Tuesday, December 27, 2011

10 BIG Development Goals for Leaders for 2012

The end of the year is typically a time spent scrambling to do all the things you need to get done but still haven't finished. However, it’s also a time to reflect on our accomplishments and think about what we want to achieve for the New Year. That includes individual development goals.

In a business context, individual development goals should be closely aligned with your short and long term job responsibilities. Each and every person’s situation is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all development plan.

However, in the realm of leadership development, there are a handful of things a leader could do that have the potential to be truly *transformational, life-altering, and help to create a whole new worldview.

I’m not talking about reading a book, taking a course, doing some networking, or fine-tuning some aspect of your current skillset.

No, these are the big, hairy, audacious, goals (BHAGs). The ones that are high risk, require a big investment of time, cause you to break out in a sweat, and have the potential to transform the way you lead.

No one should take on any more than 2-3 of these each year. In fact, you might only do one of each of these in a lifetime. So on one hand, don’t take any of these lightly – they require a big commitment. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to stop putting it off and take the leap?

Marshall Goldsmith says one of the biggest regrets old people have with their lives isn’t their failures – it’s that they didn’t at least try to pursue their goals.

1. A complete career change.
Career-wise, this is the granddaddy of development moves. We’re not talking about just changing companies but doing the same thing – this is about leaving what you’ve comfortable with – and good at – for something brand new.
A lot of people do this out of necessity or perhaps out of dissatisfaction with what they’re doing, and those are good reasons. In this case, it’s about changing for the sake of learning something completely new and growing.
Sure, no one likes to start all over again at the bottom – but perhaps there’s something out there that would allow you to use 40-60% of what you’ve already learned, and provide an opportunity to learn something new for the other 40-60%?

2. A job change.
While not as high risk or high developmental impact as a career change, switching to a new company, or even division within a big company, offers the opportunity to apply what you know in an entirely new context. It could involve new people, markets, customers, products, tools, and processes, all of which are opportunities to learn and develop.

3. A geographic move.
This one sometimes goes hand-in-hand with a job or career change. Learning to adapt in a strange new world can be scary, yet incredibly rewarding. I’m awestruck when I think of what it’s like to be an immigrant.
If you’re not ready for this, try a short-term expat assignment. Talk to others that have done it, you may find out it’s not as bad as you think it could be.
And sorry, no, a vacation doesn’t count. Although I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that have never traveled more than 100 miles from where they were born, like Jim Carrey’s character in The Truman Show. In that case, it could be transformational.

4. Volunteer.
Join a non-profit board, committee, organization, or just spend a day helping those less fortunate. You’ll learn about courage, determination, inspiration, and hope, both from those you are helping and from the die-hard volunteers you’ll work with.

5. Take on a “Greater than Yourself” project. I learned about this from Steve Farber, who authored a book by the same name. The idea is to pick someone – sort of a mentee – but instead of just offering a little mentoring advice to bring them along to your level – make a long-term commitment to help that person become even better than you. If every leader did this for just one person, we’d never have to worry about doing succession planning.

*Note: “Transformational” is really in the eye of the beholder. If you move or change jobs every year, then after a while, the impact becomes less transformational. It can become just a superficial change and loses its developmental impact.

Less transformational, but still with the potential to be transformational:

6. Go back to school.
If you never got that high school, Associate, Bachelor, Master, or PhD degree, and have regrets, then how about making 2012 the year to get started? For adults, going back to school can be a HUGE mountain to climb. However, it’s often that first step that’s the hardest. Nowadays, there are more ways than ever to get a degree. If you’re interested, make an appointment with an admissions counselor, or attend an information session.
Full disclosure: I work at a university, but I’ve always been a proponent of continuing education for adults.

7. Find a mentor and/or hire a coach.
Find a leader that you admire and ask if he/she will be a mentor for you. People often assume that highly successful people probably always have a lot of mentees, or they’re too busy. That’s usually not the case, in fact, I can’t think of a single example of anyone who asked and was flat out told “no”. If anything, the mentor is usually flattered, and all too willing to help. Go ahead - pick the person who you think is “the best” at what you want to get good at – and just ask. The worst that could happen is you’ll prove me wrong – and you can then move on to your second choice. (-:

Hiring a professional coach is another alternative, or can complement a mentor. Yes, they can be expensive – but a good one can ask questions and challenge you in a way that unlocks insight and hidden potential. If you’re lucky your company might pay for it, but I’m also beginning to see some more affordable coaching models being marketing to non-executives. Buyers beware – ask for references, check credentials, and interview a few.

8. Take on a strrrrreeetch project.
Instead of a career or job change, identify a project where the stakes are high, has “home run” potential, it would be new to you, yet with a solid development plan and a lot of hard work, you can be successful. If you own a pizza shop, it could be adding a new menu of subs or opening a second shop. Think new products, new processes, new customers, fixing big problems, or taking on a long-standing relationship problems. No pain, no gain. Imagine what the line on your resume would read a year from now, then go make it happen.

9. Attend an intensive leadership development program.
By “intensive”, I mean a total immersion program. It should be at least 5 days, with at least one assessment, feedback (with at least one high quality assessment), coaching, an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned with a real-life, high risk, high reward project, and guided reflection (often called “Action Learning” programs). These programs, if well designed and run, can create a condensed, alternate reality, giving participants the chance to learn and take personal risks in a somewhat safe environment.

10. Get in shape.
I saved the most controversial for last. What does getting in shape have to do with becoming a better leader, or more successful, or more productive, or even smarter? Well, as it turns out, the research is overwhelming and compelling – exercise will do all of the above, as well as all of the obvious health benefits. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Harvard M.D. John Ratey’s website and book, Spark (I saw him speak recently). Amazing stuff. - I guarantee you’ll be motivated to finally drop that extra 10 pounds and start riding your bike to work. 

How about you? What do you think of the list? What have been your most transformational leadership development experiences?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Developing Future Leaders – It’s Imperative Not to Wait!

Guest post by Great Leadership regular contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

Why is it important to develop future leaders within your company? Continuity of company culture, labor shortages, and an unexpected death of a senior manager are just a few important reasons.

In his book, Built to Last, Jim Collins describes the very successful succession planning process that GE’s CEO, Reginald Jones, took to find a new CEO. The process involved 96 candidates over seven years before Jones narrowed the candidates down to a single successor: Jack Welsh.

GE’s commitment to the succession process not only identified Jack Welsh, but all of his predecessors as well. These leaders were visionaries and change agents – an important, ongoing part of GE’s culture.

While you may not currently be in need of a successor, have you at least identified some potential candidates? Who within your organization has the potential to succeed you? And how long will it take before they are prepared to take your seat?

Challenges for Mid-Market Companies

Unlike GE, mid-market companies generally don’t have 96 candidates in the succession planning process queue, and a seven year process may be overkill. At the same time, many mid-market companies often wait until it is too late to successfully identify and develop their next CEO. Potential candidates may leave their current company to grow with another company before they are formally identified for succession opportunities. The very worst scenario involves a candidate leaving for a competitor who promises them increased responsibilities and leadership development opportunities that their current company failed to provide.

Another challenge for mid-market companies is their lack of a structured management training program for current and future leaders as found in many Fortune 500 companies.

Redefining Succession Planning for Mid-Market Companies

The succession planning process should start with you, your organization’s leader, and your talent management or human resources department. Work with this department to create a list of critical success factors and specific job requirements. Identify all must-have experience and skill sets as well as the nice-to-haves. If you don’t have people internally with these skills set, bring in a consultant to assist in the succession planning process.

Once the job profile is complete, compare it to your candidates. Identify the top candidates and determine what leadership development skills they will require. Some of your leadership development process can be addressed through internal resources, while some may require external resources.

When your leadership development plan is finished, you should not wait to execute your plan as waiting can greatly impact your company’s future! The story below tells why it is imperative that you not wait to begin developing your future leader.

Start Now

I have had the unfortunate experience of working with a company whose leader did not act with a sense of urgency when it came to leadership development and he died unexpectedly. The company was left to a family member who wasn’t prepared to take control and lead the company. As a result, this past year has been a very difficult time for the new leader as well as for the employees.

Grooming future leaders is one of the most critical tasks for an organization’s leader. Without well-prepared future leaders, there is no future for the company. A good leadership development process will take time and commitment from you, and must be a high priority. Therefore, don’t let the company that you have spent so many years building, stagnate or fall apart because you didn’t properly prepare new leadership to run it for many years into the future.

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 http://www.executive-velocity.com/ or http://executivevelocityblog.com/ or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Achieve Better Gender Balance through Succession Planning and Development

According to research from the book Why Woman Mean Business, women now represent a majority of the talent pool, a majority of the market, and better gender balance in leadership yields better corporate performance. The data is compelling:

TALENT: Women represent 60% of university graduates in Europe and North America

MARKET: Women make 80% of consumer goods purchasing decisions in the US

- Companies with more women in leadership have a 35% higher return on equity
- Companies with more than three women on their corporate board have an 80% higher return on equity

However, according to 20-First’s 3rd Annual Global Gender Scorecard, 90% of Executive Committee positions are still filled by men, with only 10% by women.

In order to achieve better gender balance in the executive ranks, there are many ways to go about it, including:

1. Focus on representation;

2. Focus on leadership, i.e., change attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors of leaders

Both are equally important and go hand in hand.

Companies often will implement separate, often competing or conflicting strategies and goals. There’s a “Diversity” strategy driven from one office, and a succession planning and development strategy driven by another. From a manager’s view, it’s confusing.

One of the most effective ways to improve representation is through the integration of both.

It’s not that complicated to do, it just takes a boatload of commitment, most importantly, from the leader of an organization, along with the support of a strong HR leader.

At the risk of oversimplifying, here’s a 9 step process to improve gender balance through succession planning and development:

1. Train Leaders in the importance of gender balance.
This is an all-important first step; otherwise the rest could turn into a compliance exercise. Leaders need to understand the business case and practices that may be creating barriers, including their own biases and behaviors. Show them the research, engage them, and provide assessments, strategies and tools.

2. Establish metrics and goals.
There are two kinds of metrics – what I would call “end result”, or lagging metrics, i.e., percentage of female executives, managers, etc… and “activity”, or leading metrics. Many organizations just focus on the end game, often for compliance purposes, then wonder why there’s never any improvement. Instead, an organization could establish succession planning metrics, such as:

- Number of female candidates for key position succession plans

- Viability of candidates

It’s important to include “viability” (defined as approval by CEO and/or HR VP); otherwise, you could end up with lists of token candidates. Here’s an example of a 2X2 grid with both variables:

The vertical axis represents availability of successors (low to high), and the horizontal represents diversity of successors (low to high). A green score means an organization’s pool of successors for its key positions are 50% or greater female (and/or minority in this case), and more than 2/3 of them are viable.

3. Tie executive variable pay to both end result (representation) and activity (2X2 grid) metrics. 10% is a good percentage – enough to drive behavior, but not enough to overshadow other key business metrics.

4. Establish “Top 10 lists” for every major business unit.
It’s expected that as an organization begins this journey, managers will most likely be either “yellow” or “red” for the first few years. So, you need to look at the next level down for feeder pools. One way is to have each organization identify its 10 top females, minorities, non-U.S., or any other category you are trying to improve. “Top 10” is a relative metric, so there should be no incomplete lists. If top 10 lists are weak, then keep digging deeper, all the way to the entry level recruiting process if necessary.

5. Allocate development resources to female candidates.
An example of this would be to mandate that ___% of slots in an organizations executive development program is filled with female succession candidates or Top 10 lists (if appropriate). Yes, this may sound exactly like a quota – and it is – but’s it’s the only way you’ll ever begin to make any progress on improving overall representation. It also has the side benefit of slowly beginning to change the culture, as diverse participants begin to shape the thinking, attitudes, and behaviors of others that wouldn’t have normally had the opportunity to interact with those that are “different”. For example, diverse “action learning” teams often produce the most creative solutions.

6. Every successor should also have an individual development plan (IDP) and a senior level mentor.
Engage high potentials in career and development discussions. It’s important not to assume that every identified “high potential” wants to be an executive. Mentors can help paint a realistic picture of the role, advantages, disadvantages, and implications.

7. Ensure that at least one diverse candidate (internal or external) is interviewed for every executive opening.
Yes, it’s the “Rooney Rule” (established in the NFL in 2003) – and it’s had mixed results – but in general, has had a positive impact. The idea is to cast a wider net, and in the process, help identify barriers that may be getting in the way of attracting and hiring the best talent.

8. Regular use of public reward and recognition.
Tying succession goals into pay isn’t enough. In order to change behaviors, there needs to be visible examples of diversity champions being rewarded and recognized. An annual CEO’s award can be very motivational. Of course, public hangings are also effective, but I’d rather focus on more positive ways to change behaviors. Otherwise, your efforts can begin to feel like a witch hunt.

9. Support newly promoted or hired candidates.
Transition to the next level or a new organization is a difficult process. It’s especially challenging for females and minorities, who could be perceived as being undeserving, especially if their development was accelerated. All of these efforts could go up in smoke if these rising stars, full of potential and promise, fail. One way to provide support is by providing the services of an executive coach for the first 6-12 months, or through participation in an external executive development program specially designed to address these unique challenges.

If you buy into the business case for achieving greater gender balance in the executive ranks (and I do), then using succession planning and development can be a powerful way to achieve that goals.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Covering all the Bases

Guest post by Paul Eccher:

On October 31, 2011, baseball legend Tony La Russa announced his retirement as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Announced just three days after the Cardinals won the World Series, La Russa’s retirement follows an impressive, 16-year career with the Cardinals and 33-season career in Major League Baseball (MLB). He was also the third winningest manager in MLB history—behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw.

You don’t have to be a Cardinals fan (or even a baseball fan) to appreciate the success and longevity of La Russa’s career. He had what all leaders strive to and rarely attain—the perfect balance of “hard” and “soft” skills. Amid today’s fast-paced nature of business, it’s more common for leaders to focus on their “hard” skills—the level of education they’ve earned, the number of sales they’ve secured and the overall financial impact they’ve made on their company—than their “soft” skills, or people skills. It’s a trend that’s been emphasized repeatedly in media headlines: as businesses continue to do “more with less,” employees are experiencing less job satisfaction and engagement as their employers focus solely on company analytics instead of developing their people.

However the “soft” skills—relationship building, empathy and the ability to influence and inspire—are vital to building a highly engaged and successful environment, whether on a team or within the workplace. Although La Russa mastered the “hard” skills (he earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Florida State University College of Law, studied extensively in preparation for games and executed intricate game plans), what made him truly successful were his “soft” skills. One renowned player, Albert Pujols, said La Russa “is not only my manager; he’s like a daddy to me.” Never lacking respect amongst his players, La Russa inspired his players to do what they didn’t think they were capable of, often transforming discouraged players into local heroes. In addition, he was constantly protective of his team and would not back down from the competition or detractors in the press, telling one reporter “I’m not saying I’m smarter than you, but I know our club a lot better than you do.”

How many of today’s bosses have their employees’ backs the way La Russa did? How many leaders inspire those around them to do what they didn’t think was possible? According to a recent Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study featured in the Wall Street Journal that aggregated data of more than 4,300 exit interviews, three-quarters of departing employees would not recommend their previous employer to others.

Amid today’s uncertain economic times, it’s important to have advanced degrees, certifications and technical skills to perform well on the job. However, leaders can make themselves and their companies stand apart by mastering the “soft” skills—the skills necessary to connect with people on a deeper level to relate, inspire and create a positive work environment that fosters employee enjoyment, growth and productivity.

That is how La Russa commanded the respect of his players and left his mark as the third winningest coach in professional baseball. No matter what the profession, having the ability to continually plan and prepare while motivating and inspiring those around you, as La Russa did, adds up to a winning formula—both inside and outside of the ballpark.

Dr. Paul H. Eccher is the co-founder and principal of The Vaya Group , a Talent Management consultancy that applies science and precision to the art of talent assessment and development. He is also the co-author of Optimizing Talent: What Every Leader and Manager Needs to Know to Sustain the Ultimate Workforce.

Related posts: "It’s the Soft Stuff That’s Really the Hard Stuff"

and "Why Do Businesses and Leaders Fail?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Perils of Hitting “Reply All”

By now you may have heard about the recruiter, Gary Chaplin, who lost his job for telling a job seeker off? Well, he didn’t just tell him off – he ripped him in an expletive-riddled email and accidentally copied 4000 fellow recruiters.

To make matters worse, Chaplin signed it using the name of another recruiter (Richard Vickers), and ripped another recruiter (Dan McCarthy, no relation) in the email. Yikes.

The job seeker, Manos Katsampoukas, sent his resume to 4000 recruiters politely asking for a position in finance or marketing. OK, granted, that’s not a very smart job-hunting strategy. But still, did he deserve the following response — in which Chaplin said he spoke for "all 4,000 people you have emailed" — "Please f*** off — you are too stupid to get a job, even in banking."

There are a lot of lessons to be learned by this unfortunate story, including:

1. Mass emailing your resume to thousands of recruiters doesn’t sound like a sound job hunting strategy. Better to cultivate relationships with a few in your specific industry well before you are looking for a job. In fact, doesn’t everyone hate mass emails (spam) in general? Although, there are companies that offer “resume distribution services”. Do people really use these and do they work?

2. Never forget what it’s like to be out of work and looking for a job. Many people only have to go through this once or twice in their lifetimes. They sometimes do naïve, stupid, or desperate things. Try to put yourselves in their shoes and show some compassion. Better yet, do what you can to help the person. You never know – what goes around, comes around. A friend of mine in the HR business took pride in how many of her friends she helped land jobs. When it came her turn to ask for help, people came out of the woodwork to help. She landed a new position within weeks.

3. Always assume anything you put in an a email could be shared with 4000 people. I’m sure we’ve ALL made one of these mistakes – I just did it last week. If you’ve got something sensitive to say, say it in person. Better yet, write it down, save it, read it the next day and realize how stupid it was, and delete it.

4. We all need to learn the difference between “reply” and “reply all”. Yes, they are right next to each, and sound similar, but come on – really? Having said that – mistakes happen – if someone does it, lighten up, you could be next.

Better yet, maybe the “reply all” key should be abolished? It’s just an accident waiting to happen.

5. Maybe it’s time the recruiting industry takes a good, hard look in the mirror? The industry in general doesn’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to integrity, ethics, and treating people with respect. Just read some of the comments in the story. I’m sure most in the profession are honorable professionals, but when a story like this surfaces such venom from so many people, you have to wonder.

6. Always assume anything you do in the digital world can be traced back to you. There’s no such thing as anonymity or privacy in cyberspace, even if you use a fake name.

7. When you make a lot of money and drive flashy sports cars, you get very little symphony. Although I have to hand it to Chaplin, he did admit it was a stupid mistake and apologized. Some would say he shouldn’t have even lost his job over it.

What do you think?

Thanks to my daughter, who works in pr/social media, for bringing this stuff to my attention. She helps keep me current. (-:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity

Guest post from Dave Mastovich on the importance of clear expectations:

I have a friend who leads a Human Resources Consultancy. He often uses the phrase: “Why don’t employees do what they are supposed to do?” to market his services. I have often told him that he should add “Why don’t bosses explain what they really want?” to the mix.

When it comes to getting things done with people, ambiguity breeds mediocrity. Employees and managers alike become frustrated when expectations are not met. The problem often arises because of a breakdown in communication. The more ambiguous goals and expectations are, the greater the chance for an average or worse outcome.

However, effective communication is a two way street.

In some cases, employees do not clearly understand goals and expectations and don’t take the time to clarify the situation with their boss. In other instances, employees are consciously or subconsciously comfortable with the ambiguity. They avoid clarity and are content to do what they think is necessary because when ambiguity exits, accountability is reduced or eliminated.

On the other hand, supervisors are often guilty of thinking they are on the same page as their team, when in reality they have not provided the necessary specifics to ensure success. Or they do not empower employees to think and make decisions that could improve outcomes.

Leaders need to provide clear direction and ensure clarity of expectations. They should talk openly with team members about what the outcome of the project should be, when it will be completed, and what employees should do if help is needed or when they hit a road block.

Managers should involve the employees in setting deadlines as well. Often, employees will offer a tighter deadline than the manager expected. If they ask for a later deadline, you at least gain an understanding of why they think more time is necessary and you find out sooner rather than later.

Ultimately, leaders should use a combination of communication tactics, rather than just a meeting, email or telephone call. Combining face-to-face and written correspondence gives team members the benefit of both verbal and non verbal communication, the chance to interact, and specific details in writing.

If you are the person receiving the instructions, you, too, have a responsibility to clearly define the expectations. Repeat back to the leader what you think is expected and obtain agreement on goals, expectations and action steps to be completed. Ask what you should do when you encounter a ‘bump in the road’ because you inevitably will.

Move off the path to mediocrity. Communicate clearly, reduce ambiguity and make a commitment to excellence.

David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, Inc. and author of "Get Where You Want to Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling." For more information, visit www.massolutions.biz.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

10 Ways to Act More Important Than You Really Are

I have a gut feeling that this post is going to rub a few people the wrong way. Why? Because many, if not all of the items on the upcoming list are grounded in some degree of reality. Readers may point to any one of them and say “Hey wait a minute, I do that, and here’s why…”.

Many of them are come right from well-meaning articles on how to be more confident, smart or assertive. A few I’ve just observed myself. To a degree, following this advice is OK – as long as you don’t overdo it. Attempts do “act” important (or smart, or powerful, or whatever) will backfire and make you look like you have small dog syndrome (sds), especially when you don’t have the substance to back up your annoying little yips.

Improving your self-confidence is a perfectly OK development goals – leaders need to have a high degree of confidence, command skills, and presence. However, as my friend Scott Eblin points out, too much confidence, like any strength overdone, can turn start to look like arrogance or hubris.

So, if you’re more concerned about looking important than actually being important, then here’s 10 tips for you:

1. Never show up to a meeting on time.
Seriously, I’m not making this up. In fact, I just heard about someone that actually makes sure she always shows up at least 20 minutes late to any meeting. That way, people will know you’re important.

I can’t help but imagine how this belief plays out in meetings involving lots of important people. What do they do, all hide around the corner waiting to see who gives in first?

2. Name drop.
I’ve also heard this technique referred to as “citing your sources”. It’s a way to back up your opinions, look smart, and if you’re wrong, you can blame it on your sources.

3. Have the biggest chair in the office.
Corporate pecking orders are established by chair size: there’s the secretary’s chair, manager’s chair, and the big old fat executive’s chair. Just test it to make sure your feet can touch the ground. Complete your important office décor with a huge desk with little guest chairs facing the window and sun behind you.

4. Pose like a peacock.
There’s actually research to back this one up. Practicing those power poses can actually make men and woman feel more powerful. You know the type - they strut around like peacocks fanning their tails or chimpanzees puffing their chests to assert their hierarchical rank.

5. Have a lot of LinkedIn connections.
Link up with everyone you meet, or better yet, just send out invitations to strangers you’ve never me just to reach that important “500+ connections” badge. Heck, anyone with that many connections must be uber-important. Or a recruiter or salesperson. (-:

I’m waiting for LinkedIn to come up with a “5000+” designation.

6. Keep a lot of very important books or periodicals on your desk.
Any serious executive or executive-wannbe just has to have a copy of the WSJ or HBR under their arms at all times, right? Just be sure to wrinkle a dog-ear a few pages.

7. Talk really loud and don’t worry about listening.
My wife and I were waiting at the bar for our table last weekend and we had a chance to experience this first hand. I could only assume this guy was really important, because we and everyone around us could hear everything he had to say and the poor couple he was talking at never got a word in edgewise. Given we live in New Hampshire, it could have been a presidential candidate. (-:

8. Pretend you enjoy the arts.
Pronounce your fake appreciation of the arts in response to co-workers or friends that bring up last night’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars” or “The Middle”. To sound really important, you need to say it in a way that makes everyone else look like idiots.

9. Never answer your own phone, emails, or schedule your own appointments.
Yes, I know, there are some positions – like CEO and Governors – that have to have minions to handle this stuff for them. But for the rest of us, come on, if we're all on a conference call together, do we really need to have an assistant contact everyone to schedule a follow-up call? In these days of tech-savvy employees, I just find this to be so old school, but it’s still rampant. It's not that they can't - it's that they won't.

10. Use a lot of letters after your name.
Listing your credentials may be appropriate for certain professions – higher ed, doctors, accountants, or insurance agents – but please, do we really need to tell people we have a B.S., MBA, or every little certification we earned by taking one course and passing a test?

How about you? What are some other annoying ways people try to make themselves look important but when overdone come across as hopelessly arrogant?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The 2011 Global Top 25 Companies for Leaders

Last month Aon Hewitt, The RBL Group and Fortune announced their Global Top Companies for Leaders list. It's been two years since the last list, not to be confused with the competing "Best Companies for Leaders" list sponsored by Businessweek and Hay Group.

I like to look below the hood of these rankings, to see if there's anything new to learn when it comes to leadership development. Sometimes I'll even call the person in charge of talent management. Is there some new silver bullet, some new magic formula that we can steal and replicate within our own companies?

Once again, the answer is no, not really. The companies that excel in leadership development do it better than the rest because they believe in it and take it seriously. They treat it as a strategic priority, spend a lot of time on it, provide meaningful developmental assignments to their high potentials, invest in it, and measure the heck out of their efforts to ensure its working.

I've always said if there was only ONE wish I could have when it came to leadership development it would be a CEO that was 100% committed to it. All the rest would then fall into place - even the most incompetent HR department couldn't screw it up if they tried. They couldn't, because they would be measured and held accountable.

One thing that's significant is that non-U.S. companies, like Hindustan Unilever are catching up. Only 13 out of 25 of the companies are U.S. based, compared to 17/25 two years ago. While it used to be emerging economies like China and India would turn to the U.S. and import their leadership development programs, now they are creating their own, in order to reflect their own cultural and market nuances.

Here's the full list:


2.General Mills, Inc.

3.The Procter & Gamble Company

4.Aditya Birla Management Corporation

5.Colgate-Palmolive Company

6.Hindustan Unilever

7.ICICI Bank Limited

8.McDonald's Corporation

9.Whirlpool Corporation

10.PepsiCo, Inc

11.General Electric Company

12.Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA)

13.Natura Cosmeticos S.A

14.Deere & Company

15.3M Company

16.Eli Lilly and Company

17.McKinsey and Company


19.Unilever plc

20.Siemens AG

21.Intel Corporation

22.China Vanke Co., Ltd.

23.Wipro Ltd.

24.Bharti Aritel

25.Novartis AG

Any surprises?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The December Leadership Development Carnival Begins Today!

The December Leadership Development Carnival is being hosted by my friends Becky Robinson and Kevin Eikenberry over at their Leadership and Learning blog. For this December edition, Kevin and Becky are breaking the Carnival up into multiple days - today through the rest of this week.

You can find the first installment here. Be sure to check back each day for the rest of the Carnival. I've had a sneak peek at a lot of the submissions, and I think you'll enjoy them.

Please met me know what you think of the new format too - if you like it, maybe we'll do it this way more often.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ready, Set, Enable

Guest post by Mark Royal and Tom Agnew, from Hay Group, regular contributors to Great Leadership:

The term “doing more with less” is being used increasingly liberally by organizations today. However, there are often gaping holes between what is asked and what is executed. In many cases, organizations fail to understand or recognize the detrimental effect their “do more with less” approach has on employees’ productivity and rising frustration levels.

The concept needs to be revolutionized.

For decades, managers have been told to “do more with less,” which they interpret as raising the bar on employee goals and expectations while spending less money. Employees typically receive the message as involving working longer hours or accomplishing more tasks without the support of extra resources.

This approach quickly builds frustration. More significantly, it wears down your most motivated and loyal employees. These are employees who want to succeed at their jobs, but feel that roadblocks and constraints are continually put in their way.

So how can leaders ask employees to “do more with less” without causing frustration? Instead of making vague statements, setting unrealistic goals, and expecting employees to do more without providing additional resources, leaders need to unleash the full potential in their employees.

We all know about the importance of engaging employees through motivational tactics, but engagement only moves employees so far.

The real answer lies in employee enablement. Managers must help to create work environments where employees are supported by processes and information that help them do their jobs efficiently; in turn, decreasing frustration and allowing for improved productivity.

How can leaders create a more enabling environment to increase productivity?

1. Create a culture of dialogue: Instead of relying on annual review time to discuss performance, managers must create a culture of open communication with their teams and continuously engage in conversations about goals and priorities to help employees focus on the highest value tasks throughout the year. When frustration is allowed to silently simmer, everyone loses.

2. Grant appropriate authority: It’s important for managers to provide employees with explicit decision-making authority, encourage them to come forward with innovative suggestions for improving the organization, and reinforce employee creativity by appropriately translating ideas into action.

3. Identify support gaps. A lack of support creates significant productivity issues. In order to avoid employee burnout, managers must ensure employees have the necessary resources to carry out their roles successfully.

4. Develop employees. In order to turn high-potential employees into high-performing members of an organization, companies must place a high value on job-related training. By offering programs for learning and development, organizations will get more out of their people.

These are just a few tactics that will help companies unleash the hidden potential in their people. What other strategies have you used to “do more with less?”

Mark Royal and Tom Agnew are principals in Hay Group’s employee-research division and co-authors of The Enemy of Engagement: Put an End to Workplace Frustration—and Get the Most From Your Employees (Amacom, 2011). Royal is based in Chicago and Agnew is based in New York.