Tuesday, April 26, 2011

By Popular Request: Individual Leadership Development Plan Examples

One of my most popular posts is one of the first ones I wrote back in 2008 called “How to Write an Individual Development Plan”. The post takes leaders and aspiring leaders through a six step process for identifying their development needs and creating a plan, based on best practice research, to improve their skills.

I often get asked by Great Leadership readers if I could provide them with an example of a completed plan. In fact, that’s a common request from managers I’ve worked with too. One on hand, I hate to provide an “example”, because I’m afraid too many of them will just copy the example and not put enough thought into it. On the other hand, I’ve found that is exactly how busy managers seem to learn the process best – by just showing them what a completed IDP looks like. They don’t have enough time and patience to walk through a reflective six step process, or even read my article. Go figure.

So for all of you terminally busy, impatient, and quick-study leaders, here are two examples of leadership development IDPs. One is for a middle manager, the other a team leader. They both contain some of the most typical development needs and methods I tend to see. These examples are not perfectly formatted, but you should be able to get the gist of how to write one in your own template.

Example #1: Middle Manager:

Name, position, function, location, manager, etc….

Time period: 4/2011 – 4/2012

Development Focus: Improved effectiveness in current role and preparation for potential senior leadership role.

Top 3 Strengths:

1. Functional and industry expertise

2. Financial acumen

3. Problem solving & decision making

Top 3 Development Needs:

1. Improve my ability to lead change

2. Strategic thinking

3. Cross-functional expertise

Development Actions:
Note: Some like to include development actions for each development need. I’ve found that in practice, well written development actions tend to leverage strengths and address multiple development needs.

1. Speak to my manager about my desire to lead a high level, cross-functional process improvement team. This would leverage some of my existing strengths and allow me to gain experience in leading change and strategic thinking, as well as learn about other company functions.

Timing: next week, for potential 2nd quarter project

Cost: none, just my time, others, project costs

2. Set up monthly, one hour phone calls with Joe Schmo and Jen Lopez. They’ve both had experience leading projects like this and achieved outstanding results.

Timing: start next week, schedule for rest of year

Cost: none, just my time

3. Take a course in leading strategic change. Check 3-4 university based, 3-5 day programs.

Timing: This quarter.

Cost: approximately $8-12K

4. Read the following books:
- Leading Change
- Blue Ocean Strategy

Timing: one book per month

Cost: approx. $20 each, less for e-book.

5. Take a 360 leadership assessment for further insight into my development needs. Incorporate new insights into my IDP.

Timing: complete by 6/1

Cost: $100

Example #2: Team Leader:

Name, position, function, location, manager, etc….

Time period: 4/2011 – 4/2012

Development Focus: Newly promoted, development in brand new role

Top 3 Strengths:

1. Project management

2. Influence

3. Ability to drive for results

Top 3 Development Needs:

1. Coaching and developing my team

2. Handing conflict

3. Listening skills

Development Actions:

1. Work with each of my team members to create IDPs. Be sure to use a coaching approach, asking for than telling.

Timing: Start next week, one per week.

Cost: none, just my time and team members

2. Work with my manager and _____ from HR on my own IDP; get assistance in working with my employees. Subscribe to Great Leadership blog. (-:

Timing: this week, and as needed.

Cost: none, just my time

3. Take online courses in listening skills, conflict management, and coaching.

Timing: Start this week; take one course every two weeks

Cost: Provided through company learning portal; 90 minutes each

4. Take in-house Supervisor’s Essential course

Timing: next time it is offered this year.

Cost: approximately $500, 3 days

5. Read Crucial Conversations. Practice what I learn with at least one work and one personal situation. Incorporate listening skills as well. Get feedback regarding my effectiveness.

Timing: next 3 months.

Cost: $20 for book, my time.

Of course, there are infinite scenarios for leadership development IDPs. I hope these examples (and the six step process) will give you what they need to get started. No copying though. (-:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Keys to Authentic and Effective Leadership

Here's a guest post by Larry Cole & Byrd Baggett, authors of Charisma-Based Leadership: How to Be the Leader That Everyone Wants to Follow.

Effective leaders require both technical and people skills. Sad to say, the bulk of their training has been to ensure technical success instead of honing their people skills, which will in fact ultimately determine their success. There are many reasons for this asymmetrical development that are beyond the scope of this review. But consider the irony that the number one responsibility of leaders is to develop leaders. Research shows that the way leaders treat their subordinates is the number one reason this valuable talent leave the organization.

While our book, CHARISMA-BASED LEADERSHIP, is full of tips, strategies, and exercises on how to evolve into the leader that others want to follow and to help you to effectively develop leaders, here are four topics to help steer you in the right direction.

1. Values-based working relationships. We wish we had a dollar for every time we’ve been asked, “How do I motivate employees?” The short answer is you can’t motivate anyone but yourself. Effective leaders engage in behaviors that will help followers decide to become motivated and to likewise become effective leaders.

Every leader needs to know how to create a workplace characterized by such values as trust, respect, communication, and teamwork to create peak performance. To get where you want to go, you must know how to get there. For example, how do you show employees they are valued? Through respect. Leaders typically don’t think in terms of behavioral definitions, but it’s easier than you may think. Accept each employee as an individual; ask them for their input, listen to understand that input, and the crowning jewel is using their input. Last, but certainly not least, provide recognition for a job well done.

2. Leading change. Organizational leaders are change agents. We’ve asked thousands of leaders to identify the energy systems inherent in change and not one have volunteered to do so. The critical questions are: (1) How are you going to manage them, if you don’t know what they are? (2) How are you going to teach future leaders to manage change if you don’t know? You can’t. There’s much more to change than simply telling people “Yesterday we did it that way and today we’re doing it this way.”

3. I must accept responsibility for my behavior. You’re right; it is easier to blame others for your actions. But that won’t get you very far. To maximize your effectiveness as a role model for leadership development you must accept complete responsibility for your actions. Instead of running from mistakes, use them as learning opportunities. Exhibit responsibility to improve working relationships with your direct reports and internal customers, to add value, and to live Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in this world.” Effective leaders focus on helping people be successful. Many organizational frustrations would automatically disappear if every leader lived this principle.

4. Controlling your ego. As one CEO said, “you were a person before being titled.” Charisma Based Leadership provides several suggestions to control your ego and be comfortable in your skin. A critical one is recognizing that everyone is equally important. You only havx to rxad this sxntxncx to rxalizx the importancx of xvxry lxttxr in thx alphabxt. This principle applies to everyone in your company.

Larry Cole, Ph.D., created the TeamMax® methodology that measures behavior change in real time. Byrd Baggett, CSP, works with organizations to develop authentic leaders and passionate sales teams. Cole and Baggett are the authors of the True Growth® eBook Leadership Series. Charisma-Based Leadership: How to Be the Leader that Everyone Wants to Follow shares simple yet practical insights to help readers become high-performing professionals. It features easy-to-understand strategies that can be enacted in just minutes for high payoff.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 Mistakes Every Leader Should Make (and learn from) before They Die

I was driving to work the other day and the morning show hosts were doing
a bit on a list someone created called “10 Mistakes Everyone Should Make Before They Die”. While it was a lame bit, that, along with an email from reader Tim Eyre, gave me the idea for this blog post.

It’s been proven over and over again leadership development is all about experience. We learn from job changes, stretch assignments, other people, and other more formal ways (courses, books, blogs, etc…). It’s those experiences that are the hardest – those “developmental challenges” – that we can learn the most from. Lominger calls it “developmental heat”.

A great way to assess someone during an interview is to ask about mistakes they’ve made. You’re looking for signs of self-awareness, humility, resiliency, and learning agility. The most successful people – those “A players” – can be remarkably candid and insightful about their mistakes and failures. However, the thing that sets them apart from those that just have a history of screwing up is that they always learn from their mistakes. They take a risk – fall down – pick themselves up and dust themselves off – reflect on what they’ve learned – learn new skills and behaviors, and incorporate them into their leadership repertoire.

They don’t point fingers, place blame, or make excuses – they own up and learn how not to do it again. Of course, it helps that they have a nice healthy track record of accomplishments to off-set those occasional mistakes.

I once heard an experienced manager call this “earning your scars”.

OK, so when it comes to leadership mistakes, mistakes are good, right? The more the merrier!

Here’s 10 that every leader should make and learn from:

1. Take too long to fire a problem performer. This is probably the number one regret I hear the most, from seasoned executives to new team leaders. They waited too long to take action on a poor performer. They had their head in the sand in denial, thought they could perform a miracle and save the employee, or were aware of it and just didn’t want to face it.

2. Putting too much emphasis on credentials and experience in a hiring decision and not enough on personality and cultural fit. Been there, done that. It was my very first hiring decision. Candidate A has a Master’s degree and 10 years’ experience. However, former manager warned me about a “little temper problem”. Candidate B had no degree and limited experience – but great relationship building skills and was seen as high potential. I hired A – and it was a disaster. B was later promoted to department manager. Lesson learned.

3. Not having a vision. Without a clear and compelling vision, it’s hard for teams or organizations to have a clear sense of purpose, priority, or mission. It’s just day-to-day, business as usual, and reactive. Too many new leaders overlook “the vision thing”, perhaps because it’s too intangible or misunderstood. It’s also hard to connect the dots of operational problems back to not having a vision.

4. Not managing upwards. A lot of leaders operate under the assumption that “no news is good news”, or “my performance speaks for itself” when it comes to their relationship with their hands-off or busy boss. While the autonomy may be nice, it’s important to keep your manager informed of your team’s accomplishments, and to build a solid relationship that can be leveraged when needed. It’s a bad assumption to assume your boss is aware of your good work and will be an advocate for your function when the going gets tough.

5. Overrelying on a few strengths and not paying attention to development. It’s all too easy to continue to fall back to the same handful of strengths that got you to where you are. However, without continuous development, you’ll soon stop growing and fall behind. The best leaders are always aware of their deficiencies and are always working to learn and get better.

6. Not listening. This one’s often a blind spot for leaders, and sometimes takes a two-by-four across the side of the head to get them to realize it’s a problem. Usually it’s a major screw-up as a result of not paying attention to what people are trying to tell them, some strong 360 data, turnover of key personal, or some kind of other pain that will turn them into a reformed poor listener.

7. Trying to be liked by everyone. Leaders can’t be their employee’s friends, and leading change usually means ruffling someone’s feathers. Being a leader means requires developing a thick skin and being able to take the heat without taking it personally.

8. Not asking for help. Driving around lost for hours because you’ve got too much pride to ask for directions might make a funny beer commercial, but as a leader, it can have disastrous consequences. At a minimum, it’s incredibly annoying when a leader just can’t admit when they don’t know how to do something.

9. Ignoring your peers. Some leaders make the mistake of only paying attention to their boss and employees (looking up and down), but fail to look sideways. The inability to build coalitions will prevent a leader from getting the cooperation and support needed in order to solve cross-functional problems or lead change.

10. Not seeking or being open to feedback. Two of my favorite “Good Things Bosses Believe”, from Bob Sutton: “I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me” and “Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realize it”.

Wow, that list was way too easy to write! I have no idea where they came from……

However, I’ll bet it’s incomplete. What are some other mistakes that every leader needs to make in order to “earn their scars”?

This post is brought to you by JD Edwards services from Syntax.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A BOGO Guest Post: "Champagne Test" and "Macroleading"

I couldn't decide which of these two guest posts by David Burkus to select - so I made the easy choice and picked them both. A "BOGO": buy one and get one for free. They're short reads - but I really liked them. Hope you enjoy!

Champagne Test

The other day I was involved in a huge debate over SMART objectives. This clever acronym was developed, and then grossly over-used, to describe a criteria for effective goal setting. Simply put, objectives ought to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Our argument centered around the measurable element. My debate foe argued that this meant all objectives had to have a numbered component. Whereas I argued, quite deftly, that a “Yes or No” objective counted as measurable. If you set a goal like become the top ranked office in the region, then you’re measurement is built in: you either did it or didn’t do it.

After reminding him that a “Yes or No” objective could be considered a binary numbering system, I realized the problem with SMART objectives. In an attempt to clarify goal setting, the anonymous authors of this daft acronym actually muddied the waters. Most who bow down at the alter of SMART do so only after vigorous debate about what objectives are SMART, or even what SMART stands for.

I prefer a much simpler test of valuable objectives: the champagne test.

In the champagne test, you set an objective and then test its value by asking “how will our people know when to crack open the champagne?” In essence, you ask how we know if we hit our objective. Consider one of the most renowned objectives of the past century: JFK’s 1961 call to “put a man on the moon.” One can debate whether this goal was SMART, but one can not challenge the certainty of knowing when to pop open the cork.

(Copious thanks to Chip and Dan Heath for introducing me to the concept of the champagne test.)



The other day I was listening to an interview with Henry Mintzberg, legend in management thought. Mintzberg said a plethora of things I am still processing but one thing in particular struck me. Mintzberg said it quickly and then moved on, but my mind won’t let go as quickly as he did.

“Micromanaging isn’t a dangerous as macroleading.”

There’s a near consensus that micromanaging is gone. Whether you pull from empowerment advocates, motivational models or just plain common sense, individual contributors most often want to be given the right resources, told the objective, and be left alone to work. The exception of course being in the early stages of a new work assignment, when supervision and feedback are needed as part of training. Micromanaging can cause decreased in performance and maybe even increases in turnover.

But is macroleading even more dangerous?

Mintzberg defines Macroleading as when leaders get so focused on setting strategy and vision that they remove themselves from the front lines and eventually develop a vision for the organization so out of touch that the rest of the organization fails to buy in…or worse buys in but is incapable of taking any steps toward realization. Macroleadership sets a vision and hopes that performance toward the objective may occur. Yet, if no one knows where to go, then the leader’s efforts have been futile.

Perhaps Mintzberg’s is right. Though the temptation is to stay away and not micromanaging, perhaps leaders need to get involved on the front lines, understand what’s realistic, and then begin doing all the fancy stuff we associate with top-level leadership.

What do you think: micromanage or macrolead? Which is worse?

David Burkus is the editor of LeaderLab, a community of resources dedicated to promoting the practice of leadership theory. He is the author of The Portable Guide to Leading Organizations, the newest release from LeaderLab. He can be reached at david@davidburkus.com.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

An Introduction to Assessment Centers

A reader asked me to provide a primer on assessment centers. While I’ve written a lot of posts on the topics of leadership potential, assessments, and selection interviewing, I’ve never addressed the topic of assessment centers – so thanks Rebecca - good idea!

What is an “assessment center”?

When I first heard about assessment centers for management selection, I pictured this big CIA-like campus where a potential management hire or promotion was sent to be tested, poked, prodded, and studied to determine how well they could perform. I imagined scientists in white coats, with clipboards and stopwatches, running stressed-out candidates through an exhausting gauntlet of drills until they passed out.

Sounds pretty silly, right? Well, when I actually visited and participated in my first management assessment center, that’s pretty much what happened. Except it wasn’t a big campus…just a plain office building in New York City. No white coats – the assessors wore suits. It took a day and a half….I was tested, timed, interviewed, and yes, stressed out and exhausted by the time it was over.

An assessment center is basically a series of tests, interviews, simulations, and exercises designed to predict how well a candidate will perform in a specific role. For you sports fans, think of the NFL Combine, used to assess collage players to help teams decide who to pick for the draft.

Is a center really a place or is it a thing?

A little of both. A “center” can indeed be a place where you send candidates to – run by companies who specialize in assessment methodology. Or, you can have an “in-house” assessment center, using your own trained managers or HR staff, with the assistance of an outside firm. Some companies are even offering “virtual” assessment centers, as a way to save time and money. Everything is done online with the help of technology like Skype and video-based behavioral simulations.

Who does this stuff?

There are a lot of companies that will sell you assessment center services. The ones I’m most familiar with and can recommend are Development Dimensions International, PDI Ninth House, Korn Ferry/Lominger, Right Management, and Hay Group.

One of the things to watch out for is potential conflict of interest and bias when shopping for an assessment center provider. For example, a search firm that offer assessment center-like services might be biased to come in and show you that your managers are all morons so they can come in and find you new ones. Or a training provider might want to again show you your managers lack skills so they can sell you training programs. I’m not saying they’ll all do this – the one’s I’ve recommended seem to be able to remain objective – but just be aware of it.

How expensive is it?

Unfortunately, very. This is the number one reason why many companies don’t use them and you may have never heard of them. Chances are your company didn’t use one when they hired you. (-:

Of course, prices will vary by provider, the type of position you are assessing for, and the complexity of the methodology, but for a senior level executive hire expect to pay anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000 per candidate. In-house centers and group assessments can save money, but it’s still a big investment in time.

Do they work? And are they worth it?

Yes, I believe they do. A well designed, valid and reliable assessment center can usually predict potential success in a role and minimize the chances of making a bad hiring decision. I’ve talked to enough providers, peer practitioners, reviewed the research, and have worked in companies that use them to be convinced of this.

Assessment centers have other side benefits too. Once a candidate is assessed, if hired, they can get valuable development feedback. If you train your managers and HR staff to participate in a center, they get better at assessment and selection. Finally, most candidates come away impressed with a company’s commitment to its hiring practices and perceive the process as more fair and unbiased.

However, “are they worth it” is a trickier question to answer. I’d say it depends on the importance of the position. For a C-level executive hiring decision, where a selection mistake can cost a company millions of dollars, maybe even billions, spending 12-20 grand to make a better decision sure makes sense to me.

For most other positions, I’m not so sure. There are far less expensive options that many companies might not be using that will get you a better ROI. For a management hire, I’d recommend:

1. A well designed internal development and succession planning system. By carefully grooming and observing your own pool of internal candidates, you won’t need to rely on external assessments and experts. Besides, external hires are also usually more expensive and riskier than an internal promotion.

2. A rigorous interviewing methodology. While some prefer the old behavioral based interviewing method, I love the Topgrading interviewing and selection method. Either way is far better than the seat-of-the-pants method most managers use (i.e., “what would your mother say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”).

3. Getting multiple perspectives, references, and background checks. The more data the better. Using an interview team, or selection committee, will help overcome your own biases and improve the accuracy.

4. Administer your own validated selection assessment tool. There are many, and they cost anywhere’s from $50-500. A couple that I've used and would recommend are Hogan and Caliper, but there are hundreds. You can test for personality, values (motivation), skills, and intelligence.

5. Use a competent, trusted search consultant. The best recruiters are so good at what they do, their own “sixth sense” is often more accurate than a roomful or Organizational Psychologists.

That’s my two cents on assessment centers. However, I’m certainly no expert, and my experience is limited. I’m not a professional recruiter, just a developer. How about the rest of you? What are your thoughts on assessment centers?

The April Leadership Development Carnival

The April Leadership Development Carnival is out! This month's collection of leadership development posts is hosted by the one and only HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby!

The link is right here.

Sharlyn did an awesome job sifting through over 85 submissions and selecting and organizing the best 45 posts. I was going to try to recommend a few favorites to you, but I can't - there's too many!

Happy reading.