Thursday, June 28, 2012

5 Essential Skills for Contemporary Leaders

Guest post by Nan S. Russell:

The great recession and economic crisis have accelerated shifts in how people view their work and their leaders. Studies confirm what many see – no longer are title and authority the driving force behind results. Leader credibility is down and the trust deficit is up.

The post-recession workplace harbors a new reality for leaders. At a time when discretionary efforts and intellectual property are essential to drive innovation and organizational growth, those who are able to earn natural and enthusiastic followers will deliver the best results. But, doing that means operating with the right actions, not the right titles.

Successful contemporary leaders will need uncommon behaviors grounded in 5 essential skills to reignite staff engagement, enhance influence, and build lasting results:

1. Operating with trust. In a world where it’s hard to differentiate a real photograph from one created by computer wizardry, and more people trust infomercials than organizational leaders, trust is the new workplace currency. Trustworthiness is now the number one quality people want in their leaders. But operating with authentic trust requires more than behavioral integrity, the alignment of words and actions. It also requires performance trust, self-trust, and relationship trust.

2. Becoming an independent thinker. Bandwagon “solutions” for the ills troubling organizations or employees are often gobbled up by leaders and reinforced by trade and business publications featuring successful examples of the “new” thinking or approach. Yet complex problems plaguing most groups and businesses don’t have bandwagon solutions. Successful leaders are not herd followers. They cultivate an active personal practice of curiosity, alternative perspectives, expanded sources, and challenging assumptions.

3. Applying dependable politics. Getting things done the “right way” is what it means to apply dependable politics at work. “Right” in this context implies operating with ethics, integrity, and a positive use of influence others can count on. It means building lasting relationships. To do that requires an understanding of healthy conflict and the power of stories, plus a consistent application of c’s: collaborate, cooperate, consider, and contribute.

4. Enabling transition after change. Who would you follow? Someone having difficulty handling the constancy of change, or someone who practices and uses tradition tools to move themselves and others forward? Enabling transition requires choosing growth, even for change you did not choose, and reinventing yourself along the way. It also requires helping those you lead do the same. Transition follows change. Enabling it is an essential skill.

5. Being self-aware. Authentic leadership yields natural followership. It springs from self-awareness, and understanding one’s own thoughts and actions, and how they impact others. Too many pre-recession leaders have focused only on outer-work. That’s the skills, knowledge, information, or know-how. Contemporary leaders must add inner work to their skill palette to increase self-awareness. Both are needed to be a leader others will enthusiastically give their best ideas, discretionary efforts, and great work to in today’s world.

While basic productivity and job presence can be bought, contemporary leaders with uncommon behaviors, anchored in these 5 essential skills, will be the ones igniting staff engagement, fueling innovative products and services, enhancing customer impressions, and rebuilding a thriving economy, regardless of their titles.

Nan S. Russell is author of three books including her latest, The Titleless Leader (May 2012, Career Press); She is a former Vice President of a multibillion dollar company, a national speaker, and a blogger for Psychology Today on the topic: Trust: The New Workplace Currency. She holds a B.A. from Stanford University and a M.A. from the University of Michigan, both in psychology. More at

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Explain Leadership Development to a 5th Grader (A Leadership Development Glossary)

All occupations will develop their own special jargon. It’s one of the ways we “professionalize” the unique work that we do in order to sound and feel important. That’s all well and good, except when:

1. You’re new in the field and don’t yet understand the jargon;

2. You’re not new in the field, but you still don’t know the jargon, and you find yourself pretending that you do;

3. You need to work with someone outside of your profession and explain things to them in everyday language.

To help with each of these scenarios, I’ve created a handy guide to the most common leadership development jargon using everyday language. I’m sure I missed a lot of important terms, so please add your own in the comments.

Assessment: As a verb, it’s some way of measuring the ability, personality, potential, motivation, or some other aspect of an individual. As a noun, it’s often some kind of instrument, or test.

Action Learning: A type of leadership development program where participants work on real projects and learn at the same time.

Bench Strength: Used in succession planning, a measure of how strong or weak an organization’s succession plans or talent pool is.

Blind Spots: weaknesses that an individual is not aware of.

Competencies: Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).

Competency Model: A collection of competencies that describe what it takes to be successful in a specific role – i.e., the “right stuff”.

Coaching: A way to help someone learn and develop by asking questions that provide insight and help them come up with their own answers.

Executive Coach: Someone who specializes in coaching executives.

Feedback: Information about someone’s performance or behaviors that they get from others.

360 Degree Feedback: Feedback from an individual’s manager, employees, and peers.

High Potential (HIPO): Someone who has been identified as having potential to be successful in a larger role, usually a senior management role.

Individual Development Plan (IDP): A plan on how someone is going to learn new skills in order to be better at what they do or get ready for a future role.

Multi-rater Feedback: Feedback from more than one person.

Nine-box Matrix: Also referred to as a Performance and Potential Matrix, it’s a 3x3 grid used to assess individuals on their performance and potential. It’s often used as a part of a talent review meeting.

Organizational Development (OD): Sorry, there is no way to explain OD in simple terms. In fact, OD professionals usually can’t agree on what it really means. (-:

Pipeline: Same as “Bench Strength”, i.e., “we have a weak leadership pipeline and need to do some leadership development”.

Stretch Assignment: Giving an individual something important to do that they’ve not done before as a way to develop them.

Subject Matter Expert (SME, or “Smee”): Someone who knows a lot about something, i.e., “we need to find some smeeze to help us develop this leadership training program”.

Succession Planning: Figuring out which positions are critical to the success of an organization and identifying individuals who are ready or could be prepared to fill those roles. Sometimes referred to “hit by a bus” planning.

Succession Planning and Development: Once those individuals are identified, actually doing something to get them ready. The development part is often overlooked.

Talent Management: How an organization goes about hiring, developing, and retaining great employees.

Talent Profile: An internal resume used in succession planning.

Talent Review Meeting: A meeting where a leadership team discusses the strengths and weaknesses of individuals within their organization. Usually done within succession planning to identify high potentials, using a performance and potential matrix or other assessments.

You pass the test if you can explain that entire last sentence to a fifth grade class. Or a CEO.

Anything to add to the leadership development glossary?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Behaviors of Collaborative Leaders

Guest post by By Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese:

In order to become a chief catalyst for collaboration, you will have to model behaviors that embody the way you'd like your employees to work. For 150 years, corporations, governments and militaries were built for up-and-down leadership, with incentives and rewards that discouraged cross-organization thinking and, in many cases, actually created or encouraged internal competition. Your challenge is to develop and model the behaviors required to inspire people and teams to genuinely break through organizational silos and make collaboration a competitive advantage.

How you lead your people has a direct impact on your ability to eliminate or mitigate the types of human behaviors that slow organizations down. In our experience, both inside Cisco and with our customers, highly collaborative leaders share four leadership traits. They:

1. Focus on authentic leadership and eschew passive aggressiveness

2. Relentlessly pursue transparent decision making

3. View resources as instruments of action, not as possessions

4. Codify the relationship between decision rights, accountability and rewards

Focus on authentic leadership and eschew passive aggressiveness.

For collaboration to succeed, leaders need to be authentic. Cisco studied which characteristics of leaders on collaborative teams are most important, and we found that the most critical attribute was a leader's willingness to follow through on commitments. This involves two elements.

First, as a leader of a team, department or business unit with people, budgets and resources under your control, you must follow through on organizational commitments. Unfortunately, people don't always do what they promise. Passive aggressiveness is a subtle, nuanced form of human behavior in which people find ways to undermine others. They often give tacit agreement in a meeting, for example, but then proceed to take counterproductive action once the meeting is over. Or they might agree to help another team, but then are slow to follow through or put an under-performer on the assignment. Think of how much organizational inertia is created because leaders don't always do what they say they will do.

Expert Tip on Perseverance:

"Leaders need resolve, resilience and determination to affect collaborative transformation. They need to 'walk the talk' for a sustained period of time."
-- Professor Tony O'Driscoll, Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Second, when there is disagreement about a decision­ -- one made by you or someone else -- fight the instinct to make it personal. Ultimately, most disagreements are not personal in nature, but rather result from differing approaches to making a decision. The more you focus on communicating what drives your decision making, the more time you can spend making good decisions instead of arguing a choice with a peer. This leads us to the next leadership trait.

Relentlessly pursue transparent decision making.

Decisions are always about making choices; it's critical that you are clear about how you make them. Tell people your style and thought process for navigating tricky, or even every day, decisions. In our experience, and this is backed up by research, there's a direct relationship between the agility and resilience of a team and the transparency of its decision­ making processes. When you're open and transparent about the answers to three questions -- who made the decision, who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision, and is that accountability real -- people in organizations spend far less time questioning how or why a decision was made. Think of how much time is wasted ferreting out details when a decision is made and communicated because the people who are affected don't know who made the decision or who is accountable for its consequences.

Answer Three Questions to Foster Transparent Decision Making:

Transparent decision making requires that all stakeholders know the answers to these questions:

- Who is making the decision?

- Who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision?

- What are the consequences -- positive or negative -- of that accountability?

In a later chapter, we discuss the importance of establishing a common vocabulary for decision making, especially as a communications platform that can scale an organization's collaborative processes. As a leader, your responsibility is to document the key decision paths of your organization and communicate them to your team as often as you can. There was a time in business when hoarding information was a source of organizational power. Today, the inverse is true if you want to motivate a team that is increasingly mobile, global and socially driven.

Explain the guiding principles of your decision-making style at each stage of your organization's decision paths. Share your biases and tell war stories of how your successes and failures shaped these biases. We often hear the phrase "intelligent risk taking" -- nothing empowers people to take good risks more than understanding the conditions for taking the risk in the first place. Transparent decision making is critical to empowering your people.

View resources as instruments of action, not as possessions.

The promise of flexibility and agility as an organization, inspired by establishing shared goals across organizational boundaries, is only attainable if you back it up by sharing resources as well.

It's hardly a new observation that people sometimes stockpile resources around their business unit or department, or are slow -- perhaps even hesitant -- to share those resources with other departments. There might even be incentives in place that discourage sharing. For as long as companies have pursued profits, the size of one's organization has defined the size of one's financial opportunity. But are your resources truly applied as optimally as possible to your market opportunities in a way that best serves the total business? By unlocking these trapped resources, organizations can more quickly and successfully pursue emerging market opportunities.

Having a common approach to assess and communicate resource decisions is critical to creating a transparent environment among leaders. The more transparent the envi­ronment the more willing leaders will be to share resources in support of the shared goals of the entire business, and the harder it will be for resisters to hoard them. This shift in approach is not an easy one for leaders to make and requires a balancing act between clear expectations, patience and follow through. Ultimately, it's as much a mindset as it is a process. The fundamental enablers of collaborative leadership are viewing resources as instruments of action rather than as possessions and aligning your company's larger shared goals to an accountability system that includes rewards and incentives for working together effectively.

Codify the relationship between decision rights, accountability and rewards.

Modeling the desired collaborative behaviors -- showing your employees that you walk the talk -- is the goal. But what happens when you're not around? The more these behaviors are codified into an end-to-end system across your organization, the greater the odds of collaboration succeeding when you're not there to reinforce cultural norms. As you define the decision paths of your organization and build a common vocabulary to make those decision paths as transparent as possible, take the time to establish clear parameters. Who gets to make decisions? Are all decisions tied to funding? These are the types of questions to which everyone must know the answers. Publish the parameters for these decision rights and tell people which leaders have these rights -- that information is crucial to breaking through any consensus logjam; decision-rights holders should have 51 percent of the vote when collaborative teams can't reach natural agreement.

Having published decision rights is just one element of an accountability system. While it's never pleasant to talk about the consequences of poor decisions, the reality is that to succeed, collaboration demands more distributed and empowered actions across your organization. With that empowerment comes not only more good outcomes but also the increased potential for bad ones. You will need to consider new ways of gaining input from teams on the quality of collaborative decision making and reward people who consistently make good decisions in a collaborative environment.

As part of their overall performance management, every Cisco employee is measured by peers and their managers on their collaboration factor, the result of which directly impacts how their performance is rated and, ultimately, the size of their total compensation. Other factors that determine the size of bonuses are tied to how well employees collectively perform in achieving certain shared goals that Cisco establishes annually, such as customer-satisfaction metrics and financial results. Collaborative cultures not only foster teamwork, they also reward it. Performance measures must strike a balance between how well employees carry out their individual roles and how much they contribute to collective outcomes.

Legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski knows a thing or two about working together to reach shared goals. He reminds team members -- and business leaders -- that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back of the jersey.

Author Bios:
Ron Ricci, co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, is the vice president of corporate positioning and has spent the last decade helping Cisco develop and nurture a culture of sharing and collaborative processes. In addition, he has spent countless hours with hundreds of different organizations discussing the impact of collaboration. He is also the co-author of the business best-seller Momentum: How Companies Become Unstoppable Market Forces (Harvard Business School Press, 2002).

Carl Wiese, co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, is senior vice president of Cisco's collaboration sales -- a multi-billion global business. He has presented on the importance of collaboration to business audiences in dozens of countries, including Australia, China, Dubai, India, Mexico and all across Europe and the United States. With more than 25 years of sales, marketing, services and product-management experience with Cisco, Apple, Lucent, Avaya and Texas Instruments, Wiese has spent his career working with companies worldwide to advance their business goals with technology.

For more information please visit and Amazon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

10 Essential Leadership Models

While there have been thousands of books written about leadership, there are a handful of leadership models that have served me well as a leader and leadership development practitioner. These are the tried and true models that have shifted my thinking about leadership and help create teachable leadership moments for others. Mind you, I’m not a scholar, so the models I favor tend to be simple, practical, and I have to had seen evidence that they are effective.

Here are 10 leadership models that I believe any leader or aspiring leader should be familiar with (Kudos to Mind Tools for supplying many of the summaries in the links, and to Vou):

1. Situational Leadership.
Developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, it’s a timeless classic. If I could only teach one model to a new manager, it might be this one. It’s all about adapting your leadership style to the developmental needs, or “maturity level”, of your employees. It’s easy to understand and can be used on a daily basis. Your only dilemma will be which version to choose: Hersey or Blanchard? I say Blanchard, but that’s because they follow @Great Leadership. (-:

2. Servant Leadership.
A philosophy and practice of leadership developed by Robert K. Greenleaf. The underlying premise here is that it’s less about you as a leader and all about taking care of those around you. It’s a noble and honorable way to lead and conduct your life.

3. Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid.
OK, so it’s really more of a management model, but it’s another timeless classic. Explained by a nice, simple 2x2 grid, it’s all about balancing your concern for people and your concerns for getting things done (tasks). You gotta love those 4x4 grids!

4. Emotional Intelligence.
While Daniel Goleman’s book popularized EQ, his HBR article “What Makes a Leader?” does a great job explaining why the “soft stuff” is so essential to be an effective leader.

5. Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.
K&P do a nice job breaking leadership down into five practices: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. I’ve always liked the Leadership Practices Inventory 360 degree assessment that supports the model.

6. Jim’s Collin’s Level Five Leadership.
First published in a 2001 Harvard Business Review article, and then in the book, "From Good to Great, Collin’s leadership model describes kind of a hierarchy of leadership capabilities, with level 5 being a mix of humility and will.

7. The Diamond Model of Leadership.
Although not as widely known as Collin’s Level Five model, my colleague Jim Clawson actually wrote the book Level Three Leadership two years earlier than the Collin’s HBR article. Jim introduced the Diamond Model, which describes four elements of leadership: yourself, others, task, and organization.

8. Six Leadership Passages.
Charan, Drotter, and Noel did a nice job explaining six key developmental passages a leader can advance through in thier book The Leadership Pipeline, along with the skills required to be successful for each passage. I actually came up with my own six passages, in which I made a distinction between management and leadership.

9. Authentic Leadership.
I’ve only recently become a fan of Bill George’s work (True North), and it’s made a difference in how I think about leadership and leadership development. Instead of trying to find and copy the prefect set of leadership characteristics, George argues that you’re better off figuring out who you are and what’s important to you, and leading in a way that’s true to yourself.

10. The GROW model.
Widely attributed to Sir John Whittmore (although it’s not certain who really came up with it), GROW stands for goal, reality, obstacles, options, and way, will, or what’s next, depending on which version you use. It’s really more of a coaching model than a leadership model. However, it’s an essential tool for leaders and one of the easiest to understand and effective coaching models I’ve come across.

How about you? What leadership model has served you the best? Please include a link to a summary of the model, and no shameless self-promotions allowed - except for my own. (-:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Leadership Essentials for the Matrix Environment

Guest post by Rick Lash, from the Hay Group:

The matrix has often been described as a new type of organizational structure that is flatter, more interconnected, more global and more innovative. In matrix companies, much work takes place across functions with employees reporting to multiple bosses and participating in teams created across departments and areas of expertise.

These descriptions are accurate, but in some ways they fail to capture the strength, resiliency and dynamism of the matrix organization. Consider the biological analogy of the human brain. Recent studies have shown that memories are stored at multiple locations in the brain. If a person suffers physical brain damage through a stroke or trauma, the functions lost in one part of the brain can sometimes actually be relearned by another part of the brain.

This new understanding of the brain as a complex, interconnected network where information is constantly created, communicated and reinvented provides an accurate model of the inner workings of many successful matrix corporations.

Innovation and the Ghost Organization

To adapt to fast-changing market conditions and to respond to complex customer challenges in today’s competitive landscape, companies must innovate. That innovation happens mainly at the interface between functional areas and within deep pockets of expertise.

Matrix organizations typically facilitate these types of cross-functional exchanges that lead to innovative progress. If the formal organizational structure is not set up to facilitate these type of interactions, proactive employees will be forced to create a ‘ghost organization’ that exists behind the façade of the official org charts.

The question therefore is not whether an organization should adopt matrix organizational principles, but whether it wishes to officially and openly adopt the matrix structure or whether it prefers to push innovation underground into the informal ghost matrix.

Dinosaurs in an Asteroid Storm

Go here for full-size infographic

The vast majority of organizations are still struggling to help their leaders shift from the mindset of “How do I achieve my own functional success and results?” to “How do I attain enterprise goals by working effectively within a very fluid and complex networked environment?” The old functional siloed approach is no longer sufficient to solve the demographic and economic challenges that most global companies face today.

For the dinosaurs, size alone was an advantage in a stable environment, but agility helped the smaller mammals prosper when the asteroid hit. Similarly, in today’s business climate, economic asteroid hits are becoming more frequent, forcing organizations to embrace matrix operating models that enable vital adaptability, flexibility and the capacity to rapidly assimilate new ideas.

Matrix Competencies in Short Supply

The good news is that many organizations have recognized that their leaders need to evolve. They understand that their leaders must become more effective at facilitating and engaging team members who are not their direct reports, who may work thousands of miles away and communicate exclusively via email and videoconference. They know they need leaders who are avid and rapid continuous learners because the shelf-life of any particular piece of expertise gets shorter as the pace of technological change accelerates.

The bad news is that the competencies that leaders need to be successful in the matrix are still in short supply. New emotional and social intelligence research from Hay Group has shown that Empathy, Conflict Management, Self-Awareness and Influence are all key skills required for effective leadership in the matrix environment. And yet an analysis of our Hay Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory – a behavioral database that includes information on the emotional intelligence of more than 17,000 individuals worldwide – found all four of these competencies to be in short supply among executives:

• Fewer than one quarter (22 percent) demonstrated a strong sense of empathy.

• Less than one third (31 percent) of individuals were found to hold strong conflict-management skills.

• Only 20 percent were found to have a strong sense of influence.

• Just nine percent of employees exhibit a strong sense of self-awareness

Four Steps to Building Matrix Leadership Skills

Leading in the matrix takes some new skills compared to traditional functional leadership roles. It is not that the old competencies have become unimportant, but rather that good matrix leaders need a broader range of competencies including empathy, conflict management, influence and self-awareness to operate and lead effectively in a matrix environment.

So what are some steps that leaders can take to develop these skills that are so crucial for matrix success?

1. Create space to learn. Our research has found that the most effective – and often the busiest – executives still carve out time for learning. They set aside time on their calendars to read or to speak with people who are completely outside their field to get new perspectives. Some of them even commit to teach graduate school classes because it forces them to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in their field. Others keep a journal where they write down a few of the most interesting things they learn each day. Rather than using busyness as an excuse, top leaders who are continuous learners deliberately create the space for self-education in their lives.

2. Network deliberately and diversely. Matrix leaders depend heavily on the strength of their networks, but it turns out that the size of the network matters less than the quality and diversity of the contacts in that network. Successful matrix leaders deliberately seek out people who can be of help to them now and in the future. They make bold connections outside their own area of expertise. For instance, a hospital CEO built several valuable connections with some airline industry executives who had deep expertise in logistics. Their experience of managing people and aircraft under extreme time pressures gave the hospital CEO invaluable insights into ways that he could improve patient flow and control costs.

3. Form relationships for their own sake. Being a successful leader in the matrix involves building relationships across the organization. Our research shows that successful matrix leaders often tend to be affiliative people who actually enjoy relationships for their own sake. Often these relationships do end up helping the leaders to achieve business goals, but the relationships are typically formed before the business rationale becomes clear. Simply by engaging colleagues in social conversation and thereby building goodwill and rapport, leaders can start to establish the diverse networks that prove so helpful in achieving cross-functional matrix goals.

4. Be resilient. Matrix leaders need to be able to seek out information and unlearn old mindsets. This can take bravery as leaders work their way up the learning curve in unfamiliar territory. Matrix leaders are almost certain to experience some frustration as they try to bring diverse groups and competing agendas together. The daily challenges and setbacks of working in the matrix and achieving alignment are not for the faint of heart. The most successful leaders are those who can stay focused and hold their course despite these challenges. Being resilient, maintaining optimism, seeking out and using constructive feedback to adapt their behavior in order to foster broader innovation – these are all essential precursors for success as a matrix leader.

Rick Lash is the national practice leader, Leadership and Talent, Hay Group. Rick has over 20 years of experience working with clients in the design and implementation of organizational change interventions which accelerate and maximize the learning process and increase performance at the individual, team and corporate level. He can be reached at

Monday, June 11, 2012

Authentic Leadership Development: Your Past, Present, and Future

There’s been a lot written about the concept of “authentic leadership”, that is, being a leader that is comes across as sincere, genuine, and real. Authentic leaders lead from the heart and are true to their values and principles. Authenticity builds trust, credibility, and inspires – all essential elements of great leadership.

Becoming a leader isn’t just about studying famous leaders or role models and then trying to emulate them. Nor is it just about assessing yourself against a competency model, and attacking your weak spots with a development plan.

While those can both be effective leadership development strategies, they won’t help you to be an authentic leader.

Becoming an authentic leader involves transformation. It’s not “doing” leadership, it’s figuring out who you are and who you want to be as a leader.

In order to become a truly authentic leader, you can use the same methodology used by Ebenezer Scrooge to discover the true meaning of Christmas: examine your past, present, and future leader.

Your past

In his book True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, former Medronic CEO Bill George suggests looking back over your life to identify key moments that helped define who you are today. These key moments could be from early childhood, school, family, work, sports, military experience, religious, or people in your past life that had a significant impact on you. They could be high points or low points in your life. These key events and people taught you lessons – lessons that played a part in shaping your values, principals, and your identity.

In a recent UNH leadership development program, our instructor, Dr. Carole Barnett, had participants map out their leadership journeys visually on a “Leadership Journey Line” poster. She then had them present their stories in their small groups. It was moving and inspirational! Presenting your Journey Line to others can be a powerful way to learn about yourself and others.

Your Present

When you examine those critical incidents from your past, you begin to piece together patterns of lessons learned that help define what’s important to you today. These lessons define your values, principles, and motivations – in other words, you become self-aware.

Your values, principles, and motivations in turn drive your behaviors. They become your compass in life, serving as a conscious or unconscious decision making checklist to guide the choices you make. Behaviors then drive results.

Figuring out who you are and what’s important to you is hard work! In fact, for many, it can become a lifelong journey. In addition to the Journey Line exercise, other ways to facilitate self-awareness include:
- Formal values assessments (I’m certified in Hogan, but there are others)
- Reflection
- Feedback from others (to uncover blind spots)
- Journaling
- Therapy
- Gazing at your navel

Seriously, there’s no need to go completely off the deep end when it comes to self-awareness. You just need to end up with a handful of guiding values, principles, and motivations that when in doubt, guide your everyday decisions as a person and leader.

BTW, this list shouldn’t be kept a secret, only to be discovered with a secret values decoder ring by those around you. Great leaders share their defining stories, values, and principles with others. They become “teachable points of views” in explaining their vision, goals, behaviors and decisions. This is where authenticity comes from – through heartfelt self-disclosure.

Your Future

We all know that leaders need to be visionary, to have a compelling vision, are future focused, etc…. This is all true and important. However, great leaders also have a vision of the legacy they want to leave behind.

They don’t wait until their retirement to begin to reflect on their legacy. They start the process early on in their careers, and then live each day in a way that contributes to that legacy. This involves asking yourself what you want your lasting impact to be on your organization and the people you work with. “Starting with the end” will have an amazing impact your daily behaviors.

Try visualizing your retirement party in a positive way. What would you say in your speech? More importantly, what would you want others to be saying about you?

Authentic leadership development: look to your past to figure out what’s important to you today. Think about your future legacy and begin leading with that purpose today.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Myth of Potential: 5 Ways to Develop Talent

Here's a guest post from executive coach Joel Garfinkle:

In high school, I wasn't an amazing athlete, but one of my closest friends sure was. Most people didn't know it, though. He was quiet, even shy, and spent most of his time either practicing or studying. Nothing he did off the court—not the way he acted, how he dressed, or who he talked to—shouted "jock!" But he handled a basketball as if he'd been born with one in each hand. According to our school's coach, one of the best in the region, my friend had "real potential." He even talked about him going pro.

But what is potential? When most people say "potential," what they really mean is "proven success." After all, no one mentioned my friend's potential when he was an awkward third grader learning how to dribble. It wasn't until he already established himself as a local superstar that people started talking about his potential.

The truth is everyone has potential, and nearly every employee has some talent of great potential value. But developing that talent takes serious work, both from employees and their managers—just like the thousands of hours my friend put in every day after school, along with the encouragement and instruction from his dad and his coach.

Developing talent—that is, helping every employee reach their potential—should be a goal of every leader. In fact, at GE top executives spend as much as 40% of their time identifying and mentoring their replacements. Leaders at other companies would be wise to follow suit. Here's how to start:

1. Give employees time to focus. With the frenetic pace of business, it's easy to get lost in a sea of deadlines and shifting priorities. The best leaders encourage employees to spend time absorbed in a single project or area of focus—especially when it's a stretch assignment that will challenge their abilities.

Some of the most innovative companies in the country put a priority on free or flexible time. For example, Google developers and engineers receive "20 percent time"—eight hours a week they can devote solely to projects of their choice. Likewise, Bell Labs—one of the biggest American innovators of all time—gave scientists and engineers the opportunity to spend years researching a single product.

2. Promote the value of learning. Leaders should be on a constant lookout for professional development opportunities. Taking time to focus on learning helps employees crystallize their goals and determine what skills and areas of growth are most important to them.

As I mentioned, General Electric is one example of a company that places a premium on promoting the value of professional development and learning. The company has a Chief Learning Officer and spends $1 billion a year in training its employees through the GE Global Learning initiative. That's about $3,500 per year for each of their 290,000 employees.

3. Ask lots of questions. It's no secret that leadership requires clear and effective communication. When it comes to developing talent, leaders should focus on the listening side of the communication equation. Find out what's important to employees, what experience they have, where they see themselves in the future, and what excites them about the company.

Colin Powell nicely sums up the importance of listening and effective communication: "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them." His words are just as true in the corporate world as they are in the military one.

4. Give frequent, specific feedback. It's far too easy for managers to only give feedback during performance reviews or to offer vague platitudes. The best mentors provide quality feedback that's timely, genuine, and focused on desired behaviors. It's also important to be positive and forgo any personal judgments.

To reinforce how critical providing quality feedback is, try Googling "leaders and the importance of feedback." The search yields over 18 million results (and lots of good advice).

5. Treat failure as an opportunity for improvement. Nobody likes failure, but everybody enjoys saving face. When employees fail, they're often at their most vulnerable. And that's a good thing. It means they're open to receiving feedback, trying new approaches, and improving areas of weakness. Stay positive as you help your team members take advantage of these opportunities.

Some of the most meaningful learning in my life has been in response to failure. A beloved high school teacher of mine often used the mantras, "Failure is a better teacher than success," and, "The bigger the failure, the bigger the lesson." Obviously, no one wants to encourage failure, but it's important to realize that it will happen—and embrace it for what it is: a learning opportunity.

Remember: Everyone has potential, but that potential may remain hidden without skilled mentoring and effective leadership. Take time to help employees discover their talents, learn from failures, and build on their successes. It may just save your company some major recruitment dollars.

Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 leadership coaches in the U.S., As an executive coach he has worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Amazon, Deloitte, Oracle and Ritz-Carlton. He is the author of seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Learn more about his books, executive coaching services and over 300 FREE articles at You can also subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

Monday, June 4, 2012

How “Strategically Aligned” is your Leadership Development Program?

If you’re in charge of your organization’s training, talent management, succession planning, or HR function, when’s the last time you talked to your C-level executives about leadership development?

Pick one answer:

A. Within the last few months - I talk to our C-level Execs on a regular basis about leadership development. In fact, they consider themselves the owners of leadership development, and often reach out to me.

B. I did when I first started in my role, but that was a few years ago, so it’s been a while. There are even a couple new ones in place since I did it.

C. I haven’t – but would really like to, I just wouldn’t know how to. Read on!

D. Never – and why would I want to do that? We survey our employees to find out what they want and our courses get great ratings.

E. What’s a C-level executive? Is that Concourse level?

If you answered A, congratulations, how’s that “seat at the table” feeling? I’ll bet the work you’re doing to strategically aligned, you’re contributing to achieving the goals of your organization, and you’re seen as a valued resource by your company’s senior management. No doubt your team feels jazzed about their work too – knowing that they are making a difference. That’s the best gift a leader can give to their team. You’re also creating a good dose of job security as well.

If you answered B, then it’s time to get out of your office and hit the road again. It’s important to be having regular conversations with your C-level executives about current and future talent strengths and weaknesses. How regular? It depends – at least yearly, and as often as business priorities shift or C-level players turn over.

If you answered C, then good for you! Here’s what you need to do:

1. Schedule 30 minute meetings with each member of your senior executive team (usually via their executive assistants). Follow-up with an email to their assistants explaining the purpose of your requested meeting and provide a list of questions.

2. Prepare your questions in advance. Although yours may vary, the key is to keep the conversation at a high level. FORGET everything they taught you in that training book you read on “How to conduct a Training Needs Assessment”. Leave the training jargon behind – this is a business conversation. If needed, do your homework by reading your company’s latest annual report, press releases, and listen to the latest recorded earnings call.

3. Here’s the questioning structure I like to use:

I. Business Goals and Challenges:
- What are your most important goals, objectives, and/or challenges you’re working on now and in the next few years? - What keeps you up at night? Caution: be prepared for "crying babies, barking dogs, monsters, caffine,  etc...". OK, so that question might be getting a bit overused. Try another version.

II. Current manager’s leadership development needs:
How prepared are our managers to achieve these goals or address these challenges? If not fully, then what’s missing? If you could wave your magic wand, what would you like to see your managers start doing, stop doing, or continuing to do?

III. Succession planning:
What about your leadership bench? How confident are you that you’ve got the talent needed to step into key leadership roles? If not, why? What’s missing? What critical skills or experiences are missing?

IV. Satisfaction with current programs:
How satisfied are you with our current leadership development programs? For example, we’re currently doing………. Have you heard anything, positive or negative? Is there anything you’d like to see happening that’s not?

Note: this might be a good time to ask for any support or involvement in your program – see 10 Ways to Involve Leaders in Leadership Development Programs and What Does “CEO Commitment” to Leadership Development Really Mean?

It may be a good idea to take a note-taker with you, so that one person can ask the questions, listen, and ask follow-up questions without slowing down the conversation. It should sound and feel like a conversation – not a formal interview.

Once you’ve conducted the interviews, type up the notes and review them with a few colleagues, your team, and your manager. Use the findings to make sure EVERYTHING you’re doing is directly supporting the business goals and identified skill gaps. You may have to make some hard choices on what NOT to do – that is, to give up some of those favorite activities or programs.

D. If you answered D, and you’re still reading this, then there may be hope for you. Yes, bottoms up needs assessment are important- it’s always good to go right to the source. However, incumbent leaders may not know what they don’t know when it comes to high level, strategic changes. And yes, course ratings are important – but great ratings for learning outdated or irrelevant skills are worthless.

E. If you answered E: C stands for Chief, as in Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief of Staff, Police Chief, Chief Rabbi, Commander in Chief, Chief Justice, Chief Sitting Bull, etc…. These are the big kahunas at the corporate office making decisions about how much to cut your training budget.