Five Capabilities Mid-Level Leaders Need to Forge the Future

Mid-Level LeadersMid-Level Leaders — Senior Managers, Directors, Senior Directors — are the linchpin for creating results in most of our organizations. Their task is to interpret the company’s vision and strategy, create a localized vision and strategy for their organization, and then create the capacity for execution and results. The role of bridging the strategic and operational, vision and execution future needs with today’s pressing demands, and the expectations of senior leaders and the front line has always been challenging. In today’s environment of multi-generational workplaces, rapidly changing technology, increasing competition and an ambiguous economic climate it is even more so.

                  Our recent research has identified 5 critical capabilities
                 Mid-Level Leaders need to help their organizations forge the future:

Drive collaboration and break down silos. Creating an environment in which collaboration across work groups, departments, time zones and geographies occurs easily is essential for Mid-Level Leaders to succeed. Previous barriers to collaboration are quickly falling away thanks to the collaborative tools and technologies that seem to change daily. Mid-Level leaders should make creating a culture of collaboration and investments in technologies to facilitate collaboration a priority.

Manage talent. No one has a better view to the young talent in the organization than the Mid-Level Leader. Mid-Level Leaders should conduct talent reviews to create a broader understanding of the talent in the organization and to develop key talent early in their careers.

Drive performance and create a culture of accountability. In a workplace where more and more people collaborate and where talent is valued, differences in performance expectations come more clearly into focus for everyone. The Mid-Level Leader needs to establish standards for performance and create accountability for meeting those standards. Nothing destroys the desire to collaborate or the desire for strong performers to make an impact, than the knowledge that people aren’t held accountable for their performance, or perceptions of favoritism, or lack of equity.

Make Effective Decisions. Effective, efficient decision-making is a key role for Mid-Level leader, especially in an environment of collaboration and cross-functional integration. Mid-Level leaders need to think about how they can establish approaches that allow them to get broad input efficiently, weigh and balance that input, and use it to make decisions that drive the organization forward.

Engage and Retain Talent. Innovation, creativity, and excellence are what will propel success for American companies as global competition increases. Mid-Level Leaders need to truly embrace the thinking that “people are our greatest asset” and focus on engaging and retaining talent broadly. More often than not people come to work wanting to perform well and make a contribution. The more the environment engages their hearts and minds, the better that performance will be.

Results-based Performance in a Virtual World

This posting is co-written with my colleague Stefanie Heiter, Bridging Distance.

In the emerging virtual workplace, do you miss the comfort of walking by an employee’s desk and feeling confident she or he is working hard and doing a good job? If you can’t see them working, do you wonder what they are really doing? Are you baffled by how to set expectations  that will drive results when you are not working in the same place? Are you concerned about whether your talent has the right competencies to hit the ground running when it all turns around?

Today’s workplace is characterized by people working in dispersed locations,  within matrixed structures,  with colleagues from multiple functions – even multiple organizations. Gone are the days when high performance was assessed by how much time someone ‘put in’ at the office. We are less likely to be ‘going to work’ and more likely to be ‘working’. Technology affords 24/7 access from almost anywhere. ‘Do more with less’ is now a mantra heard across countless companies via all communication media.

Despite these changes, managers are still expected to manage performance, regardless of location, time zone, function, or even language barriers, and often in the face of decreased budgets and reduced labor force. Successful managers have learned to overcome the challenges of virtual leadership, and move to results-based performance management. Here are strategies and tips successful virtual leaders use to create an effective results-based performance management approach:

Focus first on intentional, consistent relationship building.  Create presence with employees by checking in (not checking on) frequently.  Use more real-time technologies like telephone, instant messenger, chat, or text.  When you check in, ask questions focused on getting to know their locations, resources that are needed, what else is happening, sharing information and decision-making whenever possible, and asking about their lives.  Presence involves being available to people so they don’t have to make up reasons to be in contact.

Slow down to speed up.  Take time upfront to define how you are going to stay in touch, share status, keep people in the loop, and when and how you will ‘meet’.  Considerations here are protocols for high use technologies such as email (i.e., names in ‘to’ line means action required whereas ‘cc’ line means information only, when to ‘reply’ versus ‘reply to all’).  It means agreements about when and when not to use technologies, defining who should be included and NOT included in particular categories of information and meetings.

Discuss both the ends and the means.  Clearly understand the expectations you have of the individual.  What does success look like?  Make sure your definitions of success focus on the results the individual is achieving, not just the activities.  Think about using the SMART criteria – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound – to both set and communicate goals.  A goal of “Have 5 customer satisfaction meetings each month’ focuses on what you want someone to do.  The goal “Increase annual customer satisfaction by 10% through improvements identified in customer satisfaction meetings” focuses on the result.

Another thing to think about is how the individual will achieve the goal. What behaviors will they exhibit?  When people work virtually, they don’t have the opportunity to learn the culture and the way things get done.  Explicitly help them understand what works and what doesn’t in your organization.  How are people expected to behave?  How should they be working with others to meet their goals?  Sharing stories of how others have been successful is a powerful tool for communicating expectations. It paints a picture of the type of results and behaviors you expect.

Create a game plan.  Once you’ve set clear expectations, staying connected and establishing accountability is essential.  Specifically discuss which technologies you will employ for different communication needs.  Is status best delivered through email?  Do you utilize Sharepoint as a repository for different types of documents?  How should time sensitive conversations occur?  How should the individual communicate with others on the team?  When should they make a decision on their own and when should they make sure the two of you talk first?  Determine the most effective mix of ‘old’ and ‘new’ technologies.   A client recently shared that their geographically-dispersed sales team is using a private Twitter site to share product information, market intelligence and sales tips in real time.  They credit the site with increasing the effectiveness of their sales efforts.  Determine what suite of technologies you will use to assess progress against goals. Real-time conversations will be part of it but also consider the use of technologies that allow for asynchronous communication.

Create a feedback and coaching loop. Feedback on performance is most effective when it is timely and about performance that you’ve directly observed.  In a virtual world, the ability to physically see someone’s performance is not always possible.  Create processes that allow you to gain meaningful information about an individual’s performance.  For example, a sales director uses a survey with customers to get input into a sales person’s performance.  While she created the survey to get direct feedback from customers who interact with her salespeople in live situations that she is unable to attend, it has created better customer relationships.  The customers have told her that they are thrilled to be asked because it allows them to be heard.  Also use technology to coach.  For example, virtual meeting software could allow a less experienced team member to simulate a client presentation to you, providing you with the opportunity to coach them in real time.

Maintain the relationship. Our first tip was about relationship building.  Once you’ve built the relationship, take steps to maintain it.  When we primarily use technology to communicate, we often feel like we need to have a reason to communicate.  Develop a culture that says it’s ok to just check in – not check up on – by calling or initiating contact without a specific need.  Make it clear that you don’t see this as a sign that someone doesn’t have enough to do.  Also, make a point to communicate the positive.  Say thank you, recognize an individual’s achievements and results.  If we are in the habit of using technology as a vehicle for only task oriented communication, we miss an opportunity to use it as a vehicle for building capabilities and engagement.  Model this behavior with our team and you’ll find that when you do need to communicate because of a specific need, those conversations are more productive.

Effectively leading performance in a virtual world is similar in many ways to effectively leading performance in a more traditional workplace.  Leaders need to communicate expectations, monitor behavior and results, and establish an effective relationship so that we can work through the invariable issues and problems that arise.  In a virtual world, we have an ever growing toolkit to help leaders be more effective.  By understanding how to use each appropriately, leaders can get strong performance in any of the many work arrangements we find today.

 

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, CNN.com, 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.

What Does HR Do For You?

What does HR do for youToday’s HR departments come in all shapes and sizes. Centralized. Decentralized. All HR services under one roof. Few kept internal, most outsourced.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal raises an interesting question. Do you really need HR? It profiles organizations that have decided to go without an HR department.

Managers take full responsibility for hiring, firing, mediating employee issues, career development, etc. There are some executives in the article who love it. There are managers in the article who find it concerning.

So, my question is, what does HR do for you? Would your organization be more nimble and innovative without it? Does it get in the way of moving things forward? Is the coaching and resources of an HR department valuable to you as an executive and manager?

Click here to answer our poll question:
Is HR valuable to you and your company?

 

 

 

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, CNN.com, 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, CNN.com, 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.

 

Leading Virtually Part 3: Feedback and Maintaining the Relationship

Feedback circle

The tips in this post were co-written by my colleague, Stefanie Heiter of Bridging Distance. This is part three of a three part series.

For the past two weeks, I’ve shared tips with you for creating results and managing performance when leading a virtual team. Last week’s tips focused on discussing both the ends and the means and creating a game plan. This week’s tips are about creating a feedback and coaching loop and maintaining the relationship.

Tip 5: Create a feedback and coaching loop. Feedback on performance is most effective when it is timely and about performance that you’ve directly observed. In a virtual world, the ability to physically see someone’s performance is not always possible. Create processes that allow you to gain meaningful information about an individual’s performance. For example, a sales director uses a survey with customers to get input into a sales person’s performance. While she created the survey to get direct feedback from customers who interact with her salespeople in live situations that she is unable to attend, it has created better customer relationships. The customers have told her that they are thrilled to be asked because it allows them to be heard. Also use technology to coach. For example, virtual meeting software could allow a less experienced team member to simulate a client presentation to you, providing you with the opportunity to coach them in real time.

Tip 6: Maintain the relationship. Our first tip was about relationship building. Once you’ve built the relationship, take steps to maintain it. When we primarily use technology to communicate, we often feel like we need to have a reason to communicate. Develop a culture that says it’s ok to just check in – not check up on – by calling or initiating contact without a specific need. Make it clear that you don’t see this as a sign that someone doesn’t have enough to do. Also, make a point to communicate the positive. Say thank you, recognize an individual’s achievements and results. If we are in the habit of using technology as a vehicle for only task oriented communication, we miss an opportunity to use it as a vehicle for building capabilities and engagement. Model this behavior with our team and you’ll find that when you do need to communicate because of a specific need, those conversations are more productive.

Effectively leading performance in a virtual world is similar in many ways to effectively leading performance in a more traditional work configuration. Leaders need to communicate expectations, monitor behavior and results, and establish an effective relationship so that we can work through the invariable issues and problems that arise. Ina a virtual world, we have an ever growing toolkit to help leaders be more effective. By understanding how to use each appropriately, leaders can get strong performance in any of the many work arrangements we find today.

Part 2: Create a Game Plan

The tips in this post were co-written by my colleague, Stefanie Heiter of Bridging Distance. This is part two of a three part series.

Success GoalsLast week I shared two tips with you for creating results and managing performance when leading a virtual team. They focused on building relationships and being thoughtful about how and when you communicate. This week’s tips are about setting goals and creating accountability.

Tip 3: Discuss both the ends and the means. Clearly understand the expectations you have of the individual. What does success look like? Make sure your definitions of success focus on the results the individual is achieving, not just the activities. Think about using the SMART criteria – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound – to both set and communicate goals. A goal of “Have 5 customer satisfaction meetings each month’ focuses on what you want someone to do. The goal “Increase annual customer satisfaction by 10% through improvements identified in customer satisfaction meetings” focuses on the result.

Another thing to think about is how the individual will achieve the goal. When people work virtually, they don’t have the opportunity to learn the culture and the way things get done. Explicitly help them understand what works and what doesn’t in your organization. How are people expected to behave? How should they be working with others to meet their goals? Sharing stories of how others have been successful is a powerful tool for communicating expectations. It paints a picture of the type of results and behaviors you expect.

Tip 4: Create a game plan. Once you’ve set clear expectations, staying connected and establishing accountability is essential. Specifically discuss which technologies you will employ for different communication needs. Is status best delivered through email? Do you utilize Sharepoint as a repository for different types of documents? How should time sensitive conversations occur? How should the individual communicate with others on the team? When should they make a decision on their own and when should they make sure the two of you talk first? Determine the most effective mix of ‘old’ and ‘new’ technologies. A client recently shared that their geographically-dispersed sales team is using a private Twitter site to share product information, market intelligence and sales tips in real time. They credit the site with increasing the effectiveness of their sales efforts. Determine what suite of technologies you will use to assess progress against goals. Real-time conversations will be part of it but also consider the use of technologies that allow for asynchronous communication.

Next week: Feedback and keeping momentum going

Tell the Story

teamwork 660 x 330As you and your team are thinking about how to Finish Strong, take a lesson from Twitter to get them fired up.

If you use Twitter you know that you have 140 characters to tell your story. It forces you to really think about what you want to say and about how you’ll say it. To get your team to buy in to your Finish Strong projects you need to give them a compelling reason to join in the effort. You need to engage them in a story about why this is important. And, you need to make it short and sweet. You need to make the message simple and easy to remember so that when asked, each of your team members can share what the team is doing and why.

Why is my Superstar Stumbling?

Boston Red Sox 2012 SeasonAs the Red Sox finish the worst season in memory, I came across a Harvard Business School Working Knowledge paper from last fall about why the Red Sox blew it last season. In the article, Carmen Nobel writes about Boris Groysberg’s work on superstars. In examining more than 1,000 Wall Street analysts, what Groysberg found is that those who were superstars at any given firm underperformed when they moved to another bank. He found that they underperformed not only early in the job but for years afterwards.

He noted the following factors as reasons why the superstars stumbled:

  • They are expected to thrive from the first day on the job with little or no training to help them adjust. I have found this to be a frequent occurrence. Managers often struggle with providing training or being directive with a team member who is very highly skilled or very experienced. They don’t want to offend the person or cause the individual to think the manager questions his capabilities. Everyone needs coaching and direction when they are in a new environment. Just because they were terrific at it in their old job doesn’t mean they know how it works here.
     
  • They may not fit with the existing team. Groysberg finds that the more interaction and dependence the superstar has on others the more issues there were with ‘star power portability.” A superstar salesperson’s success may be more portable than a scientist who is part of an R & D team. This argues for thinking about how the team or lack of a team impacts one’s ability to be successful. If team interaction and dependence is high, you need to make sure you know how the superstar works with others and how you’ll integrate them into the mix.
     
  • Leadership across the team. The management style needs to fit the team. Groysberg states that a collegial style fits if others on the team, including the superstar, act as leaders and set the tone. If the superstar is a maverick or not supporting other team members, a top down approach may be needed. Again, you need to look at the team and assess what management style is going to work.

Groysberg doesn’t argue against hiring superstars. Rather he says you need to make sure you are hiring well and developing them to work effectively in your culture.

 

Is Your Team Ready to Take Its Leadership to the Next Level?

 Are you ready to:

  • Look forward at the new opportunities, threats and demands on your business?
     
  • Build the ability to think strategically and systemically in your organization?
     
  • Build an even more effective team of people who share your philosophy and purpose, with strengths that complement your own?
     
  • Motivate, empower and enhance trust in the organization to execute the strategic vision and achieve great results?

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