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How to Get the C-suite on Board?

Now is the time to invest in leadership development

Cost control efforts, including layoffs, are increasing across multiple industries. Leadership development initiatives can be an easy target. However, this is often the best time to invest in your organization’s leaders, when even more is going to be asked of them. So, how do you get the c-suite on board?

Some of your CEO’s top areas of focus for 2024 are likely to be: attracting and retaining top talent, continue with digital transformation and drive growth – and, you guessed  – reduce costs at the same time (source:  Conference Board 2024 CEO Outlook Report). And, they need leaders who can support these priorities. 

This opens the door for you to guide the c-suite on how to invest limited resources in leadership development that will be most impactful. How do you get the  C-suite’s crucial support for leadership development?

Frame it up: 2 Questions to ask yourself

Start by framing your conversation to address their biggest concern – positively impacting business results.

What is the business case for your organization?  Thinking like a CEO is critical to winning their support.

  • What are executives most concerned about in 2024?In a nutshell, it’s Growth, Technology, and Talent. If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the 2024 CEO Outlook survey from the Conference Board, and the most recent Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey Insights

  •  Find out not only what is most critical to your c-suite, but how they are talking about it. Be conversant in your company’s mission, business strategy, KPI’s / OKR’s and financial performance. Have direct discussions with senior leaders about what’s critical to them. Be prepared to provide relevant data (employee engagement, client satisfaction, attrition and talent acquisition, absenteeism, etc.). Business strategy documents, annual reports, and formal communications to leaders and employees are also good sources to prepare for discussions.
  • Create a direct link between your organization’s pain pointsand how the leadership development will help ease it. See more below.

What is the ROI / Impact?  If you have been able to demonstrate a strong ROI of past leadership development initiatives at your organization, that’s gold. If you don’t have that data, you can point to studies from reputable organizations that show a link between leadership development and business performance. Use this kind of data sparingly and targeted to your C-suite’s biggest concerns. This graphic from joshbersin.com provides compelling high-level support:

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Or some of these statistics could pique their interest:

Talking with the C-suite

In addition to data and framing it up, positioning your business case is critical. Here are some ways to talk with your c-suite about leadership development.

Alignment:“We need to improve our leaders’ ability to align with the organization on business strategy, goals, and culture.”

  • Alignment needs to be regularly reinforced at all levels of the organization, from the most senior leaders to the most junior employees. For example, innovation is one of our core business imperatives. Leaders at all levels need to create environments on their teams where people will share new ideas and step out of old ways of thinking, Strong leadership development can show them how to do this and apply it in their real work.
  • Better aligned leaders make better decisions. They are also faster at adopting new technology.Our business’s innovative strength will be a direct byproduct of helping our leaders and their teams to better align with our business strategy and goals.
  • Leadership development is best when customizedso that critical skills are taught and practiced in ways that reflect our strategy and values. And I will ensure any development program does that.

Engagement:“We know from our engagement surveys, leaders and managers want the organization to invest in them” (if you don’t have engagement surveys, use some of the statistics discussed above). Opportunity for development is one of the top motivating factors listed in virtually all studies and surveys on engagement.

  • The bottom line for better engaged managers and employees is better performance. Teams that are engaged work more productively; they’re more likely to got the extra mile to achieve organizational goals, and they collaborate across teams more willingly.
  • In our continually changing business environment, leaders are desperately looking to boost their ability to stay on top of their people challenges.
  • Developing our leaders has a trickle-down effect on the teams and employees. They will be better led and therefore more engaged themselves. That results in better retention, lower hiring costs, and increased productivity.
  • Showing our leaders how to build empathy and trustwith their team members builds connection and embeds engagement more deeply in the organization.

Performance:  “When our leaders have their teams better aligned and better engaged, they will perform better.”

  • Our leadership development will emphasize effective communication and collaboration, which leads to better working relationships and less operational friction. That means fewer misunderstandings, mistakes, and wasted time and resources.
  • We also need to improve team and individual accountability. That includes mutual accountability amongst team members and their leaders. When leaders share more accountably with their teams, it drives engagement and performance.
Growth:  “When our leaders are better aligned with our strategy, and have more engaged and productive teams… they will be better able to help grow the business. Their professional growth helps drives team and organizational growth.”
  • Leadership development hones skills like adaptability and continual learning. That helps create an organization that is agile in the face of constant change.
  • Over time it builds muscle-memory for how to shift gears quickly and effectively from one business imperative to a more urgent or critical one.
  • Well-developed leaders are also better at identifying organizational growth opportunities and mitigating risks that threaten that growth.

Of course, you will find language and examples to make this framework more specific to your organization. That will make it resonate more with your senior leaders.

The value of effective leadership development is that it supports and accelerates the business strategy. It helps create a culture of adaptability and innovation. All of which helps your organization stay competitive in relentlessly changing markets.

All of which makes leadership development a wise investment, and not merely a cost.

Contact us for more information on how we can help you build leaders who enhance connection, performance and growth in your business.

4 Must-Do Items on Every Leader’s January Checklist

We’re starting another year. Like any other, it will be filled with opportunities and challenges, achievements and disappointments, zigs and zags. During these first couple weeks of the year, position yourself and your team for success in the months to come. Here are 4 actions that will help you start the year personally centered, organizationally aligned, and ready to go.
How can you and your team get off on the right foot in 2023?
Reconnect to your North Star.  What is your big “why?” Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work advance your personal and career goals? Your business goals? What needs to change to move you further along this year?
  • There are hundreds of tools online to help you do this.  Here’s one.

 

  • If you’re already sure of your North Star, here’s a quick tool for moving you forward: with your north star in mind, create a “Start-Stop-Continue/ Improve” list. Focus on specific behaviors like “start spending 5 minutes preparing for every meeting/discussion by writing down how it aligns with my purpose and my goals and the top three things I want to accomplish.” Or “stop complaining in front of my team and focus on solutions.”

 

  • No matter what you do, write your thoughts down and put an alert in your calendar to check in with them on at least a quarterly basis. As this year ramps up we will be distracted by fire drills, urgent requests, and changes in plans. Aligning to your North Star will allow you to focus more fully on adding value and saying no to non-value-add activities.
Clarify goals.  For many of you, December and January are about setting annual goals for yourself and your team. Make sure you and your team are clearly aligned. Engage your team members in individual conversations about how frequently they want to check in on goal progression and the best way you can support them. Also, decide how you will reprioritize when inevitable change comes along. Even if you did this as recently as December, a quick check-in is important. People lose focus over the holidays, things change quickly and clarifying expectations at the beginning of the year leads to better alignment and happier team members.
Assess your personal routines.  Research shows that having routines can allow us to be more creative.  By creating routines around repetitive leadership tasks, we are able to direct our free cognitive resources to learning and creativity.  What are your current routines? What else could you routinize? For example, set up ‘do not disturb’ on your messaging while you’re doing concentrated work.  That way, responding to messages becomes routinized, and you’re able to respond at a time when you can focus more fully on the messages. Another way to improve your leadership is to consider your daily habits… what do you do almost without thinking or planning? What should you start/stop/continue?  Here’s a great list shared by 21 executives.
Do a mental health check.  How are you feeling as you start the year? Take an honest look at your emotional and mental health. Many of us are energized and ready to go. Many others are still feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and daunted by what lies ahead of us. Commit time each day to taking care of yourself. Go for a walk. Connect with friends. Read. Do something that feeds your energy. Your company likely has confidential resources that you can access to help you understand and improve your health.
Being intentional around these four areas, you’ll position yourself for a great start to 2023.
What else do you do to start your new year with intention?

5 Minutes. 5 Days. (Re)gaining Joy at Work

Joy and happiness are two different things. Both impact things like creativity, individual productivity, and the company’s bottom line (yes, it’s true). But joy is more sustainable.  Here’s a 5-minute per day, one-week plan for kickstarting your path to getting more joy out of work.

Are you missing joy at work?  Or maybe, you’ve never even put the two words joy and work together in the same sentence.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Joy is important to mental health. Finding it at work is very challenging for many of us. However, finding it may be more important than ever.

Isn’t joy just another word for happiness?  Not really. According to Merriam Webster dictionary joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune. Joy comes from being connected to our uniqueness, authenticity, to others and to something meaningful. Joy is something we create and more intrinsic. Happiness is sparked by an external event or situation. Research shows both joy and happiness impact our creativity, energy, productivity, health, ability to handle stress, and the company’s bottom line. Joy is more sustainable.

Interested in (re)gaining joy at work? After all, we do spend most of our days working. Creating joy needs to be an active pursuit made up of small steps we take every day. I challenge you to take the 5-minute, 5-day challenge to (re)gain joy at work. It works best when you implement it over 5 consecutive days and jot your answers down somewhere so you can look back on them.

Day One: 5 minutes:  Reconnect to your North Star.  What is your big why?  Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work connect with other important things in your life? What about it is driving you right now?

Day Two: 5 minutes:  What is one thing you can influence or change at work that will allow you to align with your North Star more completely – even if it’s a small thing. What is one task you could do? Or stop doing? What is one opportunity you could take to give yourself a few minutes to focus on something more meaningful? Or to laugh? Or to take a deep breath?

Day Three: 5 minutes: What colleague could you help?  Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have time to help a colleague because you have so much on your plate.  What if you grabbed them a cup of coffee when you go to grab one yourself? Could you have a walk and talk to help them think through a challenge while you both go to pick up lunch (that you may be eating at your desk so you can keep working!)

Day Four: 5 minutes: What are your strengths?  What energizes you?  What is one way, in the next week, you could more fully use that strength? How could you craft your job so that you are able to do this more consistently and frequently?

Day Five: 5 minutes.  Reflect and reward yourself.  What accomplishment are you proud of this week? How did you live your big why? What one thing did you influence or change? Who did you lend a hand to? How did you use your strengths more fully? Do you feel more joy today than you did 5 days ago?

Integrate this challenge into your daily routine every week. Assess the impact at the end of 3-weeks and 3 months. Let me know what happens.

Worried About Accountability During the “Great Resignation?”

Record numbers of people are leaving their jobs and it’s putting a strain on businesses and their leaders. When you’re concerned about holding onto your best talent (who are usually the first to leave because they have the best options), it may seem like the wrong time to really hold people accountable. To be honest, we have become a little fearful. For many, the thinking is, “if I push my people too much right now, they’ll be even more likely to go.” Losing more good people is a legitimate concern. But here’s how accountability can actually work in your favor and increase your ability to retain and engage your best talent.

Three things you can do now to make accountability work:

  • Align performance with client needs.  It’s a lot easier to talk with someone about their performance if you explain how it matters to clients, including internal clients. “Lisa, let’s talk about ABC Pros. They’re one of our most important clients, so we need to bump up our performance for them. What do you think are the top three ways we can do that?” Add your views and expectations to the discussion. Making clients the focus of the conversation reduces the likelihood that they’ll take it personally. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what the client expects. The same is true about aligning expectations with business strategy. It reminds the individual how they make an important contribution. Connecting to their personal goals can make it even more powerful.
  • Map accountability to your team members’ professional development goals.  This is one of those areas where the art of conversation matters a great deal. Accountability can – and should – be framed up as an exercise in helping your employee meet both their business and development goals. “Mike, we talked last month about your interest in learning how to do more complex data analysis. Let’s look at what you’ve done on this project to see what you’re doing well, and where you can make adjustments that would aid in your development.” This can lead to a constructive discussion about the project goals and parameters you discussed with him earlier.
  • Make accountability a two-way street.  Good leaders know that trust and a sense of fairness are critical to developing a productive working relationship with others, regardless of their role. One of the most effective ways to do that is for you to be accountable to your team members as well. This could mean making time to meet with them on a regular basis, helping them overcome resource issues or other organizational barriers, or following up on your development commitments. When you’re trying to establish their accountability include what commitments you are making to support them. “Alisha, what can I do to make this easier for you to accomplish?” Or “What have I done that’s helped you on this project?  What’s not been helpful? What else can I do?”
All three of these elements of accountability were important before the great resignation. The stakes are higher now, so doing these things well will pay even greater dividends.

Why Going Back to The Office Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea After All

Let’s face it – the world of work is unlikely to ever be the same again. Most companies that have been remote over the last two years are unlikely to ever require 100% office attendance of all their employees. And that’s a good thing.

No two employees are exactly alike.  They have differing capabilities for working productively at home, and different work-life balance needs. Companies are recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all. The best companies will find ways to accommodate the best talent. And every company will make decisions about how flexible they want to be. Likewise, every person will make decisions about which organization is the best fit for them.

Even with this increased flexibility, there are benefits to going into the office … at least a couple of days per week:

  • Your career – good companies will work to create a culture where your work location doesn’t dictate opportunities. All other things being equal, there will still be an unspoken bias that favors those who come to the workplace more often than their peers. For most executives and managers, this won’t be consciously planned. It’s just human nature.  People give opportunity to those they trust the most. And trust is built through relationships. Relationships that include face-to-face time are typically built more quickly and deeply. Grabbing lunch, a chance meeting walking down the hall, or popping into their office for a quick chat. That VP who just hired you? You’re sitting in her office and notice that picture off to the side with her golfing friends and begin a discussion about your favorite courses in the area. Those are meaningful ways that people develop closer personal ties. And they happen more effortlessly and more deeply face-to-face.
  • Your sanity – some people don’t miss going to work one bit. Maybe it’s the commute. Or you’re a complete introvert and don’t need or want social connection as much as the next guy. It could be you’ve just gotten used to the convenience of crawling out of bed, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, and firing up the laptop. Most people, however, need social interaction to maintain their mental health. Covid has been difficult for all of us for numerous reasons and social isolation is a big part of it. Even if you have a bunch of friends that you’ve been able to stay close to for the last two years, being at work provides a greater variety and number of interactions – both of which are healthier for most people. And sometimes we just need to get away from our home because there are distractions that we need a break from. For some people, there are times when “quiet time” to reflect and get things done is more doable at the office than at home.
  • Your options– being at work at least part-time opens up options that aren’t as easily available if you work from home full-time. Here is a partial list of things that are often done more easily, effectively, or enjoyably from the office:
      • Collaborating on the fly
      • Improving your health as you get up and move around. (It takes many more steps to go grab a coffee or lunch at the office than going to your kitchen.)
      • Work / life balance: the kind where work ends when you walk out the door, not when you finally eat dinner or go to bed
      • Networking before, during or after work
      • Developing a new set of daytime acquaintances that aren’t tied to family and “weekend friends,” which promotes mental health
      • Shopping for the perfect gift at that cool store around the corner
      • Celebrating team and individual successes, holidays and birthdays, and important milestones like promotions and retirements

There is no question that returning to work will also be difficult for many people, and that’s to be expected. It was a big change when you abruptly started staying home and it will be a big change if and when you go back to the office, even if only for a day or two per week. There are steps you can take to help yourself prepare and adjust once you’re back. And make no mistake, your attitude toward going back will impact how hard it is for you to return.

No one is better at gauging how to best meet your personal and professional needs than you are. And that’s why taking a second look at what you’ve gained… and lost… over the last two Covid years might lead you to a more nuanced view of the benefits of going back to the office at least part time. Even if it’s not your choice, appreciating the silver lining is good for your mental health and probably your career.

How Do I Get to the Next Level?

I woke up the other morning and the calendar said it was December.  December!
How can it already by the end of the year? This realization made me think about the goals I had set at the beginning of the year and where I stood against those goals. I asked myself, ‘How can I take my performance to the next level?” At this time of year, especially in companies that have end-year check-ins as part of their performance management process, you and your people may have this same question.

What do I need to do to get to the next level?

When our people ask this question, they are usually looking for us to help them navigate the performance of career development waters and give them the answer for where they should be taking their performance or career. When asked this question, use the GOAL Development Conversation Framework to guide the conversation.

First, determine the individual’s Goals. Review where the individual is in his or her current role. Are they ready for a move? What are the individual’s personal and career goals?

Second, gain the individual’s Observations on what he or she does well, areas of interest and development needs. Ask for examples.

Third, add your Assessment and the assessment of others, if you know them for a fact. If your team member is interested in moving to another role, what skills and competencies does someone need to be successful in that role? How does this person compare to that profile right now? What do they need to develop? How does it align (or not align) with their interests?

Finally, create a Learning plan. What more do you or your team member need to learn about the role in which he or she is interested? What skills or competencies do they need to develop? How do they need to better showcase strengths?

Who Are You, Really?

Personal brandThink about all the different leaders you’ve known. Now think of three words, maybe a short sentence, to describe each one. There may be one who was the company’s ‘go to guy.’ Maybe there was the one who was ‘good natured but inept’. Another could be ‘the one who wanted great people around’.

Each of these describes a brand. We hear the word brand thrown around a lot these days. Companies or products have a brand. We hear about our social media brand. We’re told to cultivate our brand. Whether we like it or not, each of us already has a brand that has been developed over the years by our words and actions.

A personal or leadership brand is important. It gives people a quick way to think about who you are, and what they can expect when interacting with you; or when asking you to get involved in a project, or asking you to take on a new role.

The question is how do you cultivate your brand? Some things to think about are:

  • Who are you, really? We all have things that we value. We all have strengths. Your brand should reflect who you really are. If it’s not genuine people will see that.
  • How do your actions reflect who you really are? If you say you are all about getting results but never create them, your actions don’t reflect that brand. Be careful of latching onto what you think others want to see.
  • Are you making yourself visible? Like it or not, organizations are not pure meritocracies. People have to have visibility to who you are and what you’re all about. Keeping your head down and just getting your work done is not all you need to be doing. Making others aware of what you’re doing and how that is adding value is important. Volunteer for projects that will allow you to highlight your brand. Engage in conversations with others to learn how they are adding value and letting them know what you are doing too. Step out of your zone. I know someone who had some perspectives on how her company was approaching diversity. She contacted an executive in her company about an article he wrote for an internal newsletter on the topic. He asked her to write an article sharing her views and soon she was put in charge of diversity for the company.

Create your personal branding action plan. Let people know who you are and the great things you’re doing.

 

 

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a recognized organizational and leadership development expert. She works with Fortune 500 firms, growing companies, and universities to design their organizations, develop their leaders and continually elevate performance.  She has been quoted in The New York Times, Human Resource Executive, CNN and is the author of the newly released book “Getting Real:  Strategies for Leadership in Today’s Innovation-Hungry, Time-Strapped, Multi-Tasking World of Work”

WHO COULD USE AN ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT?

Attitude Adjustment 260x173
I recently contributed to an article on positioning yourself for promotion in which I talk about the importance of attitude when being considered for a promotion.

How many of you have a team member who has asked several times to be promoted and the issue is attitude? I hear it frequently from clients and people are often struggling with getting the message across.

If someone you know needs an attitude adjustment, consider the following:

    • Explain what the poor attitude is. “You need to change your attitude” is not an effective piece of feedback. Before addressing the issue, define exactly what the issue is. What does the person do that demonstrates a bad attitude? Is it the tone of voice they use when dealing with co-workers? Is it the grumbling every time they are asked to help out in the department? Be specific.
    • It’s not just what you do but how you do it. Most people can go through the list of job responsibilities and say “I do that.” However, how he is doing it can be just as, if not more, important. Does he just report the customer data or does he also provide an overview of key findings and their implications? Is she proactively asking how else she can help her client or just doing what’s required? Give examples of how promotion-ready people behave.
    • Is he or she feeling the love? When someone wants something — like a promotion — and keeps being told no, that person’s attitude may slide because he isn’t getting what he wants. If attitude is not the reason the promotion can’t happen, make sure you are letting the person know you see the good work being done and have plan for moving him to the promotion.
    • Do we have a fit issue? Sometimes people are just in the wrong job. That feeling of being in the wrong place can cause attitude to take the deep dive. Have a frank conversation with the person. Bring up the idea that this may be a bad fit for her. Ask her if she feels the same. Create a plan for helping the person get to where she needs to be — inside or outside the company.

First, Find Your Successor

Richard BransonI was watching TV this weekend when I came across an interview with Sir Richard Branson. As the interview was coming to a close, the interviewer asked him his advice for a new CEO. He said, “Find your successor and teach that person everything you know. That way you can focus on the bigger things.” The interviewer replied that finding and developing your successor is intimidating for some leaders. His reply? They are weak leaders.

Real leaders understand the need for and benefit of identifying a successor. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO or a first-time manager, identifying and developing someone who can do your job should be a priority. Early in my career, I was a couple of months into a new job when my boss told me to think about who could take over for me in 18 months. I was floored, feeling like I didn’t even know what my job was yet. And, I didn’t identify and develop a successor. Shame on me. It interfered with my ability to move to another role, jeopardized the department’s talent pipeline and kept someone from being developed. Since then, I’ve prioritized developing those around me, informally and formally.

When we surround ourselves with great talent and help that talent become as successful as we are, we demonstrate one of the keys to leadership success — our ability to bring others along on the journey.

What Millennials Want

What Millennials WantPricewaterhouseCooper’s 2011 Global CEO Survey says that money is not going to buy  you love with the brightest of GenY/Millennials.   According to the survey, the Millennials biggest retention drivers are training and development and the ability to work in communities of mutual interest and passion.

As a generation who grew up using the internet and social media, they want to connect with other bright people to work on challenges and business problems that are meaningful and important.  They also understand they are being hired for a job, not for a lifetime.  They are keen on building and refining their skills so that they are able to take advantage of opportunities inside the company, and when and if the time comes, outside the company. They have a strong desire for coaching and mentoring.

This reinforces the findings we published last October about leadership in the next decade.  In order to successfully lead this workforce, leaders will need to be highly skilled at:

  • Creating and communicating a compelling vision that will attract the best Millennial talent by connecting with what they find meaningful.
  • Creating collaboration by breaking down silos and utilizing social media and collaboration technologies.
  • Leveraging resources from across the organization to address significant business issues.
  • Managing talent by providing them with cultures that focus on developing talent and careers, building capabilities and capacity through formal and informal development opportunities.

What’s your organization doing to attract and retain the best Millennial talent?