a waste of time?"

I do a lot of work on executive coaching and succession with my good friend, Jim Moore. Jim is the former CLO of three major companies. Here are some of our thoughts on how to make leadership succession a more relevant process in your company.

Many of the CEOs we talk with these days express concern about the lack of bench strength in their companies. They are very worried that they lack sufficient "ready now" candidates to replace planned & unplanned losses of key leaders. As a result, the future continuity and performance of the business is at risk.

These same executives also tell us that their companies have been doing succession planning for years. On average, the executives we meet give their succession planning process a grade of C+ and they give their execution of succession plans a grade of D. If you are among the companies who are not happy with the impact of your succession planning process, you have plenty of company.

Here are four practical ideas on how you can get more impact from your organization's succession planning efforts.

1. Change the name of the process to from Succession Planning to Succession Development.

Plans do not develop anyone — only development experiences develop people. We see many companies put more effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process. Succession planning processes have lots of to-do's — forms, charts, meetings, due dates and checklists. They sometimes create a false sense that the planning process is an end in itself rather than a precursor to real development.

Many humans fall into the same trap regarding physical fitness. We have may have fantastic plans in place to lose weight. We may be very proud of our plans , which include detailed daily goals for diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise. And if our execution were half as impressive as our planning, we would be very svelte. Our focus should be on weight loss, not planning for weight loss.

2. Measure outcomes, not process.

This change of emphasis is important for several reasons. First, executives pay attention to what gets measured and what gets rewarded. If leadership development is not enough of a priority for the company to establish goals and track progress against those goals, it will be difficult to make any succession planning process work. Second, the act of engaging with senior executives to establish these goals will build support for succession planning and ownership for leadership development. Third, these results will help guide future efforts and mid-course corrections.

The metrics a company could establish for Succession Development might include goals like the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool. Too often, we find companies measure only the percent of managers that had completed succession plans in place.

3. Keep it simple.

We sometimes find companies adding excessively complex assessment criteria to the succession planning process in an effort to improve the quality of the assessment. Some of these criteria are challenging even for behavioral scientists to assess, much less the average line manager. Since the planning process is only a precursor to focus the development, it doesn't need to be perfect. More sophisticated assessments can be built into the development process and administered by a competent coach.

4. Stay realistic.

Following are two classic examples how succession plans may lack realism:
The head of engineering is a high performing leader who has the potential to be COO. She has always been in an engineering role. If she had sales experience, she would be even more ready to be the COO so her development plan is written to include a job move to be head of sales. However, this company would never take the risk of putting someone without sales experience in the top sales job — so her development plan perpetually says, "move to a sales job" even though that will never happen.

The CFO is a high performing leader who has passed all the assessment criteria to be a high potential, ready-now candidate for the CEO job. He is told he is the top candidate. However, the CEO can't stand the guy, and as a result, he will never get the job as long as that CEO has a say in the matter.

While development plans and succession charts aren't promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren't realistic. Bottom line, don't jerk around high performing leaders with unrealistic development expectations. Only give the promise of succession if there is a realistic chance of its happening!

We believe the four suggestions above can help shift your organization's focus from planning to development — and achieve increased depth in your bench strength.

Originally published in Harvard Business Online, 2009.Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, measurable change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams. His book What Got You Here Won't Get You There,won the Harold Longman Award for best business book of 2007. Marshall invites you to visit his library (MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com) for articles and resources you can use.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The State of the Coaching Industry

Many of the readers of Great Leadership are probably familiar with the field of executive coaching; in fact, some of my favorite regular readers and commentators are coaches. There’s probably also a good percentage that are only vaguely familiar with coaching, and a few that have never heard of it.

In a nutshell, executive coaching is a series of on-going, regular one-on-one, confidential sessions between an executive and an external (or sometimes internal) expert who specializes in working with seniors leaders.

A few months ago, Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 140 leading coaches in order to find out more about this mysterious industry. Despite the widespread use of executive coaches, little is widely known about who they are, what they do, and how much they earn.

No matter what your level of familiarity with coaching, I think you’ll find the following summary of the research (and maybe my commentary) to be enlightening.

The Top 3 reasons coaches are engaged:

1. To develop high potentials or facilitate transition: 48%

2. Act as a sounding board: 26%

3. Address derailing behavior: 12%

20 years ago, I had never heard of executive coaching. 10 years ago, coaches were mostly hired to fix obnoxious CEOs or high level executives who knew how to get results, but left a wake of bodies behind them (i.e., Bob Nardelli). It was usually a clandestine kind of work, and certainly nothing you’d want to admit to needing as an executive.
Now, it seems that most companies hire coaches to work with their high potentials, or when an executive is hired or promoted to help them through the transition. I see this as a positive trend and a smarter use of limited leadership development dollars and time.

Invest in your “A” players, and use performance management for your “C” players!

How much it costs:

The median hourly cost of coaching is $500.00 – the cost of a top psychiatrist in Manhattan! Some charge as much as $3,500 per hour – the cost of a high priced Manhattan… well, never mind. For a profession that requires no formal degree or accreditation, I find this to be absolutely mind blowing. The reported length of a coaching engagement is 7-12 months, so we’re looking at about a $15-20,000 tab when all is said and done.

I’m a capitalist, so I have no issues with people being paid whatever someone is willing to pay them. It’s no wonder so many of my colleagues in our field have turned in their training binders and hung out their coaching shingles. Barriers to entry are nonexistent; it requires no equipment, little or no written materials, can be done from your pajamas (telephone), and can be combined with all kinds of other work (writing, consulting, training, presentations, blogging) to make a very decent living.

While it’s a lucrative field, I suspect it’s quite crowded as well - kind of like real estate agents. It take’s a lot of hard work and expertise to build up a clientele. I’ve dabbled in it, and I’ll tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks. I’m just good enough at it to know when to turn to someone who’s really good at it.

Do coaches get involved in personal issues?

1. Are you frequently hired to address personal issues? 97% said No.

2. Have you ever assisted executives with personal issues? 76% said yes.

These two questions and responses get at the heart of one of the most important and controversial questions in the coaching field: should coaches cross the line from work to personal? A lot of coaches I talk to say that you can’t separate the two – in order to get at the root cause of underlying behavioral issues that show up at work, you have to get into the personal side. Others say absolutely not, they draw a clear line between leadership behavioral change and therapy. There’s no clear consensus.

I’m on the “don’t mess with the personal side” side of the fence. A coach should know when therapy might be needed, and when to make a recommendation. But that’s just my personal opinion. Here’s where I have a problem: organizations think they are buying one thing, and coaches are giving executives something else. Many of them probably aren’t even aware it’s happening – they get seduced into a form of psychotherapy without even knowing its happening. It’s even more tempting, albeit less potentially damaging, if a coach has a clinical background. In fact, many companies require their coaches to have psychological training. If a coach has this kind of background, it’s got to be that much harder to ignore their training.

What to look for in a coach

How necessary is certification?
Very: 29.2%
Not at all: 28.5%

How necessary is psychological training?
Very: 13.2%
Not at all: 45.9%

Again, coaches are all over the board on this one. On one hand, it’s useful to use formal certification as a screening tool when selecting a coach. However, there are so many different organizations that issue certificates, it’s hard to tell if they are worth anything (The International Coach Federation seems to be the leader). And some of the best coaches I’ve worked with have no formal certification. They are former executives that are good at developing others.

Here’s what the coaches who were surveyed said companies should look for in a coach:

65%: Experience coaching in similar settings
61%: Clear methodology
50%: Quality of client list
32%: Ability to measure ROI
29%: Certification in a proven coaching method
27%: Experience in working in a similar role as the coachee
13%: Experience as psychological therapist
2%: Background in executive search

This is actually a pretty darn good list; I’m going to use it. However, the most important factor to consider when selecting a coach is chemistry and fit; the executive has to be comfortable with the coach.

Does Coaching work?

When survey participants were asked to explain the healthy growth of their industry, they said clients keep coming back because “coaching works”.
This may be true, but coaches don’t do a very good job of measuring the impact of their work and communicating its value to those paying the bill. While 70% of coaches surveyed said they provide qualitative assessment of progress, fewer than one-third ever give feedback in the form of quantitative data on behaviors, and less than one-fourth provide any kind of quantitative data on business outcome.

Regardless of the lack of hard evidence of its effectiveness, coaching is hot. Most of the leadership development benchmarking and best practice reports I’ve read say that companies use or have started formal coaching programs. I’ve rarely talked to an executive that didn’t rave about the impact and results.

Here’s the bottom line on coaching:

1. It can be a highly effective leadership development methodology, and should be a part of your leadership development arsenal.

2. Buyer beware – it’s the wild west out there, filled with experts and charlatans. Use the recommended selection criteria, get references, and always interview at least three potential coaches.

3. Insist on a way to measure results and a clear start and end point.

4. Know what you’re buying – clarify expectations regarding delving into personal issues.

5. Costs vary considerably, there is no industry standard. Shop around, and don’t be afraid to negotiate.

6. Ask to see the coach’s methodology. If they don’t have one, find another coach.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Test Your HQ (Humor Quotient)

Here's a guest post by Carla Reiger. She thinks leaders should have a sense of humor. I took her quiz; I could use a little help in this area. Maybe a lot of help.

The results are in! Scientific research links a pessimistic attitude towards life with one specific blood type -- B negative.

Get it? If you didn’t get it then either you have low HQ, your blood type is B negative, or you just found out you are going to be audited.

If life throws you a curve ball – what do YOU do?

Thomas Wright, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Nevada thinks that it helps -- to laugh. He did extensive surveys showing that leaders who keep their sense of humor when unwanted change happens, do better on the job. They also get along better with clients and associates, find more creative solutions to problems, and are more productive than their more serious counterparts.

However, humor and enjoyment can only grow with the right attitudinal soil. To see how you do, check off the answer that most closely resembles you:

1. When I make a mistake
a) I laugh and see what I can learn from the experience
b) I beat myself up
c) I blame the government

2. When my schedule is extremely busy
a) I keep my nose to the grindstone
b) I occasionally take a break to relax and have fun
c) I hire an actor who looks like me to appear at family dinners

3. When I tell a joke, people:
a) laugh
b) groan
c) report me to the harassment board

4. I forget to laugh
a) when I’m really busy
b) when I’m at a comedy club
c) when my toast lands on the floor -- butter side down

5. I plan to reward myself with fun and relaxation:
a) each day
b) only on weekends and holidays
c) when cloning becomes affordable

6. People view me:
a) as a serious person
b) as a light-hearted person on occasion
c) as so funny I should be banned from visiting the hospital hernia unit

7. The key people in my life
a) are fun-loving
b) are happy only during happy hour
c) now all have unlisted phone numbers

8. If something bad happens, like the computer goes down when I'm trying to email
a) I make a joke about it and start finding a solution
b) I tell the IT guy “ I own a gun and I’m not afraid to use it.”
c) I try that olden-days method of walking down the hall and talking to the person

9. When I successfully complete a challenging work project, I
a) think of all the things I should have done differently
b) throw my hands in the air and do the Happy Dance
c) I send out a photo of myself with the subject line "The Can-Do Miracle Man Strikes Again!"

10. Making people laugh
a) comes easily to me
b) comes easily to me only if I steal other people’s jokes
c) comes easily to me, but unfortunately not on purpose

11. When I was growing up, my family:
a) valued fun, laughter, humor and play
b) were often afflicted with AADS (Acquired Amusement Deficiency Syndrome)
c) made Spock look like a one-man carnival

12. I study the art of comedy:
a) regularly – books, tapes, workshops, mentors, coaching, etc.
b) occasionally when, for example, I watch a great speaker
c) never – comedy is for silly people who don’t realize that life is serious – very, very serious.

1. a.3 b.2 c.1

2. a.2 b.3 c.1

3. a.3 b.2 c.1

4. a.2 b.1 c.3

5. a.3 b.2 c.1

6. a.1 b.2 c.3

7. a.3 b.2 c.1

8. a.3 b.1 c.2

9. a.1 b.2 c.3

10. a.3 b.2 c.1

11. a.3 b.2 c.1

12. a.3 b.2 c.1

Total Score = ______________


If your score was 30 or more – put the whoopee cushion down! You live so much on the funny side of your brain that we might need to occasionally stimulate your “tax return” brain.

If your score was 25--29, you are grooving. You have a well-developed funny brain and a good balance of fun versus work ethic. It is normal to have some negativity – and actually is necessary as a card-carrying human.

If your score was 20-24, get thee to a funnery! Your overly grave behavior will lead you—yes, you guessed it--to an early grave. Install the latest version of Mirth Manager 4.1 right away and delete Wet Blanket 3.2 immediately. Start by creating an area of your office just for fun stuff – a humor bulletin board, comedy CD's, games, etc.

If your score was under 19, you might want to get a T-shirt that says “I am the Beacon of Doom” and look in the mirror. You need serious fun help. But don’t worry (which I know is hard for you) because there is lots of help available; call us for more ideas, or check out our web site for more articles.

Joyfully Yours,
Carla Rieger

Carla Rieger is the Director of The Artistry of Change. She speaks at conventions, sales rallies and appreciation events on how to turn workplace negativity into creativity -- unlocking your genius for outstanding performance. She has written three books including The Change Artist, The Power of Laughter, Speaking on the Funny Side of the Brain, and The Heart of Presenting.

You can book Carla to speak at your association meeting by calling 1-866-294-2988, or see more programs, products and free stuff by going to

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Everybody Knows About Your Weaknesses – Do You?

One of the most effective ways to develop as a leader, or to develop other leaders, is giving and receiving feedback.

Why? Because when it comes to assessing our own abilities, we tend to be pretty accurate when it comes to assessing our technical or functional skills. However, when it comes to assessing the impact our behaviors have on others, that’s where we lose sight of reality. That’s because we tend to assess ourselves based on our intentions, while others judge us by our behaviors. To compound the issue, we tend to get more objective feedback on our technical skills (test scores, metrics, instant results) than we do on the “soft stuff”.

Managers are notoriously unskilled when it comes to giving feedback - it’s one of the lowest scoring skills on management assessments. They’re not good at it, and they don’t like to do it, so they avoid it. And while we all say we want more feedback from our managers (and significant others), we’re not very good at receiving it.

One of the ways organizations have attempted to address the need to provide feedback to leaders is to use 360 degree leadership assessments. These multi-rater surveys, usually sent to direct reports, peers, and the manager, are a good way to collect confidential developmental feedback.

However, they can be time consuming, costly, and don’t always get to the heart of behavior issues.

As an alternative to a formal 360 assessment, I’ve started to use a “stakeholder assessment” process. Actually, I’m not aware of a formal name for it, so I made it up. The technique is often used by executive coaches as a way to supplement and clarify findings from a 360 assessment.

Here’s how it works (written from the perspective of the leader being assesses):

1. Enlist someone to help you with the process – we’ll call this someone a “coach”. It could be a formal coach, an HR or training person, your manager, or a trusted peer.

2. Pick about a dozen people who you trust and/or opinions matter to you. It’s usually direct reports, peers, manager, maybe a manager 2 levels up.

3. Decide what questions you want your coach to ask them. Something like:
- What is Dan doing well?
- How could he improve?
- What suggestions do you have for him in the future?

4. Send an email to all stakeholders. Here’s a sample:
"I am working with (coaches name). She will be contacting you shortly to set up a 20-30 minute appointment to gather your input on how I am performing in some key areas on which I’ve decided to get feedback and suggestions for improvement. The feedback I receive will be confidential and I will be following up with you to share my learning’s and what specific actions I will be doing to improve.
Thank you very much, please let me or (coach) know if you have any questions."

5. Coach interview each stakeholder, take notes, and summarize all notes by question.

6. Coach sends notes to leader a few hours ahead of time, and then meets to review the findings. Discuss reactions, surprises, and insights.

7. Leader picks 1-2 behaviors and creates an action plan to improve. Coach can help. Set clear, measurable goals, and regular times to check in with the coach.

8. Follow-up with stakeholders to thank them for their feedback, and let them know what you are going to working on to improve as a leader. Ask for their help in assessing your improvement, providing ongoing feedback, and additional suggestions.

That’s it! It’s simple, fast, cheap, and is incredibly effective. I’ve seen amazing transformations in leaders that have used this process. When they are aware of the little things that may be annoying people and limiting their effectiveness, and are motivated to change, it’s usually fairly easy to simply stop behaviors, rather than learning new ones. Also, when stakeholders are involved in the process and the leader is authentically transparent, their stakeholders end up rooting got them to succeed. They notice even small improvements, which ends up changing their perceptions faster.

Leaders are sometimes afraid to try this. I can understand this. It’s somewhat scary to hear about what others think about your strengths and weaknesses. But if everyone else is already aware of your weaknesses, wouldn’t you want to know too?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The June 7th Leadership Development Carnival

Welcome to the June 7th, 2009 edition of the Leadership Development Carnival!

No theme this month, just a better than ever collection of leadership and leadership development posts from some of the best experts in the field. The "carnies" really delivered this month.

There's over 30 posts to learn from, so here's a suggestion. Take out a pad (or whatever electronic gadget you use to take notes these days) - and start clicking. Start at the top and work your way down the list. If one of them catches your interest, read it. If there's a key "to do" to take away, jot it down on your pad. Get thorough as many as you can, perhaps coming back for a second or third visit.

When you're done, you'll have a customized page full of ideas and tips for becoming a better leader! Circle the ones you're really motivated to commit to, and keep your list in a handy place for at least 90 days, taking it out now and then to remind yourself and check progress. Even better if your review it with a trusted peer, manager, friend, or coach.

OK, so much for my coaching advice. Here's the good stuff:

When a good friend had a bad day, I realized that leadership is a choice. When I choose to put on my leader clothes, our group runs more smoothly:
Becky Robinson presents Put On Your Leader Clothes posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk.

Wally Bock says that Warren Bennis' distinctions between leaders and managers may be the most pernicious and damaging bit of nonsense published in his lifetime: Wally Bock presents More leaders v managers nonsense posted at Three Star Leadership Blog.

A poem to look at organization re-organization from an employee perspective: David Zinger presents http://www.davidzinger.com/wednesdaywork-poemsthe-re-org-2884/ posted at Employee Engagement Zingers.

Sometimes, the truth is a pig: Jason Seiden presents Do you want the truth, or do you pretend you want the truth? posted at Next Generation Talent Development.

What we learn from failure defines who we are. Whether it be Abraham Lincoln failing to win multiple elections or my daughter failing to win her middle school campaign, how we respond to our setbacks is what defines our character: Tom Magness presents Dealing with Failure posted at Leader Business.

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR presents Employee Attitude or Management Attitude? Or Both? posted at HR Observations.

Alice Snell presents Executive Views: Talent in Tough Times posted at Taleo Blog - Talent Management Solutions.

David Wentworth presents Conducting Layoffs? Don't Communicate So Much - i4cp posted at Productivity Blog.

A new twist for an innovation wiki that sweeps away silos, both horizontal and vertical: Miki Saxon presents Ducks In A Row: Smashing Horizontal (And Vertical) Silos posted at Leadership Turn.

Comments from Jeffrey Pfeffer's book, "What Were They Thinking: Nick McCormick presents Stop Making Excuses posted at Joe and Wanda on Management.

Social media is allowing consumers to put the quality of company management under the microscope: Sharlyn Lauby presents Transparency Training posted at HR Bartender.

As you will see BW is better the more input we get from as many people as possible so the more input from as diverse a group as possible, the better: Bill Matthies presents Management: How Much? posted at Business Wisdom: Words to Manage By.

Mark Stelzner presents 5 Surefire Ways to Piss Off HR posted at Inflexion Point.

It has long been presumed that the CEO is so key to an organization as to be, effectively, vital to its very functioning. Indeed, many highly regarded observers have strongly made the case that not only is a singular individual leader essential to the success of an organization, but that there is hardly any point in the organization’s existence except as a mechanism for amplifying and expressing that leadership: Jim Stroup presents Institutionalizing individuals posted at Managing Leadership.

Scott Eblin presents Build Your Network with Questions posted at Next Level Blog.

Avoiding unionization under potential new EFCA rules isn't rocket science, it's as old as human desires: Miki Saxon presents The Best Anti-Union Medicine: A Happy Workforce posted at MAPping Company Success.

Do you, as a manager, have a good track record of retaining high potential / high performing employees? How can we find a good way to measure this as a talent metric? Justin Field presents Are you a talent magnet? posted at TalentedApps.

As leaders our influence extends far beyond the casual employee-employer relationship. It is multi-faceted. Understanding some of the nuances of the leadership contract can keep us all ahead of the curve: Nina Simosko presents Understanding the Leadership Contract posted at NinaSimosko.com.

Leadership is the act of making others effective in achieving an aim: John Hunter presents Leadership posted at Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog.

Leadership development is not all about teaching people new things: Tamara Kelly presents 3 Paths to Development posted at The Effective Leadership Development Community.

Mike King presents 8 Steps for Acting on Inspiration posted at Learn This.

Loraine Antrim presents CEO Speak: What if God Texted the Ten Commandments?, posted at The CXO Mindset.

The current trend seems to be discrediting management books with claims that the research was poorly done and that their advice is useless. This post counters this perspective making the case that management and success books have value and need to be used with wisdom as part of a broader planning perspective: Craig Angus presents Is it Time to Sell My Management Books? posted at shiftack.

True personal growth requires first, that you, not others or circumstances, be the leader of self and actions. Without this, your direction may be easily skewed causing your road to become circuitous and confusing. Self awareness is the key to becoming the CEO of YOU because in that respect, you are able to not only see yourself as you are now but also use your imagination to project YOU the way you want to be: Dean L. Forbes presents Dean L. Forbes: Become the CEO of YOU posted at Dean L. Forbes.

Which group is better-equipped for the tough times, MBAs or entrepreneurs? Dana presents Battling it Out During Tough Times: MBAs vs. Entrepreneurs posted at Investoralist.

You might enjoy a turn on the slots in Vegas, or possibly a flutter on the Kentucky Derby. Then again, you may totally object to gambling based on ethical or religious grounds. Would you gamble with your retirement fund? Or your home? Or on the livelihood of your family and kids? The answer is likely to be a resolute NO. Simon Stapleton presents Don't Gamble On Your Performance Review posted at ACE Your Performance Review.

Discover the formula for success from successful and established men and women of business. The secrets to success when starting a business: Brian Maxwell presents Secrets of Success by Established Men and Women of Business posted at Live Your Life With Prosperity and Abundance.

Shawn M. Driscoll presents 5 Reasons You Keep Getting Stuck posted at Shawn Driscoll.

This small post emphasises importance of being positive to become and remain a respectable manager/leader: Tanmay Vora presents Positive Project Management and Being Respectable posted at QAspire - Quality, Management, Leadership & Life!.

GeekMBA360 presents Too many managers, too few leaders posted at GeekMBA360.

The people doing the guiding are generally called coaches and mentors. The two roles are similar in some ways but in fact are very different. Before attempting this role laden with responsibility it is important to understand the difference between coaching and mentoring and to find out what is best for your relationship with your potential followers: Great Management Tips presents What�s the Difference Between Coaching And Mentoring? posted at Great Management Tips.

Every company has an hierarchy. It goes without saying that people are hired throughout the hierarchy on a regular basis. There are various positions in the hierarchy that are quite critical to the company. One of these positions is the key position of a Team Leader. Therefore, the interview for the position of a team leader is quite important in the company’s eyes, as the person who they intend to hire for the post will have a lot of responsibilities: nissim ziv presents Team leader: interview questions for a Team Leader posted at Job Interview Guide.

Do you make it a point to attend conferences in fields you’re interested in? Are you aware of the incredible wellspring of experiential information you will get from attending a conference? Do you want to meet other people with similar goals and interests? Go to conferences I tell you! Make a point to go to at least one conference per year, and more if you’re able: Erin Pavlina presents The Value of Attending Conferences posted at Erin Pavlina's Blog.

That's it! The next Leadership Development Carnival will be hosted right here on July 5th.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another Too Dumb to be True Leadership Development Program

A while back, I did a post on "Creative" Leadership Programs ; where I described a list of real and fake leadership development programs (i.e., “Space Camp for Leaders”), and offered a prize to the first reader to pick the fake programs. The point was to shine a light on some of the ridiculous programs out there disguised as leadership development and the idiots, errr, naive managers and trainers who are suckered into spending their company’s hard earned money on them.

Maybe it’s the economic downturn and bad PR over AIG post-bailout junkets, but I haven’t seen many good examples lately.

Until I saw this one:

New Green Training Reduces Corporate Carbon Footprint

Yes, self-proclaimed “independent thinker" Streaming Strategies CEO Michael Warren has taken three good ideas:

Team Building + The Green Movement + Fly Fishing

And combined them to create one too damn silly to be true idea for a training program.

Here’s more from the press release:

StreamingStrategies, a new corporate training company in Virginia, announced today that it will launch its green corporate training services on May 1, 2009.

The company provides green training for strategic corporate teams that combines high quality classroom instruction with an eco-aware fly fishing experience for team building.

CEO Michael Warren said of the launch, “Our services help HR professionals green their companies. Our training is eco-friendly, sustainable and renewable. Based on Authentic Learning concepts, our training results in both an action plan to solve an immediate team problem and a blueprint for solving similar problems. Combined with a low-tech delivery method and a flexible format, our training allows green learning to be incorporated into organizational development events at virtually any venue, including remote adventures. Because we achieve training and team building in a single event, our training helps a company reduce its carbon footprint.”

OMG, "eco-aware" training?! Is it any wonder we continue to see headlines like this:

Training a 'waste of time' says one in three workers

Why training doesn't work

Don't trust HR to manage your talent

Well sure, it's partly because:
- There are a lot of charlatans out there selling crap like this and calling it leadership or team development
- There are a lot of incompetent HR and Training departments all too willing to buy and promote this stuff and other bad ideas
- There are a lot of desperate and gullible managers looking for silver bullets

Hey, I'm all for a good time now and then on the company's tab - just don't try to justify it as a training investment.

Thanks but no thanks, Mr. Warren; I don’t think I’ll be sending our leaders to this one. But good luck with your new venture, I'll bet it will do well.

In my next post, I’m going to describe a way to develop leaders that is:

- Highly effective
- Free
- Easy to implement
- Very green
- and doesn’t involve fishing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Leadership Advice for the Class of 2009 Graduates

In honor of the class of 2009, here’s a collection of advice on leadership from commencement speakers Robert Gates, Madeleine K. Albright, William Weldon, Steve Jobs, and Conan O’Brian, along with my summary at the end.

From Defense Secretary Robert, speaking to the West Point class of 2009:

"I’ve come to believe that few people are born great leaders. When all is said and done, the kind of leader you become is up to you, based on the choices you make. And in the time remaining, I’d like to talk about some of those choices, and how those choices will be shaped by the realities of this dangerous new century.

I would start with something I tell all the new generals and civilian executives that I meet with at the Pentagon. It is a leadership quality that is really basic and simple – but so basic and simple that too often it is forgotten: and that is the importance, as you lead, of doing so with common decency and respect towards your subordinates. Harry Truman had it right when he observed that one of the surest ways to judge someone is how well – or poorly – he treats those who “can’t talk back.

Two anecdotes from our country’s founding capture the independent thinking of the American soldier and the greatness of the Army officer who led them. During the Revolution, a man in civilian clothes rode past a redoubt being repaired. The commander was shouting orders but not helping. When the rider asked why, the supervisor of the work detail retorted, “Sir, I am a corporal!”

The stranger apologized, dismounted, and helped repair the redoubt. When he was done, he turned toward the supervisor and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your Commander-in-Chief and I will come and help you again.” Too late, the corporal recognized George Washington. The power of example in leadership.

A second fundamental quality of leadership is doing the right thing even when it is the hard thing – in other words, integrity. Too often we read about examples in business and government of leaders who start out with the best of intentions and somehow go astray.

I’ve found that more often than not, what gets people in trouble is not the obvious case of malfeasance – taking the big bribe or cheating on the exam. Often it is the less direct, but no less damaging, temptation to look away or pretend something did not happen, or that certain things must be okay because other people are doing them; when deep down, if you look hard enough, you know that’s not true. To take that stand – to do the hard right, over the easier, more convenient, or more popular wrong – requires courage.

Courage comes in different forms. There is the physical courage of the battlefield, which this institution and this army possess beyond measure. Consider the story of Lieutenant Nicholas Eslinger, Class of 2007. He was leading his platoon through Samarra, Iraq, when an enemy fighter threw a grenade in their midst.

Eslinger jumped on the grenade to shield his men. When the grenade didn’t go off, the platoon leader threw it back over the wall. And then it exploded. At the time of this incident, then-Second Lieutenant Eslinger was only 16 months out of West Point. He would later receive the Silver Star.

But, in addition to battlefield bravery, there is also moral courage, often harder to find. In business, in universities, in the military, in any big institution, there is a heavy emphasis on teamwork. And, in fact, the higher up you go, the stronger the pressure to smooth off the rough edges, paper over problems, close the proverbial ranks and stay on message.

The hardest thing you may ever be called upon to do is stand alone among your peers and superior officers. To stick your neck out after discussion becomes consensus, and consensus ossifies into groupthink.

From Madeleine K. Albright, to the class of 2007 at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

“You are the leaders of tomorrow, and it will be your job to pick up the baton so often mishandled by the leaders of today.

For inspiration, I can think of no more moving a story than that involving a passenger on United Flight 93, which went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11. That passenger, Tom Burnett, called his wife from the hijacked plane, having realized by then that two other planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. “I know we’re going to die,” he said. “But some of us are going to do something about it.”

And because they did, many other lives were saved. Since that awful morning, the memory of their heroism has uplifted us. It should also instruct us. Because when you think about it, “I know we’re going to die,” is a wholly unremarkable statement.

Each of us here this morning could say the same. It is Burnett’s next words that were both matter of fact and electrifying. “Some of us are going to do something about it.”

Those words, it seems to me, convey the fundamental challenge put to us by life. We are all mortal. What divides us is the use we make of the time and opportunities we have.”

From William Weldon, Johnson & Johnson CEO, to the Quinnipiac class of 2009:

“Your effectiveness as a leader will be judged by the extent to which you have allowed others to contribute to your success… and the extent to which you have contributed to theirs.”

“Down the road in New York, right along the dividing line that separates Brooklyn and Queens, there is a cemetery. It’s called Cyprus Hills, not very big. And if you were to stroll through it, you might come across one headstone in particular. On it are inscribed a set of dates, a name and one brief sentence.

The dates are 1919 to 1972. The name is Jackie Robinson, a longtime Connecticut resident, and the sentence is simply this: 'The value of a life is measured by its impact on other lives.'

There is no better measure of your success as a leader or your value to the human race… than to live your life every day with the world just as proud of you… as we are proud of you… on this extraordinary day.”

In what some would consider to be one of the greatest commencement speeches ever, Steve Jobs to the Stanford class of 2005 (it’s 15 minutes, and worth watching):

And finally, on the lighter side, here’s Conan O’Brien, to the Harvard class of 2000:

“So, that’s what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over. If it’s all right, I’d like to read a little something from just this year: “Somehow, Conan O’Brien has transformed himself into the brightest star in the Late Night firmament. His comedy is the gold standard and Conan himself is not only the quickest and most inventive wit of his generation, but quite possible the greatest host ever.” Ladies and Gentlemen, Class of 2000, I wrote that this morning, as proof that, when all else fails, there’s always delusion.”

Dan’s leadership advice for the class of 2009 summary:

1. There are no natural born leaders. The kind of leader you become is up to you.
2. Treat everyone with respect, especially those who “can’t talk back”.
3. Have the courage to do the right thing even when it’s the hard thing
4. Don’t like it? Then do something about it
5. Your value as a leader will be measured by the impact you have on others
6. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle.
7. Stay hungry, stay foolish.
8. When all else fails, there’s always delusion