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Creating a Leadership Philosophy

Leadership PhilosophyWe often talk about leadership styles and leadership behaviors but don’t often talk about our leadership philosophy. However, it is a critical part of understanding ourselves as a leader.  It is this underlying philosophy that has broad impact on our actions as leaders.  Leadership philosophy is a concept I’ve learned from my colleague Michael Maccoby.

We all have a life philosophy.  Our life philosophy is a way of putting our values together to guide how we behave.  We knowingly or unknowingly live our lives in accordance with this philosophy.  A leadership philosophy integrates our organizational purpose with the practical values and moral reasoning which you believe are essential to achieving that purpose.  It also includes how we define and measure results. Effective leaders are very aware of their leadership philosophy.  They not only communicate their philosophy, they can be trusted to act in accordance with that philosophy.

Think about your leadership philosophy.  What is it and what impact does it have on you, your team and your organization.  Ask the following questions:

1. What is the purpose of our organization?
2. What is my purpose as a leader?
3. Which organizational values support that purpose?
4. How do my personal values align with these organizational values?
5. What ethical and moral reasoning do I expect from myself and my people?  Do we work simply to avoid punishment and gain rewards? Do we operate in terms of what is good for my organization and myself without regard for my impact on others?  Do we function in a way that benefits or does not harm all those who may be impacted by our actions?
6. How do we define results?  Is this consistent with my leadership philosophy?

Once you’ve crafted your philosophy, validate that it is meaningful to you. Read it several times over the next two weeks.  Does it resonate with you?  If someone asked you, would you stand behind its representation of you to others?

 

The Leadership Multiplier Effect

A third of all CEO’s surveyed by The Conference Board say the most pressing issue they have is attracting, developing and retaining the right talent. Two of the biggest factors in engagement and retention are trust in senior leadership and the relationship people have with their managers. With 75% of employees in a recent Gallup Organization survey reporting that they are unengaged or actively disengaged at work, leadership is not successfully addressing this issue.

Leadership excellence has a multiplier effect on organizations. Investing in developing leaders, increasing the leadership multiplier effect, is a short-term and long-term strategy that allows your organization to adapt and thrive in various economic circumstances by attracting, retaining and engaging your human capital.

What is the Leadership Multiplier Effect?

Resources spent on leadership development have a cascading effect throughout the organization. The effective leader creates exponential value for the organization through his or her influence on the strategy, people and processes in the organization. One leader’s effective decisions and actions has a ripple effect that can impact dozens or hundreds of employees, positively changing business performance for the entire department or business unit. Likewise, the impact of poor leadership decisions and actions can lead to the decreased ability to attract, develop and retain the right talent.

In addition, effective senior leaders model behaviors and skills for other leaders in the organization. They set the tone for the leadership practices that define the organization and its culture. They demonstrate the business skills that address business issues and create innovation. They define and operationalize high performance through their interactions with each other and the entire organization.

As others mature in their leadership roles, their effectiveness is increased for having been effectively developed and for the role-models presented by senior leadership. A cascade is created. With more effective leadership focused on the right things at all levels in the organization, factors impacting business performance improve. Groups led by effective leaders are more engaged resulting in higher productivity rates, increased willingness to give extra effort, and greater acceptance of change. In other words, effective leadership creates an environment that attracts and retains high quality talent.

Ensuring the effectiveness of your leaders is critical whether your business is expanding or contracting. When your business is expanding, bringing on new people, introducing new products, serving new customers, leaders need to integrate and assimilate the growth. They need to plan strategically for growth, effectively develop their teams, establish business practices and maintain the engagement people feel in those initial few months on the job.

When business is contracting, leaders need to manage the change brought on by staff reductions, reduced revenue streams and increased cost constraints. They need to maintain the remaining staff’s focus and morale. Need to maintain customer service levels, identify how to do more with less.

Optimizing the Leadership Multiplier Effect

For the leadership multiplier effect have its maximum impact, leaders must be developed effectively. Effective development includes:

1.  Identifying the core of effective leadership. What makes leaders effective? One way to start thinking about leadership effectiveness is to identify what results you want the leader to achieve and use this to identify behaviors that are effective in achieving those results.

2.   Communicating what is expected of a leader. This communication is not always in words. It’s important to understand that how you select, how you assign resources, what people are held accountable for and how you recognize and reward say a great deal about your expectations of leaders.

3.   Assessing your leaders against your model of effectiveness. If some are less effective than you need, identify a strategy for addressing it. It may be development, assignment changes, or an exit strategy. No matter what strategy seems most appropriate, it should start with a frank conversation with the leader.

4.   Identifying potential leaders within your organization and outside your organization. Do you have the bench strength you need? Also remember that leaders aren’t just those with formal titles but also those in roles that are pivotal to business success.

5.   Developing leadership effectively. Formal learning experiences, business-driven assignments and projects, coaching, mentoring and other leadership development experiences need to align with the business strategy and the expectations you’ve communicated about leadership within your organization. Utilize a suite of development activities that build leaders throughout their careers. Developing leaders is process not an event. You must take a planned approach to leadership development, not one that only addresses obvious flash points that may be ignoring underlying causes.

By taking advantage of the Leadership Multiplier Effect, you will optimize talent and create competitive advantage.

Five Reasons Why Good Leaders Fail

Why Good Leaders Fail

 

Jessica had been on the high potential list every year since she started with her biotechnology company.  She was moved into a variety of roles, taking on different responsibilities and succeeding each time. She was known as a strong leader because of her ability to get results. When she moved into the Director of Operations role things began to change. Within 6 months of taking the role she wasn’t delivering the results everyone thought she was capable of delivering.  Her team was contentious and morale was wavering.  What was going on?  Had Jessica topped out her potential, a living example of the Peter Principle?  Had she lost her ability to lead?

Of course she didn’t lose her ability to lead.  Her abilities and skills had not just simply vanished but other parts of the situation had changed.

I’ve seen five common reasons why a leader who has been effective in the past is now failing.

1. Some critical skills were overlooked before. Let’s talk about the obvious reason first.  Some leaders have not developed key skills that they need to be successful.  Just like brilliant students who breeze through school, sometimes people climb to positions of leadership because they are brilliant marketers, brilliant scientists, or brilliant (put your profession here). But along the road to success, the people around this leader choose to overlook a key skill (or two or three) until it can’t be overlooked any more and causes huge issues.  For example, if we go back to Jessica, throughout her career it was noted in talent reviews that she could be abrasive and often got things done through force of will rather than by building relationships and coalitions.  She thought of herself as ‘results-focused.’  When she moved into her Operations role, it became imperative for her to build relationship with peers in other parts of the organization to get results.  Interestingly, her ‘results-focus’ is what got in the way.

2. Cultural mismatch. This is a common reason why leaders who have been wildly successful in one environment for a long time, fail miserably in a very short time in another.  The way a person operates and becomes successful in one culture can be very different from another.  For example, a leader may have been very successful in a culture that a valued quick decision making and risk taking.  Put that same leader in an environment driven by consensus and a desire to explore issues from every angle before moving forward and wait for the results.

3. Process and system mismatch. In the 1800’s, some people did very well in the wild, wild west and others went back home to the security of their established communities.  Some leaders are very adept at working in environments with less defined processes and systems.  They either work without them or really enjoy putting them in place.  Others thrive in environments where processes and systems are clearly defined.  Think of the serial entrepreneur who is put into a large, complex organization that has acquired his firm.  Change was a way of life in his entrepreneurial firm but isn’t in this large organization.  Leading change in the former was easy; everyone thrived on it.  In the new organization it takes real work. The processes that exist are meant to maintain the status quo not change it and people in his new organization wonder why he was once perceived as someone who drove change.

4. Lack of management support. Even the most seasoned executive needs people in her corner.  She needs people who support her success.  She may need coaching and mentoring to navigate the new role.  Even the best CEO won’t succeed if the Chairman of the Board decides she is not the person for the job and needs to go.

5. Organization structure. We all have been in situations where roles aren’t clear, responsibilities are redundant, unnecessary internal competition is the norm, resources aren’t available or decision making is lost in layers of management morass.  Leaders can find themselves in the same situations.  I worked for an organization once that routinely pitted leaders against each other by giving them the same issue to address or initiative to lead in different parts of the organization without each leader knowing about the other’s charge.  There could only be one winner in this situation so one of them automatically was going to fail.

Why have you seen leaders fail?

 

Finish Strong

Finish Strong Collage

A few weeks ago, I talked about spring cleaning your priorities. Now that you’ve cleaned them up, focus on finishing the year strong.

With summer approaching, many people are thinking about taking time off, having some fun, and relaxing a little. All these are important. Refilling the tank lets you finish the race. But a strong finish needs more than a full tank of gas. You also need a road map for keeping momentum going during the summer months and finishing strong.

Before summer hits, pull your team together and create your summer road map. Identify 2-4 items — short projects, processes that need to be updated, new customer relationships that need to grow — the team can focus on between now and Labor Day that will make a big impact on meeting your goals. Use them as development opportunities. Give your next generation talent a chance to develop their leadership skills. Help others expand their skill sets. Plan an end-of-summer celebration for after Labor Day. Celebrate the results. Discuss finishing strong. And, give everyone the chance to share vacation pictures.

Coaching a Superstar

Coaching a SuperstarThe spectacle of the closing ceremonies have marked the end of another Olympics.  Personally, I love all things Olympic.  Every time I watch the Olympics I’m struck by the stories of how the athletes  got there. Each has his or her own journey but the one thing they all have in common is a coach who got them there.  And, for many of them, that coach was never an Olympian.  They were never as good as the person they coach.

All of us, at one time or another in our career will manage a superstar.  You know them, that person who you know is more talented than  you and who you know will probably surpass you on the career ladder.  Some people don’t think they have anything to teach this person.  Nothing is further from the truth. 

Even superstars need coaches. And, all superstars have coaches.  Coaches add value by being able to see what the superstar doesn’t.  You are able to watch them and see the blind spots.  You can see how if they made a slight change here or a big change there, they will reach even higher levels of achievement.  You can provide them context and be a safe sounding board for new ideas.  You can push them when they need pushing and slow them down when they need to think before they act.

Who is your top athlete?  What coaching will take them to the next level of performance?  

Finding Leaders

 

Numerous business journals report that a majority of Boston employers are finding it difficult to find strategic thinkers. They also report that it’s just as difficult to find candidates who can lead and motivate.

Isn’t it ironic that in an area with one of the most highly educated workforces in the country, our employers cannot find leaders who possess two of the most important leadership skills? There’s no doubt that our people are among the best and the brightest professionally and technically. But we also know that those who are the most technically or professionally proficient don’t necessarily make the best managers and leaders. They didn’t become the best in their field without an investment in developing skills and knowledge so why do we think they’ll figure out leadership on their own. These reports should sound the alarm bell for all us about the importance of investing in effective leadership development. It is a key lever for moving us from recession to recovery.

From my perspective, three important characteristics of effective management and leadership development are:

    • It’s aligned to the business strategy. How can we develop leaders who are thinking strategically — that is, exhibiting the ability to create strategies, plans, and priorities consistent with the mission and competitive strategy of the organization — if we are developing skills and competencies that are not aligned with the business strategy?
       
    • It allows them to work on real world issues that are pertinent to their daily activities. Development, whether in the classroom or in the field, should provide tools and frameworks that support actions on the job. I was recently facilitating a session on leading through influence, in which plans are created for making a proposal. One of the leaders in the program commented, “Who knew we would create real deliverables from a training program.”
       
    • It creates a network for continued development. The power of peer relationships and the learning that occurs from it is one of the most powerful development tools I’ve found. By creating peer relationships focused on sharing ideas and learning among leaders, a sustainable system is created to support continuous, self-directed learning.

Research has also shown that Boston-based employees reported they want their employer to help them further develop their skills which is a key engagement factor. What better win-win can you create than investing in development that will move the business forward and will support further employee engagement?

I’m sure these findings aren’t that different from other parts of the country. This research should spur all of us to take a deeper look at what we expect from managers and leaders and how we invest to support the successful execution of those expectations.

Smarter Goals

 

The idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals has been around for a long time. Many of you who have attended management training have at one time or another been exposed to this concept. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the elements that make up a well written goal. I’m advocating for a new acronym —S.M.A.R.T.E.R. This approach keeps the S.M.A.R.T. components and adds what I view as two critical elements.

 

S = Specific. All goals should be focused on a specific outcome or behavior.
M = Measurable. Effective goals can be measured. You define what success looks like. The measure can be quantitative (percentages, earnings, numbers) or qualitative (behavioral differences observed).
A = Attainable or Achievable.
Goals need to be seen as something that can actually be reached. Otherwise, they are just viewed as a pipe dream and have little impact on performance because nothing you do will ever be good enough.
R = Relevant. They need to relate to what someone does and what someone has control over. If a goal really doesn’t relate to what I do, then why does it matter?
T = Time bound. Too often, goals are set without a specific end date in mind. If a ‘goal’ is open-ended and ongoing, it’s not a goal. It’s a task or a process.
E = Engaging. Goals are often thought to be very objective and numbers-driven, i.e., very intellectual, not emotional. Or, in the case of behavioral goals, sometimes people view them as not really that important. For people to take ownership of achieving a goal, they need to be emotionally engaged with the idea that achieving this goal is important to them, not just to the company or group.
R = Recognized. People need to see that achieving the goal makes a difference. They need to see that something positive will result or something negative will cease. Recognition, rewards and reinforcement are all important for goals to be effective.

Five Reasons Leaders Don’t Succeed

LeadershipJessica had been on the high potential list every year since she started with her biotechnology company. She was moved into a variety of roles, taking on different responsibilities and succeeding each time. She was known as a strong leader because of her ability to achieve results. When she was moved into the Director of Operations role things started to change. Within 6 months of taking the role, she wasn’t delivering the results everyone thought she was capable of delivering. Her team was contentious and morale was wavering. What was going on? Had Jessica topped out her potential, a living example of the Peter Principle? Had she lost her ability to lead?

Of course she didn’t lose her ability to lead. Her abilities and skills had not just simply vanished but other parts of the situation had changed. I’ve seen five common reasons why a leader who has been effective in the past is now failing.

1. Some skills, critical skills were overlooked before. Let’s talk about the obvious reason first. Some leaders have not developed key skills that they need to be successful. Just like brilliant students who breeze through school, sometimes people climb to positions of leadership because they are brilliant marketers, brilliant scientists, or brilliant (put your profession here). But along the road to success, the people around this leader choose to overlook a key skill (or two or three) until it can’t be overlooked any more and causes huge issues. For example, if we go back to Jessica, throughout her career it was noted in talent reviews that she could be abrasive and often got things done through force of will rather than by building relationships and coalitions. She thought of herself as ‘results-focused.’ When she moved into her Operations role, it became imperative for her to build relationship with peers in other parts of the organization to get results. Interestingly, her ‘results-focus’ is what got in the way.

2. Cultural mismatch. This is a common reason why leaders who have been wildly successful in one environment for a long time, fail miserably in a very short time in another. The way a person operates and becomes successful in one culture can be very different from another. For example, a leader may have been very successful in a culture that valued quick decision making and risk taking. Put that same leader in an environment driven by consensus and a desire to explore issues from every angle before moving forward and wait for the results.

3.  Process and system mismatch. In the 1800’s, some people did very well in the wild, wild west and others went back home to the security of their established communities. Some leaders are very adept at working in environments with less defined processes and systems. They either work without them or really enjoy putting them in place. Others thrive in environments where processes and systems are clearly defined. Think of the serial entrepreneur who is put into a large, complex organization that has acquired his firm. Change was a way of life in his entrepreneurial firm but isn’t in this large organization. Leading change in the former was easy; everyone thrived on it. In the new organization it takes real work. The processes that exist are meant to maintain the status quo not change it and people in his new organization wonder why he was once perceived as someone who drove change.

4.  Lack of management support. Even the most seasoned executive needs people in her corner. She needs people who support her success. She may need coaching and mentoring to navigate the new role. Even the best CEO won’t succeed if the Chairman of the Board decides she is not the person for the job and needs to go.

5.  Organization structure. We all have been in situations where roles aren’t clear, responsibilities are redundant, unnecessary internal competition is the norm, resources aren’t available or decision making is lost in layers of management morass. Leaders can find themselves in the same situations. I worked for an organization once that routinely pitted leaders against each other by giving them the same issue to address or initiative to lead in different parts of the organization without each leader knowing about the other’s charge. There could only be one winner in this situation so one of them automatically was going to fail.

Creating a Powerhouse Team

Creating a Powerhouse TeamA couple of weeks ago, I defined the Powerhouse Employee as one who’s highly capable and highly committed.  Capability is something you can hire for or develop. An investment in skill-building is never wasted unless those skills become obsolete.  Commitment is something most people come to a new job full of. They are ready to go, excited to be there and committed to success.  The ironic thing is that, after a period of time in the job or with the company, you find commitment takes the big dive.

As a leader, spend time this week thinking about where your team’s capability and commitment levels are.  How are you increasing them or decreasing them?  As you do this, take money out of the commitment equation.  That’s the cheap and easy way to try to create commitment and one that really doesn’t work for anything but short bursts.  What are you really doing, really putting effort into that is making a difference in how people feel about working for you?

Leadership and Market Performance

The Institute for Corporate Performance (i4cp) just released a study correlating leadership competencies and market performance.  These findings are among the first that I know of that show which leadership competencies make a real difference in business performance.

Interestingly, these findings support both my Leadership in the Next Decade findings and the focus of a new leadership development program I am offering through my partnership with Michael Maccoby and Personal Strengths Publishing, Becoming a Leader We Need with Strategic Intelligence.

Key findings from i4cp’s research are:

  • Only 23% of those surveyed describe their companies as being strong at developing future leaders.
  • The most popular competencies used are not correlated with market performance.   Among business competencies, only “strategy execution” was both popular and correlated to market performance.
  • The top business competencies correlated with market performance are:

o   Strategy development
o   Having a global mindset
o   Decision-making from a synthesis of internal and external
     influences
o   Organizational development
o   Strategy execution

  • The top relationship/communication competencies correlated with market performance:

o   Verbal communication skills
o   Collaboration
o   Building relationships outside the organization
o   Building organizational capacity

Becoming a Leader We Need with Strategic Intelligence focuses those in Director and above positions on building these key competencies.  For more information about or a more detailed overview of the program, call me at 978.475.8424