Sunday, January 30, 2011

How to Pass the Leadership Baton

There’s no shortage of advice, research, processes, and programs that deal with developing and onboarding leaders for new roles. That’s a good thing – getting new leaders ready is critical to the success of any business. That’s one of the primary purposes of this blog.

It seems that very little has been written about how leaders should handle exiting their leadership position. Sure, you’ll find plenty lot’s of advice on resigning from a job, i.e., how to give notice, how to write a resignation letter, how to resign gracefully, etc… but I couldn’t find anything written specifically for leaders on this topic.

I believe that there are probably some unique considerations for leaders when it comes to “passing the baton”. The following list of do’s and don’ts is based on my own personal experience, and certainly isn’t exhaustive, so please contribute to the discussion with your own comments.

These guidelines are also written with the assumption that the leader is leaving on their own terms, i.e., they found a new opportunity, vs. being let go.

Do’s and Don’ts for Leaders for Passing the Baton

1. Do have at least one internal successor prepared to take over. Unfortunately, way too many leaders neglect this part of their job. It could be an ego thing, or perhaps insecurity. To me, not having prepared at least one successor is a leadership failure. Handing over the reins to someone you trust and believe in should inspire pride and a sense of accomplishment. It’s a way to ensure a continuation of whatever you’ve worked so hard to build. When your employer has to go outside to replace you, chances are, it’s not just because no one on your team is qualified – it’s probably because a change in direction is needed.

2. Do notify your manager first, and provide a formal letter. Then, work with your manager to develop an agreed upon communication plan. For leadership roles, there are organizational considerations, and the higher the role, the more important they become (i.e., investor confidence, customer relationships, etc…). Even for front-line leadership roles, there’s usually a cultural sequence and process for notifications (i.e., direct reports individually notified first, then peer managers, etc..). Once your personal notifications are given, it’s usually up to your manager to take care of the formal organizational announcement. You may want to provide your manager with details (new company, name of position, location, reason for leaving, etc…) to ensure it’s accurate. Not all companies will announce these kinds of details, but it’s better when they do, so it doesn’t sound like one of those “leaving to pursue other opportunities” notifications.

3. Don’t send out mass, impersonal notifications. Think about it…how does it feel when you get an email that’s not addressed to you? It feels like spam. Go through your contact list, and take the time to send a personal note or call those individuals you’ve developed relationships with.

4. Don’t badmouth your current company, job, manager, or co-workers. While this may seem a bit basic, I see it happen all the time at all levels. It’s just not always blatant, but the message is the same – “see ya, losers”. On the other hand, no matter how excited you are about your new role, resist the temptation to gush about it. It comes across as bragging, and again, can cause resentment amongst your co-workers. Save your enthusiasm for your family, friends, and new co-workers. Talk about the good things that you will miss and your confidence in the company’s success. Let people feel good about themselves, while at the same time be happy for you.

5. Do prepare a comprehensive transition list for your manager.

6. Don’t leave your manager a pile of problems that you’ve swept under the rug. It’s about your reputation and legacy after you leave, as well as showing respect for your manager, team, and company that’s been so good to you over the years. Tie up as many loose ends as you can. If there’s a nagging problem you’ve been avoiding, then have the courage and conviction to deal with it before you leave.

7. On the other hand, don’t use your last few weeks to get overly involved in every single thing your team is working on. I’ve seen this happen a lot – maybe it’s some kind of “nesting” urge – exiting leaders all of a sudden micromanaging every aspect of their team’s work. It's about gradually letting go, not pulling in the reins.

8. Do give “sufficient” notice. The common rule of thumb for giving notice is two weeks. However, for leadership roles, there are a lot of “it depends”. Try to negotiate a start and end date that meets the needs of your new and current employer. It’s been my experience three weeks is about right for most leadership roles. Two weeks may put your current employer in a bind. However, if you’ve prepared a successor, a smooth transition plan, and tidied up those loose ends, it may be enough. When it’s anything more than three, you’ll begin to feel like a lame duck. For as much as you’d like to think you’re indispensable, you’ll be surprised how quickly people will begin to move on. Soon, people are going to stop coming to you for decisions, meetings will start dropping off your calendar, and then it’s time to start packing.

9. Do anticipate and respond to people’s individual concerns. Your manager, team, and co-workers will probably have the following reaction: “OMG, really?! Wow, congratulations!” Then, their next thought is usually “OK, so how’s this going to impact ME?” If they don’t come right out and say it, then make it OK to have this conversation.

10. Do take the time to “be in the moment”. Transition can be a special time to reflect on your accomplishments and say goodbye to colleagues, while at the same time feeling the excitement of a new opportunity. When you leave a job, it often causes co-workers to reflect on their own careers and lives. So when someone stops by to say congratulations and/or goodbye, drop what you’re doing and take the time to connect.

11. Do offer to maintain mentoring relationships. I have a network of former managers and employees I still stay in touch with. They are a valuable source of advice, inspiration, and references. While your employees and mentees may not be interested, at least make the offer, and then be there if they do reach out to you. Leadership is about making a difference in people’s lives, and it doesn’t stop when you change jobs.

12. Don’t use this opportunity as “truth serum”. This is not the time to tell people what you really think of them, what they’ve done that’s always bugged you, or leave them with a list of flaws they really need to work on. Sure, it’s OK to keep doing your job as a leader- giving feedback, coaching, addressing performance issues – just don’t do it any differently than you normally would.

13. Don’t work on your new job on your current employer’s dime.

14. Do everything you can do to set your team members up for success. Ask them “what can I do for you before, and even after I leave?” (see #7) Then, follow-up if you can.

15. Don’t give too much advice to your successor. If there is crossover from when you leave and your successor starts, sure, it’s nice to want to set them up for success while you are handing over the torch. Just remember, there’s a time to let go of the torch, and recognize that you’re successor will have their own ideas on how to do the job.

How about you? What would you add to the list? There must be more.....

BTW…… speaking of career changes….. stay tuned, more to come soon. (-:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sixth Annual Hay Group Study Identifies Best Companies for Leadership

Speaking of rewards and recognition, I always look forward to Hay's annual Best Companies for Leadership Study. It's a leadership development practitioner's version of the Academy Awards. Yes, you can spend a lot of time disputing the research methods and looking for flaws in the "winning" companies, but I'd rather just learn from it and look for some usable nuggets. Here's the press release, along with the full list. Take a look, and leave a comment with your reaction.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – January 25, 2011Hay Group, a global management consulting firm, today released its sixth annual Best Companies for Leadership Study and Top 20 list. The study ranks the best companies for leadership around the globe and examines how those companies develop current and future leaders. This year, General Electric topped the list, followed by Procter & Gamble, Intel Corporation, Siemens and Banco Santander.

According to Hay Group’s study, all of the Top 20 companies report that everyone at every level of the organization has the opportunity to develop and practice the capabilities needed to lead others, compared to less than 70 percent of all other companies in the study. In addition, 90 percent of the Top 20 companies report that people are expected to lead regardless of whether they have a formal position of authority, compared to only 59 percent of other companies.

“The Top 20 Best Companies for Leadership are at the forefront of a significant shift away from hierarchical organizational operating models,” said Rick Lash, Director in Hay Group's Leadership and Talent Practice and co-leader of the Best Companies for Leadership Study. “Leadership in the twenty-first century is about leading at all levels; not restricting it to title. As organizations become flatter, the best leaders are learning they must check their egos at the door and become increasingly sensitive to diversity, generational and geographical issues.”

Hay Group’s study also found that the shift in organizational culture away from top-down leadership extends beyond employees at headquarters. All of the Top 20 companies encourage local leaders to participate in decisions made at headquarters, compared to 72 percent of all other companies. Similarly, 95 percent of the Top 20 companies report that ideas coming from subsidiary leaders are just as likely to be implemented as those from headquarters, compared to 76 percent of all other companies.

“This year’s Top 20 is a group of companies that are moving quickly to improve their efficiency and competitive positioning by flattening their business structures and diversifying their workforces,” added Lash. “They are adapting development tools and reward structures to equip managers with the changing global leadership skills the business environment demands, and incentivizing leaders to use these capabilities effectively.”

Other major findings from Hay Group’s Best Companies for Leadership Study include:

Innovation is formally sought and disseminated through the organization:
My company has a global steering committee that harvests local best practices and sets HR policies
Top 20: 90 percent
All Other Companies: 60 percent

Best practices for leadership development are collected from subsidiaries and then shared across this organization
Top 20: 90 percent
All Other Companies: 56 percent

Diversity is valued as a business asset:
My company actively recruits cultural minorities
Top 20: 90 percent
All Other Companies: 48 percent

Cultural diversity has helped my organization to be more effective
Top 20: 95 percent
All Other Companies: 56 percent

My company has a high proportion of women in senior leadership
Top 20: 58 percent
All Other Companies: 40 percent

Effective leaders are increasingly collaborators:
We have programs designed to develop leaders who can creatively bring together resources across different parts of this organization
Top 20: 100 percent
All Other Companies: 66 percent

Our leaders cannot avoid cooperating with each other across functions/silos
Top 20: 90 percent
All Other Companies: 69 percent

Our incentive system rewards collaboration across the business
Top 20: 90 percent
All Other Companies: 66 percent

Leadership development continues to be a priority:
This organization actively manages a pool of successors for mission critical roles
Top 20: 100 percent
All Other Companies: 66 percent

There are a sufficient number of qualified internal candidates who are ready to assume open leadership positions at all levels in my organization
Top 20: 100 percent
All Other Companies: 55 percent

Work-life balance is encouraged:
Helping employees achieve work-life balance is a priority for this company
Top 20: 95 percent
All Other Companies: 63 percent

My company has a 'family friendly' corporate culture to support employees raising children
Top 20: 95 percent
All Other Companies: 52 percent

It is easy for people to work from home in this organization
Top 20: 84 percent
All Other Companies: 43 percent

Here's the full list:

The top 20 Best Companies for Leadership
1. General Electric
2. Procter & Gamble
3. Intel Corporation
4. Siemens
5 Banco Santander
6. Coca-Cola
7.McDonald's Corporation
8. Accenture
9. Walmart
10. Southwest Airlines
11. ABB
12. Microsoft
13. PepsiCo
14. Goldman Sachs
15. Hewlett-Packard
16. Unilever
17. Cisco Systems
18. FedEx
19. Pfizer Inc.
20. BASF

About Hay Group’s Best Companies for Leadership Study:
Hay Group has researched the Best Companies for Leadership since 2005. The 2010 survey included responses from 3769 individuals and 1827 organizations worldwide. The survey was based on the organization’s response to an online questionnaire and peer nominations. Respondents that completed the survey were from 96 countries, with 26.6% from North America, 23.4% from Europe, 3.6% from the Middle East, 19.7% from Asia, 23.7% from South America, 2.6% from the Pacific, and .5% from Africa. To see the Top 20 list from 2005 through 2010, please visit the Best Companies for Leadership microsite at

About Hay Group
Hay Group is a global consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality. We develop talent, organize people to be more effective, and motivate them to perform at their best. With 85 offices in 49 countries, we work with over 7,000 clients across the world. Our clients are from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, across every major industry and represent diverse business challenges. Our focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations realize their potential.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

10 Things Boomer Managers Shouldn’t Have to Give Up

A while back I was reading a couple recent posts over at SmartBlog on Workforce about how boomers need to "botox their resumes" and learn to manage millennials.

While the posts are good, I’m even more entertained by the comments. Here’s one from an angry millennial (responding to some crotchety boomers):

“Whether you like it or not, Boomers, you are being replaced. This is called change, evolution. Don't worry though. Keep being crotchety. It will prepare you well for your upcoming retirement. Drink your cheap coffee. Plan ways to spend your social security. I'll do my best to stay off your lawn.”

OK, I’m a boomer manager, but I work with a lot of millennials – and most of my blog readers are under 30. So I think understand both sides, and can appreciate what each brings to the workforce. I like to think I’m keeping up to speed and adapting. For the most part, I’m willing to let go of the past and embrace a brave new world.

However – there’s a few things I’m NOT willing to give up as a boomer manager. These are things that are near and dear to me, I’ve worked hard for them, and if you try to take them away, I’ll fight back.

While I can’t speak for all boomer managers, here are 10 things I’d hate to give up:

1. Cheap coffee.
I can’t imagine corporate life with an endless supply of good ‘ol Joe. It’s the lifeblood of long meetings, and has proven positive health effects. I’m sorry, but I’ve tired those 5 hour energy drinks and they taste like medicine.
My team knows what makes me tick – they gave me Starbucks for Bosses Day. (-:

2. Formal business attire.
I like suits. They’re easy to buy and never go out of style. It’s easy to get dressed in the morning. I work for a company that has a formal dress code, and the Gen Y employees don’t seem to mind at all adapting to it. I have no evidence to support this, but it seems like when dress standards are lowered, other workplace standards get lowered as well.

3. My office.
Telecommuting, hoteling, and flexible work arraignments may be fine for some. For me, I’ll take my commute and showing up to the office every day (yes, I have an office with four walls and a door. I make no apologies). When I’m at work, I work, and when I’m at home, I don’t. I don’t like mixing them up.

4. Giving advice.
Yes, I try not to use phrases like “when I was your age”, or “back in the day”. However, I HAVE been around the block a few times, have made some mistakes, and have learned from them. Young, high potential employees seem to crave advice and guidance from their managers, and I’m all too willing to share it when appropriate. It’s called mentoring. It’s why I write this blog. I enjoy it and find it rewarding, so until I’m thrown out of my job or my readership dwindles to zero, I’ll keep doing it.

5. My manners.
Swearing has become acceptable in the workplace, even expected. I had to learn how to stop cussing when we had kids, so I’m not about to start doing it again just to fit in. I still open doors or give up my seat for women, and avoid crude humor.

6. My inner harmony.
For many, with age and experience comes a sense of inner harmony. I just don’t get as excited about trivial things anymore. That could be perceived by younger employees as a lack of passion or sense of urgency, but it’s not. The passion is still there, but my temper tantrum days are over. It’s been replaced with tolerance and patience.

7. My man comb.
A young lady noticed my pocket comb sticking out of my back pocket, and remarked “Oh, isn’t that cute, my grandfather used to have one of those”. Yikes! Now that was a senior moment – but I still carry it.

8. F2F meetings and training.
Hey, I’m a blogger and dedicated social networker. However, it’s no replacement for getting together with other knowledgeable and interesting people and exchanging ideas, solving problems, and building relationships. As for learning – I still like to hear from “the expert”. I find nothing wrong with a good old fashioned lecture and powerpoint, as long as it’s compelling and credible. My attention span is more than 5 minutes, and the cheap coffee keeps me alert.

9. My daily newspaper.
While not a workplace thing (more of a pre-work routine), I hope the day doesn’t come when I stumble out to my driveway in my robe and there’s no rolled up newspaper waiting for me. Yes, I love my RSS reader and online newsletters, but there’s nothing like a dirty newspaper to go with that mug of cheap coffee.

10. My performance standards.
At the end of the day, it’s all about performance. Yes, I’ll do my best to coach, develop, give recognition, empower, and provide flexibility. I’ll do that for ALL my employees, not just one generation. If you’re good, you’ll be challenged, grow, and thrive. However, I won’t tolerate anything less than top performance, regardless of age.

What do you think? What would you boomers add to the list? Is there anything here that’s making you millennials crazy, and why? Really, I’m willing to listen and change. Now get off my lawn. (-:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Without Integrity and Trust, Rewards and Recognition are Meaningless

Picture yourself at a company awards banquet. It could be for the top sales people, top district office performance, inventor of the year, leader of the year, teacher of the year, etc…

Or, it could be an industry sponsored awards dinner, like Training Top 125, Fortune Great Place to Work, CLO of the Year, Best Leadership Development Program, Best Leadership Development Blog, etc…. (my industry).

You’ve just finished up your overcooked chicken cordon bleu, and are wrestling with your conscience about whether or not to dig into that slice of cheesecake.

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, the main event. The annual winners are about to be announced.

So when the winners are named (and it's not you), and they run up to the stage to accept their awards, the person next to you leans over, and knowingly says to you:

A. “Well deserved, no surprise there, they really earned it”. You can't wait to shake their hand and congratulate them.

Or, do they say:

B. “They cheated”. You politely smile and wonder if it's true.

It doesn’t have to be an awards dinner. Maybe you’re watching the event on television…. It could be American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, the Academy awards, the Le Tour De France, or the World Series.

Heck, it could even be election results.

If the typical response is B, “they cheated”, then the award or victory becomes worthless.

Your company, industry, sport, or profession has an integrity problem. It means whatever is being counted, measured, judged, or assessed can’t be trusted.

People have learned how to game the system, fudge the numbers, and there are not controls in place to prevent it or catch it. It means there are loopholes in the system that can be exploited, and people are all too willing to do whatever it takes to gain the advantage and win at all costs.

When someone wins where there is suspect integrity, the win is hollow and they usually know it. It may as well come with an asterisk. There’s no pride or sense of achievement. That framed award on the wall is embarrassing instead of a source of pride.

It’s also not motivational for the rest of the “contestants”. They know it’s a sham, so they either decide to not bother next time, or sacrifice their own integrity in order to compete.

Rewards and recognition are supposed to motivate, inspire, and not create cynicism and mistrust.

If you think your recognition or awards program is flawed and you can’t trust the results, then put and end to it until you can figure out a way to fix it.

What to do? Start by making sure the criteria for “winning” are clear, fair, and valid. Then, establish a measurement and tracking system that accurately measures that criteria and can’t be manipulated. Or, if the assessment is more subjective, make sure the “judges” are qualified, honest, and have credibility.

Industry awards that are based solely on company submitted applications are prone to “exaggerations and rounding errors”. The information needs to be audited and verified, or the award based on industry or market data. And please – this one drives me nuts – the award sponsor should not accept – or worse, blatantly solicit – advertising or sponsorships for the award publication or event. Oh yes, it happens, and while nothing fishy may be going on, it can’t help but create suspicion or a subconscious bias.

Perhaps the most important factor in ensuring there’s no cheating in a contest is cultural. For example, in professional golf, while the rules are clear, players police themselves. Cheating is rare (even though it’s easy to) because players put a high value on integrity out of respect for the game.

At the end of the day, no perfect system of measurement, tracking, or scoring can overcome a culture that lacks integrity and trust. People can always figure out a way to beat a system. However, in a culture that’s built on a rock-solid foundation integrity and trust, the reaction when the winner is announced will always be “Well deserved, no surprise there, they really deserve it”.

Who’s responsible for creating that culture? It all comes back to great leadership, doesn’t it?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Five Questions to Test Understanding of Strategy and the Big Picture

The following guest post really struck a nerve for me. I love the opening dialog - I can't you how many times I've overheard the exact same conversation. In fact, when you see it in Dilbert, then you know it to be true.

From yesterday's (1/8/11) Dilbert comic:
Wally: "I've decided to become more of a big picture guy. Lesser minds can do the managing and implementing while I criticize them for "not getting it".
Dilbert: "So...... you want to paid for being a jerk?"
Wally: "Said the implementer".

Steve Trautman really nails it, and offers a "look in the mirror" test for executives with this guest post:

I once had an executive tell me that he had fired an employee because the employee didn’t “get the big picture.” A dialog ensued between us that went something like this:

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that you had to let Mike go. What happened?”
Executive: “He just didn’t get the big picture.”
Me: “That sounds bad. What do you mean?”
Executive: “He just didn’t get it.”
Me: “Get what?”
Executive: “The big picture.”

And so on…

You get the idea. As is often the case, what is obvious to senior leaders is not obvious to their teams. Strategy and the big picture are two concepts that often fall into this category. Top leaders nod knowingly as they discuss these concepts while others on the team are left wanting.

And the consequences are extremely costly. When strategy and the big picture are unclear, people can end up working very hard on the wrong thing, make poor decisions and even quit out of frustration. As the economy recovers, executives and their talent management teams will be dealing with onboarding new employees, as well as retention issues with their existing teams. Turnover becomes even more of a risk if strategy and the big picture are unclear. An important part of every leader’s talent management efforts must include effectively providing this baseline of information.

The questions are:

• Who is to blame when the strategy and the big picture are not clearly and universally understood? and
• What can be done about it?

When you’re a senior leader, you have an obligation to be certain that your talent management team is clear about your strategy and the big picture. If they don’t “get it,” the first place to look for the problem is in the mirror.

Luckily, the solution to this problem is pretty straightforward and we describe it in detail in our new book The Executive Guide to High-Impact Talent Management, published by McGraw-Hill.

If you’d like to know for sure whether your strategy is understood and can be executed, try testing your team’s ability to discuss the big picture. You can start by setting a standard for what you mean by “getting the big picture.” For example, you could say that if every employee in your organization could answer 5-10 questions about the strategy and sound like their own manager and their immediate teammates, then they “get the big picture.” Conversely, if they can’t answer the questions consistently, it is a measure of being out of touch with the context in which the business is being run. This works at every level from a front-line team all the way up to the C-suite. If you sound like your boss and your peers, you’re golden; if not, you’re likely out of sync.

What, then, are the questions that the team had better be able to answer and how should the executive go about ensuring this information is widely understood? Here are five examples of questions included in our new book:

1. Who are the customers or customer segments we serve, listed in priority order?

2. What are the services we provide now and which ones, if any, need to change as we implement the current strategy?

3. What is our value proposition and how does it set us apart in the marketplace?

4. Which environmental trends/issues (such as market, economic, societal, political or environmental) are important to our strategy?

5. What are three things your division is doing (and/or doing differently) to support the strategy?

Each of these big picture questions gets at the intent behind the strategy. There are right and wrong answers to these questions. Of course, the answers change when the strategy changes.

And, a superficial understanding is not enough. Good people can be working really hard on the wrong thing if their understanding of these questions is off-base. Everyone involved in talent management has to have a deep understanding of the big picture so that they can provide programs with the right mix of staff, skills, tools and processes to execute the strategy.

Regardless of your current job title, you have an obligation to ensure you can answer each of these questions (plus others as needed) for your business. If you’re a senior leader, you have an additional obligation to ensure that everyone in your reporting structure can answer these questions in a manner consistent with your expectations. So, go ahead, walk around and ask the questions. See what you learn and then take action.

Steve Trautman, author of Teach What You Know: A Practical Leader’s Guide to Knowledge Transfer, has advised executives on practical ways to hire, train, motivate, and measure employees to ensure high-impact performance—and profitable outcomes—for more than two decades. Trautman’s tested approach combines humor, street smarts, and boardroom wisdom to give today’s executives what they need to become practical leaders.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

10 Things that Keep Managers up at Night…..(and a “sleep aid” for each one)

Most of the time being a manager can be incredibly rewarding. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of helping an individual or team reach their goals and perform at their best. Managers are usually in a better position to influence and lead change. And let’s face it, in most organizations, being a manager means a better compensation package.
However, there’s a price to pay for the privilege to lead, the status, and those extra rewards and perks. Being a manager means you also have to deal with the tough issues that can cause you to lose sleep at night.

Having been a manager for over twenty years, and being in positions that involve working with managers at all levels, here’s what I’ve found to be the top ten issues that can keep a manager up at night. I’ve also included a “sleep aid” for each one.

1. Confronting a performance issue.
No doubt, this one always has been and always will be the granddaddy of all manager headaches. While they are never easy, they don’t have to be so hard. A lot of performance problems can be preventing with better selection, establishing clear expectations, regular feedback, coaching and development, and using a progressive discipline process. Yes, you’ll still need to confront poor performance, but when you do, it shouldn’t be a surprise and it’ll be the right thing to do.

2. Having to fire or lay off an employee.
There really is no sleep aid for this one. No matter what you’ve done (see #1), it’s always going to be gut-wrenching. No manager should ever get too comfortable with this responsibility.
In addition to the tips in #1, make sure you have clear polices and training for severe conduct violations. For layoffs, make sure you use a fair and consistent process, get training on how to conduct the discussion (in a respectful way), and provide a fair severance and outplacement package.

3. A tough hiring decision.
Choosing between your final candidates can be agonizing! If you choose wrong, you’re going to end up dealing with a few of the other problems on this list. The cure? Use a good selection process – DO NOT “wing it” (most managers actually do).
Get trained in selection interviewing; consider using validated selection assessments; get multiple inputs, offer realistic job previews or shadowing, and work with a good HR pro or recruiter.

4. Guilt from doing something unethical or wrong.
Here’s a preventative cure that’s served me well over the years: when making a decision, ask yourself, “How comfortable would I be reading about my decision in the newspaper the next day”? That’s a far better question than “what’s the chances of being caught”?
However, if you do screw up (and we all do), then the best thing is to come clean and own up to it. Cover-ups usually get people in more trouble than the original screw-up. Live with the consequences, learn from your mistake, and get on with it.

5. Boss confrontations.
The topic of how to deal with a bad boss would take up more space than this post allows. However, let’s assume most bosses are reasonably competent with good intentions (and they are). Bosses, and people in general, don’t like being told they are wrong. So if that’s your goal in a confrontation (to convince your boss you’re right and they are wrong), then it’s not going to be a productive discussion.
Try putting yourself in your boss’s shoes, and offer your idea as an alternative than will help them achieve their objectives. Also, listen and keep an open mind. Who knows, your boss may have information that would lead you to re-consider your idea.
Most importantly, work on establishing a foundation of trust and mutual respect with your boss. That way, you’ll be able to have disagreements in a safe and productive environment. For more on this topic, read John Baldoni’s Lead Your Boss.

6. Team member conflicts.
As managers, we all want our employees to collaborate, work as a team, and play nice in the sandbox. When one employee comes to you with complaints about another employee, it puts the manager in a “Judge Judy” position of having to arbitrate the dispute. To some degree, just like in being parent, it comes with the territory. However, a lot of team member conflict can be avoided with a hiring profile that places an importance on teamwork and collaboration, as well as clear expectations, rewards, and consequences that reinforce these expectations. Beware – don’t turn your back on the “star” performer that’s consistently ticking off their co-workers. If you do, than you’ll get exactly what you deserve – a disruptive prima donna, team turnover, and a reputation as a wimp manager.

7. Peer confrontations.
Are you starting to see a trend here? Yes, confrontations - those messy people issues - are probably the single aspect of work that keep managers up at night the most. That’s why many managers tend to avoid them. In some cases, that’s not a bad strategy (i.e., develop more tolerance, acceptance, etc…). However, when the stakes are high, avoidance is a terrible strategy. Also, not all confrontations are bad - a little constructive conflict is healthy for a team.
I’d recommend learning how to have a “crucial conversation”. It’s a must skill for any manager.

8. Having to do something important that you don’t know how to do.
It’s always a challenge when we have to leave our comfort zone and feel “incompetent” all over again. However, if you never do anything new and different, you’re not developing. The most impactful way to develop as a leader is new jobs and challenging assignments. “Learning agility” is not something anyone is born with – it can be developed over time.
When you are in a new role or doing something new, put a development plan in place to ensure your success. There are usually 2-3 “subject matter experts” that you can learn from, as well as books, courses, and online resources. Nowadays, with social networking, you can easily find someone that’s willing to help by sharing their expertise in whatever you need to learn. Great leaders are always learning, and are not afraid to admit it.

9. Losing a star performer.
Don’t wait until your star performer shows up with an offer letter. By then, it’s too late. Make sure your “A players” are paid what they are worth, are challenged, supported, and are learning. Let them know you care and how much you appreciate them.
Keep in mind, star performers will eventually get promoted or leave for better opportunities. That’s OK, that’s the rewarding part of being a great leader (as long as they are leaving for the right reasons, not because they’re dissatisfied).

10. Burnout.
Take care of your health and always keep a perspective on the things in life that really matter. Managers that don’t take vacations are not benefiting from the opportunity to recharge their batteries. They also set terrible examples for their employees, which can lead to burning them out as well.
A primary cause of burnout is job satisfaction, not hard work. If you’re doing something you truly hate, then make a plan to transition to something else. Life is too short… we don’t need to settle for a job we hate. There are always choices.

How about you? What keeps you up at night as a manager?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The January 2nd Leadership Development Carnival New Year's Edition

Welcome to the January edition of the Leadership Development Carnival, New Year's Edition!

With the holidays slowing us down a little, this month's edition may not have as many posts, but they sure are outstanding ones. It's an eclectic mix.... some reflections, predictions, "best of" lists, and the usual sage collection of leadership questions, advice and wisdom.

I put out a Tweet for submissions this time, so there's a few new contributors. While I tend to favor the "old" standbys (in blogging years, anything over 3 years years is reaching "classic" status), it's always interesting to see what a new leadership-themed blogger has to say.

The New Year is a great time to reflect on who we want to be as leaders, where we are, and what we are willing to commit to learn and change. I'd encourage you to use this month's Carnival as a catalyst to kick-off that process.

To start off, are you looking for something that will stretch you as a leader in 2011? Scott Eblin has been finding some Leadership Lessons in Yoga. Don't roll those eyes.... Scott knows what he's talking about, and has a knack for finding leadership lessons in the world around us. See for yourself, with Leadership Lessons from Yoga posted at Next Level Blog. Join Scott for a free teleseminar on Charting Your Course for 2011 with a Life GPS®.  It’s on Jan. 13.  Register here.

Remember Tom Hanks declaring "There's no crying in baseball"? When is it proper for leaders to show emotion? William Powell of The Leadership Advisor explores various opinions and prejudices on that very subject. Mike Henry Sr. contributes There's No Crying in Leadership posted at Lead Change Group Blog.

Jennifer Miller offers us her most popular post of the year, and asks if people really care about leadership development, or if they just can't resist a free offer. For me, the answer is both. (-:
Check out her list of 25 free leadership development resources, at Do People Care About Leadership Development? posted at The People Equation.

Here's something for all managers to think about..... what's the best way to "help" your employees? Mary Jo Asmus says it's not by solving their problems for them. She explains why, in Help Them to Think posted at Mary Jo Asmus.

Business leaders and management writers bemoan the lack of execution but there's no problem getting executives to conduct planning sessions and planning reviews. It's not really hard to understand why that is. Wally Bock provides an answer to the question with Why People would Rather Plan Than Execute, at  Three Star Leadership.

Lynn Dessert offers more tips on getting things done with how to Establish accountability in your personal plan posted at Elephants at Work.

Here's are some great questions for all leaders to ponder.....

From Bret Simmons: Are We Engaged Yet?  posted at Bret L. Simmons - Positive Organizational Behavior.

Linda Fisher Thornton gets us thinking about ethics with Ethical Thinking: 5 Questions to Ponder for the New Year posted at Leading in Context LLC.

Benjamin McCall asks Silver Bullet? Who should you look to for Answers? posted at ReThinkHR - (ReThink Human Resources).

Kathy C asks What is Succession Planning? posted at The Thriving Small Business.

Nissim Ziv asks Why do you want to be a Leader? posted at Job Interview & Career Guide.

These bloggers offer answers to some of the most important leadership challenges we all face:

Thinking about becoming a more influential leader in 2011? I sure am. Steve Roessler gives us five ways to bump up your game with Five Ways to Boost Your Influence posted at All Things Workplace.

Not many think of learning to cope as a critical leadership competency. Miki Saxon tells us why it should be in Leadership's Future: Coping posted at MAPping Company Success.

Michael Lee Stallard writes about the importance of Overcoming Leadership Myopia posted at Michael Lee Stallard.

Giving and getting recognition is the theme of these next three posts.

Tim Porthouse gives us 4 powerful ways to say "Thank You" at work: 4 Thank Yous On Steroids | Zealeap posted at Zealeap.

In this ten-minute "Management Tips Podcast" Chester Elton, co-author of The Orange Revolution, explains why recognition is “The Great Communicator” and how we can get better at delivering it. Nick McCormick presents Recognition: The Great Communicator posted at Joe and Wanda on Management.

Can't take a complement? Art Petty tells us  How to Appropriately Respond to Positive Praise posted at Management Excellence. Hey Art, you're one of my favorite leadership bloggers and an all around great person and friend. Can't wait to read your new Leadership Caffeine book! Gee, maybe I learned something.

More great leadership advice:

David Burkus presents another Bret Simmons piece The Importance Of Working With People You Like from his LeaderLab. Yes, I sometimes allow two posts from the same blogger if it's on a different blog. And besides, it's from Bret Simmons, nuff said.

The award for the longest blog title goes to Michael Cardus for Reverse Peter Principle: within a hierarchy tasks tend to be delegated until they have descended to the employees level of incompetence posted at Create-Learning Team Building & Leadership Blog. Whew!

For some tips on getting creative, take a look at Bob Lieberman's Framing Leadership Challenges posted at Cultivating Creativity – Leadership Development for the Creative Economy and Mike King's 7 Quick Ways to Boost Your Creativity posted at Learn This.

Putting a team together sure can be puzzling. Tanveer Naseer asks Are You Fitting Employee Personality Into Your Leadership Puzzle? posted at, and Gregory Farley tells us how to create a real team, vs. a group on individuals, with The puzzle pieces posted at Voices of Leadership.

And this one from Kevin Eikenberry, Leadership is about Engagement, from Leadership & Learning.

Here are some posts that explore the more personal and spiritual side of leadership. Go on, take a few moments to dig deep.....

Susan Finerty writes about The beauty of iteration posted at Leadership Mutt (I love the blog name!).

Becky Robinson (in her new blog) gives us A Bright Thread of Grace  posted at Becky Robinson Weaving Influence.

Erin Pavlina presents Cultivating Command and Leadership posted at Erin Pavlina - Spiritual Wisdom for Conscious People.

Anne Perschel gets at the heart of leadership with Touching The Heart of Coaching posted at Germane Insights.

Glen Madden presents New leaders legacy list posted at MissionLogs.

We can't have a New Year's Carnival without "best of" lists and New Year's predictions:

Sharlyn Lauby serves up A Bartender's Predictions for 2011 posted at HR Bartender.

Alice Snell gives us an encore with Taleo’s Top Ten for 2011 posted at Taleo Blog - Talent Management Solutions.

More HR predictions from Bruce Lewin, with Reviewing Predictions for HR posted at Four Groups' Blog.

Erik Samdahl weighs in with The Top 10 Talent Trends of 2010 posted at Productivity Blog.

Mark Stelzner, next month's Carnival host, not only gives us his HR predictions for 2011, he grades his list for 2010, with 2011: The Year of Reactionary HR posted at Inflexion Point.

We'll wrap it up with a New Year's Wish from Bill Matthies posted at Business Wisdom: Words to Manage By.

Hope you enjoyed this month's edition. I wish you all the best in 2011!