Monday, July 29, 2013

Leadership Development "Moneyball"

This post was originally published in SmartBrief on Leadership 7/25/2013:

“Moneyball” was a book and movie based on Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his use of statistics (sabermetrics, to be precise) to get the most production out of his team by spending the least amount of money.

Here’s some statistics on leadership development based on what I’d consider highly credible research. Use it to outfox your competition or to sound like a smarty-pants at your next networking event.
  1. “Only 7% of high-potential employees are not currently high performers. Performance is a prerequisite for potential.”
  2. Only 29% of high performers are also high-potential employees. While having what it takes to achieve top performance today, the remaining 71% of high performers are missing something needed to excel at the next level of the organization. Source for Nos. 1 and 2: Corporate Leadership Council High-Potential Management Survey, 2005
  3. Successful executives learn their most important leadership lessons though:
    • 70%: Challenging assignments (job changes and stretch assignments)
    • 20%: Other people (bosses, coaches, mentors, etc…)
    • 10%: Formal courses and books
      Source: Center for Creative Leadership
  4. “Companies reporting strong leadership development programs are 1.5 times more likely to be found atop Fortune magazine’s ‘Most Admired Companies’ list.” Source: Consulting Psychology Journal, 2003, “The Return on Investment of Leadership Development: Differentiating our Discipline”
  5. Hewitt’s 2005 study showed 100% of the top 20 companies for leadership development had CEOs who were actively involved in developing leadership talent, compared with 65% of other companies (outside the top 20).
  6. An executive development survey found that 43% of CEOs and 71% of senior executives reported that they had worked with a coach. “Most telling, 92% of leaders being coached say they plan to use a coach again.” Source: Fast Company
  7. “Organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.” Source: Great Leadership
  8. DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011 notes that barely more than 1 in 3 organizations report that leaders have high-quality, effective development plans, despite the fact that having effective plans is related to the quality of leadership development.
  9. Of respondents who were included in’s 2009 Best Companies for Leaders list, 94% said their organization is active in developing successors for “mission-critical roles,” compared with about two-thirds of respondents from other organizations. (Source: 2009 Best Companies for Leadership study, Hay Group and
  10. 6 best practices for leadership development:
    • “Develop strong executive engagement”
    • “Define tailored leadership competencies”
    • “Align with business strategy”
    • “Target all levels of leadership”
    • “Apply a comprehensive learning approach”
    • “Integrate with talent management”
      (Source: 2008 High-Impact Leadership Development; 2009: Best Practices, Bersin)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Personal Business Maturity

Guest post from Jim DuBreuil:
If you Google the term, “business maturity,” you will find lots of discussions about the emergence of social networks to drive new business.  You’ll also see information about how a line of business “matures” when you implement an effective model, focus on the right priorities and execute rigorously.

But I submit to you that understanding your own personal business maturity can yield significant insight into why you succeed or fail to be viewed as a leader.  What I mean by personal business maturity is one’s ability to manage adversity and change with poise and professionalism regardless of circumstances.  It’s more than just “making lemonade out of lemons.”  It’s an attribute of leaders that realize when times are most frustrating and difficult, that’s precisely when they need to show others how calm and deliberate they can be.  Managing yourself and others when turmoil is present is difficult enough.  But when you also exhibit and model behavior that takes emotion out of the situation, you are leading your team to a place where better decisions can be made and encouraging more focus on how to succeed under the given circumstances.

There’s nothing wrong with managers responding to change by “towing the company line” and helping others to do the same.  True leaders know when to push back and how far so they can make the best of the situation.  When this is recognized by the troops, it illustrates how savvy the leader is and it helps to calm the environment even more.

Personal business maturity cannot actually be taught, but it can certainly be learned.  It may look and feel differently based on the organization or work environment you’re in.  However, if you are not seeking to improve your own maturity given your circumstances, surroundings and influences, you may just miss a great opportunity to improve your own credibility within that environment.   

I once managed a department with seasoned veterans who possessed exceptional technical skills and a history of success in the company.  This was an internal support function at a headquarters location and one person on the team had spent years supporting customers, enjoying many of the benefits of working “in the field” such as bonuses, recognition events, golf outings with clients, etc.  The excitement in our environment paled in comparison and he seemed less than enthusiastic about applying his skills.  Did he leave the field and come to headquarters to “retire on the job?”  Was he forced out of the good life to make room for younger, less expensive resources?  It really didn’t matter to me.  I just needed his best work.  I gave him some time to pout then we sat down to review his performance plan which was chocked full of challenges, but nothing he couldn’t handle.

I doubt that he was intimidated by my authoritative demeanor or that his inhibitions melted away because of my charismatic management style.  But he did accept the responsibilities graciously and immediately; no drama or complaints.  His obvious business maturity had disappeared only briefly, and his professionalism now reigned, which made me extremely happy.

Personal business maturity has absolutely nothing to do with age or longevity in an organization.  I have observed 30 year veterans of a company that held high level positions, who still complained outwardly about changes they didn’t agree with.  When you’ve been around an organization for that long, you really should know how to cope with the inevitable changes.  Sometimes, pushing back or becoming the squeaky wheel is not negative and may even be respected by people.  But the person who is tagged as the constant complainer is rarely viewed as a mature leader.

I have also witnessed a new manager in his twenties offer to take a task from the director because he recognized that the executive’s time was more valuable than his own.  As a leader, you never have to agree with decisions or who will be affected, but the mature professional is cognizant of how their reaction will be perceived and how others will view that response.

When decisions have been made, leaders do their best to embrace changes and find ways to help others adapt as well.  They put forth an authentic effort to achieve success because they respect the authority above them to make such decisions.  They illustrate respect for their employees and peers by providing open and honest communication about the rationale for decisions made to ensure teams are operating with facts and not rumor or misinterpretations.  Finally, real leaders also respect themselves and go to great lengths to assess and improve their own behavior.  Some of the best workers I’ve known practiced a much tougher evaluation of their own job performance than any manager they worked for.  

If you want to truly be viewed as a leader in your organization, be genuine. Just as outside the workplace, sometimes you encounter situations that make you cringe and you say nothing because it will hurt others or make a bad state of affairs even worse.  It’s not that difficult to build maturity if you operate intelligently and with sincerity.  When you conduct yourself with integrity others will recognize it as a sign of maturity.

Above all, don’t take yourself too seriously.  You may want to show your team and management how your personal business maturity makes you a great leader, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a mistake, laugh along with others and learn how to improve yourself whether you are 28 or 68, have 2 years in the business or 32.  Continuing to improve your business maturity may never stop and even though it helps to make you a more valuable resource on the job, as recognized by peers and management alike, it is truly a personal achievement to be viewed this way.  Learn to increase your maturity in all environments and you will enjoy something no one can criticize or take away from you; the personal satisfaction that comes with improving yourself through initiative and intelligent effort.

About the Author:
Jim DuBreuil's business career began in 1979 at IBM and he has built a history of successful experiences in both large and small businesses. At Disney Worldwide Services, Cap Gemini America and other companies, he has held a variety of management and executive jobs. As a practitioner and consultant, he has achieved results using effective leadership by example, extraordinary people management, strong communication skills, and a solid understanding of information technology and analytics to meet business objectives.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Silly Putty Leadership

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller: 

This month marks the 61st anniversary of Silly Putty being patented. And for many of us over the age of 40, Silly Putty holds special memories for its multi- functional properties. So what do Silly Putty and Leadership have in common? Actually you’ll be surprised because both of them can bounce, stretch, and transform; all skills that effective leaders master over time! At the same time, Silly Putty can break.


One of the things I remember about Silly Putty is its ability to bounce when rolled into a circular object.  As leaders, we have to bounce back all the time. Leadership doesn’t come without its set backs whether it is a change in market conditions that impact product sales, a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster, or a sudden loss of a major client. 
A leader’s resiliency and ability to bounce back under pressure and during difficult times is a recipe for success. Your approach to difficult times and situations will resonate throughout an organization. 

I witnessed this with a client of mine recently. He leads a professional services organization where his people are his major asset. Without any warning, his key producer left with several other employees who had been responsible for a big percent of his revenue stream. His calm approach to the situation in the months that followed not only kept the remaining employees confident in him and the future but also provided him with the ability to be creative in solving the challenges ahead of him.

How do you bounce back under pressure? What are your employees saying about you during difficult times? 


The second property that Sill Putty displays is the ability to stretch. Leaders who challenge themselves on a regular and consistent basis stretch and develop into better and more effective leaders.

Stretching can include restoring a broken business relationship either externally or internally to the organization, making a difficult financial, operational, or strategic decision, taking a path where success is not a guarantee, or having a crucial conversation. For others it can be showing vulnerability and their true self. What ever it is, every leader, if self aware, knows what that stretch would look and feel like to them.

As a leader, what have you done recently that has stretched and challenged you?  


Remember taking Silly Putty and pressing it on to a newspaper comic and then stretching the image? Unfortunately children of today can’t experience this because of the change in newspaper ink.

Just like the image being stretched, a leader needs to be stretching and developing their employees if they want to develop their bench strength and retain A players. Your talent is your future and just like your need to develop and stretch, employees require it as well.

What are you doing each day to develop your talent and help them transform into great, engaged employees?


And lets not forget that in certain circumstances, Silly Putty can break if it is submitted to a sharp blow. What are those “sharp blows” that have the potential to get you off track? These are behaviors that in most circumstances you can control and keep hidden but will be seen by others when you are under extreme pressure and stress.

Great leaders understand the circumstances that set them off and have learned how to manage and control their bad behaviors through stressful times. Having self-awareness and managing your behaviors to bring out the best in others will set you apart from many of your peers.

As a leader, are you practicing the positive qualities of Silly Putty: Bounce, Stretch and Transform? And how are you managing your behaviors and emotions so you don’t break as a leader?

Beth Armknecht Miller’s is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. She is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA. And she is a Certified Managerial Consultant. Beth’s insight and expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications. To learn more about Beth visit or

Monday, July 22, 2013

Leadership Development as a 5 Year Journey

A proven best practice to improve as a leader is to create and follow-through on an Individual Development Plan (IDP). An IDP usually defines what you want to get better at and why and how you’re going to get better.
Studies on goal attainment prove over that over that people with written, specific plans are more likely to achieve their goals.

Most IDPs are written for a one-year time horizon, sometimes even less. I’m wondering if that one-year default time-period needs to be challenged.
If you were to go to a bank or venture capitalist and ask for funding to start your new business, they would never accept a one-year business plan.

When you work with a financial planner, you work with 5, 10, even 30 year time horizons.
Important, complex, and challenging goals like starting a business, retirement, or becoming a great leader are rarely achieved in a year.

So what would a five-year leadership Individual Development Plan look like? Honestly, I’ve never written one – but if I had to come up with the ideal plan, it could look something like the one below. I’ve included approximate costs when appropriate. That way, you can get your request in before budgets are developed and finalized (or start saving your own money).
Keep in mind, every individual is unique, and this is in no way meant to be prescriptive. It’s only an example, but includes what I’d consider to be proven best practices for leadership development.

5 Year Leadership Development Plan:



Vision statements can be written for where you want to be financially, with your career, your family, your business, or any aspect of your life. To quote Steven Covey, you’re starting with the end in mind.  In this case, imagine where you want to be as a leader in five years.
Example: “In five years, I want to be seen as a role model leader by my peers. I’d like to be in a position in my organization where I can have a have a greater impact on the organization and those around me. I want to have made a significant difference in the lives of those I’ve led.”

Year one: establish a baseline
Let’s first establish a baseline by first learning about leadership and assessing your current level of competency:
- Read 2-3 books about leadership and/or leaders that I admire (or equivalent reading though blogs, newsletters, etc…)

- Start a journal and make notes of the qualities of great leaders that I want to emulate
- Interview 2-3 leaders that I admire to learn more about what makes them tick and how they got to where they are.

- Take a 360 leadership assessment. In addition to the 360, have someone that is certified in the assessment review the results with me. Cost for the assessment: $100 to $300.Cost for the review: about $2500 - $3000, unless your organization has internal experts
Year two: get a coach and establish specific goals

Now that you have a good idea of what leadership looks like and where you stand against the target, it’s time to identify some specific goals for the next 4 years.
- Work with my manager and an executive coach to help me identify leadership development goals that are aligned with business goals.

- Monthly sessions with my executive coach for the next 12 months. Approximate cost: $8,000 - $12,000. Less for an internal coach or an “apprentice” coach (someone working on their coaching certification that may work with you pro bono).
- Read 2 more books or equivalent  and interview two more role models, this time targeting the specific goals I’m trying to achieve (i.e., “improve my ability to lead  transformational change”)

- identify either a change in jobs or a significant challenging assignment that will give me an opportunity to learn and apply the leadership skills I am hoping to improve
- Continue to journal

Year three: trail by fire
According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the most effective way to improve as leaders is though job changes and challenging assignments. So it’s now time to:

- Move to a new job or start working on my challenging assignment
- Identify 2-3 experts that can help me be successful in my new role or assignment and meet with each on a monthly basis

- Check in with my coach 3-4 times throughout the year
- Read one book or equivalent that will provide specific “how-tos” for my new role or assignment

- Continue to reflect and journal
Year four: back to school
This one may be misplaced and should start sooner, but for the sake of a five year plan, let’s put it in here. Also, some comprehensive programs include assessments and coaching, so you may be able to combine them.

- Attend a leadership/executive development program. Cost: $2000 - $10,000.
- Continue in new role, or new challenging assignment

- One book or equivalent
- Regular check-ins with support network (boss, coach, others)

Year five:
- Move into new role that is aligned with my vision

- Take another 360 degree assessment to obtain another snapshot of how others now perceive me as a leader
- Identify 1-2 individuals to mentor on leadership

- Write my own leadership book, blog, or guest post based on my five year journal
On one hand, you could argue that five years is way too long to do all of these things. Why not do it all in a year? That’s the way most plans are written, and that may be why most plans never come close to being completed.

Some may take issue with the costs. Yes, things like executive coaching and executive development programs are expensive, and possibly beyond the means of many. While I understand, and there are less expensive options, you generally get what you pay for. It’s an investment, and progressive organizations are willing to make these kinds of investments. After all, Organizations with the highest quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competition.
What do you think? Would a five year approach to leadership development planning work for you?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Discoverin​g Your Team Member's Talents

Guest post by Joseph Lalonde:

One of the best things we can do for our team is to discover our team member's talents. The place where they really shine.
The talents of our team members are usually what drives them to excel. Your team will find purpose and meaning when they begin putting their skills to work.

The key is discovering the talents of our team members. They can be hidden or even unknown by the one who possesses the talents. These talents are often buried under years of neglect and distrust.
This is where you come into play as a leader. Great leaders are able to dive deep into a team member and draw out the best from them. This includes finding their talents and helping them develop the skills that make them great.

What can you do to discover the talents? Try these three tips:
1. Put your team members into new situations: New situations often draw out untapped energy and thought patterns. People have to use a different way of thinking to solve the new problems.

You'll be able to see the team member's hidden talents arise as they are faced with challenges they’ve never seen before.
2. Talk to your team members about their hobbies outside of work: Many leaders will avoid talking to their team about their lives outside of work. I know this to be a hindrance to discovering their talents. Your employees’hobbies will frequently revolve around their skills abilities. Tap into their hobbies and you can discover what their talents are. Not only will you discover their talents, you’ll also begin to form relationships that will improve their loyalty with your organization.

3. Watch your team: Keep an eye on your team members when new opportunities arise in the workplace. Who's jumping at what opportunity? Team members are drawn to areas that they know they have talent and will take on the task. Figure this out and help place team members into areas where their talents can be put to full use. Doing this will allow you to get the right people on the right bus in the right seats (as Jim Collins would say).
As you begin to discover the talents of your team, you’ll see a shift begin to take place. The work environment will change. Goals and objectives get met with enthusiasm and a desire to do the best job possible.

Your team will be excited to come to work. They’ll be ready for a new day and a new chance to shine.

All of this happens because we’ve paid attention to the skills and talents of those working for us. And then you showed you cared by placing them into situations that bring out their best.
Remember, we want to draw out the best from our team. This involves learning what drives them and the talents they bring to the organization.

Take the time today to decide how you can put your team into new situations, spend some time learning their hobbies, and keep an eye on the team.
Your team and your organization will thank you for it.

About the author:
Joseph Lalonde is a youth leader at Oak Crest Church of God and leadership blogger at Joseph shares leadership tools and encourages you to become a better leader. Connect with him on Twitter or at his blog.

Monday, July 15, 2013

12 “Out-of-the-Box” Ways to Use a 9 Box Matrix

A long, long time ago, back in the days when Jack Welch was leading GE, organizations starting using a “9 box” performance and potential matrix for succession planning and leadership development.
Despite its critics, the 9 box lives on. And it should – in its purest, simplest form, it works. It’s an effective and efficient way for a leadership team to assess and differentiate its talent pool, diagnose individual and organizational development needs, and identify high potentials.

However , like many simple best practices, they tend to mutate over the years as they are passed from organization to organization. HR and managers that have tried the 9-box figure if it works as a tool to discuss talent, then way don’t we use it for_______? Or, they often just want to add their own bells and whistles.
Some of these variations seem like nice ideas, and others not so good.

Here’s 12 variations of the 9-box that I’ve seen. I’m not endorsing any of them – not because I think they are bad (although I think some are), it’s just that I don’t have enough personal experience or evidence to.

1. Use it as a budgeting tool to allocate training resources. Organizations can take their development budget (or focus, time) and spread it out amongst the nine boxes. They can take a “peanut butter” approach (spread it out evenly across all 9 boxes), or differentiate and load up their investment on their high potentials or some other box.
2. Use it as a way to identify organizational talent gaps for recruiting. Organizations may discover they have a lack of talent in certain parts of the organization (i.e., not enough “A players”, or ready successors) and use the process to focus their recruiting efforts (buy vs. build).

3. Use it as a tool for compensation administration. An organization can use it as a guide for determining pay increases, bonuses, or other forms of variable compensation. For example, you may want to give stock options or grants in order to retain your high potentials, and cash bonuses to reward your high performers. 
4. Use it as a downsizing decision tool. I’m not even sure if this is legal, but I’ve heard of organizations using it to determine who stays and who goes.

5. Use it for peers to rate each other. A reader actually asked me if I had heard of anybody else doing this, as they were considering trying it. I have not, and didn’t come up that have with any when I posted the question to a couple discussion boards. Intuitively it feels like a bad idea, but in today’s world of rating just about everything via social media, who knows?
6. Use it as a tool to guide development planning. While every individual have their own unique development needs, some organizations provide general development guidelines based on where someone is on the grid.

7.  Use it to assess individual contributors. Most organizations use the 9-box as a tool to assess managers for potential to move up in the organization for succession planning. However, I’ve seen some leadership teams use it as way to discuss whether individual contributors have the potential “to grow, learn, and take on new responsibilities”, etc… They’re just defining for themselves what “potential” means, but it’s important to have clear and valid criteria, just as you would when assessing for “leadership” potential.
8. Come up with descriptions for each of the 9 boxes. I really hate this! This is when teams decide they need to come up with cute and specific descriptions (i.e., “misfit”, “solid performer”, “trusted pro”) for each of the nine boxes in order to rate their talent. It only confuses the raters and makes it harder to place people, as the descriptions never seem to describe their people. Stick to the two variables: performance and potential. Most (90%) of teams get it and don’t need the added complexity – it adds little value.

9. Subdivide each of the 9 boxes. Another despised variation, often favored by the engineers and scientists. They want to turn a 9-box into a 27 box or more, attempting to add another level of preciseness and complexity.
10. Require a forced distribution. Some organizations require that a minimum of 10% of any talent pool be placed in the “3C” box (low performance and potential” and only a maximum of 20% can be in the 3 “upper right corner” boxes, or some other variation of an allocation requirement. While many despise any kind of forced ranking methodology, I’ve found it can be an effective way to force a team to differentiate its talent. Then again, it usually works just as well when a team is encouraged to differentiate, vs. forcing them to.

11. Use “keys”, or codes to identify things like “readiness”, “relocatability”, race and gender (yes, it’s legal to use EEO codes), and all sorts of other ways to cram more data onto a single page.
12. Replacing “performance and potential” with other scales (i.e., “leadership and results”, or “leadership and management”). Whatever. If it serves a need, then why not?

What other variations of the 9-box performance and potential have you seen?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Connecting with Abrasive Leaders

Guest post from Cheryl A. Bond, Ed.D., SPHR:

Every organization has its share of leaders, technical geniuses or future leaders who lack social skills and self-awareness.  They are perceived as bullies, jerks, prima donnas, and worse.  Most people don’t want to work for them or with them, but their behavior is rarely addressed directly or effectively. 

Referred to as “high maintenance,” they’re the 20% that take up 80% of their managers’ time.  Most of that time is spent listening to complaints about them and hoping they haven’t crossed the line into legally actionable offenses.  There are many reasons why these leaders are not confronted directly – key customer/client contacts, technical expertise, political connections, or powerful mentors.   No one wants to risk upsetting them and suffering the fallout.  So they’re sent off to expensive “charm school” training programs in hopes that they will be miraculously transformed, shuffled off to a different division, or given a “special” assignment.

Meanwhile, their behavior has consequences:
-   Low employee morale, retaliation, passive aggression, attrition
-   Higher levels of stress and stress related illnesses and absenteeism
-   Mistakes, loss of creativity and innovation
-   Fearful work environments in which  people hide mistakes, point fingers and avoid even low risk actions
-   Loss of investment in high potentials who derail and fail
-   Ultimately, the possibility of lawsuits due to hostile work environment or discriminatory behavior accusations

We must find a way to engage these leaders in a meaningful dialog to help them understand their behavior and its impact on others.  Success lies in getting and maintaining rapport with them; to keep emotions in check and not get drawn in to a defensive, unproductive spiral.  More than a decade ago, I learned a set of simple principles that describe how the human operating system works, what’s behind our experience of life in the moment. This understanding, referred to as State of Mind or the 3 Principles, is so empowering, it gives me the confidence to make this statement:

It is possible to get rapport with any person under any circumstances – and to sustain that rapport over time.

The fact that we create our experience of life through our thinking and the unlimited potential for new thought allows me to see myself and others from a different perspective.  It’s a perspective that significantly changes the interpersonal dynamic.  In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll share my thoughts on getting rapport and ask you to reflect on a conversation you’ve been avoiding or one that didn’t go well in hopes that you’ll have some insights of your own.

Intent. This insight snuck up on me one day when I was facilitating a teambuilding session.  The program team was highly dysfunctional and everyone had his or her own ideas about the source of the problems – the technical challenges, the difficult customer, the bureaucracy of the large company, procurement issues. (Nothing about rapport or relationships.)  The feeling in the room was terrible.  For just a minute I wasn’t hearing the content of what they were saying, and it hit me – they don’t trust or respect each another.  I knew addressing that was job one.  If they didn’t get rapport as a team, they would fail.  Now I could help them put energy in the right direction – seeing the human factors of their team.

 Separate Realities.  Each one of us is creating our experience of life through our thinking from the inside – out.  Two people in the same meeting or movie can be having an entirely different experience because they see it through their personal thinking.  It’s helped me over the years to see that everyone is doing the best they can based on how they see the world.  We believe our thinking – it’s our truth.  It’s thought, by the way, that’s creating our emotional state, not the circumstances.  Seeing separate realities in the moment, helps me keep from taking things personally.  I’m more curious about others’ reactions and less judgmental and defensive.  That changes the dynamic.

Potential for Insights.  We have an unlimited potential for new thought.  Everyone.  When we have new thinking our experience has to change; our perceptions, our emotions, it can all shift in an instant.  And there is nothing to do.  We cannot stop new thinking from coming to us.  It’s innate.  All we have to do is be open to the possibility.  This brings incredible hope to any situation.  It’s why I am confident that it’s possible to get rapport with any person in any circumstances.

My secret for coaching abrasive leaders is simple; I don’t see them as their behavior.  I see them as people who are doing the best they can based on how they see the world, what makes sense to them.  I honestly want to know what makes sense to them. There’s a feeling to that attitude that can’t be faked or modeled with a technique. That feeling paves the way for a connection, a level of engagement that is the basis of rapport.  Once we have rapport, it’s easy to have the honest dialog that is necessary to address their behavior and the effect it has on others.

One of my favorite coaching relationships started when a technical director flew into my office, slammed himself into a chair and said, “I don’t know why I have to go to ‘be a better person school’ when it’s the other incompetent a-holes who are causing the problems.”  I honestly thought he was funny, and it was the beginning of a wonderful relationship and a life-changing chapter in his life.  Less than a year later, he was physically healthier, happier, and taking on new responsibilities mentoring others.

An understanding of the 3 Principles is also the foundation for sustainable behavior change.  But that’s a story for another time….

About the author:
Cheryl Bond is an accomplished learning and organizational development professional with experience in a variety of corporate cultures including technology, legal, insurance, financial services and 14 years at BAE Systems one of the world’s largest defense and security providers. Essential Resilience provides training, seminars, and coaching to help people maintain well-being and energy under pressure, embrace new challenges, interact with others more effectively and ultimately improve organizational performance.  Visit her website at or e-mail

Monday, July 8, 2013

20 Questions to Assess the Quality of an Individual Development Plan

I’ve written about how to write a great individual development plan (IDP) - it’s my all-time most popular post, with over 300,000 hits. So what’s the difference between a “great” IDP and one that’s destined to sit on a shelf and gather dust?

Here's a checklist I've used to evaluate the quality of a leader's individual development plan. Use it to evaluate your own plan or to coach others.

1. Has the IDP been generated/updated within the last 12 months?
2. Is the IDP complete?
3. Are the development actions substantial?
4. To what extent is there connectivity between the career path, leadership assessment, development needs and planned development actions?
5. Are leadership assessment results linked with the IDP when applicable?

6. Are multiple types of formal and informal learning approaches integrated into the planned activities?
7. To what extent do the planned actions reflect a bias for experiences rather than coursework?
8. How much creativity is reflected in the planned actions?
9. Does the plan offer an opportunity to enhance strengths, as well as address deficiencies?
10. Have “significant other people”, coaches and/or mentors, been identified?
11. Are challenging assignments and projects represented?
12. Are there opportunities for development across organizational boundaries?
Accelerated Development:
13. How quickly will the planned actions prepare someone for his/her potential next position?
14. Have aggressive timeframes for accomplishing development actions been established?
15. Does the plan include specific development needs? (i.e., leadership, communications, financial or planning skills are very broad.) The development opportunities should identify the specific skills, knowledge and/or behaviors that are to be acquired or enhanced.
16. Has a specific timeframe within which the development will be initiated and/or completed been identified?
17. Are there concrete planned actions directly aligned to each identified development need?
Consistent with business needs and succession plans:
18. Is the individual’s career plan consistent with succession plans?
19. Do development needs and planned actions support current and future business objectives?
20. Will planned actions prepare the individual for the future (succession) vs. too much focus on current role?

Friday, July 5, 2013

What is Your Innovation Style?

Guest post from Shoya Zichy:

Innovation is critical to an organization's growth and competitive advantage. Yet in a recent survey of 5,000 only 1 in 4 people believe they are living up to their creative potential.  Typically most managers do not realize there are different styles even though they divide 50/50 in the populations worldwide.  Each is needed but often not identified or respected.

Take a minute to choose from each set of statements below.  But choose as your truest self, not according to the demands of your job or boss. Your weekend personality is usually the best indicator.  Answer every question and choose the statement that best answers; at least 51% of the time, I tend to:

__like to be scheduled                        OR       __prefer to be spontaneous

__make detailed plans before I start  OR       __handle problems as they arise

__meet deadlines early                      OR       __meet deadlines at the last minute

__have a tidy workplace                    OR       __have a workplace with many  piles/papers

__want clear guidelines                     OR       __want open-ended flexibility

__Total                                                           __Total

If you chose more items on the left, your inborn styles is that of a "structured" innovator.  You function best in a stable environment with well-defined responsibilities.

You contribute by organizing the new projects and developing efficient systems that ensure the work or product is completed with precision and accuracy.  "Structured" innovators are known for conserving resources and establishing the procedures necessary for long-term success.

To be at your innovative best, sit back and relax during the initial brainstorming sessions.  Your contributions will come later, figuring out what processes are need to make the final concept work.  Rein in your tendency to express your critique at every fielded idea.  Wait until the final 3 are on the table and then express only your biggest concerns.  If, however, the innovation involves government regulations, your contribution is critical. 

Your strengths:  Bringing the ideas to fruition and making them work.

If you chose more items on the right you are an "adaptable" innovator.  Chances are you prefer to work in a flat hierarchy with the opportunity redefine your responsibilities every day.

You contribute by generating ideas and taking the leap of faith when it is impossible to know everything in advance.  You explore new fields and solve problems in original ways.  "Adaptables" excel at multi-tasking and keeping several balls in the air at the same time.

To be at your innovative best, experiment with many ideas to see how they can be improved.  When you have 3 on the table, turn to "structured" colleagues and discuss what needs to happen and contribute contingency plans.  Address the question:  How can we make sure our new concept does not get bogged down? 

Your strengths:  Keeping the need to innovate uppermost in people's minds and dealing the needed midcourse corrections.

Bottom line; the more an organization incorporates both types of innovators - idea generation and idea implementation - the better the solutions.  Team conflict can be minimized by allowing the style best suited for each project state to lead the way, then having them step aside when that stage is completed.  With this information organizations can harness different personalities to innovate in a dynamic and effective manner.

About the author:
Shoya Zichy is the creator of the award-wining Color Q personality system currently used by 70,000 worldwide in client groups such as the U.S. Treasury, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Merrill Lynch, UBS, and schools in Saudi Arabia, among others.
Former president of the Myers-Briggs Association of NY, she is the author of 3 books, including Personality Power:Discover Your Unique Profile - and Unlock Your Potential for BreakthroughSuccess. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

10 Employee Conversations That Managers Hate to Have

This post was just published in SmartBlog on Leadership and generated a lot of Twitter traffic:

Being a manager means never having to say you’re sorry. No wait, that’s some dumb line from a horrible 1970s movie. However, there may be some truth in that statement.

Sometimes, as a manager, you have to have difficult conversations with employees that are guaranteed to make them defensive, angry, and not want to hang out with you after work anymore. You may feel like a cad and want to apologize, but there’s really nothing to apologize for. You’re just doing your job.

That’s why managers get paid the big bucks. Because when there’s an issue with an employee, everyone expects the manager to “do something about it.” And if you don’t, they’ll think you’re a wimp and that nobody really gives a @#%$.

In no particular order, here are 10 employee conversations that managers would rather not have. But you may have to. So, I’ve included links from credible sources to some practical guidelines for each conversation.

In addition to hopefully being a helpful survival guide for current managers, this may also be a good link to share with anyone considering being a manager. If they can finish reading without running away screaming in terror, they just might have management potential.

1. Your performance sucks.
This one is the most common and obvious, but that doesn’t mean most managers don’t dread having to confront an employee about poor performance. Here’s my recommended approach: “How to confront an employee performance problem.”

2. Your co-workers can’t stand you.
This one is trickier than the first, because you may be responding to complaints about the employee that you have not observed or experienced. In fact, the issues may even be a surprise to you. It’s important to take the complaints seriously, without jumping to conclusions. In this case, you may need to conduct an employee investigation.

3. You smell terrible.
Ah, the classic of difficult employee conversations. I’ll leave this one to Ask a Manager’s Alison Green: “Telling an employee she has body odor.”

4. You didn’t get the raise or promotion.
It’s no fun delivering bad news that hits an employee in the pocketbook. Advice from Forbes: “The 10 commandments for delivering bad news.”

5. You’re fired!
With all due respect to Donald Trump, I think the HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby, offers some good advice with “Terminating employees: How to fire right.”

6. Are you on something?
Confronting an employee that you or others suspect may be loaded or high contains a minefield of potential issues. Tread carefully. From HR Morning: “You suspect an employee is using drugs: What now?”

7. You’re not yourself these days.
The employee’s acting a little weird, and you or others suspect that the employee is suffering from some type of mental condition. These days, workplace violence is a real concern, and so is your concern for your employee’s well-being. From Mental Health Works: “How can I approach an employee about their mental illness?”

8. You dress like it’s Halloween.
My last company had a strict dress code, so managers had to have a lot of conversations about dress code violations. Here’s Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations, with “Addressing inappropriate work attire.”

9. Are you pregnant?
In most cases, that’s a question you never ask a woman. I learned that the hard way when I once asked a co-worker early in my career. She wasn’t. However, Tim Sackett tackles this one straight on with “Knocked up: The conversation most managers don’t want to have.”

10. You’re a thief.
Yikes, your employee is selling company office supplies on eBay! What to do? Here’s a comprehensive guide from HR Morning: “Practical steps for addressing theft in the workplace.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

The July 1st, 2013 Edition of the Leadership Development Carnival!

Thanks to Mary Ila Ward, from Horizon Point Consulting, for hosting this month's Leadership Development Carnival.

You can find it right here.

A round-up of 32 recent "best of the best" leadership development posts.

Next month's Carnival returns to Great Leadership on August 5th.