Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Case for Leadership Development

Guest post by Ken Kuzia:

How do you get managers to buy into the fact that they need development?  I posed this question to a group of professionals who mentor managers. Here’s what they said.

Mentors agree that you can rely on a certain level of resistance when it comes to identifying development opportunities.  It’s difficult to get managers to accept that they need development, let alone continuous development. When managers feel that development is unnecessary, they’re reluctant to participate in any form of assessment, or they participate in the assessment and then immediately ignore the results.  They probably read but don’t follow the recommendations resulting from their assessments.  Resistance is prevalent when the recommended areas of development are linked to “soft skills”.  Resistance to development is often lower when the recommended areas of development involve the more “technical” or the “hard-skill” aspects of a manager’s job.

If told that development is a requirement for keeping the job, managers usually comply.  However, compliance without a development mandate can translate into minimal improvement.  Optimally, employing a mentor, or coach, is the approach to better development and stronger results. 
Most resistors become ardent fans of development when engaged in the process and shown the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me).

Once managers understand the assessment, feedback, development, and reinforcements processes, AND the value of developing (the payoff for the work), development can proceed. With “buy-in” in place, development has to start with an assessment that measures skills aligned with the company goals, processes, and cultural expectations.

Mentors recommended using 360° assessment tools to identify areas for development.  My experience shows that 360° assessment instruments are used within larger companies whose management has experienced the benefits of assessment from multiple perspectives and continuous development.

The use of 360s by executive management prompts lower level management to “do what the big boys do” and, therefore, require little, if any, inducement to follow suit.

There are organizations where executives find it necessary to mandate the use of 360s at lower levels in the organization driven by dissatisfaction with performance at lower levels.  More often, 360s are mandated because the executives believe that the use of 360s is good for leaders at all levels and provides a global benefit within the organization itself (if the expected follow-through is done after the assessment).

Most organizations don’t use 360 assessments.  So how do you get their managers to develop?

Organizations that don’t use 360 assessments are often smaller and don’t have the resources to conduct formal assessments and development.  It’s difficult to focus on personal development when the bosses are “up to their asses in alligators.”  They don’t have anyone at a higher level of management to induce them to develop unless they are members of a franchise that requires development beyond “technical” development.

So, how do you get these small businesses to investigate and buy into self-development when it’s prohibitive for a consultant to approach small business owners one potential client at time?  Also, mass mailings and ads aimed towards small businesses are ignored.

Many small business owners belong to business or trade associations.  Efforts directed at these associations provides an opportunity to get in front of groups of small businesses where owners may be more receptive to assessment and development if some peers are finding benefits in development. The question may not be how to open the door, but rather how to find the correct door to knock on.

Discussing the subject of development with small business owners can be successful when they’re engaged in a dialogue with questions focused on the needs of the organization before drawing connections to the manager’s ability to meet those needs.  While asking questions, opportunities usually arise to suggest that the manager may be able to benefit from development in terms of the bottom line and the quality of their personal lives.

Creating an emphasis around service and the values they want to establish within their company helps establish the credibility for the development discussion, because it’s relevant to their business and fits their personal goals.  Describing how much development is possible through small, incremental efforts and not huge time or cash-consuming efforts is critical to having the owner commit to working to create change.

You might also be able to suggest conducting a simple employee feedback survey about the leader’s capabilities.  However, be forewarned that such a survey typically only provides useful information about the leader’s communications and leadership style as opposed to strategic and tactical needs of the business – still worthwhile feedback and worthy of pursuit.

Without some form of support or mandate, leaders will not seek development until:

§  An organizational culture exists that supports leadership development.
§  Performance feedback of some form is supplied and accepted as valid.

§  Personal drive to develop exists.

§  There is a significant cost or other consequence (like business failure) if they do not develop themselves beyond their current capabilities.

Once again Pareto’s rule applies -- 20% of your leaders are going to be excellent leaders whether or not they are provided with development. 20% of the leaders are probably wrong for the company, don’t fit the culture, don’t produce, and really should not be developed – they should be reassigned to non-leader roles or dismissed.  Your biggest opportunity is with the middle 60% who, with some coaching, can be turned on to the value and benefits of personal development.  With a little coaching from the right mentor, they can be almost as strong as the upper 20%!
Want some incentive for developing leaders?  Send me your contact information and I’ll send you a copy of a white paper that shows the developed leaders enhance the bottom line by up to 200%.
Ken Kuzia is the owner and consultant for Dupere Development Services, a Rochester, NY consulting service specializing in Organizational Development issues and a Senior Partner with Up Your Leadership. You are welcome to visit his website at Contact

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Can a Manager be a Coach?

Originally posted at Smartblog on Leadership 5/23/2013:

Can a manager be an effective coach? Some (often, professional coaches) say that they can’t and shouldn’t, because they have too much of a vested interest in the outcome of the coaching and couldn’t possibly be neutral enough to hold back on their opinions.

Then again, a lot of managers think they are already coaching when what they are really doing is a lot of teaching, advising and telling — or, worst case, micromanaging (think Pointy Haired Boss from “Dilbert”). They use the phrase “coaching” to describe just about any conversation they have with an employee.
Both are valid positions. It all depends on how you define what “coaching” is. I like to think of it as the skill and art of helping someone improve their performance and reach their full potential. There is a spectrum of coaching skills — from directive (teaching, advising, giving feedback, offering suggestions), to asking questions and listening — the real magic of coaching is when the coach takes a more non-directive approach (asking questions and listening) and the person can solve his or her problems. When people can come up with their own solutions, they are more committed, the fixes are more likely to be implemented, and these people are more likely to develop and solve similar problems next time on their own.

Great coaches help minimize the “noise” and distractions that are getting in the way of someone’s ability to figure out what’s going on and what to do about it. Great coaches know how and when to ask the right question at the right time, when to give feedback, when to advise, how to get the person to focus and how to gain commitment.
Managers can do this; in fact, I’ve seen some do it very well. But they have to let go of a few beliefs and pick up a few mindsets and skills. Here’s a summary of what I think needs to happen.

1. Managers need to let go of the belief that their job is to have all of the answers.
While many managers won’t admit they think they know more than the sum total of their entire team, they still act that way. It’s human nature. We all like to be advice columnists when it comes to other people’s problems. The problem is, when you don’t give employees the opportunity to solve their own problems, they don’t develop. Instead, they become dependent and never reach their full potential.

2. Managers have to believe that every employee has the potential to grow and improve.

3. Managers need to be willing to slow down and take the time to coach.

Yes, it’s quicker and simpler to tell and give advice. Coaching does take a little more time and patience upfront, and it takes deliberate practice to get good at it. However, it’s an investment in people that has a higher ROI than just about any other management skill I can think of. People learn, they develop, performance improves, people are more satisfied and engaged, and organizations are more successful.

4. Managers need to learn how to coach.
You can’t just throw a switch and be an effective coach. You need to have a framework, and it takes practice. Most coaches I know use the GROW model as their framework. They like it because it’s easy to remember and provides a road map for just about any coaching conversation. While there are many versions of the GROW acronym, the one I use is:

  • G = goal. “Tell me what you want to get out of this discussion?”
  • R = reality. “So what’s actually happening?”
  • O = options. “What could you do about it?”
  • W = what’s next. “What are you going to definitely do about it? By when?”
To learn how to coach, I’d recommend that managers experience what it’s like to be coached by someone who’s really good at it. Then, read a good book on the topic. I just finished “Effective Coaching,” by Myles Downey, but there are many other good ones. Then, practice, practice, practice and get feedback. After a while, you become less dependent on a linear framework and begin to comfortably bouncing from one step to another. It also helps to have a toolkit of favorite questions to ask for each step in the GROW model.

Managers who want to be effective coaches will most likely need to let go of some assumptions about themselves and their employees, be willing to learn and practice a style of management that will initially feel unnatural and awkward. However, the rewards will be well worth the effort.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Leaders Should Not "Like" Their Staff

Guest post from Gerry Czarnecki:

Those who have read my books know that I believe the greatest injustice we can perpetrate on our staff is to like them. Yes, I truly believe that liking our staff creates the probability that we will be biased in our views when we are trying to successfully manage a team.   As I say in my book, Take Two and Call Me in the Morning:  Prescriptions for a Leadership Headache, I believe that liking people can also be a major impediment to being an effective leader.  Allow me to explain.

Take two staff members. The first, A, is somebody I truly like, while the second, B, is somebody I dislike. Let’s think about how I behave when I like or dislike someone. The fact is, when we like somebody, we have a natural inclination to like everything about them.  Indeed, we may have even overlooked their little weaknesses or failures because we choose to see the best in them. This is quite natural. On the other hand, when we dislike somebody, we have a tendency to notice and remember essentially all the weaknesses or failures. That too is natural.

So, let’s go back to those two staff members. When A does something good, what is my likely reaction?  Obviously, I will remember their actions and praise them for a job well done. When B, does something good, I may force myself to praise them, but it will obviously be less enthusiastic. On the other hand, when A makes a mistake, I am quite likely to either make excuses, or to minimize the importance of the mistake. With B, it is likely that I will react with a less forgiving perspective. I might try to be unbiased, but deep inside, I am probably saying to myself that I am not surprised that B made a mistake. It fits with my feelings about that person.

Now I know that some leaders can completely ignore this bias against the “disliked staff member,” but I know that I have fallen victim to this mistake.  Though I may constantly try to avoid it, I often still feel its effects.  “Like” is forgiving and “dislike” is critical. It is that simple.  We can dislike a team member even though that person might just be the best performer, and might be an even better team member with the rest of the associates.  However, our negative feelings cannot allow us to ignore strengths, just because we feel the weaknesses. If person A had weaknesses, but we can look past them, for the good of the team, then we must do the same for B, who might just have enough strengths to be more valuable than our emotional gut will allow us to recognize.

By the way, the flip side of this argument is that if we do not have the same sense of caring for the team, no matter what our feelings, then we will fail the entire team. I talk about loving the team, not liking.  Here I use the word love to mean that deep sense of caring for them as humans, no matter what they are as people. But that is another subject for another day.
Gerry Czarnecki is the author of Take Two & Call Me in the Morning:  Prescriptions for a Leadership Headache. He currently serves as the Chairman & CEO of the Deltennium Group, which helps organizations achieve peak performance through effective leadership.  Previously, he served on the team responsible for the turnaround of the IBM Corporation.  More information is available at 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Events Shaped You as a Leader?

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with the president of a privately held company as part of research for a book I am writing on talent management and development within small to mid-size companies. During our conversation he shared an event he had early on in his career that intrigued me.

He was clearly a high potential early on and was tapped by his CFO to create and lead the new internal audit group for a public company. One day the CFO asked him to attend a board meeting so that he could answer any questions that might arise regarding the internal audit group. His directive: answer those questions asked of him only. Otherwise he was to remain silent and observe. He dutifully sat quietly and after about 90 minutes realized that the people in the room had no earthly idea what was actually going on at this company. There were so many layers of management that what was going on down at “ground force” was not visible. And if these executives didn’t have all the information, how could they be making sound decisions for the company?

So when he was named President of the current company he leads, he remembered this event and instituted Monthly Meetings with Dan. These meetings are comprised of only individual contributors and are confidential. It took several months for employees to trust that the conversations were confidential. Employees did come to realize that Dan genuinely wanted to understand and that their opinions were valued. During these meetings “Dan” gains valuable information that helps him and his executive team make better decisions for the company.

What has helped to shape you as a leader? It may be a series of events both positive and negative. Start the process by thinking back before your career. What events happened at school and at home that have influenced you as a leader? Then think about historical events that might have impacted you as well…9/11, man walking the moon, the Challenger disaster, Boston Red Sox World Series win 2004, or whatever it may be. What changed for you with these events? How are you different as a leader?

And when you self-reflect and become clear about what has influenced you as a leader, it is my belief your leadership becomes more purposeful.  Not only do you connect past learnings with future decisions and actions, you have stories you can share with those you lead. Stories bring context, meaning and understanding to others around you. Suddenly others understand the “why” of your actions; you become more transparent. The more you share about yourself as a person as well as a leader the more real you are to your employees.
As you reveal yourself to others, your modeling will make many feel comfortable in sharing the events that helped shape them as leaders and employees. And, with more insight into those you lead, the better you can lead them! So set aside an hour to increase your leadership effectiveness:

1. Identify those events that were meaningful to you

2. Develop the stories to reveal your “why”, and…

3. Start sharing. 

Then encourage and watch for others to share their stories.
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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

25 Career Options in Leadership Development

Interested in a career in leadership development? There are a lot of ways you can make a decent living and have some fun developing leaders. Here are 25 that come to mind, in no particular order:

1. Mid-level or Senior Manager: managers developing the managers below them.
2. Leadership Trainer or Training Manager: conducting or managing leadership and management training programs.

3. Executive coach: helping to unlock the potential within managers through assessment, feedback, questions, etc…
4. Leadership Author: writing books about leadership.

5. Leadership Blogger: writing online posts about leadership.
6. Leadership Development Consultant: helping companies design leadership development systems, processes, programs, etc…

7. College Professor or Adjunct Instructor: teaching leadership and management courses in degree or executive development programs.

8. Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychologist: these are the PhDs that are often involved in leadership assessments and assessment centers.
9. HR Generalist: coaching, succession planning, and training are often part of the generalist role.

10. Pastor, Minister: teaching their congregations, youth groups, etc… about leadership.
11. Sales or Marketing Manager: selling leadership programs and services.

12. Program Coordinator: managing the logistics for leadership programs and services.
13. Instructional Designer: designing and developing leadership courses (classroom and online).

14. Leadership Guru: those that are quoted about leadership and can command $10,000 and up for a keynote speech.
15. Leadership Researcher: conducts research about leadership models, best practices, etc…

16. Leadership Speaker: giving keynotes, speeches about leadership. Road warriers.
17. Youth Leadership Development Coordinator: coordinates high school or college leadership programs.
18. Talent Development Manager: a role that often combines leadership development, recruitment, and succession planning.
19. Succession Planning Manager: manages the identification and development of potential replacements for key roles in a company.

20. Organizational Development (OD) Manager or Consultant: no one can agree exactly what OD really means, but they sometimes do leadership development.
21. Chief Learning Officer (CLO): “C” level training manager job – often directly responsible for leadership development.

22. Human Resource Executive: high level HR role, often directly involved in executive development and succession planning.
23. Assessment Administrator: administers 360 and behavioral assessments.
24. Project Manager: manages large, complex organizational leadership development programs and systems. Not always subject matter expert, but gets things done.

25. Executive Recruiter: somethimes gets involved in leadership assessment, onboarding, and coaching leaders.

Many of these roles are only available in mid-large size companies, and many can be done independently. Many independents will combine 4-5 of them, e.g., writer, blogger, speaker, trainer, and coach. A few require advanced degrees and/or certifications (professors, I/O Psychologists), and some are entry level (Program Coordinators, Bloggers).

Did I miss any?

What leadership development roles could there be in 10 years that don’t exist today?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The First Thing Leaders Need to Do When Leading a Big Change

Guest post from Phil Buckley:

Most leaders will lead their organizations through multiple big change projects. Constant change is a business reality and organizations must continually adapt to their environments to stay competitive or risk losing relevance and becoming obsolete. For each change, leaders must define it, create a vision of the post-change world, and mobilize their teams to make it.
Often, leaders become paralyzed by the magnitude of the change. Transforming an organization while keeping day-to-day operations running is like fixing a car as it is being driven; it’s complicated, risky, and it’s not clear whether the team can pull it off. Since most changes are in response to performance gaps, speed to completion is a default success factor. Many leaders immediately jump into action mode without taking stock of the environment in which the change is being made and their abilities to lead it.

The first thing leaders need to ask themselves is, “What do I bring to the project?” They need to think of what they can draw upon to help the organization make the change; what past experiences, knowledge, skills and relationships are relevant to the project? Taking stock of their qualifications will focus their energy and build confidence. Many will be surprised at how much they have to offer and how these abilities will benefit them over the course of the change. They may also realize that there are some gaps that need to be filled to successfully lead the project.
Here are some tips on how leaders can assess what they bring to their role in leading change:

1. Review past change projects they have led and what they learned from them. A leader is less likely to repeat mistakes if they are analyzed and written down. If there is no record of lessons learned, the leader can interview past project team members, asking them for their views on what worked and what didn’t. Two or three short discussions will be enough to capture the key learnings so that the successes can be repeated and mistakes can be avoided.
2. Read past performance appraisals and note the skills and capabilities they have been recognized for. There will be themes over time around strengths and development needs. Leaders need to draw upon their strengths and mitigate their gaps by selecting team members who are strong in these areas.

3. Speak with peers (internal and external) who have managed similar change projects. Ask them to identify what experiences, knowledge, skills and relationships contributed to their success. Also, can they suggest which areas the leader is strong in and which ones needs some support. These resources can also be tapped when the leader needs advice on project challenges.
4. Assess the relationships they have with the groups that are going through the change. Personal credibility and trust is important when supporting teams through change. Employees have excellent memories and their initial view of the change will be influenced by their past experience with the leader. Knowing this point is critical to how the leader should frame the change and communicate the details to them.

5. Meet with employees they know that will be undergoing the change. These people will be able to give leaders insider perspectives on needs, concerns and cultural norms. Understanding the uncensored beliefs of the groups will enable them to amplify positive perceptions and refute negative ones.
Identifying the unique experiences, skills and behaviors leaders bring to a big change project is the best way to start building a plan to successfully managing it. Drawing upon these assets as they develop a deeper understanding of the change and what has to be done to make it successful will help them lead from their strengths and support their gaps.

Phil Buckley is a senior change management professional with nearly twenty-five years of experience developing and executing change strategies to achieve aggressive business goals. He has managed twenty-seven large scale change projects, most recently co-leading global change management for the $19.6 billion Kraft Foods acquisition of Cadbury with a team of forty change leads across sixty countries.
Phil is the author of a new book, CHANGE WITH CONFIDENCE: Answers to the 50 Biggest Questions that keep Change Leaders Up at Night (Jossey-Bass, March, 18 2013). It provides complete, actionable answers to the fifty burning questions that leaders routinely ask about how to manage change successfully.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

After the Talent Review…Now What?

I was at a conference recently and the session topic was leadership development and succession planning. One of the participants, an HR manager, raised her hand and asked: “We’ve recently implemented a talent review process, so we’ve done a decent job assessing our leaders, but now we’re struggling with what to do next. Do you have any suggestions?”
The presenter did his best to provide a few tips, but in fairness, that’s a tough question to answer within the time allowed in a 60 minute conference session. It’s especially hard to provide a succinct answer when you’re been doing it for so long - it’s easy to go off on a tangent with so many aspects of leadership development. Believe me; I’ve made a few eyes glaze over myself. Thankfully I have this blog as an outlet. (-:

The “what do we do next” question is a common one that leadership teams will ask, and most busy executives, especially those in smaller, fast-paced companies don’t have a lot of patience for long lectures and complicated theory. What they want is a checklist – or a menu - something they can get their heads around, start implementing immediately, measure, and start seeing results. That’s how they are used to running their businesses.
How about if we give ‘em what they want? Otherwise, they’ll do what most organizations do – spend a lot of time identifying and assessing potential leaders, and then drop the ball on developing those high potentials.

Here are 20 suggestions for what to do after a talent review. These are not all sequential – some are, and some are menu items to pick and choose:
1. Don’t wait to discuss development – do it at the same talent review meeting. Instead of rating everyone on a performance and potential matrix and then leaving the discussion of development needs and actions for a follow-up meeting, as the team is assessing each person, take a few extra minutes to summarize the person’s strengths and development needs and 1-2 high impact development actions (from the list below).
Make sure someone (a talent review facilitator, HR) is taking notes, so the development needs and actions can be summarized and distributed to the team as a follow-up.
2. Have a development discussion with each individual that was assessed. While specific performance and potential ratings or “who said what” should never be shared with employees, talent review discussions can be a valuable source of feedback and input into a person’s development plans. The person’s manager can let the employee how they are perceived, and make development recommendations based on that talent review discussion.
3. Conduct formal assessments. Talent reviews are an efficient and effective way to assess employees, but a 360 degree or behavioral assessment will go much deeper and provide more specific and accurate feedback to the employee and can be used for development planning. 
4. Provide an assessment “debrief”. Assessments are great, but the value of an assessment is limited without a follow-up session with someone who really understands the assessment and how to change behaviors. 
5. Offer executive coaching. An executive coach can work with each individual (in partnership with their manager) to help them implement their development plans, be a sounding board, overcome obstacles, serve as a reminder, and ensure new behaviors take root.
6. Offer a senior leader mentor (usually for high potentials)
7. Suggest subject matter experts for the person to work with on specific development needs.
8. Offer to send the person to an executive development program.
9. Create a custom development program for a group of high potentials. Assuming there is a large enough group with common development needs (there usually are), developing a group of high potentials at the same time, together, can be a more cost-effective approach. Action learning programs are often used for high potentials, where they work on real company issues and learn at the same time.
10. Discuss moving to a new role (in order to acquire the skills and experience needed to prepare for next level opportunities).
11. Decide on a “stretch assignment” (challenging project) for the individual.
12. Recommend targeted reading.
13.  Invite the person to participate in a leadership meeting or event one level above them (for exposure, learning).
14. Suggest a person for the person to “shadow” (subject matter expert, role model, mentor, different business or country, etc…) for a few days. 
15. Give each person access to an online training library.
16. Recommend and help the person get involved in a non-profit or Board assignment.
17.  Recommend a professional organization to join or a conference to attend.
18. Establish ways for the person to get ongoing feedback.
19. Assign someone to collect and monitor all development plans.
20. Survey each person in 6 months to assess how they feel about the level of development support they are receiving.

What else can we add to the list?

This post was brought to you by Jobandtalent: “We help you to find the jobs that are right for you."


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Widening Gap Between Leaders and Up-and-coming Leaders…and What to Do About It

Never in our time has there been a greater need for outstanding leaders. Regulatory changes and changes to the international economic landscape have made it challenging for today’s leaders to achieve the results they need to survive, never mind the results they need to thrive. There is, however, much that can be done to confront these challenges head-on. What’s needed to overcome what I call the “leadership crisis,” is not new technology or massive staffing changes.  What’s needed is a shift in focus towards recognizing, supporting and developing leaders who possess both a strong “inner-core” of character and conviction and “outer-core” of leadership capability. These leaders, old guard and new, must be able to think creatively and critically at the same time. They must strategize effectively and respond with speed and competence to high-pressure situations.
Succession planning programs are meant to address the need for strong leaders, however the gap between those currently in leadership positions and the next wave of leaders is growing by the day, and these programs have not been designed to keep up with the accelerated pace dictated by this dramatic shift in demographics. By some estimates, up to 40-70% of any organization’s management population is currently eligible to retire. And of course, the succession planning debate is not only about having the right number of people to step into leadership roles; the quality and state of readiness of those who will take over leadership is even more vital to an organization’s success.                                                    

To address the leadership crisis from both angles (the need for both enough people and more importantly the right people), innovative practices such as job rotation, leadership development through coaching, mentoring, action-learning, and next-generation behavioral performance evaluation must all be considered. All of these practices, and other methods of identification and tracking of leaders, will be required to increase the speed with which organizations develop talent. The challenge is to put these and other innovative tools to use in a structured manner to build an enduring leadership succession program. One way to achieve this is by starting with a strong, compelling Succession Management Value Proposition.

 In practical terms, an organization’s Succession Management Value Proposition (SMVP) is the holistic sum of the following practices:
(1) Demarcation-performance management;
(2) Diagnostic—objectively assessing leaders andpotential leaders;
(3) Deployment-structured meetings to integrate performance and potential assessments, calibrate capability, determine development options, and identify potential replacement scenarios; and
(4) Development—coaching, on-the-job development and training programs.

There exists no better way to create the belief in the value of the human capital asset, than by demonstrating the connectedness between winning succession practices and operational success. As I discuss in my book Talent Leadership, a strong SMVP foundation leads to:
(1) Capability-“Can Do”;
(2) Commitment-“Will Do”; and
(3) Alignment-“Must Do”.
To put in different words, a strong SMVP is the foundation for any organization to build and sustain a culture in which leaders and future leaders become continuously more capable, committed and aligned. In fact, organizations of all sizes that excel in promoting and developing leadership talent—with a focus and unwavering commitment to optimizing these “leading” indicators achieve impressive results.

About John Mattone
John Mattone is a sought-after keynote speaker, trainer and coach to many leading corporations and government agencies. John has been recognized by the prestigious Thinkers50 as one of the world’s leading management thinkers and by Leadership Excellence Magazine as one of the world’s top leadership consultants, speakers and executive coaches. John is the author of seven books, including the best-selling, Talent Leadership: A Proven Method for Identifying and Developing High-Potential Employees (October, 2012).  John’s newest book, Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential is set for release in hardcover in April, (digital versions are already available for purchase).  Connect with John by email at, follow him on Twitter and like his page on Facebook and visit his website.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Satisfied Employees = Satisfied Customers = Profitable Companies

When it comes to understanding how to balance the need to keep a sharp eye on the bottom line and keep a workforce fully satisfied and productive, some managers and companies seem to get it while others don’t have a clue.

There’s a ton of research and surveys that prove the following:

Satisfied employees = satisfied customers = profitable companies
While I may not be a researcher, I have no shortage of stories from readers, friends, family, and acquaintances that bring this simple formula to life.

Here are two real recent examples. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Company #1: 20 Cents an hour

“Marty” is a department manager at a regional grocery chain. Marty consistently hits his numbers – in fact, he often the #1 performing department of the entire chain for stores.

How does he do it? Well, he works hard, keeps waste to a minimum, is good with the customers, and takes care of his employees.
He recently did a performance evaluation for one of his assistant managers, “Bob”. Bob is a 17 year employee, hard worker, never calls in sick, and over the last year has consistently gone above and beyond to help Marty meet his goals and take care of the customers. After submitting the paperwork and getting the required approval from above, Marty gave him a great review and a 70 cents per hour raise.

You would have thought Bob had won the lottery! He was ecstatic, grateful, proud, and walking on air for the next two weeks. It was the biggest raise he had ever received. Bob was already a solid employee, but as a result of that extra recognition, he was working even harder with extra enthusiasm.
Four weeks later Marty got a call from one of the regional managers. It seems there was an oversight in the approval process, and Bob’s raise was 20 cents more than allowed under company policy. No matter how hard Marty fought, at the end of the day, he had to tell Bob his raise would be 20 cents less.

Bob was devastated. What was once an engaged, productive, proud “associate” quickly turned into a dejected, bitter, and completely demotivated employee. Marty did the best he could to soften the blow, but he couldn’t blame Bob for being ticked off.
I’m not sure how the story will end – maybe Bob will come around – or maybe he’ll go work for a competitor or get fired for a bad attitude. If that happens, it’s going to cost the company thousands of dollars in lost productivity, replacement hiring costs, and training costs. Some estimate the average cost of turnover to be $75,000. I’d say that’s conservative.

All for 20 cents per hour. $400 dollars per year.

Company #2: The $2000 sales management training lesson

Tony, a newly hired sales manager, went to his manager, Joanne, and confessed: “I screwed up! I made a promise to a sales rep that I shouldn’t have made. The operations manager just let me know that I didn’t fully understand our compensation policy and we need to take it back, or it’s going to put us $2,000 over budget. What should I do?”
The response from Joanne? “Take it back?! Hell no! Admit that you made a mistake, and the let the sales rep keep the payment. He’ll respect you for it, and word will quickly spread amongst the rest of the sales reps that you have their backs. That’s a small price to pay for that kind of loyalty and commitment. We’ll make up the $2000 in no time. I’ll talk to the operations manager.”

Joanne clearly understood the impact of the perception of screwing over one of the company’s top sales reps because of a management mistake. The sales rep was even more appreciative when he found out it was a mistake yet it wouldn’t be taken away. While the operations manager wasn’t too happy initially, he got over when he saw the sales numbers at the end of the month.

And now….. the rest of the story:
Company #1 continues to struggle and just got purchased by a competitor. Company # 2 is making money hand over fist in a tough economy. You might argue that company #2 could afford to make the policy exception. Actually, one of the reasons that company is so successful is that they keep a sharp eye on costs and wastes.  Apparently, making good on a promise isn’t considered an unnecessary expense; it’s considered an investment in keeping your workforce engaged and productive.

Both true stories – better than anything I could make up. Two similar management mistakes and company policies, yet two very different responses and results.

Monday, May 6, 2013

May 2013 Leadership Development Carnival

The May 2013 Leadership Development Carnival is hosted this month by Karin Hurt, from her Let's Grow Leaders blog.

You can find here right here. Hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Leading Successfully… Start with the Right Strategy

Guest post by Jimmy Brown, Ph.D.

Business leaders have a lot on their plate. There are administrative chores like budgeting and logistics.  There are people development tasks like encouraging, coaching, and what we’ll politely call correcting. Then there are the big picture and forward thinking undertakings that help set the vision and define the mission for the organization. The exact nomenclature for this last set of responsibilities can vary from organization to organization, but what we are talking about is finding the right strategy. 
Finding the right strategy can be the difference between a leader’s success and failure.  Just look at Léo Apotheker’s brief tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. He made several strategic missteps that not only led to his quick dismissal, but also drove value erosion and a loss of market position that the company is still trying to recover from. While the Apotheker example is one of the more recent, public, and dramatic, it is far from the only one. You can’t open up the business pages of any newspaper without reading about the negative impact of a leader’s poor strategic decision making. So why is this so hard?  Our research suggests that one of the drivers is that leaders are approaching strategy the wrong way. 

Most leaders take one of three approaches. The first is to use what we’ll respectfully call intuitive synthesis. This is a fancy term for guess work and gut-feel. The second is to use intuitive synthesis, often augmented by a couple days of management meetings, to come up with three or four options. Then, the accounting department will run a bunch of financial models to figure out which option is the cheapest. The third approach is to use some established strategic planning model to come up with the options, run the financial models, and then pick whatever is cheapest. 
This third approach is actually good progress towards better strategies because using a standard model helps leaders structure their thinking in a way that reduces the risk of overlooking important inputs. More importantly, if we consistently apply a standard model over several cycles, we can begin to see trends in the data. These trends can allow for even better decision making. The challenge with this approach, however, is that most of the standard models tend to only look at one domain (typically competitive data) and the analysis is still focused on whichever option is the cheapest. 

Leaders in top performing organizations take a much more systemic and holistic approach to strategic decision making. In particular, they incorporate data from three specific domains: 
·        Capabilities – What we do well and how we can do it better

·        Customers – Who we serve, or who has a need we can meet

·        Competitive Environment – What inhibits our success. This includes both direct competitors (i.e., other organizations), and other indirect factors in the external environment 
Armed with this full view of their ecosystem, leaders are now better equipped to decide how to best position their organizations for success. 

Another important differentiator of top performing leaders is that they do not make decisions based solely on which option is the cheapest. They approach these decisions in terms of how much return they will get on the investment, not just the cost. More importantly, that investment decision is not purely financial. Top performing leaders also engage in a sense-making process that considers their Organizational Orientation, as well as their organization’s Process Preferences. 
Organizational Orientation is about the mental models that people in the organization use to get their jobs done. Are they more longitudinally focused and stick to their guns despite changes in the market, or do they actively react to every change? Do they take their mission and vision into account for every decision, or are they more concerned with day-to-day numbers? This orientation is closely related to the culture, the brand, and the example set by the organization’s leaders. A strategy that is aligned with the organization’s orientation is much more likely to be embraced by the people who have to execute it. 

Process Preference is about how the people in the organization choose to execute their tasks. Do they prefer a more centralized command and control structure, or allow each unit to operate more independently? Do new ideas only come from the top, or do they look for the field to come up with new solutions and bubble those up? Regardless of which approach a particular organization prefers, good leaders stay aware of those inclinations, incorporate them into their strategies, and then leverage those to maximize the efficiency of the implementation and execution.   
To be honest, what was just described is an oversimplification of a very robust methodology. Each of the three data domains has several sub-levels of data that need to be collected to fully understand the organization’s ecosystem. The Organizational Orientation and Process Preference considerations are subsets of a larger sense-making process. It includes sorting through the mounds of data from the three domains to determine which particular data points need to be considered in each strategic cycle, and what kinds of analyses should be conducted. Starting at a high level like this is okay because good leaders know how to begin with the big picture, work with their teams to drill down to the details, and then make decisions based on complete information. And that is what strategy is all about. 

About the author:
Jimmy Brown, Ph.D. is the author of Systems Thinking Strategy: The New Way to Understand Your Business and Drive Performance. He is also the Strategy & Change Practice Area Lead at Beacon Associates where he is responsible for change management, organizational performance, and business strategy consulting engagements. In addition to his consulting work, he is a professional speaker and adjunct professor in graduate psychology and management programs. He can be reached at