Wednesday, November 30, 2011

10 Tips on How to Deliver a Great Concurrent Session

Conferences are a great way to learn some new best practices, expand your network, and hopefully come away energized with lots of new ideas to implement back on the job.

There are usually two types of sessions at a conference – general sessions and concurrent sessions. The general sessions are the ones where you don’t have a choice, so everyone attends. Concurrent sessions are placed before and after the general sessions, to give participants the opportunity to pick and choose the sessions that best suit their interests. Sometimes, conference organizers set up their concurrent sessions in themed tracks.

In the pecking order of speakers, general session speakers, often referred to as “keynotes”, are the alpha dogs of speakers. They are the ones on the front page of the conference website and brochure, get to sit at a special table, and often get paid for their presentation. While there’s been plenty written about how to deliver a speech just like Steve Jobs, most of us will never have an opportunity to do a keynote.

There are far more opportunities to deliver at conferences as a concurrent speaker. While lower conference status than keynotes, there are still a lot of benefits. You usually get a free conference registration, get a special name badge, you get to share your expertise with others, and it makes it easier to meet people and network (“hey, Dan, I loved your presentation on how to use a nine-box”).

I’ve never been able to find much on how to deliver a great concurrent session, but I’ve done a fair number of them and learned by trial and error. I’ve also sat through enough outstanding and horrible ones to get a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. 

So with that as a long-winded intro, here are 10 tips on how to deliver a great concurrent session:

1. Don’t oversell your expertise.
It’s assumed that if you’re asked, or if you submit a proposal to present, then you have deep expertise in some area that others can learn from. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If you are asked to present on a topic that you would not feel comfortable in calling yourself an expert, than turn it down. If you don’t, participants will be disappointed; you’ll hurt your reputation, and be shunned at the networking receptions.

Tip: come up with a session title that has a little pizzaz, yet accurately describes your session.

2. Present – don’t “facilitate”.
When I hear a presenter open their session by saying something like “Well, I’m certainly no expert in this topic, but gee, I’ll bet we have a room full of expertise, and my job will be to create an environment for the next hour to share that knowledge” - I just want to set my hair on fire and run from the room. Don’t even grab a handout, just hustle down to your second choice and hope you can get a seat. I’ve seen professional trainers to this with good intentions. Yes, while participant involvement is a must in an all-day training program, in typical 60-90 minute concurrent session, participants have come to hear from YOU. If they were experts, they wouldn’t have come to your session. Please, no breaking the room up into groups to answer their own questions. I’m not saying a well-placed, quick 5 minute exercise isn’t a good idea; just don’t overdo it at the expense sharing your own expertise.

3. Know your audience.
Yes, “know your audience” is a presentation skills 101 cliché, but for some reasons, I’ve seen way too many concurrent session speakers not tailor their content to the needs of their audience. If I’m doing a session on succession planning for CPA firms, then I’m at least going to take the time to interview a few CPAs and look up some good accountant jokes. Not being paid is not an excuse for lazy preparation – your audience deserves nothing but your best.

4. it’s not a sales presentation.
I like to hear a little about the speaker’s background – it’s good for credibility and context. However, anything more than a few minutes begins to feel like an infomercial. I’m also OK with a quick mention of a book, website, or blog at the end, as long as it’s quick. I realize that at conferences, we are all selling something. Just let your tips and best practices do your selling for you, there will be plenty of time to hand out business cards and autograph books after the session.

5. Play nice with the conference planners.
Conference planners usually send speakers specific instructions, checklists, deadlines, and forms. Take the time to read them and comply with their requests. One of my pet peeves: speakers who don’t submit their presentation material in time to have it included in the conference notebook.

6. Show-up.
Please don’t tell me about your long flight or late night karaoke session at the bar – I don’t care. Suck it up, gulp down some coffee or an energy drink, and give me your best for 60-90 minutes. The presenter should never come across as more bored than the participants. Hey, I once drew the 7:00am track at a conference in Vegas – day three, no less! The handful of sleepy participants that showed up rated it as one of the conference’s highest rated sessions. Bring your A game, and nothing less.

Tip: Don’t stand behind the podium tethered to a microphone – request a lavalier, or lapel microphone, to give you the freedom to move around.

7. Save time for questions… at the end.
Plan – and rehearse your presentation to ensure there is time for 10-15 minutes for questions at the end. While a few questions are OK during the session, too many run the risk of satisfying a few at the expense of the many. If a participant asks a question that you know you’ll get to later in the presentation, don’t be afraid to say “Great question, and I plan to address that in about 10 minutes. If I don’t answer your question then, please let me know”.

Tip: The first few minutes are also critical - you need to convince participants why they shouldn't grab a handhout and bail on your session to head out to the pool to work on thier tans.

8. Arrive early and stay late.
Get to the room early to load your slides, check equipment, straighten out the room, and greet participants. Stick around after your presentation- these are often the particpants that have an individual question that they didn't want to bother the enitre group with. You should be honored that they are waiting around to ask you. If there is a line of participants waiting to talk to you, then you know your session hit the mark!

9. Get feedback.
Ask a few participants for feedback and make sure you get a copy of the evaluations from the conference planners. Even better if you can buddy up with another presenter to give each other feedback. If you're really brave, ask them to record it on your smart phone camera. Getting candid feedback is the only way I’ve learned not to repeat some bone-headed mistakes.

10. Enjoy yourself!
If you treat doing a presentation as if it’s a root canal, then your participants will feel your pain as well. Smile, laugh (at yourself), and enjoy your moment in the sun! If you’ve having fun and enjoying yourself, then chances are, participants will as well.

For a related post, see How to Rock as a Panelist.

How about you? Any dos and don’ts to share when it comes to doing a concurrent session?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 Keys to Effectively Communicating Appreciation in the Workplace

Guest post by Paul White:

As I travel around the country to consult for businesses and organizations, I hear the same message over and over—both from leaders and from their employees: “People are getting burned out. We have to do more work with less people, making do with the budget that we have,” or, “We need to do something to show our workers appreciation but funds are tight.” Burn-out is the common theme, as people in the workplace express that they are becoming more negative, cynical, and discouraged.

Research confirms that there are serious problems developing in the workplace today:

• 65% of workers say they have received no recognition or appreciation in the past 12 months.

• While 80% of large corporations have employee recognition programs, only 31% of their employees say they feel valued for doing good quality work.

• The #1 reason for recognition in most workplaces is longevity (how motivating is that?).

• Only 8% of employees feel their top management cares about them personally.

• 70% of employees are either disengaged or under engaged in their work.

• Yet only 21% of these workers are looking for work elsewhere, meaning approximately 50 % of the workforce are just passively enduring work they don’t enjoy.

The workplace environment needs to change for the better, and leaders can change the course. Unfortunately, many managers’ efforts to appreciate their staff are misguided and wind up being a waste of time and effort. Why? Because they are not built upon the core principles necessary for appreciation to be communicated effectively.

Make your praise specific and personal. The most common mistake organizations and supervisors make is communicating appreciation that is general and impersonal. Sending blast emails with the message, “Good job. Way to go, team!” has no specific significance for the individual who stayed late to get the project completed. Use your colleague’s name and state specifically what he or she does that makes your job easier.

Realize that action can be more impactful than words for some employees. Some people (seemingly, often men) do not value verbal praise, holding to the mentality that words are cheap. For these people, compliments are viewed with disbelief and skepticism, and sometimes verbal praise is understood as an act of manipulation. Actions are more effective to show appreciation for these individuals, such as spending time with them at the office or helping to get a task done.

Use the language of appreciation valued by the recipient. Not everyone likes public recognition or social events. One leader told me, “You can give me an award but you’ll have to shoot me first before I’ll go up and get it in front of a crowd.” And for many introverts, an invitation to attend a staff appreciation dinner is more like torture than a reward for doing a good job. They may prefer getting a gift card for a bookstore and staying at home and reading. Find out what your co-workers or employees value and communicate in that language.

Separate affirmation from constructive criticism or instruction. If you want the positive message to be heard loud and clear, don’t follow your affirmation with a “Now, if you would only…” message. Don’t offer a compliment followed by a criticism of how the individual could do better. They will only remember the constructive criticism, and may not even hear the positive.

Be genuine. Don’t try to fake it or overstate your appreciation (“You are the best administrative assistant in the free world!”). People can sense when appreciation is obligatory or contrived.

In my business consulting practice, I have seen these simple principles of appreciation successfully improve workplace environments previously suffering from a bad case of burn-out. Appreciation has the ability to transform any team—whether in public schools, medical facilities, manufacturing firms, universities, restaurants or financial firms. Give it a go – it is worth it!

Author Bio:
Dr. Paul White is a business consultant and psychologist, and is the coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman. For more information, go to

About the Book: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace applies the “love language” concept of New York Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, to the workplace. This book helps supervisors and managers effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their employees, resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction, healthier relationships between managers and employees, and decreased cases of burnout. Ideal for both the profit and non-profit sectors, the principles presented in this book have a proven history of success in businesses, schools, medical offices, churches, and industry.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Leaders Should Be Competent – But Not Too Competent

Guest post from David C. Baker. Does a manager/leader need to be really good at what they manage? I would say for some professions, like sales, they do. What do you think? 

After interviewing more than 10,000 employees at 600+ companies, you start noticing patterns in effective leaders. Recognizing these patterns is a crucial step for first-time (and long-time) managers, as I’ve written about in Managing (Right) for the First Time.

One of the more surprising patterns is the level of competence that a leader should possess. Leaders only need a basic level of competence. Just enough to understand the issues and evaluate talent.

Leaders should not be the most technically competent of the group they are leading. If they are, it may be a sign that they have hired helpers instead of experts. It could also mean that they were promoted for the wrong reasons. They might have been a very good “doer,” but perhaps not the best “manager.”

There is one thing leaders should be competent at: leading. That is their job. Leaders should know just enough to be dangerous about the subject they are managing. How can you know if you’ve crossed the boundary into over-competence? Ask yourself:

• Is there anyone you are managing that you don’t trust to do something they have been hired to do? If so, why?

• When you are reviewing work, do you spend more time nitpicking or focusing on the big picture?

• When you are interviewing new talent, are you actively seeking out people that are smarter than you in a given area?

Let’s face it: all over the world you can find well-run companies whose leaders are managing others who are far more competent than they are. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A well-run company is a well-run company.

Author Bio
David C. Baker lived in Guatemala until he was 18 and now lives in Nashville, TN. In addition to owning a thriving management consulting practice, ReCourses, David is a frequent speaker and author. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Inc. magazine, BusinessWeek, and dozens of other national publications. He enjoys travel, racquetball, photography, and flying airplanes and helicopters.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Learn to “Act” like a Leader

Like it or not, “presence” is an important competency for any leader. You know it when you see it – a leader with presence exudes self-confidence, is self-assured, can be passionate about their beliefs, commands attention, communicates well, and makes people around them feel better and more self-assured.

Regardless of where you stand on the presidential candidates, it’s clear that Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan had it, while Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter did not. Presidential presence or lack of is often exposed in the harsh glare of televised debates, and as Richard Nixon found out in the 1960 presidential elections, it can make or break a candidate.

One of the reasons Reagan had such a strong stage presence was that he was trained as an actor. Leading executive development programs have long been incorporating acting lessons into their programs and/or follow-up coaching.

Don’t get me wrong – leadership isn’t about being phony, or misrepresenting yourself. Authenticity is even more important, as people won’t follow someone they don’t believe. However, it’s a shame when a lack of stage presence gets in the way of a potential leader’s other strengths and ideas.

Given everyone may not want to take the time or spend the money to take acting lessons, here are five acting techniques you can begin to work on to improve your leadership presence:

1. Pay attention to your “entrance”. People form immediate and lasting impressions based on how you enter a room, your physical characteristics, and the first few words that come out of your mouth. Think about the impression you want to leave people with, and create a vision for your entrance. Will it leave the impression you want to create? Shaking hands (firmly) and introducing yourself to each person (with a smile) in the room is a great way to connect with people and create that instant, lasting impression.

2. Delivery of your “lines”. Pay attention to your verbals (volume, tone, speed, choice of words, articulation) as well as your non-verbals (gestures, posture, facial expressions, movements). Your delivery needs to support and align with your message, or people won’t hear what you have to say.

3. Know your lines. Smooth, articulate delivery won’t help if you don’t know your subject matter. You need to be confident, knowledgeable, and really know what you’re talking about, or you’ll lose credibility. Don't ever let this happen to you!

4. Engage your audience. Actors know how to connect and relate to their audience. You feel like inviting them into your living room to have a beer or a cup of coffee. Engaging your audience means inviting them to participate, asking questions, listening, and making them feel good about their involvement.

5. Exit, stage left. Knowing how to leave is almost as importance as your entrance. Remembering people’s names, their questions or concerns, summarizing follow-up commitments, re-emphasizing your key messages, and your physical posture are all important components of a strong exit. You want to be seen riding off into the sunset, not slipping out of the room like you just committed a crime.

Are there any actors out there? What other stage skills could aspiring leaders add to their repertoire?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Multi-Tasking: Is It Worth It?

Here's a guest post from one of my regulars, Beth Armknecht Miller. It's great advice - what a simple yet powerful way to improve your leadership effectiveness and relationships!

Multi-Tasking: Is It Worth It?

You see it at work. You drop by an employee’s workspace to discuss a current project and she continues to work on the computer while you are having the discussion. How do you feel as the person continues to “multi-task”?

Alternately, you are at home and your spouse is in the kitchen preparing dinner or loading the dishwasher. You start a conversation with him or her and they continue on with their task at hand while conversing with you. Did they really understand what you said? Did they really hear you?

So, you do see the behavior. Do you also find yourself part of this multi-tasking phenomenon? Multi-tasking, for many people in this ever changing and demanding world, has become a badge of pride. I can’t tell you how many executives I have worked with who actually believe that multi-tasking increases their productivity.

It Doesn’t Increase Productivity

Yet, research shows just the opposite. Back in 2001, in the article "Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching," found in the Journal of Experimental Psychology - Human Perception and Performance, Vol 27. No.4, Joshua S. Rubinstein of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and David E. Meyer and Jeffrey E. Evans of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan conducted a study which “revealed that for all types of tasks, subjects lost time when they had to switch from one task to another. Because time costs increased with the complexity of the tasks, it took significantly longer to switch between more complex tasks. Time costs were also greater when subjects switched to tasks that were relatively unfamiliar.”

In a 2007 New York Times article, Jonathan B. Spira, an analyst at the business research firm Basex, estimated that extreme multitasking costs the U.S. economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity.

And a recent (September 2009) article from the Harvard Business School (HBS) references another study from Stanford University that supports the 2001 study. This article also suggests that while single-tasking is probably not totally practical in the 21st century, we should instead consider focusing on the value of each task, rather than focusing on the number of tasks to be completed.

Multi-Tasking Effects on Interpersonal Relationship

And even if you don’t believe this scientific evidence which shows that multi-tasking does not save you time, think about the other effects it has. What message are you sending to the people with whom you are multi-tasking? They probably wonder what is more important than the discussion they are trying to have with you. They may even think that you are just being rude.

I agree with the HBS conclusion that it is difficult to move to single-tasking, BUT only when the multi-tasking does not involve interpersonal communications with another individual.

So how can you change your multi-tasking behavior when you are confronted with someone wanting your attention?

Set aside time during each day when you will not multi-task. At this time focus on only one task or one person. When someone approaches you for a conversation and you are in a time crunch, let the individual know either, that you only have a specific amount of time to speak due to a work-related deadline, or offer them the opportunity to come back at the specific time you have set aside each day for single-tasking. This is the time when you can give them your undivided attention. However, if you do have time to speak with them when they first approach you, then turn away from your computer and put your PDA and cell phone on silent so you aren’t tempted to multi-task.

Giving your employees, team members, family, and friends your undivided attention during an important conversation will build stronger relationships by increasing understanding, decreasing stress, and increasing respect. Managing multi-tasking will also increase your productivity and will model appropriate behavior to other employees. With these benefits in mind, what’s keeping you from starting to manage your multi-tasking behavior?

Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit  or or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The November 2011 Leadership Development Carnival

Welcome to the November 6, 2011 edition of leadership development carnival!

There's no theme this month, no cute nicknames, no commentary, just a straightforward list of 45 of the best posts submitted for your reading pleasure. Actually, it's supposed to be a beautiful Fall day here in New England, and the Carnival host is anxious to head over to the Maine seacoast for some seafood with Mrs. Great Leadership, so something had to give. The fried clams won.

I've had readers ask "Why so many? Could you pare it down for us?". I actually do, the ones that make the cut are all relevant, recent, and looked interesting to me at least - about 50% of the submitted posts on average. I always include the regulars, those that have been submitting posts for years and I know they will come for us. With each edition, there's always a handful of new contributors, and I like to give them some exposure.

Honestly, I don't expect most readers would ever try to read them all. It's meant to be more of a menu - organized in a way that you can pick and choose based on author, blog name, subject title, and a "teaser" line if the author provided one. Hmmm, do I go for the clam strips, the lobster roll, chowdah, or all three? When in doubt, try 'em all!

We'll kick off the Carnival with posts from last month's host, Lynn Dessert, presenting Leading with your Strengths posted at Elephants at Work;

and next month's host, Kevin Eikenberry, presenting Four Steps to Making a Complex Decision posted at Leadership and Learning with Kevin Eikenberry, saying, "As leaders, we need to be decisive and forward-moving. This post offers four steps you can try when making a complex decision."

Anne Perschel presents Bold Because You Can Lead. Humble Because You Did Not Create the Leader posted at Germane Insights, saying, "Can a leader be bold and humble at the same time? I think so. In fact, I think it's what's called for. Here's why and how."

Gwyn Teatro presents How to Make Performance Appraisals Unnecessary posted at You're Not the Boss of Me.

Tanveer Naseer presents Are Your Employees Mad As Hell and Not Going to Take It Anymore? |posted at

Wally Bock presents The Joy of Helping posted at Three Star Leadership, saying "The best bosses revel in helping others succeed".

Mark Stelzner presents Two Easy (And Legal) Ways to Gather Competitive Intel posted at Inflexion Point.

Michael Lee Stallard presents Develop the Heart of a Champion posted at Michael Lee Stallard.

William Matthies presents Instead, How About . . . posted at Business Wisdom: Words to Manage By, saying, "Part of executive development is recognizing the development that has already occurred."

Guy Farmer presents Soft Skills Training and Foundation Building posted at Unconventional Training.

Jennifer Miller presents Tag-Team Workplace Coaching posted at The People Equation saying "This is a story that shows that sometimes the best workplace coaching comes from someone other than a person’s boss".

Janna Rust presents Procrastination and Productivity posted at Purposeful Leadership, saying, "What are you procrastinating with right now? Have you ever thought about how it affects you? Read on to learn how procrastination might be killing your productivity."

John R. Turner presents Lewin and Historical Traces to Change Management posted at JohnRTurner_HPT_resource.

Linda Fisher Thornton presents Leaders & Social Media: 5 Reasons to Engage posted at Leading in Context LLC.

Bob Lieberman presents The Can-Do Attitude posted at Cultivating Creativity – Developing Leaders for the Creative Economy.

Jesse Lyn Stoner presents Be the Boss You?d Like to Have posted at Jesse lyn Stoner Blog.

Jim Taggart presents The Rise of Tiger Business Women posted at ChangingWinds, saying, "At present rates, it will take about 150 years before women and men are equally likely to reach middle management. And a century and a half is an eyeblink compared with the eternity it would take to achieve this benchmark in senior management"

S. Chris Edmonds presents Three Steps to a Bully-Free Workplace posted at Driving Results Through Culture

Mike Henry Sr. submitted Leaders: Your emotions are contagious - Lead Change Group posted at Lead Change Group Blog, saying, "Author Christina Haxton makes a great case for how a leader's emotions affect the entire team. She also provides a practical 4-step process to make a change in your attitude."

Bret L. Simmons presents Inner Work Life posted at Bret L. Simmons.

Mary Jo Asmus presents Letting Go of Your Need to be Right posted at Mary Jo Asmus.

David Burkus presents Freedom to Fail posted at LeaderLab, saying, "this post explores how good leaders give their team freedom to fail."

Sharlyn Lauby presents Abdicating Your Leadership Role posted at hr bartender, saying, "There's a big difference between delegating and abdicating."

Jane Perdue presents Go ahead - try something new! posted at Get Your Leadership BIG On!

Ben Brabyn presents Leadership as storytelling - how narratives bond teams posted at Ben Brabyn, saying, "How leaders can use storytelling to bond high performing teams."

Art Petty presents Art’s Weekly Leadership Message: Step Up to Cure Effective Dialogue Deficit Disorder posted at Management Excellence

Guy Harris presents Three Power Phrases to Disarm a Verbal Aggressor posted at Guy Harris: The Recovering Engineer, saying, "How do you respond to coworkers or colleagues when they are verbally aggressive? Here are three phrases that might help."

Heather Stagl presents Six Roles of a Leader During Change posted at Enclaria LLC.

Michael Cardus presents Planning; Nothing Magical Just Your Work posted at Create-Learning Team Building & Leadership Blog, saying, "Within all parts of your work YOUR knowledge and thinking must be part of the plan. No technology or rote process can give you the “correct” plan – BUT a solid process for planning can guide you to the best plan for your team and you. A plan is a judgment about the best way to go about achieving an intended goal."

John Hunter presents Rethinking or Moving Beyond Deming Often Just Means Applying More of What Dr. Deming Actually Said posted at Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog, saying, "This post takes a look at how Dr. Deming's ideas apply to management issues today."

Eric Pennington presents The Role of the Corporate Rebel posted at Epic Living - Leadership Development Career Management Training Executive Life Coaching Author, saying, "In this post, Eric Pennington, articulates the importance of the corporate rebel and how they should be imbraced. The post also points to the brilliant work of Lois Kelly."

Miki Saxon presents Entrepreneurs: Responses to “What Do You Say?” posted at MAPping Company Success, saying, "Longer term focus or more expedient approach? Although participants were all startup founders the discussion and conclusions are applicable to any manager who hires."

David Zinger presents The 10 Things Managers Must Do to Increase Employee Engagement posted at Employee Engagement Zingers, saying, "Very popular post on 10 actions based on evidence that managers can take to increase employee engagement"

Nick McCormick presents Managers, Brainsteer Your Way to Breakthrough Ideas posted at Joe and Wanda - on Management, saying, "Managers are always on the look out for new ideas. Shawn Cyne, Author of Brainsteering, tells us to forget the brainstorming. It’s much more effective to direct our creative energy by Brainsteering. Listen in to the Management Tips podcast find out more."

Adi Gaskell presents Keeping in touch with ex companies posted at Adi Gaskell says..., saying, "An article on the importance for both ex-employees and their previous employer of keeping in touch through corporate alumni networks."

Erin Pavlina presents How To Handle Public Criticism posted at Erin Pavlina - Spiritual Wisdom for Conscious People.

Utpal Vaishnav presents Know how to walk first, running comes later. posted at Utpal Vaishnav, saying, "If the piece of music isn’t right, it doesn’t matter what else you do, you cannot perform in the live show. Practice matters. More important is: right kind of practice."

Dana Theus presents Business Leaders – What Don?t Your Employees Tell You? posted at Reclaiming Leadership, saying, "If you're not hearing the truth from your employees, who are you hearing it from? To get them to speak the truth, be willing to hear it."

Lahesha Williams presents 8 Tips on Improving Your Chances for a Promotion posted at Career Help For Christians, saying, "It's never too early to think about promotion. In today's job market you need to be ambitious and driven if you don't want to get pushed out by others who spot gaps that could have been filled by you."

Lakshman Rajagopalan presents What can you do about a culture of Mistrust… posted at Learning Curves.

Lyn Boyer presents Healing the Wounds of Change posted at, saying, "this blog deals with what leaders can do to recognize and deal with fear of and resistance to change."

Henry Mukuti presents 5 Qualities of leaders and motivators part 1 posted at standout tall and be counted.

Sean Glaze presents What Emergency Brake Does Your Team Need To Let Go Of? posted at Lead Your Team, saying, "Team leadership Involves helping your team to identify the baggage that they need to let go of in order to become more productive together..."

Lisa Kohn presents There is no try, only do. There is no do, only be. posted at The Thoughtful Leaders Blog, saying, "How many of us have heard, "There is no try, only do"? Lisa Kohn of Chatsworth Consulting Group adds one more element to that famous phrase and talks about the importance of "BE" instead of "DO"."

Rebecca Kearley presents This assault on workers rights will kill innovation | Professional Manager posted at Professional Manager.

Anadi Upadhyaya presents Is there a magic pill to fix behavioral issues at work? posted at TalentedApps, saying, "Just having a right prescription is not enough until you put it into action."

Nick Thacker presents Productivity 101: Every Time You Sit Down, Make Something Happen posted at Nick Thacker, saying, "A simple concept for getting more done in the day-to-day life of a business professional."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Leadership Development Carnival using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

Friday, November 4, 2011

10 Reasons NOT to do Succession Planning

Succession planning is the systematic assessment and identification of individuals to fill key leadership positions that may or will open up sometime in the future. It’s otherwise known as “what do we do if so and so gets hit by a bus or wins the lottery”.

I’ve listened to speakers and authors say that it’s imperative that every organization do succession planning. But should they? I can think of at least 10 reasons why you should not, starting with…..

1. You have a high performing organization with a deep bench of talent.
While I’ve actually never talked to a CEO or HR VP that was fortunate to be in this position, but in theory, it’s possible, right? I hope there aren’t too many of these, or I’ll be out of a job.

2. It’s not on your top ten list of business of business priorities or top five list of HR priorities.
Succession planning (and development) takes a lot of effort and commitment in order to generate a worthwhile ROI. A half-assed, watered down check-off-the-boxes effort will actually do more harm than just not doing anything at all. Organizations can only focus on a handful of critical priorities at any one time. That’s why CEOs and HR VPs get paid the big bucks, to figure out what the right priorities are for any given business strategy and timeframe.

3. The CEO is not committed and does not own it.
Sort of an off-shoot of #2, however, the difference is, succession planning is on the list but the CEO doesn’t really buy into it. You’ll get the usual lip service (“people are our most important asset”), but when the rubber hits the road, it’ll be a lot of smoke and mirrors with little substance.

4. You don’t plan on doing anything.
Oh sure, things get done – there are endless hours of filling out forms and talent review meetings – but at the end of the day, the thick books are put on a shelf to gather dust until they need to be updated one year later. In order for succession planning to be effective, action needs to be taken to fill any gaps, remove obstacles, and get people ready for larger responsibilities.

5. You don’t know how to do it.
Sure, everyone has to learn something that they’ve never done before. However, if you’ve never done it, hire someone who knows how to (and has done it a few times). If you don’t, and make a lot of mistakes in the early stages, it takes years to undo the damage and get people back on board. Either hire someone with real talent management expertise or hire a good consultant to get you started.

6. You’re a small start-up in a rapid growth mode.
I suppose you could make an academic argument that this kind of organization needs succession planning as much as a large, mature organization. However, the reality is, if you’ve ever worked in one of these businesses, “long-term” usually means next quarter. A savvy CEO or HR pro knows when to leave these businesses alone, and inoculate them from some of the business processes that they just can’t possible pay attention to at this point in their growth. There will come a time, it’s just not this year or next.

7. You’re told to do it because everybody else does it so we should to.
I’ve actually heard this reason for doing succession planning mentioned more than any other. It’s follow the leader. I realize there’s a time to follow orders and just do it, but in this case, some brave soul needs to put their hand up and ask “but why”?

8. You want to impress your Board of Directors or CEO.
This is all about “looking good”, vs. “being good”. It usually involves thick, glossy, color notebooks, or fancy software systems with all the bells and whistles. “Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! Oops, wrong hat”.

9. It’s really just affirmative action in disguise.
Sometimes an organization needs to build diversity into its senior ranks. Cool, I get that. However, this succession planning sub-goal shouldn’t dwarf the entire process. Talent identification and selection for key development programs begins to look like a quota filling exercise and it loses credibility.

10. Succession planning was included in your new HR software package and you want to get the most bang for your buck.
Seriously, I’m not making this up. I actually heard it at a talent management conference over lunch. Something about “leveraging our full suite of talent management infrastructure, yada, yada”. Well heck, if you paid for it, you might as well use it, right?

How about you? Can you think of any other reasons why NOT to do succession planning?