Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Make sure you Achieve your 2014 Leadership Goals

This post first appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership:

It’s that time of year when many of us, with the best of intentions will write a leadership development plan, or establish goals for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, most of us will fail to achieve those goals.
Why? We fail for a lot of reasons, most importantly, we underestimate how hard it is to change behavior.

There’s others reasons too. We often set very high level, nebulous leadership goals like “be more strategic”, or “be a better leader”, without having a way to measure our progress towards achieving that goal. There’s no accountability, no way to see if we are making progress, and no motivation to keep trying.
I recently attended a conference where leadership development guru, author, and coach Marshall Goldsmith was a keynote speaker.

He shared a technique that’s he’s been using for a number of years that has helps him achieve his goals. At the end of his presentation, he asked if anyone was interested in participating in some research (for 10 days) using a similar technique to leave a business card. He said most people won’t – and if they did, they wouldn’t stick with it.
Well I did – I haven’t given up – and I’m loving the results!

Here’s how it works:
Step one: establish your goals
Establish a number of daily, behavioral objectives – things that you have an opportunity to do every day and can answered with a number (i.e., 1-7 scale).  It’s important that your establish your own objectives – things that are important to you - but here’s a list to choose from if you need some examples or help getting started:

1. I did my best to really listen to others

2. I had positive interactions with others

3. I did my best to be happy

4. I set measurable goals for the day

5. I did my very best to achieve my goals

6. I added value today

7. I inspired someone today

8. I helped someone else be successful or solve their own problem

9. I was engaged in my work

10. My work had meaning
Step 2: Daily follow-up and measurement
There are a number of ways to do this. You can have a good friend call you or email every day and ask you to score yourself on each question. No long winded analysis, beating yourself up, or excuses – just a number. You or your friend should keep track of your answers on a spreadsheet.

Or, you can use the tool that I’m using for the research. You are welcome to participate in Marshall’s study using simply providing your email to this link.  There’s even an accountability app that does the emails and scoring for you.
I’m not a behavioral psychologist, but I could guess why this seems to working so well. When I first started answering the questions, my scores were pretty low. However, responded to that darn email every day has motivated me to really pay attention – and try harder – to things that may have gotten overlooked without the reminder.

Although I haven’t seen my results yet, I know my numbers are going up. And just like when you step on the scale when dieting and see those numbers go down, it’s motivating to see the measurable results!
I wish you success, goal achievement, and happiness in 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Trouble with Control

Guest post by Jen Shirkani:

I write about the damage done when, as leaders, we don’t fully allow employees to have control over their tasks, projects or budgets. Everyone I know says they hate being micromanaged, and we certainly don’t want to list “control freak” as a skill to be endorsed for on our LinkedIn profile page. Yet, there are signs of low trust/high control managers everywhere. But no one will admit to being one of them.  

And it’s not just the nemesis of new, inexperience managers who are nervous and learning to use their delegation skills. It plagues leaders from the top to the bottom of an organization: new leaders, old leaders, promoted from within, hired from the outside. And the list of reasons to stay involved in the nitty gritty details goes something like this:

·       “I am not telling them how to do it, just what they need to do.”

·       “It’s faster for me to do it myself.”

·       “I’m role modeling how to do it so they know what to do next time.”

·       “The stakes are too high for this to fail, I need to be involved to protect my team.”

·       “I am not above doing the dirty work alongside you. I am just being a servant leader.”

Many of these leaders are well intentioned, they do just want to help their direct reports or expedite progress toward a goal. But too often, it just gums up the works as things grind to halt waiting for executive review. One common issue is the senior leader who wants to approve every new hire. And we are not talking small companies who hire less than ten people a year. This is practice at many large organizations who have to review thousands of resumes. And really, without interviewing the candidate yourself, or knowing the ins and outs of every job in every department in a large company, do you really think you know who the best candidate for the job will be? C’mon. 

The other negative consequence I see is the cycle of control feeding control. Assume that I am a very well-meaning leader who stays involved to help teach, coach or provide ground cover for my employee. I am a good person, so when I make choices for another I also have a conscience that goes along with it. I feel a responsibility to them and the choice I helped them make (that I know they will be directly affected by) successful. Which means if I will probably try and control it even more if I see them struggle or going off course. I justify this by saying, “The whole point of me being involved was for this to go well, I can’t let go of things now…” Of course, even with me involved it can still fail or not live up to our mutual expectations. But now, I have my ego to protect and you still need a positive example to learn from so I will just have to get more involved next time to make sure it goes how it needs to. Get it? We create our own cycle of dependency and involvement.

It won’t be easy, but you can learn to be a recovering micromanager. First work to recognize your instincts to get too deep in the weeds. Is this really something you should really be involved in? Is your involvement slowing things down? How will your next tier leaders get ready if you never let them feel both responsibility and accountability? Remember, it is very hard to hold someone else accountable to decisions you have been involved in. Next, read the environment. Are the risks of failure really that great? Are the people around you truly untrustworthy or is your own fear driving your behavior? Are there ways to stay informed without staying involved? Lastly, think back to when you were a new leader. Did you have all the answers before you tried something risky? Didn’t you have to learn from hardships and failure? Is it possible your team is capable and trustworthy even if they don’t approach things the same way you do?    

Hey, we have all been there, the desire to stay involved and in control is alluring. But just remember, all it does is tie you to dependent employees and stifles your organization’s ability to grow and be competitive.

About the author:
Jen Shirkani ( has over 20 years of experience as a learning and development specialist and coach. She routinely works with both executives from the Fortune 500 and principals in family-owned entities specializing in the application of Emotional Intelligence. She holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.
She is the author of Ego vs. EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps Using Emotional Intelligence (  Drawing on real-life anecdotes from Jen’s years of coaching and consulting, Ego vs EQ provides research and case study examples in an easy to read, practical format and is ideal for anyone currently in an executive leadership role, including business owners, or those wanting to become a dynamic future leader.

Monday, December 23, 2013

10 Reasons why Managers are Clueless about Leadership

I recently asked readers to submit their burning leadership development questions. Those that get picked for a post will receive a free copy of my eBook.
This question from Kathy L.:

“Why, with Ken Blanchard, John C. Maxwell, and Warren Bennis books in abundance, do most people in leadership positions have no clue what to do?”

I love this question! It’s simple, to the point, and really makes you think.  

I think there are a number of possible reasons:

1. Most managers (people in leadership positions) really don’t read books about leadership. Even if there was a way to find out how many managers there were in the world at any time, I’m sure that number would be way bigger than the number of leadership books sold. I ask new and current managers all the time how many leadership books they have read in the past year, and most of them, if they are being honest, haven’t read a single one. A lot of them may have actually purchased a book or two, and display it in their bookcase, but the pages don’t look like they’ve been turned.
2. They are reading the wrong books.
Many of the bestselling books in the leadership & management section in Amazon are written by successful business leaders, like Steve Jobs or Sheryl Sandberg, but being a very successful business person doesn’t qualify you to be an expert in leadership. For all of his visionary genius and contributions to society, many believe that Steve Jobs was a horrible role model for leadership. That’s not the book I’d want to hand out to my management team to teach them how to lead, but I know of a few CEOs who have.
3. The books are all wrong (not!)
This one’s actually wrong, but it doesn’t stop people from coming up with new models and theories of leadership every year, each one claiming to be better than the other guy’s. This is where the expression “leadership by flavor of the month” comes from.
4. Reading doesn’t always translate into behavior change.
There’s a lot more to leadership development than reading a good book or two. Yes, understanding the “what” and “how” are a good start, but it takes years and years of training, continuous practice, feedback, and more practice to get really good at it.
5. Most managers (and people) have no idea how they come across to others.
Yes, we truly are clueless when it comes to the impact of our behavior on others. We tend to assess ourselves based on our intentions, while others assess us by what they see and hear. That’s why absolutely critical for leaders to find ways to get continuous feedback,

6. Many managers are promoted because they are really good at something other than leadership.
It’s the same old story – organizations promote the top sales person to a sales manager, even though the behavioral profiles for a successful sales person are almost the opposite of a successful sales manager.  Then, instead of approaching their new role like a new profession, they just keep doing what they have always done that’s made them successful.

7. Because leadership is really hard!
Really, it’s not as easy as it looks, or as easy as the books tell you it is. Leadership roles are chock full of dilemmas with no clear cut answers. These are highly visible positions, which magnify every mistake. I also think managers are often held to an unrealistic standard when it comes to leadership, standards set by all of those leadership books out there that describe the 72 things a leader has to be great at.

8. Different criteria.
Ask a group of 20 people what “leadership” means, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So if there is no universal, consensus definition of what leadership is, how the heck can we assess if someone is good at it or not?

9. Mixed messages.
Managers will often read a good leadership book, or attend a training program, and get all excited about trying out some new leadership behaviors. However, when they do, they are directly or indirectly punished for going against the norms of an organization’s culture. Culture eats books for a snack.

10. Useful doesn’t always mean used.
I recently attended a fascinating webinar by MIT Sloan Professor Nelson Repenning that explained why proven capability building processes and tools like LEAN and Six-Sigma often go unused. I think it may help explain why when a manager learns a new leadership skill – then tries to use it, expecting immediate improvement and doesn’t get it, they give up and go back to what they are comfortable doing. It’s not just that leadership is hard and takes a lot of practice – it’s that we need to set the expectation that anytime we try something new, our performance will actually drop in the short term, but improve in the long term. People and organizations are psychologically biased towards short-term results, and don’t have the patience or tolerance to do what it takes to build long term capability.

I’m sure there are other reasons – please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Note to Kathy L. – if you’d like a free eBook, please get me your email address.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fast Change: The co-organization of Business

Guest post By Russell Raath:

There are many descriptors for the world we live in. Volatile, complex, global, flat, uncertain, unpredictable, and on. But I would suggest that it is Fast Change that defines our world more than any other word or phrase, and our greatest challenge has become living with it and learning to cope within it.

It doesn’t matter whether you come at this from the perspective of your personal life, or through the lens of whatever you do for a living. Parents have to deal with the fact that children spend more time on Instagram than they do in the treehouse, and that they’re probably more likely to get a child’s attention with a text message than a phone call (and you might as well forget email). Our children are doing homework on tablets or Chromebooks with Google Docs, and they don’t carry textbooks around anymore. Try helping them with their homework when you can’t even find the assignments or see the textbook. It’s a different world. It changed. And it changed fast.

But the good news is that, for the most part, we’re able to figure it out. As individuals, we take our cues from the early adopters and we learn what to do – and what not to do.

If only businesses were able to adapt that easily. It is an interesting paradox that when faced, individually, with fast change, we are usually able to figure it out. When we cross a street and see or hear a car coming toward us at high speed, we are able to move faster to clear the crossing. Society has advanced because we, individually and collectively, figured out how to get out of the crossing and not get taken out by the car – if you’ll pardon the metaphor.

Businesses (and in some cases entire industries) – not so much.

Yes, certainly, there are more than a handful of organizations that manage not only to change, but to set the pace for everyone else. They do more than cope. They thrive. They aren’t complacent. They invent new industries: Did you know revenues in the App industry are expected to exceed $25 billion this year? That’s an industry that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Or they take something that others took only so far (ugh yogurt), and push it farther and turn it into something fantastic (Greek yogurt!). Or they are serial product innovators making us “need” things we didn’t know we needed – anyone need another Swiffer with a disposable (and revenue-generating) attachment? How many blades do you really need on that razor?  You get the point.

Tragically, however, the majority of companies don’t handle change well. As organizations, they don’t see the opportunities and challenges that are coming at them (in their industries or via trends at large) and, if they do, they often aren’t able to do anything about it fast enough. And there’s a pretty logical reason for that.

Let me explain: Remember how, as individuals, we are able to react to the changing environment fairly quickly? So why is it that when we are lumped together in something called an organization, we can’t react fast enough (remember Blackberry, Blockbuster, Circuit City, Borders, or even Twinkies or JCPenney)?

It’s because an organization – as a collection of smart individuals – is bogged down by processes, procedures, cultural norms, hierarchy, history and “the way we’ve always done things,” and by the idea that in an organization, we need to be “nice” to get things done. That last point translates into people not being honest about what they think could/should change if the organization is to be successful. Alas, being nice and being honest are often seen as being mutually exclusive. That’s a topic for another day.

And by the way, all of this happens in public companies, private companies, new and maturing start-up organizations, not-for profit companies – no organization is immune.

The solution is to mitigate the adverse impact that the formal organization structure has over the many smart people who want to do well (and who want to avoid being hit by the car while they are in the crossing, to continue my metaphor). How do you do this? Well, you deliberately set up an environment within your organization (a co-organization) where people can do what they know is the right and smart thing to do – and where they don’t have to be concerned about all those things bogging them down. They need to know that the hierarchy doesn’t come into it, that they can question the past, and that sacred cows can be put to pasture. Because when you encourage people within an organization to do these things, they (and you) are able to focus on figuring out what you should do to get results, and not spend time mired in the stuff that bogs you down. Smart passionate people can work fast to get the right things done. And great leaders understand that their role is to enable this.

Dr. John Kotter explains some of it in a video here – but there are a few things worth reinforcing.

·   First, you need to create a new environment, and you need to populate it with a group that’s motivated by a shared sense of urgency around a big vision. This environment can’t be created the way other change structures can (i.e. you don’t set this up as a task force or workstream).

·    Who gets involved matters – a LOT. You don’t tap the usual suspects to form this group. You structure this network of innovation deliberately to Leave. The. Hierarchy. Out. Of. The. Room.

·    Style, style, style. In real estate is it about location. With leadership it is about style. How you create this co-organization is important. You lead and talk differently. You don’t present or “report out.” You discuss and involve (again, a topic for another day).

I predict that the organizations that get this right will be the ones that successfully scale Fast Change. Those that can’t will be stuck in the crossing, watching the oncoming traffic and not quite sure whether to run forward, backward, or stay in the crossing and hope the car will somehow miss them. It’s highly unlikely they’ll remain untouched there; sadly, it is the position a lot of organizations will decide to settle for.

Russell Raath is a senior engagement leader with Kotter International, a change leadership firm that helps businesses accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. He can be reached at

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Annual Wrap Up For Leaders

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:
As a Vistage Chair for almost 8 years, one of the rituals my group has is an annual wrap up. Each member reflects back over the past 12 months and then looks ahead to the next year. This time has proven valuable to members.  Many have seen their companies and their leadership grow year over year.

Reflecting on the Past

During the time of reflection, members will journal their successes and shortcomings as a leader as well as their teams success and failure. The process is not complex yet it can be difficult, especially when it comes to admitting your mistakes and shortcomings. The key is to define the failures that you had control over. For instance, if you own an insurance agency, the Affordable Care Act, may be affecting your business.  What are the things that you had control over that you did not act on which had a negative impact on your business? The answer may be lack of expansion into other lines of insurance.

On the flip side, successes should be celebrated.  So often I find that leaders will beat themselves up on set backs, yet spend little time celebrating their accomplishments! They are their own worse critics and it takes this type of self- reflection exercise to help over achievers recognize the great things they accomplished during the past year.

With mistakes identified, I have members then identify two behaviors or skills that if they improved would increase their leadership effectiveness. This helps to focus their attention on what they need to develop over the next year. I often suggest that they confirm their self-assessment with key employees who they respect. Or better yet, use a 360 assessment to confirm their beliefs.

To conclude this part of the annual wrap up process, the members of the Vistage group meet in groups of three and share their reflections with other members.  This method gets leaders to practice transparency and humility, two competencies that are important to leaders.

A Self-Reflection form is found here.

Looking toward the Future

The future is about setting goals.  These are goals that will stretch a leader past his or her comfort zone while at the same time being achievable.  They are stretch goals, not break goals!

After years of working with leaders, setting professional goals is a smooth process but when it comes to developing personal goals many leaders often struggle. The point of personal goals is to help keep leaders balanced, and they are used to improve the quality of life, love, and happiness. The lack of a proper balance between business and personal goals can lead to executive stress and burn out. And stress can lead to all sorts of negative behaviors that show up both personally and professionally.

The main areas of personal goals generally fall into the following categories:  health, family and friends, hobbies and interests, spiritual, and financial.

From a professional side of the goal equation, leaders need to get clear on the important and not the urgent. What are those goals, if accomplished, will get the company closer to their vision while staying true to their mission and values.

And with all SMART goals, the ability to measure success is important. I know this sounds simple, yet time and again I see goals written by leaders that are too vague, such as “get tougher with employees”. So how do you measure this goal, is this the real goal?  Why do you want to get tougher?  Is it accountability or something else that you need to be focused on?

This annual ritual within my Vistage group has provided leaders with a written document of where they have been over the past year and a map of where they want to go over the next year. And the results include, many successful company sales, transitions to next generations, as well as growth during some difficult economic times.
Beth Armknecht Miller 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 Coach. 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 BethArmknechtMiller.comor

Monday, December 16, 2013

Leadership Development for 5 Year Olds?

Irecently asked readers to submit their burning leadership development questions. Those that get picked for a post will receive a free copy of my eBook.

This question from Jason Ewing, from

“In your opinion, at what age do people truly begin to develop leadership skills? I coached young children in a summer track and field league for about 6 years. The youngest age group was 5-6 years old. As coaches, we always tried to incorporate leadership development (on the track) for ALL age groups. Do you think this could have made an impact on the younger children?”
I’m certainly no expert in youth leadership development, but I love the question, and it gave me an excuse to dig into the area a little.

After doing some searching and browsing, I went over to one of my favorite sources for leadership development research, the Center for Creative Leadership. I remember talking to one of their experts during a visit there a few years ago that was involved in their early leadership development research.
I found a good 2012 white paper from CCL based on some research (a survey) that they did called Expanding the Leadership Equation: Developing Next-Generation Leaders.

I think the findings may help answer the question, maybe not scientifically, but at least in terms of the perceptions of those 462 experts that were surveyed.
Here are some of the key findings:

At what age do you think leadership development should begin?
5 Years old or younger .................................... 21%
Ages 6-10 ............................................................ 29%
Ages 11-17 ............................................................. 40%
Ages 18-21 .......................................................... 7%
Over 21 ................................................................. 4%

Over 95% of respondents believed leadership development should have begun by age 21!
“Contrast this with the fact that many people never participate in formal leadership development and most don’t have the opportunity until after they are promoted into management.
Yet there are many high-quality youth leadership development programs available today for high school and college students, but only a minority of youth participate in those programs at the time when they could obtain the most benefit from them.
And finally, the vast majority of respondents (84%) believe leadership development opportunities should be offered to all youth, and an even higher number (90%) feel it should be part of every student’s educational experience.
Despite the widespread agreement reflected in the above, leadership development for all and a part of every student’s educational experience is clearly not happening in the lives of most youth today.” 

Survey respondents were also asked to choose from a list of 24 competencies the top three leadership qualities important for youth entering the workforce 10 years from now. They chose:
Most Important Competencies 10 Years from Now:
Adaptability/Versatility .............................. 29%
Communicate Effectively............................. 26%
Learning Agility ............................................. 24%
Multi-cultural Awareness ............................. 22%
Self-motivation/Discipline.......................... 20%
Collaboration................................................. 20%

Again, at the risk of providing a definitive answer to a question that I know absolutely nothing about (not that that has stopped me before), I’d have to say the answer is YES, leadership can and should be developed at an early age.
I was impressed with some of the practical tools that are available to educators that are involved in this kind of work. CCL has neat Early Leadership Toolkit that they developed, a complete leadership development in-a-box for those involved in youth leadership. Franklin Covey offers a similar product called The Leader in Me, developed from the late Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. CCL has also used that program in some of the work they have done in schools. These toolkits seem to be as well designed or better than many of the “adult” leadership development programs I’ve seen.

Kudos to all of the volunteer coaches like Jason that not only invest their time and talents in helping kids learn to play soccer, basketball, track and field, and other sports, but they strive to develop important leadership competencies in their kids. They understand that while the more immediate, tangible, and rewarding payoff may be scoring points and winning games, the longer-term, more important payoff is preparing our next generation of leaders! You may never see the results (unless you're George Bailey), but yes, you're making a difference in the lives of these kids and those that they end up leading 20-30 years later.
I invite others that have more knowledge and experience with youth leadership development to leave a comment.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Leader is the One That Gets Things Done

Guest post from William A. Cohen, PhD, Major General USAF, Ret:  

In more than fifty years of leadership practice and observation, the finest

leader that I have ever met was General Ron Fogleman, former Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. General Fogleman was one heck of a leader in battle, as a staff officer, and since he retired from the Air Force, as a board member and consultant with a number of important organizations. One of General Fogelman’s famous sayings was “You can always tell the leader, he’s the one that gets things done.” 

Some observers think that an effective leader means simply giving orders and ensuring that they are obeyed. That may be when time is short. If you are doctor heading up a surgical team when someone is about to cut in the wrong place or a driving instructor when a student is about turn into a one-way street going the wrong way, you had better give an order and take immediate action. But in many other situations that isn’t what is needed. 

Peter Drucker, the “father of modern management” had a favorite leadership book. He said that though it was written more than 2000 years earlier and was the first book systematic book on leadership, it was still the best. The book has many titles in modern English. Perhaps the most popular is “The Education of Cyrus the Great.” The book was one of several written by the Greek general, Xenophon. Cyrus the Great of Persia lived a couple hundred years earlier, so I think Xenophon used Cyrus the Great as a metaphor much like Dr. Wes Roberts did with his book Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. Xenophon wrote “leadership secrets” in his book, too. In one instance he reported that Cyrus’ father Cambyses I asked the teenage Cyrus. “What’s the best way to ensure obedience from your subordinates?” 

Cyrus answered, “Father I think it is to reward those who obey and to punish those who do not.”

Cambyses responded that this “carrot and stick” method would work, but not all the time and would frequently fail when the reward was insufficient to overcome fear when the order given might risk death or severe injury. Cambyses told the future Persian king of a method that would work, even when severe risks were involved. This was to always look after his subordinates better than they could or would look after themselves. This was an element of today’s servant leadership concept. No wonder this was Drucker’s favorite leadership book! It may have encompassed old-fashion leadership ideas from 2000 years ago, but these modern ideas are the same in different clothing. This one reflects the fact that the leader is the one who gets things done regardless, including putting others’ needs first, ahead of the leader. 

Was Drucker One who Got Things Done?
Drucker was only 28 when he came to the U.S. after having first fled Germany to England to escape Hitler and only 33 when WW II began. Possessing both a doctorate and a legal degree, he was soon mobilized and ordered to report to an army colonel as a “management consultant.” The problem was, no one knew what a management consultant did.

Drucker consulted a dictionary. The term “management consultant” wasn’t listed. He went to a bookstore seeking a book on the subject. There were only a couple books on the shelves about management, and none of them contained the words management consultant. A library also failed to provide a definition. No one he knew was of any help, including a business professor he knew at a local university. So Drucker reported to the colonel with some trepidation, since he had no idea what the title he had been given meant, or what he was supposed to do for his new boss and the war effort.

Drucker Meets “The Man”
Escorted to the presence of the colonel by an armed soldier did not ease his distress. The colonel welcomed him and invited him to be seated. He began by asking Drucker questions about getting settled in the United States and the friendliness of Americans. Drucker hoped that eventually he would get to the subject and explain his new job and its strange title. 

Drucker was reluctant to be the one who got things done in this instance. After all, the colonel was older, wiser, and more experienced. Also the colonel was in uniform and Drucker was not only an immigrant with a distinct Viennese accent from a country, now part of Germany, with which the U.S. was at war, but he had come from a dictatorship in which uniformed men gave the orders and were obeyed . . . or else. It was not for him to take the lead in defining his new job.

However, making no progress, Drucker could take it no more. Risking everything and controlling his fear, he looked the colonel in the eye and asked respectfully: “Please sir, can you tell me what a management consultant does?” 

The colonel looked at him sternly and responded: “Young man, don’t be impertinent!”

Drucker told me, “By this statement I understood that the colonel didn’t know what a management consultant was either. So I explained what I thought I could do for him and his organization. He agreed 100% and asked me how we should proceed. I explained my ideas which he immediately accepted. It was my first experience as a management consultant and helped me when I had to do deal with others in high office in the government, corporations, and academia.” 

Others of Drucker’s age, status, ability, and education might have said nothing. The meeting would have been unproductive, as so many meetings are. Of course eventually the colonel would have discovered what a management consultant was supposed to do or would have made some decisions as to what he wanted done. Drucker had once again confirmed General Fogleman’s assertion of almost fifty years later: that the leader is the one who gets things done, even if it meant leading his boss. In doing this Drucker not only became a great thinker and writer, but a demonstrated leader in his field and a world famous management consultant.

About the author:
Dr. Bill Cohen is the president of the California Institute of Advanced Management (CIAM), a new graduate school based on concepts taught by his professor, Peter F. Drucker. Cohen, a retired major general from the United States Air Force, is the author of fifty-four books, published in 23 languages and. His latest book is
The Practical Drucker, published by AMACOM. You can reach him or learn more about CIAM at .

Monday, December 9, 2013

Passing the Leadership Baton Gracefully

“Successful transition is the last act of a great leader.”
- Francis Hesselbein
Irecently asked readers to submit their burning leadership development questions. Those that get picked for a post will receive a free copy of my eBook.
This question from Joseph:

As a leader, we're supposed to developing our replacements. When it's time to go, how do we transition gracefully?
One of the best books I’ve read on the topic of leadership transition is from Marshall Goldsmith, called Succession, Are You Ready?. This short, easy to read book is written as a “memo” to CEOs, addressing the emotional and human side of succession planning from their perspective. It’s a personal guide on how to slow down, let go, move on, and how to choose and prepare your replacement(s) – to “pass the baton”.
I also wrote a post in back in 2011, as I was transitioning from my last company. As I re-read and reflect back, I don’t think there’s much I would have done differently, other than I wish I would have allowed a little more time to transition out.

Here’s the full post:

How to Pass the Leadership Baton

There’s no shortage of advice, research, processes, and programs that deal with developing and onboarding leaders for new roles. That’s a good thing – getting new leaders ready is critical to the success of any business. That’s one of the primary purposes of this blog.

It seems that very little has been written about how leaders should handle exiting their leadership position. Sure, you’ll find plenty lots of advice on resigning from a job, i.e., how to give notice, how to write a resignation letter, how to resign gracefully, etc… but I couldn’t find anything written specifically for leaders on this topic.

I believe that there are probably some unique considerations for leaders when it comes to “passing the baton”. The following list of do’s and don’ts is based on my own personal experience, and certainly isn’t exhaustive, so please contribute to the discussion with your own comments.

These guidelines are also written with the assumption that the leader is leaving on their own terms, i.e., they found a new opportunity, vs. being let go.

Do’s and Don’ts for Leaders for Passing the Baton
1. Do have at least one internal successor prepared to take over. Unfortunately, way too many leaders neglect this part of their job. It could be an ego thing, or perhaps insecurity. To me, not having prepared at least one successor is a leadership failure. Handing over the reins to someone you trust and believe in should inspire pride and a sense of accomplishment. It’s a way to ensure a continuation of whatever you’ve worked so hard to build. When your employer has to go outside to replace you, chances are, it’s not just because no one on your team is qualified – it’s probably because a change in direction is needed.

2. Do notify your manager first, and provide a formal letter. Then, work with your manager to develop an agreed upon communication plan. For leadership roles, there are organizational considerations, and the higher the role, the more important they become (i.e., investor confidence, customer relationships, etc…). Even for front-line leadership roles, there’s usually a cultural sequence and process for notifications (i.e., direct reports individually notified first, then peer managers, etc..). Once your personal notifications are given, it’s usually up to your manager to take care of the formal organizational announcement. You may want to provide your manager with details (new company, name of position, location, reason for leaving, etc…) to ensure it’s accurate. Not all companies will announce these kinds of details, but it’s better when they do, so it doesn’t sound like one of those “leaving to pursue other opportunities” notifications.

3. Don’t send out mass, impersonal notifications. Think about it…how does it feel when you get an email that’s not addressed to you? It feels like spam. Go through your contact list, and take the time to send a personal note or call those individuals you’ve developed relationships with.

4. Don’t badmouth your current company, job, manager, or co-workers. While this may seem a bit basic, I see it happen all the time at all levels. It’s just not always blatant, but the message is the same – “see ya, losers”. On the other hand, no matter how excited you are about your new role, resist the temptation to gush about it. It comes across as bragging, and again, can cause resentment amongst your co-workers. Save your enthusiasm for your family, friends, and new co-workers. Talk about the good things that you will miss and your confidence in the company’s success. Let people feel good about themselves, while at the same time be happy for you.

5. Do prepare a comprehensive transition list for your manager.

6. Don’t leave your manager a pile of problems that you’ve swept under the rug. It’s about your reputation and legacy after you leave, as well as showing respect for your manager, team, and company that’s been so good to you over the years. Tie up as many loose ends as you can. If there’s a nagging problem you’ve been avoiding, then have the courage and conviction to deal with it before you leave.

7. On the other hand, don’t use your last few weeks to get overly involved in every single thing your team is working on. I’ve seen this happen a lot – maybe it’s some kind of “nesting” urge – exiting leaders all of a sudden micromanaging every aspect of their team’s work. It's about gradually letting go, not pulling in the reins.

8. Do give “sufficient” notice. The common rule of thumb for giving notice is two weeks. However, for leadership roles, there are a lot of “it depends”. Try to negotiate a start and end date that meets the needs of your new and current employer. It’s been my experience three weeks is about right for most leadership roles. Two weeks may put your current employer in a bind. However, if you’ve prepared a successor, a smooth transition plan, and tidied up those loose ends, it may be enough. When it’s anything more than three, you’ll begin to feel like a lame duck. For as much as you’d like to think you’re indispensable, you’ll be surprised how quickly people will begin to move on. Soon, people are going to stop coming to you for decisions, meetings will start dropping off your calendar, and then it’s time to start packing.

9. Do anticipate and respond to people’s individual concerns. Your manager, team, and co-workers will probably have the following reaction: “OMG, really?! Wow, congratulations!” Then, their next thought is usually “OK, so how’s this going to impact ME?” If they don’t come right out and say it, then make it OK to have this conversation.

10. Do take the time to “be in the moment”. Transition can be a special time to reflect on your accomplishments and say goodbye to colleagues, while at the same time feeling the excitement of a new opportunity. When you leave a job, it often causes co-workers to reflect on their own careers and lives. So when someone stops by to say congratulations and/or goodbye, drop what you’re doing and take the time to connect.

11. Do offer to maintain mentoring relationships. I have a network of former managers and employees I still stay in touch with. They are a valuable source of advice, inspiration, and references. While your employees and mentees may not be interested, at least make the offer, and then be there if they do reach out to you. Leadership is about making a difference in people’s lives, and it doesn’t stop when you change jobs.

12. Don’t use this opportunity as “truth serum”. This is not the time to tell people what you really think of them, what they’ve done that’s always bugged you, or leave them with a list of flaws they really need to work on. Sure, it’s OK to keep doing your job as a leader- giving feedback, coaching, addressing performance issues – just don’t do it any differently than you normally would.

13. Don’t work on your new job on your current employer’s dime.

14. Do everything you can do to set your team members up for success. Ask them “what can I do for you before, and even after I leave?” (see #7) Then, follow-up if you can.

15. Don’t give too much advice to your successor. If there is crossover from when you leave and your successor starts, sure, it’s nice to want to set them up for success while you are handing over the torch. Just remember, there’s a time to let go of the torch, and recognize that you’re successor will have their own ideas on how to do the job.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Replacing the Performance Review

Guest post from Dr. Tim Baker

There is considerable and contestable debate in blogosphere and elsewhere about the viability of the performance review. One group - a minority - thinks that it is working very well and shouldn't be tampered with. Another group thinks that with some modifications, the performance review will be fine. Yet a third group - the group I belong to - suggest that we should throw it out. Which camp are you in?
Please don't get me wrong - I am not against performance feedback. In fact I believe it is one of the most important things a leader can and should do to develop his or her chargers. I just don't think the appraisal works as a developmental tool for leaders.

My research of managers suggests that in its current form there are eight problems the traditional appraisal has. In summary these include:
- Appraisals are a costly exercise.

- Appraisals can be destructive.

- Appraisals are often a monologue rather than a dialogue.

- The formality of the appraisal stifles discussion.

- Appraisals are too infrequent.

- Appraisals are an exercise in form-filling.

- Appraisals are rarely followed up.

- Most people find appraisals stressful.

My latest book - The End of the Performance Review: A New Approach to Appraising Employee Performance (Palgrave Macmillan) (, details a new approach to appraising employee performance.

Below is a summary of the Five Conversations Framework.
The Five Conversations Framework

Key Questions
 Month 1
Climate review
Job satisfaction, morale, and communication
    How would you rate your current job satisfaction?
    How would you rate morale?
    How would you rate communication?
Month 2
Strengths and talents
Effectively deploying strengths and talents
     What are your strengths and talents?
    How can these strengths and talents be used in your current and future roles in the organization?
 Month 3
Opportunities for growth
Improving performance and standards
     Where are opportunities for improved performance?
     How can I assist you to improve your performance?
Month 4
Learning and development
Support and growth
     What skills would you like to learn?
    What learning opportunities would you like to undertake?
Month 5
Innovation and continuous improvement
Ways and means to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business
    What is one way that you could improve your own working efficiency?
     What is one way that we can improve our team’s operations?

Let me briefly explain my rationale for the framework to you and the topics and content for each conversation.

The first conversation, entitled Climate Review, is based upon issues surrounding the employee’s job satisfaction, morale, and attitudes toward the organization’s capacity to communicate to them in a timely, comprehensive, and understandable way.

Conversation number two, Strengths and Talents, is concerned with each employee’s unique strengths and capabilities and how best they can be used for the benefit of themselves and the organization. This conversation is about the here and now and the future.
The third conversation discusses Opportunities for Growth; it is essentially about areas for improvement in the employee’s current role.

Falling out of these two conversations ought to be a fourth conversation, Learning and Development, about ways and means of building upon the employee’s strengths and overcoming or minimizing their weaknesses. In other words, the fourth conversation centers round opportunities to support their growth.
Finally, the fifth conversation, Innovation and Continuous Improvement, is concerned with discussing and developing the employee’s ideas to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business, both in their current work and in the team context.

Each conversation lasts no more than 15 minutes and is designed to replace the traditional appraisal.

Good leaders are likely to regularly give feedback to their staff, perhaps not in this structured way. But nevertheless, they are having regular conversations throughout the year on issues such as those raised in the Five Conversations Framework.  

About the author:

Dr. Tim Baker is an international consultant and author based in Brisbane, Australia ( According to Marshall Goldsmith, The End of the Performance Review (Palgrave Macmillan) "revolutionizes the way to view and conduct employee appraisals. Tim's method is brilliant in its simplicity and highly effective in its approach.  ‘The End’ for the traditional performance review but just the beginning for a groundbreaking new model.”