Friday, February 28, 2014

How to “Freshen up” your Stale Succession Planning Process

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 one just came in from Rebecca:

“Dan, I know I am quite late entering this discussion, but I have a question. I am struggling with how to take our established Succession Process to the next level. We have been using the 9 box and Likely 5 process for a number of years, and I am trying to figure out what is next and how to freshen up the process. Thanks!”
I picked this question because I just attended an event in Boston called “Secrets of Succession”, a moderated panel discussion with a CHRO, a succession planning consultant and executive coach, and a CEO and Board member. There was also a room full of talent management practitioners, so it was a lively dialog.

Here are a few “secrets” that I picked up that might help those that already have mature succession planning processes, and are looking for ways to take it to the next level. I’ll position them in the form of questions that you can ask yourself to assess your process.
1. How strategic is your process?

Are you just creating lists, charts, binders, etc…, or is your senior leadership team really using the process as a way to prepare your organization to address its current and future leadership requirements? For example, if you are looking to expand into a new market, are your succession and development discussions aligned towards achieving that goal?

2. Are your talent review discussions getting more sophisticated?
Instead of just “can they step into a bigger job”, and “what should their next job be” kind of discussions, is your senior team getting better at really understanding the nuances of assessing potential and leadership development? Are they learning how to develop specific leadership competencies through targeted assignments and projects, and getting creative in the way they do it?

3. How transparent is your process?
Every time I attend one of these sessions, the topic of “to tell or not to tell” comes up. Each year, the trend seems to continue to shift to “more” is better when it comes to how much you tell people. Organizations used to be concerned about the reactions of those that were not chosen as “high potentials”. Instead, they are finding out that those not chosen want to know what it takes to be considered, and get even motivated with their own development. Of course, there are always all kinds of exceptions and caveats, but the benefits of “telling” has clearly outweighed any disadvantages.

4. How simple is your process?
“Simplicity” seems to have replaced transparency as the new mantra these days. Are you still creating thick binders, and probably drowning your executives in bureaucracy? I asked the panel what “simple” looks like to them. One of them has completely done away with any documentation! To them, succession planning and development was all about the discussion, decisions, and actions taken.

5. Are you measuring outputs, not just inputs?
Outputs are the end results of good succession planning and development, i.e., the number of key positions filled with internal candidates, retention of high potentials, etc… Inputs would be completed charts, 9 boxes, development plans, etc…. It’s a shift in focus from “checking off the boxes” to measuring results.

6. Who “owns” the process: HR or your senior leaders?

I’m sure it’s no secret who the real owner should be – hint – it’s not HR. What does CEO ownership look like? I described it in this post: What Does “CEO Commitment” to Leadership Development Really Mean?
I hope this gives readers some ideas how to take your process to the next level. Note that none of these involve creating more bells and whistles – in fact, just the opposite. When it comes to succession planning and leadership development, there really are no new “secrets”. The ones that do it well just treat it as a strategic imperative, and the ones that don’t treat it as just another HR compliance exercise.

Rebecca, please send me your email address if you would like a free book.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

4 Steps for Making Change Happen

Guest post from August Turak:

The main reason why transformation fails is because organizations are very resistant to change, especially in organizations where powerful executives have their own interests and territory. How do you overcome that? Here are four ways to make change happen:

Step 1: Try to be compassionate -- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
All resistance to change is not rooted in hard-headed self-interest. Genetics teaches us that the vast majority of "change" called "mutations" are actually harmful to the organism. Only a tiny few lead to evolutionary breakthroughs. We are all genetically programmed to be conservative as a result. Historically, the vast majority of political and social change led to chaos not utopia. My company sold software and resistance to change was our biggest objection. If the new software implementation went off without a hitch no one cared or noticed. But if it crashed the organization, heads rolled. Our clients' resistance to change was not irrational and it was up to us, not our clients, to manage it. There is a lot of wisdom in the old adage that "no one ever got fired for buying IBM" -- or Microsoft or Google. First of all, put yourself in the other guy's shoes and realize that the risks involved are real. It may very well be his/her job, not yours, that is on the line if your transformation goes awry.
Also compassionately remember that executives may not have all the power you give them credit for. The days of telling people to jump and having them say "how high?" are gone. Implementing change today relies on building consensus rather than executive fiat. 

Step 2: Have a plan for getting initial buy-in (include contingencies)
Make sure your proposal takes into account all these legitimate concerns and potential dangers surrounding change. Make sure you have a plan for getting everyone affected by the change on board including a contingency for what you'll do if people turn against you later on.

Step 3: Minimize your risks
The next step is to minimize these risks. Think of all those cleaning solutions that recommend that you try them out on some inconspicuous swath of fabric first. Find some "out of the way" department or project to experiment on where the variables are controllable, the investment is minimal, and results are easily measured. Let the success of your little experiment become contagious. Others will start saying: "Who are those guys? How can we get results like that?"
Soon your experiment will spread virally and top management will no longer be risking a revolution, but responding to a bottom up groundswell backed by hard data.

Step 4: Measure results with hard data
This final point about hard data is critical. If you can't or won't measure results don't expect sympathy from me or any line manager. I don't care how theoretically "worthwhile" your transformation is, you must link your efforts to the mission of the company and that means, whenever possible, financially. If you can't measure results then you probably shouldn't try to bring about change, but you'll be surprised to find that almost anything, whether qualitative or quantitative, can be measured if we just put our heads to it.

If you are in a business culture that is resistant to change, instead of wasting energy on frustration follow this formula. In the next couple of weeks, research a change that you want to make happen. Anticipate all possible objections and create contingency plans for anything that could go wrong. Put in place measurable goals to track success. Create consensus by presenting your plan to colleagues and stakeholders. With preparation, contingency planning, buy-in, and metrics, you'll find that bringing about change is far easier than you thought.

Author Bio:
August Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, award winning writer and author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity (Columbia Business School Publishing; July 2013). He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Selling Magazine, the New York Times, and Business Week, and is a popular leadership contributor at His website is

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Leading Like the Energizer Bunny

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

Guess what?  It can’t be done.  No human can keep on going and going without recharging their “batteries”.  And when leaders start running on empty, bad things can happen.

Leaders who aren’t able to effectively manage their energy are subject to:

·       Making poor decisions
·       Communicating ineffectively
·       Missing the obvious and the subtle
·       Managing their emotions improperly

So what techniques do leaders use to manage their energy?

1. They surround themselves with people who are energy producers not energy users.
Take a look around you. Where are the windmills and solar panels in your organization and personal life? You should be able to think of their names quickly. When you need a boost reach out to them.

These are the people who see a half full glass and immediately start making lemonade out of a pile of lemons. They are also the people who respect you and value the gifts you bring to the organization, and they are the ones who step in to help you when you need help.

2. They take short periods of time each day for just themselves.
We all have our own biorhythms and we know at what point in the day our energy will drop and when we are at our best. Prepare for those drops in energy before they come and take time to reenergize. Talk a walk and visit with your energy producers or find a quiet place to close your eyes and go to your “happy” place.  This is a place that is either real or imagined where you can refuel.  It is a place that only you know; it creates a sense of peace and relaxation.

3. They use their high-energy times like the Energizer Bunny.
Leaders can accomplish a lot when they use their high-energy times to tackle the difficult and important such as decisions and communications. They quickly prioritize and use their energy as effectively as possible by getting the most important things off your list.

4. They delegate effectively.
The leaders who feel drained, more often than not are just saying yes to too many people and projects. They are the ones who want to help solve all the problems because they have the correct solution.

Being able to let go of things that others around you can do, may even want to do, is a great energy management technique. Focus on those things that are providing the most value to the organization and those things that use your strengths not your challenges.

Don’t get trapped into the cycle of low energy.  Use these 4 techniques to manage your energy, decrease your stress, and become a much more effective leader. Not only will your employees thank you but your friends and family will as well.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

10 Ways to Make Sure Training Sticks

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 Sheryl:

“My staff and I have been trained on different communication and learning styles.  How do we keep from falling into the same habits and keep what we’ve learned in use?”
Great question, and good for Sheryl for recognizing what usually happens after being training in a new skill and wanting to proactively do something about it.

Here are 10 tips for making sure new habits stick after a training program:
1. Practice, practice, and more practice. Try this: fold your arms the way your usually do. Unfold them. Now, fold them again, except this time, fold them the opposite of how you normally would. Feels pretty weird, doesn’t it? You really had to think about it.

Unfold them, and do it again. Still weird, but a little less, right?
Repeat, 2-3 more times. Soon, you’ll be able to do it almost as fast, without having to think about it.

However, if I asked you to do it again tomorrow, chances are you’d be compelled to go back to your old way, and it would just as hard to fold them the new way.
That little exercise illustrates how hard it is to change our “old habits”.  It’s hard!

That’s why it’s always good to build in practice time in a training program, in a safe environment, to try out new skills. Then, you need to look for opportunities to practice at work and home, until it starts to feel natural. It takes time and perseverance – some say up to a year!
2. Identify the benefits of changing (and the pitfalls). See Is that Development Goal Really Worth it? Taking the time to consider the implications of changing – or not changing – will help create the internal motivation, ownership, and commitment to change.

3. Establish goals and write them down. See The Power of a Written Individual Development Plan.
4. Share your goals with others. There is power in making a “public declaration” – it helps hold you accountable. See Individual Development Plans (IDPs) Are Worthless….

5. Establish a daily follow-up and measurement mechanism. See How to Make sure you Achieve your 2014 Leadership Goals. I’ve tried this and it works!
6. Schedule weekly, then monthly check-ins with your team. Share what’s working, what’s not, how to overcome barriers, etc… keep it alive – social reinforcement is powerful!

7. Share additional tips, articles, and best practices. Some training programs make these available for post-training reinforcement, and some offer newsletters and blogs that you can subscribe to.
8. Do refresher training, or a “level 2” training.

9. Provide reinforcement. As the team’s leader, you can look for ways to reward effort and behavior change, and at the risk of sounding heavy-handed, make the new skills are a performance expectation. It’s a “carrot and stick” approach, and many would say ineffective – but I had to include it for the Aubrey Daniels fans out there.
10. Create “job aids”. Kind of like crib sheet for your new skills – key steps, reminders, etc… It could be 3x5 laminated cards, screen savers, whatever.

How about other readers – any additional tips for making training and new skills stick?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Toolkit for Leading Change

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 Teri:

“How do you prepare teams for change?  What are good communication tools?  How much is too much?”
The ability to lead yourself, a team, and/or an entire organization is a critical, must-have ability for any leader. It’s also one of the most written and discussed about topics in leadership development. Even in my own blog, I’ve written a number of posts on the topic, and so have dozens of other guest bloggers.

Rather than writing yet another post, here’s a “toolkit” for leaders that I think will help address the reader’s question:
1. Study the models – and pick one to use as a framework. See Which Change Model Should You Pick? for a list of my favorites, with links to source material. Read whatever book the model came from. My favorite: Managing Transitions, Making the Most of Change, by William Bridges.

3. And so is involvement and managing your own reaction! See 20 Tips For Leaders During Turbulent Times.

4. Hang onto to your star performers – read Make Sure You “Hug” Your Top Performers During Times of Change.

I really like the last question too: “How much is too much?” Leaders tend to measure their accomplishments by how many new and exciting things (changes) they can implement. After all, inspiring people to change is the definition of leadership. Elected officials tend to use the same measuring stick – success is measured by how many bills they can sponsor and pass.
However, I think one of the most important things a leader can do is to also say no to things, as well as decide what the team is no longer going to do. No, we can’t make the world slow down – constant change is here to stay. It’s a matter of strategic priority- figuring out which changes are best aligned to achieve your critical business objectives, and the rest all take a back seat.

Organizations, and people, can only handle so many priorities with a finite amount of resources. Burning a few policy manuals will inspire your team too, and set them free to implement the new changes you are leading.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Most Desired Trait by Companies Seeking Senior Executives

I don't often publish press releases, but this one from executive search firm IIC caught my attention and I thought it was worth sharing. It supports what I've been saying for years: It’s the Soft Stuff That’s Really the Hard Stuff and Why Do Businesses and Leaders Fail?

Most Desired Trait by Companies Seeking Senior Executives is
                Ability to Motivate and Lead Others

           By 3:1 Margin, Motivational Skills Trump Performance

 "Price of Entry to Corner Office is Competence, But Measure of Success
                is Inspiring Others," Says IIC Partners

NEW YORK, Feb. 5, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Executive leaders, take
note. The number one skill that companies and Boards of Directors seek
in senior executives is the ability to motivate and lead others,
according to a survey of 1,270 business leaders from around the world
by IIC Partners, one of the top 10 executive search organizations

 By a margin of 3:1, 68 percent of top leaders said they preferred a
senior executive who could motivate and inspire others more than they
desired an executive who consistently performed well (mentioned by 26

"The price of entry to the corner office remains competency," said Paul
Dinte, chairman of IIC Partners. "But once there, a leader's success is
more about inspiring and motivating others to perform, rather than what
he or she does individually.

"The emerging snapshot of today's most valued senior executive is not
just that of a talented practitioner. Rather, this sought-after
executive is very 'other-directed' and excels at harnessing the power
of others through leadership and inspiration."

After motivational ability, the senior executive traits most valued by
organizations were: strong ability to manage change (51 percent);
ability to identify and develop talent (46 percent); innovative
thinking (30 percent); and consistent high performance (26 percent).

The survey also uncovered additional characteristics of senior
executives and senior executive teams around the globe.

Organizations are increasingly seeking to build senior executive teams
that include external candidates rather than only internally groomed
talent. The average Senior Executive Team is made up of:

  --  45 percent internal candidates
  --  38 percent external candidates
  --  17 percent from another division within the same parent company
 "The trend of hiring from the outside has been going on for a while,"
said Dinte. "Global trends in talent management indicate that companies
are investing more in grooming internal leaders, and they are doing a
better job of onboarding the executives they hire from the outside."

Companies that were more likely to rely heavily on internal, rather
than external, talent were those with fewer than 500 employees, energy
and utility companies, and financial services firms.

Organizations around the world have different expectations of how long
a senior executive will remain with an organization, but the average is
seven years. In the Americas, the expectation was slightly longer (7.9
years), while in Asia-Pacific, it was shorter (5.9 years).

Length of service also differed by industry. Professional services tend
to retain senior executives the longest (8.1 years), while the
pharmaceutical (5.7 years) and consumer products (6.1 years) industries
hold them for shorter periods of time.

"Corporate expectations for length of service may have to be managed
when Gen-X employees reach the C-suite, given how much more frequently
they tend to change jobs," noted Dinte.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that gender composition of
their senior executive team was either "important" or "very important."

Those based in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) rated gender
composition more important (62 percent) than the overall global
response. Respondents from Asia-Pacific were below the average, with
only 48 percent saying gender composition was important to their

About the Survey:
A total of 1,270 senior-level executives completed an online survey
during a six-week period in late 2013.

  --  Sixty-two percent of respondents were at the C-suite or Managing
      Director level.
  --  520 were from the Americas, 383 were from EMEA and 347 were from
  --  Respondents came from 18 different industries.
  --  Thirty-eight percent were from publicly held organizations, 43 percent
      were from privately-held firms, eight percent were family-owned, five
      percent were not-for-profit, and three percent were from other types of
  --  The survey was administered by Amarach Research of Dublin, Ireland.

About IIC Partners IIC Partners ( is one of the top 10 executive
search organizations in the world. The network of "Independent
International Consultants" is made up of 40 independently owned and
managed executive search firms representing 48 offices in 34 countries,
all considered to be leaders in the geographic and industry markets
they serve.
CONTACT: Kathleen McFadden

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

10 Commandments for Getting Along with Your Fellow Managers:

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 Cathy:

“I have an employee who used to belong to another team before he was moved to my supervision (his job duties fit better with my team). The director of the other team still goes to this employee with projects he wants done, without formally requesting this employee's services. The employee always complies because he wants to help out. Since we all work in a small division what's the best way to handle this without creating bad will between the units?”
Maybe it’s an old fashioned management concept, but there used to be something called “professional courtesy” when it comes to situations like this.
Patrick Lencioni, consultant and author of the book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, writes and speaks about importance of manager peer relationships. He says every manager has two teams; the one they lead, and the one they are a part of (their manager’s). Lencioni claims your #1 team as a manager should be your manager’s team, not your own. Our employees want us to work well with other departments, to remove silos and barriers that stand in the way of their success. When this doesn’t happen, they end up paying the price.

There are just some unwritten rules when it comes to how you work as an effective management team. Here are 10 commandments for getting along with your fellow managers:
1. Thou shall not poach another manager’s best employee unless the employee comes to you first.

2. Thou shall not go directly to another manager’s employee to ask them to work on a project without clearing with the employee’s manager first.
3. Thou shall not take credit for another manager’s work.

4. Thou shall not rat out another manager to your boss without first attempting to resolve the issue with the manager yourself.
5. Thou shall not speak critically of another manager in front of that manager’s employees. Speak favorably of your fellow managers in front of your boss and others. Go out of your way to give them credit and point out their strengths and accomplishments.

6. Thou shall not nod your head in agreement with another manager’s employees when they are complaining to you about their manager.
7. Thou shall be an advocate for your fellow manager’s team, work, and important projects.
8. Thou shall not hoard information from your fellow managers.

9. Thou shall not work in a silo, i.e., act as if your work and team is the only thing that matters.
10. Thou shall not be inattentive or act bored when another manager is speaking at a meeting. Listen as if it’s your boss speaking.

Given that your fellow manager violated the second commandment, I’d say it’s time to have a crucial conversation with that manager. Explain to the manager why it’s important to go to you first if he/she needs help with a project from their former employee. Explain the impact that it has on you (work planning, impact on other priorities, etc…) when he/she doesn’t check with you first. I’m sure in many cases, you’d be happy to help out your fellow manager. However, when he/she doesn’t go to you first, it can help have negative impact on other work that needs to be done.
Finally, it’s OK to let the manager know how it makes you feel, i.e., “I know it’s not your intention, but when you do this, I feel like you are undermining my authority. It feels disrespectful”.

If you approach the conversation in a respectful way and look for a win-win solution, I’ll bet you’ll be able to resolve this with your fellow manager in a way that gets both of your needs met and not create bad will.

For more on the importance peer manager relationships, see Would Your Peers Vote for You?

Monday, February 3, 2014

The February 2014 Leadership Development Carnival

This month's Leadership Development Carnival is hosted by Chery Gegelman, from Simply Understanding.

You can find it right here: Feb. 2014 Leadership Development Blog Carnival: What Great Leaders Do.

Here's Chery's introduction:

"January ended with MLK Day.  This month we honor Washington and Lincoln.  So when Dan and I reached out to our leadership networks, we asked bloggers to share posts about what great leaders do, posts that highlight vision, passion, courage, commitment and even a willingness to sacrifice their very lives to create a legacy of change.
24 Leadership Guru’s responded with stories, inspiration and tangible ideas to help each of us to lead at a higher level.  …And while we don’t all agree on where to stand on specific issues, we emphatically agree on what it takes to lead well."

It's an inspirational collection of posts, so be sure to check it out, and Chery made it easy for you to RT your favorites!