Monday, June 28, 2010

What Training Providers Look for When Working With Customers

Here's a guest post from Sharon Daniels, president and chief executive officer for AchieveGlobal, a training and business consultancy:

Today, I am exchanging guest blog posts with Dan McCarthy. Together, we are looking at what training providers and customers look for when partnering with one another. I’m a big fan of Dan’s blog, and we thought it would be fun to share insights from both perspectives.

Below, you’ll find some of my thoughts from a training provider’s perspective and, on AchieveGlobal’s company blog, Dan has included insights from a customer’s standpoint. Whether you’re a training customer or provider, please feel free to weigh in and add your thoughts either here or on our blog. We hope both provide insights you’ll find helpful in your next partnership so both providers and customers can be successful.

I’ve seen that good training sessions rely on more than able coaches. Whether training “takes” sometimes depends on the mindset of the customer. From the standpoint of training providers, here are five things that make customers as prepared as possible for an effective training session or training initiative:

Customers must be prepared to tackle the status quo. “The way we’ve always done it” attitude must be kicked to the curb and recycled like yesterday’s Red Bull can. Clinging to old ways because they’re comforting does not propel an organization. It holds it back, potentially creating blind spots.

Stopping to ask, “Why do we do it that way?” should elicit a thoughtful reply underscored by a business objective. For instance, stopping to consider why a retail sales associate asks for a customer’s e-mail address should track back to a defined objective – like opening a channel for future discounts that would encourage customer loyalty. The best organizations will challenge not only industry thinking but their own. Cutting against the grain drives true innovation.

The best training isn’t cut out from a template but instead is shaped with the input of the customer. Collaboration between the training recipient and training provider influences success more than any other factor. Everyone involved – from both the training recipient and training provider side – should be completely clear about the organization’s employee value proposition – loosely, the brand as seen through the eyes of the employees and brought to life by the rewards they receive in return for high performance.

Sharing the employee value proposition, the desired behavior and the performance results are a crucial state of collaboration that will help guide a successful training partnership. The trainer will be most successful if he or she knows an organization’s overall business strategy so that a curriculum can be taught that directly supports the desired outcome. Training must support the core strategy of an organization.

Training impacts performance throughout an employee’s tenure with an organization, providing momentum at the beginning and wisdom at the end. Seen this way, training becomes more than a short-term fix. It is also a long-term investment. Implemented strategically, training gives employees the immediate necessary skills and a structure to grow as their needs, and those of the company, change.

Specifically, a thoughtful on-boarding process that properly reflects an employee value proposition helps prevent new staff from experiencing buyer’s remorse about joining an organization. And over time, a rich development program helps talented performers gravitate toward key organizational resources, stay well-connected with knowledge networks and exposed to the full range of activities, such as managing larger groups, launching major initiatives and leading critical turn-arounds.

In some cases, managers are concerned about the training investment – perhaps weighing whether the cost of instruction will impact, say, a sales call. But, isn’t it worth it to make the call as successful as possible? You’re talking about improving the effectiveness of your people, so the return is there. The impact is what matters. Beyond a dollar value, concrete statistics that come with learning and development programs offer a predictive value: they show how and why staff demonstrated a concept learned from training. As companies evaluate their options, they’ll find that the best programs have measurements built in.

When creating a leadership program, organizations should work with their training partners to determine what type of measurements should be tracked. Flexibility of this kind ensures that business results are the primary goal of leadership training. With more sophisticated monitoring – the kind that is benchmarked against peers – a company can accurately gauge progress against both business objectives and training goals. Measurement helps organizations answer the most basic question: Did the leadership program work?

At the conclusion of training, the motto from senior leaders can’t be do as a I say, not as I do. It must be quite the opposite. At best, those actions will be labeled unconvincing, at worst, lampooned as hypocritical. The best results are achieved when key leadership is involved throughout training, from inception and beyond. Especially at a time when the economy is vulnerable, leaders who demonstrate skills and behaviors reinforced in training emphasizes its worth to employees. No memo can communicate that point as crisply as action.

Sharon Daniels is CEO of AchieveGlobal, a world leader in providing exceptional interpersonal business skills, giving companies the workforce they need for business results. Located in more than 40 countries, AchieveGlobal offers multilanguage, learning based solutions - globally, regionally and locally.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How to Onboard a New Manager

We all know how important it is to provide new hire employees with a good onboarding experience. Proper onboarding helps improve ramp-up time, productivity, moral, and retention.

However – what about onboarding a newly promoted manager? Unfortunately, a lot of companies probably don’t pay as much, if any, attention to this. The “onboarding” process is more of a coronation – “I now anoint you manager – good luck!”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Stepping into a manager role for the first time isn’t just an extension of the same job with a new title – it’s a brand new job, and should be treated like one.

The goal of new manager onboarding is to speed up the time from clueless to proficiency. Let’s face it, every new manager is going to make mistakes – we all did. A good approach to onboarding can help minimize the duration and impact of that challenging learning curve.

Here are 10 ways to help onboard a new manager:

1. Start the learning process well before the promotion.
As soon as someone expresses an interested in management and has the potential, the development process should start. A manager of these “management candidates” can begin teaching and providing experiences (shadowing, running a team meeting, interviewing, budgeting) that can provide valuable exposure to the role and begin to prepare for possible promotion.

2. A peer mentor.
Help the newly promoted manager find a peer mentor, or “buddy” - someone who can help advise and provide support, at least for the first 6-12 months.

3. Help form an “advisory board”.
The new manager should have a number of subject matter experts and experienced peers, inside and outside of the organization, that act as an informal, virtual panel of advisers.
Some companies have begun to use web 2.0 capabilities to encourage this user generated best practice sharing and peer community building.

4. The new manager’s manager as coach.
A lot of managers become very hands off when it comes to coaching and teaching their direct report managers. While it’s true the amount of hand holding tends to decrease the higher you move in an organization, first time managers require and should get a lot of their manager’s time and attention. Unfortunately, a lot of mid-managers aren’t very good at coaching managers.

5. Management training.
Again, a lot of companies don’t provide training (internal or external) to new managers. BIG mistake. If I had to prioritize where to spend my limited management development resources, it would be for the new first level manager. That’s the point in a manager’s career where they going to be the most open to learning, and where you can begin to develop a foundation of good habits and skill.

6. HR outreach.
HR should personally reach out to every new manager and introduce themselves as a resource. I’m not talking about a 3 day course in all things HR (EEO, hiring, discipline, performance appraisal). The problem with those HR-centric immersion programs is that a new manager is going to forget 90% of what’s being shoveled at them. They aren’t going to need to know how to hire someone until they actually have to do it, which might only be every 2-3 years.
An outreach call should only be about 30-45 minutes, to show the new manager where they can find resources and who to call if they run into an issue or need advice. They should know when to call HR, i.e., the first sign of a union card, before you discipline an employee, when they need to hire someone, if they have a benefit question, or before they do anything insanely stupid.

7. Provide mandatory compliance training.
This is the training that every manager needs to take to reduce your company’s legal liability, most of what can be covered with online self-study training.

8. Provide a coach.
I realize not all companies or individuals can afford to hire an external coach. Many companies only do this for their newly promoted or hired executives.
Some companies have started internal coaching programs, where they train pools of volunteer coaches. This has proven to be very cost effective, and provides great development for the coaches as well.

9. New manager integration process.
Have a trainer, HR person, or a coach help you conduct a new manager integration process. It’s a great way for a team to get to know their manager, build trust, and establish mutual expectations.

10. Provide 1-2 good books.
For newly promoted managers, I’d recommend:
1. Michael Watkin’s The First 90 Days
2. Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
3. Scott Eblin’s The Next Level
4. Wally Bock’s Working Supervisor’s Toolkit
5. Art Petty’s Practical Lessons in Leadership
6. John Baldoni’s Lead By Example
7. PDI’s Successful Manager’s Handbook
8. Lominger’s For Your Improvement FYI

How about you? Any other ideas on onboarding new managers?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

8 Ways to Create an “A Team”

'Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."
- Vince Lombardi

How would others describe the performance of your team? Would they refer to your team “the A team”? Or are they compared to the Los Angeles Clippers (winning percentage: .362)?

In either case, here are 8 things you can do to boost the performance of your team:

1. Invest in your team’s development.
It makes me want to set my hair on fire when I hear about a manager who doesn’t think there’s enough time or money for training and development. With that attitude, in the long run, you’ll end up with an underdeveloped and under performing team and probably out of a job. Taking the time to coach, train, mentor, and stretch your employees may cost you in the short term, but you’ll get a long term payback that’s well worth it.
Start by sitting down with every employee and creating a development plan.

2. Pick A players and onboard them.
When and if you have the opportunity to hire, don’t cut corners or lower your standards during the selection process. Use a rigorous and proven process for selection interviewing and assessment. Then, when you do make that hire, put the same amount of rigor and effort into the onboarding process. Onboarding isn’t just handing a new employee over to HR and giving them a training manual. It’s about taking to time to teach, assimilate, set them up for continuous success.

3. Walk the talk – be a role model.
So you’re going to raise the bar and set high standards? You’d better start by taking a good look in the mirror and evaluating your own performance, work habits, and leadership skills. The best leaders are always working on 2-3 things they want to get better at, and they are very open about admitting it. It set’s an example for performance excellence and continuous improvement.

4. Provide meaningful work.
It’s every leader’s obligation to their team to make sure they are doing value-added, meaningful work. Take a look at the work your team is doing get rid of the stuff that just doesn’t matter. When employees have a sense of meaning, purpose, and passion around the work they do, you can’t hold them back - they will do extraordinary things.

5. Make sure they have clear goals and expectations.
Provide your team with clear direction in the form of a vision, mission, and goals, and make sure every team member has individual goals and clear expectations. It’s a proven fact – goal setting works – it drives higher achievement. Having clear expectations and providing regular feedback ensure that employees are doing the right things right.

6. Create a motivating environment.
Right – so how? Start by:
- delegating (or empowering), providing support
- removing obstacles
- providing meaningful recognition
- and having a little fun now and then.
I can walk into any office or building, or sit in on any meeting, and in less than an hour tell if the environment is motivating or not – you can smell it, see it, feel it, and hear it. If you can’t tell, then invite in someone who can and be open to their feedback.

7. Do an honest assessment of your team.
Use a 9 box performance and potential matrix to assess your team’s performance and potential. Or, stack rank your team from highest to lowest performer. Is there someone on your team that you’ve been working around for years, but just haven’t wanted to admit it or take action? Maybe it’s time to – because chances are everyone else has noticed it. One of the worst things a leader can do is what they don’t do – that is, they don’t take action on poor performers. It lowers morale of the rest of the team, lowers your team’s overall performance, and while you think you might be humane, you’re actually doing that poor performer a disservice. You owe it to that person to get them out of a role where they can’t be successful and help them find something where they can be.

8. Create a team.
Build your team – create your vision, mission, goals, and expectations together. Do behavioral assessments and share the results, so that everyone can understand, appreciate, and learn to work with different styles. If you’re not sure how, try Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, or get someone to help you that does.

No team will ever be perfect, there’s always room for improvement, and it’s a never-ending journey.

The best leaders are always looking to take their team to the next level – they are never satisfied. They know that people like playing on a winning team, and it’s their role to put them in a position to win.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The 10 Ten Things You Need to Know About The Center for Creative Leadership

This is the fourth of a multi-part series where I’m introducing readers to some of my favorite (as well as free) outstanding leadership development resources and experts.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know I’m a big fan of the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). To me, they have always been the gold standard when it comes to credible leadership development theory and practice.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day at CCL’s headquarters’ in Greensboro, North Carolina. Oh, and being the leadership development geek that I am, I had to have my picture taken in the lobby. At least I didn’t buy a tee-shirt (almost).

So what can I tell you about CCL? There’s soooo much I could share, so how about if I distill it down to a top 10 list?

The 10 ten things you need to know about The Center for Creative Leadership:

1. It all started with Vick’s VapoRub.
Seriously, it did. The inspiration and initial funding for CCL came from H. Smith Richardson Sr., founder of the Vick Chemical Co, which makes VapoRub. OK, so you don’t really need to know this, but its fun trivia for your staff meeting. Or not.

2. They’ve got a lot of really good open enrollment leadership programs.
In fact, they are THE best when it comes to pure leadership development, consistently ranked amongst the best by the Financial Times and Business Week. For a world-class simulation, try "The Looking Glass Experience".

3. Their programs are “feedback intensive”.
If you’d prefer to keep your head comfortably buried in the sand regarding how you are perceived by others, than these are NOT the programs for you. Most CCL programs offer 360 degree assessments (some of the best), personality assessments, feedback from the class participants, from the instructors and/or coaches, as well as a heavy dose of self-reflection. Scary stuff, yes, but it’s good for you.

4. The research really is research, not marketing propaganda.
It could be because they are a non-profit, and it’s part of their mission and heritage, but CCL actually does pure leadership development research. Sure, some of it is directed towards product development, but it’s still based on solid data.

5. They’re global.
While a lot of training companies claim they are global, CCL really is. They offer leadership programs and services to a worldwide audience from CCL campuses and Network Associate locations across the Americas; Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA); Russia and across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); and Asia-Pacific (APAC). In 2007-2008, they developed leaders from more than 120 countries.

6. They do a lot of good (and no evil).
It’s not just about the bottom line with CCL. A big part of their mission and values is “to advance the understanding, practice and development of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide”.
One of their latest research projects is called “Leadership Beyond Boundaries” (LBB), with the goal of making leadership development more affordable and accessible.

7. They have awesome resources you can buy, including some of the best books you’ll ever find, live and on-demand webinarsLessons of Experience is a classic and a must for any leadership development practitioner.

But what about the FREE stuff?

8. Sign up for MyCCL for free, and you can connect with other leaders in the myCCL Forums; access hundreds of archived articles, white papers, reports, podcasts and more; and have the experience and resources catered to your own current developmental needs.

9. Sign up for the free Leading Effectively newsletter.

10. And last but not least, there’s social media:
Subscribe to the Leading Effectively blog, follow them on Facebook, and connect on LinkedIn.

Bonus #11: Putting Vicks Vaporub on your feet does not cure nighttime cough or toenail fungus (yuk). (-:

How about you? Anything to add? What’s your experience with CCL been like?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Establishing a Culture of Distributed Leadership

Here’s a guest post I wrote a few weeks ago for Right Management’s Talent@Work blog:

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Deborah Ancona, a professor of management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, wrote about a concept called “distributed leadership”.

She used the term to respond to a reader’s question: “How can a senior leader encourage junior leaders to act and make decisions when they find themselves without specific guidance? How can a junior leader know when it’s right to take charge?”

Distributed leadership is basically just what it sounds like – pushing leadership, or in most cases, the freedom to act, to others. Think of it as the opposite of “command and control”.

Based on a quick Google search, the term shows up most in the academic environment. However, Deborah does a nice job advocating the concept with historical and current examples that can readily apply to the corporate environment. She cites John Buford, a Union cavalry officer during the American Civil War, and a local leader in Haiti who took matters into their own hands rather then waiting for orders from above.

Distributed leadership sounds to me a lot like empowerment, one of the leading corporate buzzwords of the 90s, as well as delegation, a term that dates back to the 1600s. The desire for autonomy, freedom, and responsibility is not something that generation X or Y has brought to the workforce – it’s a basic human desire that leaders need to leverage.

Unfortunately, just like we all have a basic need for recognition and belonging, managers and organizations will often take a deceptively easy concept and still somehow manage to screw it up.

What does it take to “let go” as a leader? Building on the points made in the Deborah’s articles, the following conditions need to be in place:

1. The right managers.
Managers have to be willing to let go of what may have gotten them promoted in the first place – being the expert, solving problems, and making decisions. Some managers learn the importance of letting go the hard way – though overwork, burn-out, under-performing and dissatisfied teams, and failed relationships. Others – those with strong leadership potential – are more naturally inclined to manage that way. It’s the hard-core, autocratic micro-managers that will struggle with it the most and most likely either resist letting go or do it in a way that could make things even worse.

In order to establish a culture of distributed leadership, you’ll need to either hire leaders with a track record of being willing and able to let go effectively, or teach managers that are wiling to but don’t know how.

2. The right employees.
To quote Spider-Man's Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Not everybody is ready to assume great responsibility. There are some that would prefer to be told what to do. Then again, laying a responsibility on an employee that isn’t ready is another recipe for disaster.

Again, it goes back to hiring profiles, assessment, and development. Look for employees that have a track record of seeking our new and bigger responsibilities, that can handle ambiguity, and with strong problem solving and decision making skills.

In order to get someone ready to take on really big decisions, a leader has to start grooming them by giving them little decisions that gradually get bigger. Using Situational Leadership can help you determine when it’s time to provide a heavy dose of direction and when it’s time to let go.

3. The right organizational structure and systems.
A relatively flat, decentralized organizational structure, where there are fewer management layers and managers have broad spans of control promote distributed leadership. Increasing a manager’s number of direct reports makes it harder to micromanage them.

Organizations that practice distributed leadership build processes that embed leadership into the system – rather than allowing only a few at the top to lead.

4. Clear direction and values.
Without a rock-solid vision, mission, goals, and values, distributed leadership can turn into distributed anarchy and chaos. Managers at companies like Johnson & Johnson, Google, Southwest Airlines, and Wal-Mart have lots of local autonomy but make decisions within a very clear set of boundaries.

While the term “distributed leadership” may be relatively new addition to the corporate buzz-word dictionary, it seems that there may be valuable lessons from what we’ve already learned how to do: good old-fashioned empowerment and delegation.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A View from Inside the Leadership Pipeline

We make a lot of assumptions about “high potentials”, such as:

- They should be told that they are high potential
- They should not be told
- Their status should be informally implied
- If you tell them, it will be a motivator
- If you tell them, they’ll become more of a retention risk
- If you tell them, they’ll get complacent, or arrogant
- They should get more development than others
- They should get less development that others (they don’t need it as much)
- They want more responsibility
- They’ll see more responsibility as just more work
- They are great developers of others
- They don’t develop others, they’re too selfish

I’ve heard every one of these statements made about high potentials – from managers, HR, and those responsible for talent management. I may have even muttered a few of them under my breadth myself. But what about those who have been identified as “hipos” – have we ever asked them for their opinions on what being high potential means to them?

The Center for Creative Leadership did. During an eight month period from October 2007 through May 2008, information was collected from 199 participants attending CCL’s open-enrollment leadership development programs.

After having managed high potential programs and individuals for over 20 years, as well as my own direct experience as “one of them”, I found the findings to be very interesting.

Here’s a summary from CCL (you can read the full report here):

1. Respondents say formal identification as a high potential is important.
Most survey respondents (77 percent) place a high degree of importance on being formally identified as a high potential in their organization. The study showed several clear differences between high potentials who have been formally named and those who are perceived to be high potentials. Notably, only 14 percent of formally identified high potentials are seeking other employment. That number more than doubles (33 percent) for employees who are informally identified as high potentials.

2. High potentials expect more development, support, and investment – and they get it.
High potentials receive more development opportunities – such as special assignments and training as well as mentoring and coaching from senior leaders – than other employees. This is as it should be, according to the respondents: 84 percent of high potentials agree that organizations should invest more in them and other valuable talent. The extra investment is one reason why being formally recognized as a high potential is considered important.

3. High potentials feel good about their status – but it has its downside.
Survey respondents generally expressed positive feelings about being identified as a high potential by their organization. At the same time, the designation isn’t exclusively a win for those in the pipeline. For some, there is a feeling of increased pressure or anxiety around high expectations or performance; others experience frustration around the organization’s unclear intentions.

4. High potentials are more committed and engaged when they have a clear career path.
The most frequently mentioned way to increase commitment and engagement among all high potentials is to help them identify a career path. High potentials want to have a picture of where they are going and to understand next steps in terms of development, experience, and movement. In addition, as high potentials receive greater responsibility, they are also looking for greater authority to make decisions that have a significant impact on the organization.

5. High potentials help develop others.
While high potentials are the recipients of increased opportunities and investment, they are also talent developers in the organization. Many (84 percent) are actively identifying and developing potential in others. They have insight and experience that is needed for developing the next layer of high potentials, as well as the larger talent pool.

My recommendations:
We need to be careful about making policy changes based on a relatively small sample. Every organization is different, and there are no black & white, cookie-cutter answers when it comes to the management of high potentials. However, given the results of this research, as well as my own experience, I would recommend the following:

1. When choosing between full disclosure and cloak and dagger, lean towards creating as much transparency as possible. The advantages of telling them just seem to outweigh the potential risks of uncertainty. You’ll get higher engagement and commitment, better retention, and higher performance. So what’s not to like? Sure, there’s always going to be the risk of creating a little prima donna, but if that happens, I would seriously question that individual’s ability to lead.

2. Differentiate when it comes to leadership development. High potentials need it, they expect it, and the investment will give you a higher ROI than if you spread your resources around like peanut butter.

3. Expect a lot from your high potentials. Yes, it does create a certain degree of pressure, but again, they want it and will thrive on it. One of those expectations should be the development of others. I have to admit, I’ve always been a little gun-shy about asking hipos to be mentors and coaches. I’ve been concerned with putting too many demands on them, and had doubts if they would be as motivated to help others as they would themselves.
However, after reading this research and reflecting back over my own experience with high potentials, it’s going to happen anyway. People who want to get ahead and learn are going to gravitate towards high potentials. In most cases, they are all too willing to help out.

How about you? Do the research findings challenge any of your assumptions about the management of high potential talent? Do you agree or disagree on my recommendations?