Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do You Lead Like a Lioness?

Guest post by Great Leadership regular contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

So what do lionesses have to do with leadership lessons? One of my big loves in life, other than my husband, is travel. My husband and I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the world and one of our favorite places is Africa. We enjoy the wildlife and experiencing the vast cultures of the indigenous tribes.

During one of our recent trips to the Serengeti, we had the great fortune of observing a mother lioness with her three cubs. Did you know that a lioness has just two short years to prepare her cubs for independence? And on this day, she was in the process of teaching them how to hunt for lunch. As I watched the lioness interact with her cubs, I couldn’t help but think how she would make a great role model for leaders.

So what did she display with her cubs that made her such a great role model?

1.  Modeled Behavior-- She demonstrated to her family what was required to hunt. She lead her cubs towards the prey, at first running at a slow pace and then slowing down as she got closer.  Then she stopped and looked back as her cubs tried to mimic her behavior; some did better than others. And then she watched each one as they made the initial moves.

2. Showed Care--As her cubs moved forward towards the warthog, she never let her eyes leave her cubs. And if one decided to retreat, she didn’t prod them to advance back toward the prey, but stayed close to that cub while watching the others.

3. Identified Learning Opportunities-- She identified the hunting opportunity. The warthog was small enough to provide her cubs with another time to practice and hone their hunting skills. A larger animal, like a water buffalo, would not have been a good opportunity for her cubs to learn to hunt.

4. Mentored --she showed them the way and shared her knowledge and experience with the goal of having them get to the “next level” and become self-sufficient lions.

5.  Allowed Failure--In the end, the cubs were unable to successfully capture the warthog. Failures need to be embraced as another way of learning and they encourage the cubs to take risks, which will be necessary to live independently from their mother. In this case, they didn’t have lunch, which they won’t soon forget!

6. Recognized Potential-- One of the primary roles a leader has is to develop her team to their full potential. And on the plains of the Serengeti, eating and being aware of your surroundings are critical to survival.

As I review these, my thoughts lead to the leaders that I have had the opportunity to work with over the years. And, the most successful ones and the leaders that I had the most respect for displayed all of the behaviors and skills of a lioness.

Lessons in leadership can be found in the most unexpected places. And as an executive coach and leadership development advisor, I am always in search of leadership lessons. Whether it be on vacation in Africa, volunteering with a non- profit, observing young children at play, or enjoying a movie there are leadership lessons everywhere.

What leadership lesson have you learned recently that you can share with your team to help them better understand the dynamics of leadership?

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.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Worst CEOs of 2012: What did we Learn?

This post first appeared 1/24/2013 on SmartBlog on Leadership:

The year 2013 has begun, and with it a new year of scrutinizing CEO performance. It’s worth taking one last look at 2012′s poor performers to see what we can learn for this year.

In case you haven’t seen one yet, here’s a compilation of the 2012 lists:

1. The Bloomberg Businessweek Worst CEOs of 2012
Sydney Finkelstein, a professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, has been doing his list for three years now. Brian Dunn, formerly of Best Buy, has the honor of topping his list.

2. Forbes the Worst CEO Screw-ups of 2012
Forbes staff writer Susan Adams borrowed from Finkelstein’s list and also consulted with another business school professor and a consultant. Aubrey McClendon, CEO, Chesapeake Energy, made the top of the list, although it’s not ranked.

3. Herb Greenberg’s Worst CEO of 2012 (CNBC)
The veteran “Worst CEO” writer and market insider Greenberg picked Groupon’s Andrew Mason, who didn’t appear on either of the first two lists.

4. Valuewalk’s Worst CEOs of 2012
Valuewalk says it “used our own proprietary technology to make the final decisions.” Its pick: McClendon.

5. Motley Fool’s Worst CEO of 2012
You gotta love The Fool. The people there used an NCAA basketball-style bracket and had readers vote to come up with their champ: Zynga’s Mark Pincus, who made all of the other lists.

So what can we learn from this rouge’s gallery of CEO failures? How can CEOs avoid ending up on the “Worst CEOs of 2013”?

First and foremost, financial results seem to matter the most, which shouldn't come as any surprise, especially given three of the lists were created by Wall Street analysts and a plunging stock price is sure to call attention to a company’s CEO.

I suspect there are lots of crummy CEOs out there who fly under the radar with decent financial results in spite of their incompetence or boorish behavior. Unfortunately, many of them actual believe there is a correlation between their actions and the company’s results, which encourages them even more.

The decisions that CEOs make are usually so broad and long-term that the financial results often take years to catch up to them. Just give them a little more time, and they’ll end up on a list at some point.
It’s only once the stock price drops that the outside world starts asking questions and looking under the hood. That’s when we learn about things like:
  • Poor decision making.
  • Hubris and arrogance.
  • Financial scandals — interest rate manipulation, money laundering, undisclosed personal loans, bribery, etc.
  • Inappropriate relationships and affairs.
  • Use of the company jet and employees for personal reasons.
  • Poor public, customer and employee communication.
  • Failure to address lingering operational problems.
  • Comparing yourself to Steve Jobs.
  • Poor talent management.
  • And just plain immature, inappropriate, and outright goofy behavior and antics, which again, you can get away with if you’re insanely successful, but at some point, it’s going to affect the bottom line and you’ll be busted.
There’s nothing new about this “10 ways to fail as a CEO” list. I’ll bet if we went back and reviewed the last five years, we’d find the same patterns of nonsense leading to the same disastrous results.

But then again, it’s way too easy to play Monday morning quarterback and point out the faults of someone after they fail. I think what I’d really like to see is a list of “CEOs that are going to fail if they don’t knock off the nonsense and get their act together.”

Anyone have any nominations?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why Persuade When You Can Influence?

Guest post by Dr. Mark Goulston and Dr. John Ullmen:

Do you like being pushed? Being sold? Being maneuvered? Being manipulated?

If you are like most people, your answer is probably not.

Do you like being pushy? Selling hard? Maneuvering? Being manipulative?

Unless you love the challenge of dominating others and winning at all costs, you probably don’t like those either.

You’re not alone.  We live in a “post selling, post pushing” world and yet if that’s all you know, whether you like it or not, that’s what you do.

When we set out to interview more than 100 influential people and asked them, “Who persuaded you to do something major in your life?’ a significant number of them retorted, “Nobody persuaded me to do anything important!”

Then when we asked those people, “Who influenced you most to become who you are and the way you are?” they paused, took a deep breath and said, “Aah… now that’s a different story.”  People went on to tell us who were a real influence on them and then they also shined a light on people who they know and admire who are great influencers.

After reviewing these interviews we made a distinction between disconnected influence, where your focus is “What’s In It For You?” and connected influence where your focus is on “What’s In It For Them?”   Disconnected influence is about finding buttons to press that will manipulate people to do what you want that’s in your best interest; connected influence is about finding a way to be of service in working towards a common and great goal.

We identified four steps that positive and highly influential people consistently followed in what we call The Connected Influence Model:

Step 1 - Go for great outcomes.
This isn’t just a once-a-year exercise in setting ambitious goals. It’s about going beyond where people want to be and showing them where and even who they could be.  You’ve reached that outcome when they pause, smile and say, “Do you think we could really do that?” When we have asked such people, “Do you like that?” and they responded, “I love it!” we smiled back and say, “That’s a good start.”
Step 2 -Listen past your blind spot.
After you’ve identified a “great outcome” for and with another person, there is a human tendency to push your agenda.  That can feel like a “bait and switch” and if you do that after they have lowered their guard enough to engage in the “great outcome” conversation they are likely to not be just disappointed, but feel snookered.  Being aware of this and not giving into it greatly increases positive influence especially if down deep they were expecting you to try to sell them on something.
Step 3 -  Engage them in their there.

“You’re here” is your agenda; “their there” is their great outcome, but in addition it’s arriving at their three gets: a) “You get it” - our situation; b) “You get me” - where I am in our situation; c) “You get my future” – how to get from where I am to where I want to be and could be.
Stage 4 - When you’ve done enough . . . do more.
Doing more is exceeding people’s expectations by:
a) being very prepared before you meet someone or your people (which triggers – “Whoa! You really get where I’m/we’re at!”)
b) being present, clear, relevant, concise, positive and confident when you’re meeting with someone or your people (which triggers – “Wow! You have a solution that makes sense, feels right and is doable and that makes me/us feel safe and confident and enthused”)
c) doing more after you meet with someone or your people (which triggers – “Amazing! You followed through and actually took steps to set me/us up to succeed”)
Influence can last for a lifetime; persuasion can last for an hour.  Which would you rather try?

Dr. Mark Goulston and Dr. John Ullmen are the co-authors of REAL INFLUENCE; Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In (Amacom, $24.95).  Dr. Goulston is Co-Founder of Heartfelt Leadership at:; Dr. Ullmen is Managing Director of Motivation Rules at:  Contact: Dr. Goulston at: and Dr. Ullmen at:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why You Should Conduct Talent Review Meetings and 10 Best Practices for Doing Them

I’ll bet a lot of executives and managers reading this post would enthusiastically agree with the declaration “Employees are our greatest asset”.

How about you? How successful would your team or organization be without talented, high performing people?  At the end of the day, in today’s hyper-competitive global economy, talent just might be the only remaining sustainable competitive advantage.

However, if you want to find out what’s really valued by an organization’s leadership, just take a peek at the agendas for their business review meetings, board meetings, operations reviews, quarterly shareholder meetings, sales meetings, or any other kind of management meeting that permeates a busy executives’ calendar. Count up how much time is spent reviewing the earning per share, revenue, profit, sales quotas, manufacturing capacity, inventory, marketing strategy, and other topics. Any mention of a review of talent? 
Probably not, and if there is, it’s only there because it’s a once-a-year HR mandated review.

Actions speak louder than words. If you’re serious about leveraging that all-important asset (your talent), then it’s time to get into a regular rhythm of talent reviews.

A talent review is simply a discussion of your team or organizations people. It answers the questions:
- Who are our highest and lowest performers?
- Who has potential to move into a larger role?
- Who are our potential successors for key leadership positions?
- What should we be doing to improve our talent?
- Where are we vulnerable, and what should we do to minimize our risk?

Even if you’re already conducting talent review meetings, there may be some ways to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. Here are 10 best practices, gleamed from my own experience as well as tips from other talent management experts and successful leaders:

1. Enlist the assistance of an experienced, unbiased facilitator. If you've never ran your own talent review meeting, get some help from a trusted expert. It could be someone from HR, a consultant, or even a trusted experienced peer. After a few meetings, you and your team will get the hang of it and can fly solo. However, there still may be times when you’d want someone to run the meeting so you can sit back and be a full participant without getting bogged down by running the process.

2. It’s YOUR meeting – show up! Getting assistance is fine, but just remember, you and your team are responsible for managing your team’s talent, not HR or anyone else. I've heard of managers that insist they shouldn't participate in their own talent review meetings, because  they don’t want to bias the results and don’t think their team will be completely candid if they are present. Nonsense! The team needs to hear your opinions and your expectations, and if your team is afraid to speak up in your presence, then you've got a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.
I've seen other executives use the time to check emails and get caught up on their reading. Again, actions speak louder than words. Don’t just show up – be 100% present.

3. Don’t over-complicate it. Use a performance and potential matrix (9-box) – a simple, yet effective way to have a discussion about your people. This one sheet of paper is all any manager should have in front of them – not a stack of employee profiles, organizations charts, development plans, and other forms. That stuff should all be available electronically if needed, but it rarely is.
Also, don’t try to over-complicate the 9-box tool. Coming up with labels for each quadrant or numbering systems rarely adds value to the discussion and more often derails it.

4. Make sure you and your team are prepared. Review the purpose and process, as well as ground rules for the talent review prior to the meeting, and give your team at least a week to prepare.

5. Allow plenty of time. A typical in-depth talent review can take about 4 hours. If you try to do it in multiple meetings, you’ll waste too much time in the transitions from one meeting to the next. Then, after a once-per-year (minimal) in-depth review, progress and updates can be handled as a part of your regular meetings.

6. Hold your leadership team accountable. I once supported a business unit President that took his talent management very seriously. When some poor manager showed up unprepared, didn't follow instructions, or didn't follow through on action items, it was NOT a pretty sight. However, they caught on quickly to the importance of managing talent and most learned to be world-class talent managers themselves (or they didn't last long).

7. Don’t just assess your talent. I've seen and heard of a lot of organizations that just assess their talent, but never get around to discussing how to develop their talent. It doesn't have to take long. As a team, just decide on the one thing that would help the employee grow stronger. If you don’t have time to discuss development for every employee, then prioritize, i.e., just do your high potentials. Also, if someone is seen as having senior leadership potential, check to see if they are on anyone’s succession plan – or if they should be.

8. Take notes. This is another reason to have a facilitator assist you – someone to keep track of changes to the 9-box and agreed upon development actions. Each manager should also be taking notes on their own employees. These notes are then used to help hold the team accountable for implementation, which is where talent management usually comes up short.

9. Transparency. While a good ground rule to follow is “what’s said in Vegas stays in Vegas”, that doesn't mean that nothing should be shared with employees. Managers should be having follow-up career and development discussions with their employees to provide feedback and create robust development plans.

10. Be a role model. Sure, holding others accountable is important. However, when a manager treats development as something that’s good for everyone else but doesn't model development and coaching themselves, they lose credibility. They miss the opportunity to improve themselves, their leadership team, and teach valuable skills that will cascade down through the organization.

Follow these 10 tips to get the maximum ROI from your talent review meetings. And if your HR partner isn't supporting you in this process, ask why not? Remember, you’re accountable for your organization’s bottom line and you’ll need nothing but the best talent to get those results.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Help Your Global Talent Succeed and Lead - Cultivate Communication Skills

Guest post by Nancy Vason:

As leaders of global businesses, you draw from a deep well of talent. You employ engineers, plant managers, economists, IT managers and marketing directors from all over the world.  Most are highly educated, technically competent professionals. But are they effective communicators?

Today, communication effectiveness is judged in part on how well these professionals express themselves in English. According to the Harvard Business Review, English is now the global language of business, and more and more multinational companies are mandating English as the common corporate language.

The challenge for your non-native managers is not simply to speak English with correct grammar, but to speak convincingly and confidently.

A 2011 white paper jointly published by the GlobalEnglish Corporation and Human Capital Institute reported that 70% of global employees are non-native speakers – and only 7% think they speak English well enough to do their jobs.

The non-native speakers in your company may perform their daily responsibilities well. But what else do their jobs require? Are they leading global teams? Are they making presentations to executives? Are they sharing their ideas on conference calls? Are they debating strategies in meetings? 

If so, they need persuasive communication skills. In fact, their ability to communicate will determine their future as leaders. Why? Because leadership requires sharing your vision, forging relationships built on trust, and convincing others that your ideas have merit.

So let’s look further at this topic and explore two questions:
  1. What communication skills are most critical for non-native speakers?
  2. How can you cultivate the communication skills of your global team?

What Communication Skills Are Most Critical?

From my experience, non-native speakers must be able to express their ideas clearly, whether in formal presentations or informal meetings. They need to demonstrate credibility, connect with their listeners and be confident of their English.

Credibility starts with having a clear, concise message. Most non-native speakers try to share their depth of knowledge instead of focusing on the needs of their listeners. When preparing their remarks, they need to ask: what issue or challenge is important to my listeners and how will my recommendation address that? Also, what is the most critical information my listeners need to know? Then they should limit the discussion to 2-3 key ideas and support them with examples, anecdotes and data. This keeps the discussion focused and prevents the non-native speaker from struggling with long explanations.

Connecting with the listener involves having great eye contact and displaying great passion for the topic. In business, people trust people who look them right in the eye.
Because of cultural differences, this can be hard for some non-native speakers. A native Korean with 10+ years in international business recently shared an example with me. Several years ago, she and her Australian boss interviewed a gentleman from Korea for a job. She thought the Korean man answered their questions well, but her Australian manager disagreed. His impression was that he was not interested in selling his ideas because he stared at the wall during the conversation. Ultimately, his lack of direct eye contact cost him the job.

Being confident in speaking English is a hurdle for most non-native speakers. If they lack confidence, they may decline opportunities to speak or hold back during team discussions. The non-native speaker should not aspire to be perfect, but rather to be understood. Accents are only a problem when they prevent comprehension of words and ideas.  To build confidence, non-native speakers should rehearse their presentations out loud multiple times before they present. Preparing for questions is even more important. By anticipating the questions, writing them down in advance, and practicing answers out loud, the non-native speaker will feel more in control.

How Can You Cultivate Your Team’s Communication Skills?

As a leader, you set the tone in the way you communicate. Be sensitive to the challenges non-native speakers face. Provide a supportive work environment that encourages dialogue, collaboration and professional development. Reward the expression of thoughts, even if they are not perfectly stated. Here are a few other ideas:

Start a mentoring program. This will allow non-native speakers to learn from seasoned colleagues. For example, the mentor might listen to the speaker’s presentations and give feedback on confusing phrases or mispronounced words. Mentors can also suggest resources and tools to help the non-native speaker improve English competency. For example in Atlanta, the Georgia Tech Language Institute offers tutors who can help business people improve their English language skills.

Offer leadership development programs. Many global companies have successful programs, and they reinforce the value international managers bring to the organization. In some programs, non-native speakers participate in cross-functional teams to solve problems and present recommendations to senior management. Team presentations allow managers to showcase their expertise without having to be the only speaker on stage.  In another example, a large beverage manufacturer sponsors a global leadership program for women. It gives participants the opportunity to make persuasive business presentations to a small group of colleagues, with two executives on hand to give constructive feedback. 

Encourage your managers to attend communication skills training programs. These courses help participants enhance their verbal skills. Whether the focus is on presentation skills, negotiation skills, interviewing skills or media training, the programs typically include relevant practice on camera with feedback from a coach.  Our company, Speechworks, offers a presentation skills class specifically for non-native speakers.

Global businesses benefit from having a culturally diverse, highly talented work force. Non-native English speakers typically have strong technical and operational skills. But to succeed and to lead, they need to be persuasive communicators.

You can cultivate these skills within your global company. Be an advocate for persuasive communication, accurately assess the needs of your team, and provide opportunities for them to grow and develop. Then watch as their confidence soars!

About the Author: Nancy Vason is an executive coach at Speechworks, an Atlanta-based communication skills coaching firm that helps business leaders connect with audiences and get results. Through global clients like The Coca-Cola Company, Novelis and Jabil, Nancy helps executives from many different cultures become confident communicators. She also teaches Business Communication in the Georgia Tech MBA program, where most of her international students are non-native speakers. For more information, please visit 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Great Leadership Learning Matrix

“Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we're idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot.”
- Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle

I just created this learning and development model based on 20-plus years of training, coaching, and mentoring others. Just about anybody I could think of, including myself, would fall into one of these four quadrants:

Here's a summary of each type of learner:

1. The Ostrich
Doesn't know a lot and doesn't really give a damn about it. That's not always a bad thing. For example, I don't know a lot about art history and I really don't care to learn about it. However, for a manager, being unskilled in leadership and not wanting do do anything about it is a recipe for failure. These managers are often stuck in their own comfort zone, over rely on a few key strengths  and will justify their behavior by saying things like "hey, that's just the way I am".
They won't seek out feedback, ignore it if they get it, and are seen as unwilling or unable to adapt.
Being "retired on the job" isn't about age - I've seen it happen to as many younger managers as older ones.
These are often the managers who "get sent" to leadership training or have a coach forced upon them. Without a willingness to learn, the chances for behavior change are slim.

2. The Eager Beaver
Eager beavers are often new in their roles or are in a situation where they need to learn something new in order to be successful. In other words, their jobs depend on it.
I love working with new supervisors - they just soak up anything you offer them. The problem is, they sometimes are a little too eager, and try to take on too many new skills at once. They can come across as not genuine, lack consistency, and are prone to lose their confidence. They can also be gullible - being an easy target for the latest fads or silver bullets promising to make them great leaders in 10 easy steps.
Eager beavers need to take it one step at a time, and prioritize their learning and development goals around the critical few that will having the biggest and most immediate return-on-investment.

3. The Know-it-all
Unlike the ostrich, know-it-alls really do have a lot of talent or expertise around the subject (in this case, leadership and management). However, they can come across as  arrogant, presumptuousness, close-minded, and judgmental. They also may be very successful in their current role, but struggle with transitioning to new roles, given their unwillingness to let go of old skills and pick up new ones.

4. The Continuous Learner
Continuous learners are always looking to improve, no matter how good they are. In sports, they're the Tom Bradys, the Peyton Mannings - superstar all-pros, but always the last ones off the practice field and putting in  overtime studying film of their next opponent. They are the David Bowies, the Madonnas of rock and roll, always looking to stay current and relevant, and knowing when it's time to reinvent themselves.
Continuous learner leaders seem to be naturally curious and outstanding listeners. They are not faking it - they really do feel that they can learn something from everyone. They are not afraid to admit their weaknesses, and openly share their development plans to address those weaknesses. They are always seeking feedback, and seem to know how to take that feedback and adapt their behavior accordingly.

So what do you think of the model? As a coach, trainer, or manager, do you recognize your clients, students,  or employees?

More importantly - can you recognize yourself, and catch yourself if you're in a quadrant that you shouldn't be in for the situation?

Comments on the model are welcome! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Listen for the Sound of Your Own Success

Guest post from Scott Weiss:

Leading an open and collaborative corporate culture can be a tough job. Essentially, you must learn to be a “safety engineer.” Safety engineering simply assures that a critical system behaves as needed, even when components fail. Think of that “critical system” as your company, and those “components” as your employees. If one employee fails, the entire company should not crumble, especially if you have incorporated core values in the system.

Trust seems to be the common denominator in open-culture organizations. In order for trust to be ingrained as a core dynamic, leaders must also learn how to extend it. Because trust is a two-way street, you must first prove that you are worthy of trust. In order to truly empower our teams to release their creative potential or find true enthusiasm for their work, we must learn to trust them and create a genuine partnership. After all, that’s why we hired them in the first place.

After ingraining trust in your employees, there are three key practices leaders must follow in order to create the open and collaborative culture for which they are striving.

Expect the best
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Eisenhower hit the nail on the head. The key to getting things done starts with trusting your employees by setting high expectations. Each person will either rise to the occasion or fail to meet our expectations, but when we expect the best we are more likely to get positive results. I’ve heard this presumptive attitude called “positive intent,” which I believe is invaluable, especially when working with a cross-generational and multi-cultural workforce. Trust should always be an extension of everything we do. I believe as leaders we must reserve judgment on generational or cultural differences in language, customs or communication and work styles, in order to keep employees open to learning.

Model Authentic Conversations
In this day and age, it is overwhelmingly difficult to carry on a conversation with people, especially millennials. With social media at its peak (including texting, instant messaging, posting on Facebook and emailing) conversations have turned into fragments, are no longer grammatically correct, and come with plenty of syntax errors. As face-to-face conversations are becoming less and less common in the workplace, I believe conversation is becoming a dying art. Just like any other art, it is worth practicing and preserving.

Of course, in our personal relationships we know how to communicate, and we want to know the other person deeply. But when it comes to corporate America, people face time constraints, agendas and goals. In many leaders’ eyes, in order to get something we want, we must control the situation.

Audiences can sense when leaders are trying to control the situation and warrant a specific, robotic response. When listeners feel like objects of a conversation rather than participants, they become defensive, put up barriers, and sometimes even ignore what we say, for good reason.

Since conversation is an art, there is always room for improvement. Due to the high demands of our daily workload, it is impossible to have face-to-face conversations with everyone. There will always be large presentations, company-wide memos and conference calls, but creating more authentic, genuine conversations along the way will show through to your audiences, ultimately building trust within the communications for which you are responsible.

Learn to Listen
The average person really only listens about 25 percent of the time. Active listening requires our FULL attention - our eyes, ears and hearts must be invested in order to participate in a true conversation. Although we all believe we are excellent listeners, many people start formulating a response after just the first half of a sentence, likely listening for the next short lull in the conversation to speak again. Improving our listening skills is a self-development process that can have a tremendous effect on our day-to-day conversations. Listed below are key skills for becoming an active listener.

1. Attend fully: Maintain eye contact. Don’t fail to listen because you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next. Assume positive intent. Avoid prejudging. Keep an open mind.

2. Restate and paraphrase: Ask questions for clarification; restate or paraphrase the speaker’s point to make sure that you didn’t misunderstand.

3. Interpret and confirm: Respond to the message by offering a tentative interpretation of the speaker’s feelings, desires, or meanings.

4. Allow for space and silence: Don’t panic in the pauses or be tempted to fill them with glib, easy sound bites. Listening demands space in a communication exchange. It requires giving each of you time to think as well as to talk. Confident, self-reflective leaders aren’t afraid to say, "You know, I'm not sure about what you are suggesting. Let me process this for a day or two and get back to you."

Use these active listening skills not only in one-on-one conversations, but in all types of communication, including large presentations, conference calls and group or team meetings. This will create more effective, more meaningful, more collaborative and less contentious exchanges, ultimately producing authentic conversation.  

Safety Engineering
Those who want to lead an open and collaborative corporate culture are obligated to become their organization’s safety engineers. I dare you to establish organization priorities of extending trust to each individual and establishing safety throughout. Try this: value the art of conversation. Make it a point to actively listen in every environment and develop a skill you want to model for those around you.  I dare you to risk your unmasked self in corporate conversations and model simplicity and sincerity for others.

About Scott
Scott Weiss, author of, “DARE”, and CEO of Speakeasy, Inc., has one wish: for you to be the most authentic leader you can be. Through his work at Speakeasy, Scott has helped the leaders of some of the world’s most recognizable brands, including Coca-Cola, Accenture and Wells Fargo, become more authentic communicators. Scott is also a professional speaker and blogger. Find out more by visiting, and follow Scott’s DARE updates on Twitter @DAREthebook.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The January 2013 Leadership Development Carnival: Best of 2012 Edition

Welcome to The January 2013 Leadership Development Carnival: Best of 2012 Edition!

Each of the leadership bloggers below were asked to submit their best (i.e., favorite, most popular) post from 2012, along with why it was the best.

For most Carnivals, I'd suggest that readers just skim the headlines and pick and choose from the list. However, for this special edition, why not read them ALL? After all, for a typical blogger that cranks out at least 100 posts a year, you'll be reading the top 1% of over 3500 posts! I'd say that's pretty darn efficient leadership development.

So here they are, in the order they were submitted. There were a few that missed the "best of" theme, but are included anyways. Please pardon the patchwork colors and fonts - it may not be pretty, but it sure is good stuff!

"This post was my most popular (generated the most comments) and is one of my favorite posts from this past year. In it I present very new insights (for me!) on the health of organizational culture: civility (basic "niceness;" no yelling, cursing, or tantrums - yet a stretch for many organizations because civility is NOT the norm), then acknowledgement (active recognition of effort, accomplishment, and demonstration of desired values), to the highest level of cultural health, validation (proactive, explicit valuing of team members' ideas, skills, enthusiasm, work ethic, and cooperation)."

Anne Perschel, from Germane Insights, picked Dear CEO: What's Your 400 Year Business Plan?

"What can leaders learn from the makers of fine cognac? How to grow a company that remains healthy long into the future. This post begins by considering the 400 year forest management plans that produce trees for making cognac barrels. Sip slowly and enjoy the read."

"This is my favorite because it addresses fear, a huge negative (and silent) driver that keeps leaders from speaking up against injustice, lack of ethics, morality issues and other things that damage individuals and people in our organizations. Leaders must learn to recognize their fear when it surfaces and ask themselves several questions – provided in the article -  and one very important question in order to take action against negative influences at work."

"It may not have been my most popular... but I think it's 'best' because it's a simple message... but one that too many of us forget. I firmly believe that if we redeployed even a fraction of the time and energy we spend focusing on failure toward learning from success, we'd get a lot farther faster."

"Believe it or not, this is my number one leadership/management related post. There are very fine lines between being a tough boss, a jerk manager and a bully."

"In my opinion having a vision is crucial for a leader.
A true vision shows that the leader and the company strive to solve a meaningful problem.
It is not about money, it is about solving a problem which makes the world a better place.
I believe the included video helps that this post is one of my most popular ones."

"One of my most popular posts, and one that expresses an important essence of leadership. We want to follow people with confidence, charisma and a strong sense of direction.  Confidence inspires, attracts, excites and ignites.  We think, “they sure do seem to know what they’re doing…”  And yet, I have observed that confidence, without humility, can be dangerous.  I have seen it significantly limit a leader’s effectiveness.  They stay their course, but may miss important input.  People may follow, but not with their full spirit.  Truly confident leaders are secure enough to embrace and share their humility.  In the long run, their humility makes them stronger."

"I’m feeling exhausted and burned out, but I’m afraid to slow down. What should I do? Here are three ways to get yourself back on track: (1) Schedule yourself first, (2) Set and maintain boundaries, (3) Monitor overload warnings."

Lisa Kohn, from The Thoughtful Leaders Blog, submitted Balance is a dirty word

"Here's a few simple ideas for achieving more balance in our worlds and our lives."

Linda Fisher Thornton, from Leading in Context, picked What is Creativity?

"What is Creativity?" was the most popular post of 2012 on the Leading in Context Blog. It explores the variables that make up what we call creativity, and investigates whether it is a skill or a mindset."

Here's my own favorite from 2012,  10 Simple "Truths" about Management vs. Leadership. Although one of my shorter posts, it took a long time to write, and represents over 20 years of experience and learning about leadership.

Tom Magness, from Leader Business, picked March Tables.

"It is a leadership lesson from my days as a young lieutenant.  Timeless lessons about…time!"

Bill Matthies, from Business Wisdom, picked Stagnant Thinking.

"Real change stems from the ability to alter one's views. The next time you find yourself in a heated discussion with a co-worker, remember this.  If you can't change your mind, what can you change?"  

"I chose this post not just because it elicited strong interest from readers in many countries, but because it may help foster personal reflection and inquiry at the start of 2013. Malala Yousafzai is still healing physically and emotionally from her wounds, yet her courage and perseverance to her cause- that girls in Pakistan have the right to education and to be safe while doing so -  is a testimony to true leadership. And it’s why I chose her as the top leader in my Leadership 2012 blog post (which I’ll release on January 7). The book is not closed on Malala. Expect to hear much more from her in 2013."

"Determining which post deserves the honor of being selected the best of the year, isn't easy. As did the other candidates, this post presented an important leadership lesson.  But, in addition, it has the added value of a cute video with a baby porcupine (demonstrating that effort without the proper insight is often wasted); that proved
enough to allow the post to edge out the others."

"Being a good coach means putting others before yourself and always making decisions for the good of the team.  Here are eight tips on how to take coaching principles into the workplace in order to be an employee-focused leader, it all starts with listening."

Mark Stelzner, from inflexionadvisors, picked 5 Career Lessons From The Road.

"I believe that real life experience often serves up the best advice and this particular flight (plus a little eavesdropping) served as great inspiration."

David Burkus, from Leaderlab (next month's Carnival host), picked Strategy is About Choice.

"It was one of the most read pieces in 2012 and the one with the most active discussion BY FAR, on how developing strategy is just as much about what you choose not to pursue."

Eric Pennington, from The Epic Living Blog, picked An Early Morning in June.

"This post is my best/favorite for 2012 because it reveals much about me and gave my readers a since of my heart and experiences. The readers got to see clearly that experiences shape a true mission."

"I remain convinced that the leaders of tomorrow are those who are best able to lead with accountability and often without authority in distributed and heavily matrixed environments. These "integrator leaders" must survive on their ability to build temporary coalitions, cultivate a shared vision, and drive results all without the hire/fire/promote authority that traditional organizational leaders have enjoyed. Blend in the need to be able to do all of this across time-zones and cultures, and you can see why those who master the art of leading in the matrix are increasingly in demand."

"This past year saw the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon and a true American hero. In one of his most widely read and tweeted posts, Randy shares five leadership lessons from the life and career of Armstrong."

Wally Bock, from Three Star Leadership, picked Magical Bosses.

"Great bosses get results that often seem magical. But there's method to the magic and you can learn it."

Jane Perdue, from LeadBIG, picked Let's end the paradox of kindness.

"Power has gotten a bum rap of being all ego-centric and self-serving. Hooey. One can do well, show kindness and be as powerful as all get-out. Dare to be kind." As my most read post of 2012, I'm delighted that others agree!"

Mike Henry Sr., from Lead Change Group, picked Playing the Part of a Leader (by Alan Derek Utley). 

"Alan Utley challenged us to avoid the temptation to simply "go through the motions" of leadership. We can't simply act the part.  We must "be the leader." Simply acting like a leader won't get it. He proposed 6 things we must do to "be" a genuine leader."

Neal Burgis, Ph.D. picked Happy New Year: Holiday Challenge for 2013.

"This is my best work as it relates to the brand new year of 2013. Having 12 fresh approaches for your leadership & organization, helps move you to thrive instead of just surviving. This article helps you set a new goal
for the next 12 months. Follow them for the success you want. Every new day gives you a chance to move forward from your present situation. You can improve your business on a number of fronts. To help launch the New Year for your business, the following are 12 ways you can move your organization forward."

"This post stands out to me because emotion is the challenge I must overcome most often.  Here are 5 things that I have found to be effective in keeping emotion controlled in myself and those around me."

Mary Ila Ward, from Horizon Point Consulting, picked Pot, Meet Kettle.

"This was the most viewed post of 2012 for Horizon Point's blog.  It speaks to the fact that what annoys or angers us most in others is the flaws we also see in ourselves.  It also gives tips for recognizing these flaws and correcting them in order to be better leaders."

"This was the 2nd most popular with my readers according to the combined number of shares on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but the excellent discussion and reader comments added so much value that I consider it my best post. We are being called on more and more to collaborate across reporting lines and work with people we don't have direct authority over. How to influence in these kinds of situations is such a timely and important topic."

"I chose this post for two reasons: first because it’s aligned with the core purpose  of the Leadership Development Carnival – providing tips for how to develop your team members’ leadership abilities on a daily basis. Secondly, this post-within-in-a-post addresses another key aspect of leadership development – shoring up emerging leaders’ belief in their abilities."

"My best 2012 was a huge debate!  As change begins "with me", many of my posts are focused on self-development.  This post focuses on the life-changing difference we can make for individuals and our organizations when we focus on developing others."

Joan Kofodimos, from Anyone Can Lead, picked The End of Leaders?

"In 2012, the old debates about gender and leadership were reincarnated in a big way - from Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk claiming there aren't enough women leaders because they don't want it enough, to Anne-Marie Slaughter's rejoinder in The Atlantic arguing that it's impossible to have it all, to Hanna Rosin's controversial book The End of Men. In this blog post, I try to tease out the implications for those of us, men and women alike, who want to survive and thrive in the organizations of the future."

"While we work to be productive in what we do, we also want more. We want to feel valued, listened to, and called upon to do ordinary and extraordinary things. In this post, I discuss how we can begin to do just that."

"This post in particular was shared quite a lot through social media channels.  My clients have shared that this "One Secret" was a key lesson from me in our work together this year."

Mark Miller, from Great Leaders Serve, picked Simplify.

"It was one of the most popular posts to appear on  in 2012. I think it's a valuable addition to the carnival because the best leaders are gifted at simplifying things. This post shares some examples of how leaders do that every day."
Miki Saxon, from MAPping Company Success  gives us Ducks in a Row: Managing Weeds.

"Most stars are made, not born, which means that the quality of a team reflects the quality of its management. Managers should consult the mirror when considering an under-performing employee."

Jon Ingram, from Strategic HCM, closes out the Carnival with Engagement or Entwistle

I hope you enjoyed this "best of" edition of the Carnival! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders

This post was first published 1/1/2013 on SmartBlog on Leadership:

Having trouble coming up with a good leadership New Year’s resolution? Here’s a list of 10 to pick from. These are things that leaders know they “should” do but often don’t. Don’t overdo it – just pick one and commit to it!

Feel free to submit your own in the comments section – there’s nothing like a public declaration to help hold yourself accountable.

For 2013, I’m going to:

1. Develop a charter for my team or organization. The charter will include our purpose (or mission), our vision, our values, long term (2-3 years) goals, objectives, and action plans. I’ll involve my team and other stakeholders in the development of the charter, make sure it’s communicated clearly and consistently, and follow-up on a regular basis to track progress, revise, and celebrate achievements.

2. Reach out to someone who helped me become the leader I am today. I’ll write a letter, or maybe even pay a visit, and let them know specifically what they did and why it was so important for me.

3. Schedule and hold regular one-on-ones with each of my team members. We’ll use that time to discuss concerns, opportunities, progress on goals, development, celebrate achievements, or just touch base of what’s going on in our busy lives. If I have a conflict, I won’t cancel the meeting – instead, I’ll reschedule it.

4. Decide what’s important to me as a leader – what I stand for and why. I’ll share this with others, and consistently act in a way that demonstrates these values and beliefs.

5. Be more accountable. I’ll admit my mistakes, fix them, learn from them, and stop pointing fingers or placing blame.

6. Improve my presentation skills and the way I communicate. I’ll take a course, join toastmasters, hire a coach, practice, and get feedback from others.

7. Listen more and better. I’m going to seek to understand the other person’s point of view and emotions, and force myself not to evaluate, judge, or offer my own point of view until I am sure I have understood theirs.

8. Get feedback on my leadership skills. I’ll take a multi-rater assessment or figure out some other ways to get an accurate assessment as to how I am perceived by others.

9. Mentor someone. I’ll make myself available to help someone else become even better than me. If not someone at work, I’ll volunteer my time to an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters.

10. Be more innovative. I’m going to look for possibilities, and ask “why not”, and “what if”. I’ll take a course and/or read a book on what it takes to be an innovative leader, and pick 2-3 things to implement and practice.