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?


Worried about retention? Some news about millennials

Millennials and careers

 A recent article from Reuters provided some insights into why millennials quit their jobs and just how many of them plan on doing so in the next 2-4 years. First, the numbers:

  • Sixty percent of millennials, those people who are 22-32, have changed jobs 1-4 times in the past 5 years, according to State Street Global Advisors. Could be some of the younger millennials in the survey population were moving from part-time or ‘I needed a job’ jobs, but that numbers should give you pause.
  • If given the choice, 44% would leave their job in the next two years and 66% expect to change their employers in the next 4 years. Not would if they could. They expect to change.

Why? As we’ve all heard, millennials want work that aligns with their values. Old news.  What was interesting is how important it is even to those who are what they call ‘senior millennials’ — those with high-level job titles. Sixty-one percent of them say they’ve chosen not to undertake a task at work because it conflicts with their values. So much for work is not personal.

However, this article points out that isn’t the whole story. Turns out money does matter. A woman quoted in the article only chose to change to a career she thought she would like better when she figured out it was lucrative in the market where she lives. It also notes how often millennials are developing additional revenue streams outside of their jobs. Sounds pretty entrepreneurial to me.

What can you do to keep your millennials around.  Most likely, they will leave you at some point but you can probably extend that timeframe by focusing on three things:
  • Know what your millennials, as individuals, value and integrate that into their work.
  • Give them the opportunity to generate business ideas and be entrepreneurial. Their doing it on the side.  Why not as part of their regular job?
  • Don’t think that all of this takes the place of money.  They want financial rewards for their effort.  What may be different from others is that the rewards need to be aligned with their values, how they are making a difference and the ability to be entrepreneurial at work.

Building an Accountability Culture

Building an Accountability CultureOne of the most difficult skills for many leaders to master is to artfully and effectively build accountability into the culture. They need to walk the line between creating a punitive culture, where people are afraid to be innovative, take responsibility or drive change because of the fear of failure and its ramifications. On the other extreme is the leader who wants to create such a feel-good culture that they let things slide and pretty soon people aren’t clear what, if anything is important and they adopt Scarlett O’Hara’s approach to dealing with adversity:  “Tomorrow is another day.”

In an accountability culture, each person takes ownership for achieving results.

Too often we think about accountability only when something goes wrong. Until then, we figure that people know what needs to get done and will do it. It’s what I call a rear view mirror exercise. A more powerful approach is to be mindful of creating a culture of accountability by using the ACAR model.

  • Align: To create a culture of accountability, you need to start by aligning goals, people and process. The first step is to ensure that individual or team goals are aligned with the larger corporate, group and department goals. People will give more importance to what they are doing when they understand how what they do fits into the bigger picture. Even better, explain the larger goals to them and then engage them in setting their own goals. Second, ask yourself if the work people are doing is aligned with their strengths — their talent– and with the goals you are asking them to achieve? The ability to use our strengths at work makes it much more likely that we will complete tasks and create results. Third, align the goal with what the individual finds motivating. When an individual is able to see how the work they are doing helps fulfill a personal need or aspiration, they will own the work. Finally, do we have enough processes in place for someone to achieve what needs to get done? If not, have you given them the capacity to create it?
  • Communicate Expectations: Do your expectations focus on activity or results? Am I accountable for the activities I engage in or the results they produce? Often it’s both. For example, we may have expectations for how someone works with other members of the team in order to achieve their results. Where accountability falls apart is when we focus solely on one or the other. We’ll reward the person who achieves the best results even though everyone knows their behavior flies in the face of what we say we value, leading to a toxic culture. Other times, we are so focused on people getting the activities right that we will give them an “A for effort”. We lose sight of the ultimate goal because we are so focused on the process that we create a situation where nothing seems to get done. Communicate what your expectations are — both behavior and results.
  • Acknowledge. We usually think of holding people accountable when someone is not making the deadline, when quality isn’t what it should be or when results aren’t achieved. Often, we are looking for where to assign blame. Turn that thinking on its head. Focus on those people who are doing what they are supposed to do and achieving results. Recognize them, point it out to others. Watch the impact it has. People will recognize that achieving results is noticed and makes a difference.
  • Redirect and Re-engage. Even after aligning, communicating and acknowledging, there will still be performance issues from time to time. You’ll still need to have the hard conversations. You will need to tell people that part of their performance is not where it needs to be. You will need to share your disappointment or describe the impact it had on the team. Most importantly, you then need to redirect and re-engage. You need to engage the individual in a conversation about how to improve performance. You need to recheck the alignment, the communication and the acknowledgement. The conversation should build a partnership in which the individual takes ownership of the work that needs to be done.


Talent shortage? Afraid of power? This week’s random musings

Here are a few things I’m thinking about this week. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Talent shortage continues. Manpower recently completed a survey of 41,700 hiring managers across 42 countries. 38% reported they are unable to find the talent they need. That’s the highest percentage in this annual survey since 2007. The top 10 hardest jobs to fill include sales reps, engineers, IT staff, accounting and finance, and managers/executives. Are you having a tough time finding the talent you need? If so, which jobs are you having the hardest time filling? Click here to see the NBCNews article.

Are we afraid of power? In several of my recent conversations with emerging female executives, many are still expressing concerns about their ability to effectively use their power. They are concerned about delegating appropriately, how they are perceived by emerging male executives, or by the people who work for them, even how to give feedback that gets a difficult message across when need be. If you’re a female leader, have you had similar concerns? If so, how did you deal with it? What advice would you have for women who seem to be afraid of power?

Productivity-boosters. This coming Sunday, November 1st daylight savings comes to an end and lighter mornings and darker evenings remind us that winter will soon be upon us. Remaining productive during the winter months can be a challenge for some.  What are your favorite tricks for boosting your personal productivity? What works like a charm every time?

daylight savings


Create a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline: 7 Core Principles

Leadership Sustainability

Leadership Sustainability

Sustainability is a word that is heard often these days, usually in regards to the environment or development or cultures. As leaders, part of our mission is to create sustainability within our organizations. The talent of our future leaders is critical to our future success. The question is, “how do I create a sustainable pipeline of leaders and manage talent in an ever-changing business and economic environment?”

The business case for top-tier leadership quality is solid. A Corporate Leadership Council 2003 Succession Management Survey showed that top tier leadership organizations are much more likely to outperform their peers in the marketplace, which translates into substantial financial gains. Market capitalization relative to peers was $384 million higher for top-tier leadership organizations compared with a $232 million lower for bottom-tier leadership organizations.

Creating a sustainable pipeline of top-tier leadership needs an integrated, systemic approach to talent management. Current leaders in the organization need to be accountable for creating a talent management culture. Keeping your eye on the talent will allow you to survive, and even thrive, during times of change and come out stronger on the other side.

To create sustainable leadership pipelines, seven core principles make the difference.

The 7 Core Principles

Core Principle #1: Recognize talent management is a core business process with impact on overall business and financial success for the enterprise. Actively engage leadership throughout the organization on an ongoing basis to assure a nimble, functioning and robust process is in place. Create accountabilities for leaders, just as they are for the financial and operational success of the organization.

Core Principle #2: It starts with the business strategy and talent pipelines are developed to support the strategy. Base the pipelines on where the business is currently and also prepare for future scenarios. As Marshall Goldsmith said, “what got you here, won’t get you there.” Leadership needs will vary based on the strategic needs of the organization. The necessary leadership qualities, the identification, development and review of key talent should be linked to the strategy to assure the bench strength meets the organization needs.

Identify linchpin roles to assure you are developing leadership talent for those roles that have significant impact on the organization’s ability to achieve short and long-term results. Look at the drivers of you business – is it sales? Research and development? Manufacturing? How are you creating a sustained talent pipeline in those parts of the business?

Core Principle #3: Measure it and know if it’s making a difference. Sustainability is created by knowing what will create success now and in the future and focusing resources on those areas. Put measures in place to reflect the goals of talent management and the effectiveness of leadership development. As was stated in principle #1, make it a key accountability for the executive team.

Core Principle #4: Identify, develop and talk about leadership talent throughout the organization. The leadership talent conversation should be ongoing among your senior leadership teams. Until they take root in the culture, overt processes should be put in place to cause these conversations to occur. These topics need to be agenda items or the topics of meetings in their entirety.

Create communication mechanisms to ensure a resilient information-sharing process. Intranet- based tools with the ability to allow varying levels of access to critical information are vital. They allow for the dynamic management of the information.

Core Principle #5: The process clearly differentiates leadership talent. All high performers are not high potential. However, high potentials are high performers. Sustainable talent management systems identify the difference.

High potential performers have the capability to continue to take on larger, more complex levels of responsibility and often do it quickly. High potential employees are often voracious learners. They take on new tasks and are able to master them quickly. What they most often need is the ability to gain wisdom; the ability to integrate what they have learned and to apply it in varied settings.

Core Principle #6: Address gaps between strategic needs and current leadership capabilities through focused internal development or recruitment of external resources. In sustainable talent management processes, development comes from a variety of sources – coaching, programs, experiences, new assignments within the organization, mentoring, etc. With the application of each type of development there is clarity about what the individual is supposed to be developing from each experience or assignment. Measure the progress. Frequent conversations about the development experience provide feedback to the organization about the potential leadership talent and to the individual.

To drive integration of talent management into the culture, integrate it with critical processes like selection, performance management, rewards and compensation. At the individual level, let people know where they stand (e.g., A, B, C talent) and the implications. These components can be facilitated through Human Resources, Leadership Development, or consultants. They need to be owned by the executive team and leaders/managers across the organization.

Core Principle #7: Talent and the needs for talent are re-evaluated regularly. Your business changes. So does the talent. Sustainable systems identify and proactively address the dynamics of change and the impact on talent needs.

Performance=14% Leaders, 86% Followers

High PerformanceI’d like to share a couple of great pieces on leadership philosophy from 2011 that remain as important and relevant today as they did then.

The first one is a Harvard Business School research study which shows that 14% of a firm’s performance is dependent on its leaders, 86% on the ‘followers’.  This statistic is in an I4CP report about the 5-domains of high performance.  Click here to download the report. It’s an easy read and reinforces a great deal of what our philosophy has been for years — performance comes from the combination of consistent, clearly communicated strategies, leadership that is talent- oriented and committed to the right talent working in an effective, strong culture with a strong market-focus.

Another great piece from McKinsey is about the importance of organizational health on performance. The author’s  central message is that focusing on organizational health -the ability of your organization to align, execute, and renew itself faster than your competitors can -is just as important as focusing on the traditional drivers of business performance. Organizational health is about adapting to the present and shaping the future faster and better than the competition. Healthy organizations don’t merely learn to adjust themselves to their current context or to challenges that lie just ahead; they create a capacity to learn and keep changing over time.  To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Looking to Hire? Make the Sale.

top talentI was asked recently about how to put your company’s best foot forward when hiring in a competitive market. The first thing to think about is why someone would want to work for you.

Recruiting and hiring is a sales process. We usually think that it’s the candidate doing the selling. You and your company need to be selling, too. The best candidates have options so you have to show them why your opportunity is a great one. Show your candidates the WIIFM — what’s in it for me.

Position yourself as a top choice by having the answers to these frequent questions from top performers. They may not always ask them but they are thinking about them.

  • Why would someone want to work here? If you can’t answer this question, how can your possibly attract great people?
  • What’s different about your organization versus where the person is now? How does this opportunity give him more of what he’s looking for and less of what he doesn’t want?
  • What is the culture like and how is it unique? Top performers want to be part of something special. What’s special about your culture?
  • Who works here? People want to work with people they like and respect. Strong performers want to work with other strong performers.
  • What’s it like to work for you? Do you involve people in interesting work? Do you coach and provide feedback? Do you provide development opportunities? Do you help increase people’s visibility in the organization?
  • What will my day look like at work? This is where realism is key.
  • What might my career look like? Is this job the end of the road or are there opportunities to grow with and within the organization?

30 Minutes That Will Change the Way You Hire

30 Minutes That Will Change the Way You Hire

We’ve all made bad hires. There was the candidate who sounded so good in the interview who we very quickly discovered was completely unqualified for the job. There was the person who had great technical expertise who brought chaos to the group because they were impossible to work with.

As I’ve worked with leaders and companies over the past several years to help them hire the best talent, one common problem I see is how little time hiring managers spend defining what skills and competencies a candidate needs to have to be successful in the job they are being hired to do. Sure, many will have a job description but the job description defines the activities of the job, not what it takes to be successful.
By spending 30 minutes defining the success factors for the job, you will greatly increase the likelihood of finding the right candidate. There are three components you need to define:

Goals/Outcomes: Where is the business going? What goals does your group need to meet in the next year or two? What goals or outcomes will the individual be expected to achieve within the first 12 – 18 months of being hired? Write these down. They form the foundation for the next two components.

Technical/Professional Skills and Experience: These are usually the easiest success factors to define. They are what the person does in the job (e.g., write press releases, manage projects, develop software,) What technical/professional skills does someone need to be successful in this role? What educational or work experiences should they have that will demonstrate the development or use of these skills?

Competencies: These success factors are often what differentiates someone who can do the job from someone who will be successful in the job. Competencies are how the individual goes about doing their work (i.e., influencing others, collaborating, handling conflict effectively, creating positive change). They are also the success factors that usually go undefined before we start interviewing . It’s the lack of these success factors that often causes someone to become a ‘problem employee’. One way to identify these success factors is to think about a team member who is very successful in a similar role. How do they go about doing their work that makes them successful?

This entire exercise should take about 30 minutes to complete. It will save you significant time, money and resources that you may have otherwise spent on candidates who are a poor fit or, worse, on employees who become a problem instead of the solution.

Some Food for Thought

Some Food for Thought

A couple of times a year, I like to share some of the other great thinking that is out there about leadership, teams and organizations.

If you have a few minutes this week, take a look at:

10 Things Exceptional Bosses Give Employees by Jeff Haden. Jeff is one of my favorite writers. Sometimes when I read his work, I think we share a brain. See if you feel the same.

In Why 9-5 Won’t Work for Millennials, Kern Carter gives a peak into how at least one Millennial thinks about work. If you have Millennials working for you, it’s a must read.

Need to boost your productivity? Creativity? Read One Easy Step to Improve Productivity and see why taking a walk could be your answer.

In my recent LinkedIn post, 7 Warning Signs You Need To Focus On Talent, I share the indicators you should look for that signal you may need to change how you’re thinking about talent.




About Edith Onderick-Harvey

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a highly regarded consultant, leadership and talent expert, and speaker. Edith is frequently quoted in the media including The New York Times,, HR Executive, and American Executive. As the President of Factor In Talent, Edith works with leaders to take performance — their own, their team’s and their organization’s — to the next level.

We Are Really Bad at This

Promoting ManagersOur friends at Gallup have found that hiring and promoting managers is something we are not very good at doing. As a matter of fact, according to their research, we get it wrong about 82% of the time.

Part of the reason is what I’ve seen, and you’ve probably seen, time and again — we promote the person who is a really good performer not necessarily someone who will be a good manager. According to Gallup’s research, we also get it wrong so often because the odds are not in our favor to begin with. Only about 10% of people have the five talents essential for great managers. On a positive note, this 10% make up about 18% of the management ranks.

So, what are the five talents?

    • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
    • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
    • They create a culture of clear accountability.
    • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
    • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

If you don’t possess all of these talents, don’t despair. Gallup found in addition to the 10% who have all of them, two in ten people have at least some. With coaching and development they are able to develop into very good managers.

To read more, click here.




About Edith Onderick-Harvey

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a highly regarded consultant, leadership and talent expert, and speaker. Edith is frequently quoted in the media including The New York Times,, HR Executive, and American Executive. As the President of Factor In Talent, Edith works with leaders to take performance — their own, their team’s and their organization’s — to the next level.