Why Are You A Leader?

Why Are You A Leader?

 
I recently receive the following as part of a longer post from the Human Capital Institute and it instantly caught my attention:

 

“In the context of an organization where people ideally share purpose, the power of knowing “why” each of us chooses our role helps us be more productive. “It’s often difficult to do something well if we don’t know the reasons we’re doing it to begin with,” says Dan Pink, adding, “People at work are thirsting for context.” As a leader one of the most powerful things you can do is provide that context; instead of monitoring what, where, when and how, encourage people to consider why they’re in their roles-every day, and listen to what they have to say.”

I’ve referred to our Leadership in the Next Decade research quite a bit lately. When I read this, it reinforced the wisdom that our respondents shared with us about where leaders need to focus to build success and business results in the coming years. One of the top leadership abilities respondents identified as critical was ‘creating a compelling vision and strategy’, in other words providing context, helping people understand why. Pink’s quote brings home the other side of the equation — listening to why others are in their roles. By listening to what people throughout the organization have to say, we will be able to understand why they have chosen to be part of this larger organization and to build alignment of purpose for an ever larger part of our organizations.

As leaders can you answer these questions:

    • Why am I in this role? What makes you get up in the morning and come to work? Have you shared that story with others in your organization? 
       
    • Why are other people in their roles? Do you have any idea why the people on your team choose to be there? What about your peers? Your boss?
       
    • Why does our organization exist? What is our compelling purpose? I would argue that if you can only come up with “to provide shareholder value” you are going to come up short in the eyes of many people. Many people don’t think that the main reason they come to work is to drive up stock prices for investors. That may be an outcome of the work that is done and the value the organization creates but it’s not really the context people are thirsting for.
       
    • How do these 3 whys align? We may have different reasons for being in our roles and still be aligned around a common purpose. How does our collection of why’s build the tapestry that delivers value to our customers, shareholders, employees, and communities?

 

Leadership in the Age of Social Media

 

Leadership in the Age of Social Media

                         

 

           Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn

 

 

Social media is more and more a part of everyone’s life. While it used to be the realm of many of our teenage children, it is now considered an almost indispensable part of our work lives. Recruiters use LinkedIn to identify candidates for key roles. Companies have Facebook pages to promote themselves and their products. Some forward looking companies are adapting social media for use inside their companies, allowing employees to post, chat, tag and collaborate on social media technologies. Whether your company uses social media or not, people’s growing participation in social media has implications for how you lead. What does leadership mean in the age of social media? How has it changed expectations in the workplace?

                          Leading in the age of social media, means sharing leadership and letting go.

For many seasoned leaders, a core part of what made them successful was managing risk, making all the decisions and providing solutions. Social media allows a wide variety of people to share ideas, solutions and perspectives. At its core is the idea of pulling away barriers and allowing access to ideas and resources as never before. Social media allows people to be part of almost any conversation they choose and lead around issues where they have an interest or passion. This desire to be a part of the conversation doesn’t stop when they walk in the door at work. People in your organization want it to be successful. They want to be part of the conversation, part of the decisions, and part of the solutions, i.e., they want to lead. Executives and managers need to know that there are leaders throughout their organizations and that rather than controlling the agenda, they need to know that it can and should be influenced from anywhere in the organization.

Leading in the age of social media, means creating a clear and compelling vision and giving people information so they can make great things happen.

Power in organizations used to come from having and keeping information. Power today comes from sharing information and building collaborations. The age of social media has tapped into the desire to be engaged and involved. As a leader, you need to know that when you give people a clear vision of where the company is going and information about some of the issues it needs to address to get there, your people will do the rest. I’ve heard multiple stories from companies that use social media internally that have addressed issues and achieved results they never could have imagined without the input of people all over the organization. Polly Pearson, formerly of EMC, shares a story about this. During the height of the economic crisis, EMC needed to significantly reduce costs. Rather than sitting in a room and figuring it out for themselves, company executives gave everyone in the company information about what they were facing and what needed to be done. They then asked for recommendations about what and where to cut. After vetting all the response, they came up with 3X the amount of savings they needed. Whether your company uses social media internally or not, power lies in the contributions everyone has to give.

Leading in the age of social media means removing barriers to collaboration.

Outside of work, when I’m on social media, I can connect and collaborate with engineers, artists, physicians, non-profit leaders, and sales professionals in India, Belgium, Ohio or next door. There are no barriers to which we can connect within social media. What if we could recreate this in our organizations? Effective leaders in the age of social media break down barriers in their organizations to allow for connections and innovation to occur.

Leading in the age of social media means getting real.

Historically, the more senior a leader became in the organization, the more the walls went up around him or her. They dressed differently than their employees. They communicated via official vehicles like memos or emails from the Office of the President, full of very formal language that gave us know insight into the person from whom it was originating. Going to the 35th floor (or whatever floor your executive suite is on) was shrouded in great mystery and only available to a chose few. In the age of social media, people expect their leaders get real. Drop the corporate speak. Take away the mystery. Tell it to us like it really is. We’re big people; we can handle the truth. And, we’re more likely to follow the real human being than the archetype of a leader you used to try to present.

Managing Toxic Relationships

You’ve got a great product, the right people, and finely tuned processes, but there is a huge roadblock to your personal success, your team’s success, maybe even your organization’s success — toxic relationships.

We’ve all experienced toxic relationships at work. They interfere with the ability to move the organization forward. They inhibit productivity. They have a negative impact on morale and engagement. In the end they cost the company time, money, and increased levels of frustration.

We’re proud to introduce some help. We have recently introduced our Managing Toxic Relationships Workshop to a cadre of senior professional and executive women with very positive reviews. Here are what some participants had to say:

“This program parsed out this topic and provided me with some concrete, complex engaging concepts wrapped in the form of tools folks could take away for use in daily life. You gave us lots to think about as well as allowed for meaningful discussion” — Pat Arcady, Arcady Mediation

“I attended the terrific seminar you gave… on toxic relationships a few weeks back. Thank you for a thought provoking and stimulating evening. I have continued to think about the things we discussed and some of the ideas you presented.” — Senior Leader in a major health care institution in Boston

This interactive half-day or full-day workshop arms participants with tools for successfully navigating toxic relationships while reclaiming productivity, engagement and results through effective relationships with others.

Participants walk away with:

  • Frameworks for assessing your toxic relationships
  • Increased understanding of the role of power in toxic relationships 
  • Tools for effectively resolving and managing conflicts
  • A game plan for managing toxic relationships in-person and virtually
  • Tips for creating and maintaining effective in-person and virtual relationships over the long term

Call me at 978.475.8424 or email me at eoharvey@factorintalent.com to learn more.

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.

Re-recruit Your Top Talent

Re-recruit Top Talent

 

The recent job numbers show that hiring is on the rise, which means that some of your best people may be starting to look for their next big opportunity. Now is a good time to think about re-recruiting your top talent.  When it comes to your top performers how recently have you:

 

  •  Explained your vision for your company/group/department and told them what role they play in achieving that vision?
  • Told them that they are a valued part of the organizationand why they are valuable?  I’m not talking platitudes here.  I’m talking about genuine respect for the talents and contributions they bring. 
  • Asked them what they find interesting or engaging about their work?
  • Asked them what concerns they have about their current work or career?
  • Discussed where they want to take their career in the next few years?
  • Engaged them in solving a significant business issue?
  • Given them the opportunity to take on additional responsibility? NOTE:  This does not mean that you’ve heaped more and more work on them simply because you know they’ll get it done.  Is it the opportunity to take on additional, meaningful responsibilities?
  • Given them a break if they need one.   It’s possible they’ve carried a heavier load than others because of their talents.  Do they need the opportunity to have a slightly lighter load for a while?   
  •  Done a pulse check on their engagement level?  Is it waning?  Are they as energized as ever or feeling beat up by the work environment of the past couple of years?
  • Told them why this is still a great place to work?  You want to do this with a heavy dose of realism in it.  Nothing sends them running for the doors more than a manager who seems to have no sense of reality and who is cheering a little too loudly.

If it’s been too long since you’ve asked at least some of these questions or said some of these things, you should consider having or scheduling this conversation today.  Don’t just save it for your top performers.  Soon after they start leaving, others will take the cue and you could see more people walking out the door than you’d like. 

 

Reframe Your Feedback

I have a leadership challenge for you.  You will need to execute this challenge at the most foundational level of the leadership experience — in the one-on-one relationships you have with individuals on your team, or in the company.  The challenge relates to feedback.

I’ve found over the years that giving feedback is often not the favorite part of the leadership conversation.  I believe this is true because for many of us feedback = negative.  We only think about giving feedback when it’s about what someone is not doing well, or about a mistake they’ve made or about what they need to do to be better.  For the next week my challenge to you is to make

Feedback = Positive

One of the things that research has proven over and over again and that hasn’t seemed to make it into our thinking as leaders is the power of positive feedback.  Several years ago The Corporate Leadership Council did research on the impact of 100+ performance management practices on bottom-line results and employee satisfaction.  Positive feedback was  one of 7 practices that had significant impact on both results and satisfaction, and the impact was far greater than feedback that was focused on the negative.  The ratio of positive feedback and developmental feedback that seems to have the biggest impact is about 4:1 (i.e., 4 positive, 1 negative).

 So, your challenge is to catch people doing something right this week.  Focus on a couple of team members and try to get close to the 4:1 ratio.   

 When you provide your positive feedback remember a couple of guidelines:

 The feedback should be Specific and Situational.  Tell them the specific situation you are talking about.

  • It should focus on Behavior.  What did they do or say that created a positive result?
  • It should describe the Impact of their behavior. What was the positive impact they created?  How did it affect you or the team or the company or the customer. 
  • Avoid vague feedback like ‘great job’ or ‘way to go’.  One of the reasons to give positive  feedback is to help someone replicate the behavior and results in the future.  If I’m not sure what you’re talking about, it’s harder for me to make it happen again. 

After trying this for a week, try it again next week.  I’m interested to know how it goes.  Write and tell me your stories. 

What’s a Key Driver of Performance?

If you’re serious about improving performance and driving growth, focus on how happy and engaged your people are. That may seem very mamby pamby, but there is growing evidence that it’s not such ‘soft stuff’.

Here are a couple of Gallup statistics to consider:

 
Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line.  Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone. (Source: Gallup website) 

Beyond the significant differences engaged workgroups show in productivity, profitability, safety incidents, and absenteeism versus disengaged workgroups Gallup’s research shows that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry. (Source: Gallup website)

Now the question is what really drives engagement? Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School Professor and Steven Kramer researched that question. What they determined is this — of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important is simply making progress doing meaningful work. In a September 4th New York Times article, Anabile and Kramer note “As long as workers experience their labor as meaningful, progress is often followed by joy and excitement about work.” Interestingly this positive ‘inner work life’ (as the researchers call it) has a profound impact on creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality.

The leader’s role, then, is to help people make progress — remove obstacles, provide support, recognize progress and provide feedback on what’s not working. Unfortunately, almost all managers don’t see making progress as a compelling motivator. When Amabile and Kramer asked 669 managers from around the world to rank five employee motivators,they ranked ‘supporting progress’ dead last. Ninety-five percent of these leaders failed to recognize that progress in meaningful work is a far more important motivator than raises and bonuses.

So, next time you are trying to create motivating environment, don’t automatically think about traditional rewards. Think about whether your people feel like they are moving up the mountain or if they feel like their pushing a boulder up the mountain only to have it roll back down on them.

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

A Case for Innovation: Microsoft vs Apple

A Case for Innovation:  Microsoft vs AppleI believe strongly that the ability to lead innovation will be incredibly important in the coming decade.  This belief was reinforced by a brief piece I heard on the radio last week about Microsoft.  It was about Microsoft’s ability to stay competitive. It got me thinking about the impact innovation leadership can have on a company.

So, I did a little comparison between Microsoft and Apple.  From a pure numbers perspective, back in 2001 Microsoft was the 800 pound gorilla. In many of its product categories it owned 90% of the market.  Today, Windows just dropped below 90%. In 2001, Apple owned just fewer than 3% of the computer market and the markets it currently leads in didn’t exist.

Over the next decade, Microsoft introduced Windows XP and Vista, new Office suites, and other software solutions — none of which were a grand departure from the previous.  It entered gaming with Xbox and Xbox 360.  It tried to enter the MP3 player market with an unsuccessful Zune and reports are it is having great difficult entering the tablet market.  In early 2001, its stock was trading at 30.53.  As I write this it is trading at 27.16.

Since 2001, Apple decided to do some different things. Over the decade it created products and markets that we hadn’t really seen before, introducing us to the I-technology suite and lexicon:  Ipod, Itouch, Iphone, Ipad and now Icloud. It entered the retail world and totally changed the technology shopping experience with Apple stores.  In early 2001, its stock was trading at 10.81.  It is currently at 404.76.

The differences between the two companies are many but I think the heart of the matter is the drive to innovate with products and services that are truly different.  Leading innovation is not like leading any kind of growth.  It is about looking forward, integrating seemingly disparate perspectives, creating a truly aspirational vision and engaging everyone’s capability and commitment to make it happen.  I work with many leaders and teams who are working hard to adopt innovation leadership and innovation thinking.  It will be fascinating to see where innovation leaders will take us in the next decade