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Five Secrets of Great Change Leaders

Change LeadersAt one point or another in your career you will or have been asked to lead change. What does it take to be a great change leader?

  • You tell people why. Even if the current state of affairs isn’t great, it’s the one that feels comfortable. People need to be given a reason why to change. What the change is and how it will happen is good, helping me understand why is great.
  • You ask for help. Sometimes we think of a change leader as the person charging up the hill on the white horse and making things happen. They are the ones charging up the hill. However, he or she can’t be doing it alone. Great change leaders know you can’t do it alone and they ask for the help of others.
  • You plan well but you expect the change to change. You know that getting from here to there won’t necessarily go as planned, so you plan for unexpected twists and turns in the journey.
  • You communicate as transparently as possible and listen constantly. Great change leaders don’t just stand in front of large groups of people and give speeches. You listen to what other people have to say. You continually talk to people in a variety of settings and ways and make sure there are ways for people to respond, share ideas, find the blind spots, highlight the successes and discuss the failures. You don’t just share information, you share a part of yourself. You balance being strong with being vulnerable.
  • You love the journey. The great change leaders I’ve known really love the challenge of change. You love creating something new and better. You love getting people excited about the future and helping them believe that future can happen. You understand how difficult change can be but set high expectations because you believe it can and will happen. You love being able to look back and say, “We started over there and are now over here. Great work.”

What do you think it takes to be a great change leader?

Four Ways Bosses Add Value

Effective LeadershipThere have been many times when I’ve witnessed an epiphany happen for bosses. It’s the moment they realize that having the answer is not the only way they add value. Too often, even experienced leaders believe that the most important part of their job is to have all the answers. Having the answer is only one way that bosses add value and, while it has short term benefit, over the long run these four actions can be even more valuable:

        • Listening: One of the ways people grow is to be given the opportunity to think through situations and issues and to have someone who will listen to their ideas and potential solutions. Strong working relationships are forged when there is opportunity to speak knowing the other person will listen.

        • Asking questions: Telling someone an answer gives them the benefit of your thinking and experience. Asking questions allows the individual to learn from your thinking and his own thinking. Effective questions are not those that are ‘gotcha’s’ or ones meant to show the other person how much you know. Effective questions help the individual think about problems and issues more broadly. They ask them to consider the ‘why?’ of a situation, the implications of taking a certain action, the perspective of others involved or the pros and cons of a certain course of action.

        • Recognizing and reinforcing: Recent research shows that the average ratio of positive to negative feedback by high performing team is almost 6:1. For low performing teams, its about a 1:1 ratio. In the same research, for better than average performers, positive feedback raised performance for 62% of them by as much as 24%. Since most of a boss’ team is made of up these better than average performers, the value added by recognizing and reinforcing performance has an exponential impact on results.

        • Visibility: There are two types of visibility. Boss’ add value when they give the people on their team visibility into what is going on in other parts and levels of the organization. Whether someone aspires to be ‘the boss’ one day or not, it’s important to know what others view as important, what’s valued, what’s not important or even career limiting. It’s also important to raise your team members’ visibility within the organization. You add value to their career and add value to your own by showcasing the great people you have hired and developed.

Next time you’re thinking that your main job is to give your team the answer, think about these other opportunities to add value. Are you adding as much value as you can?

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.

Spring Cleaning Your Priorities

Happy Spring CollageSpring is that time of year when everything is new again. The winter cold and drab is finally receding. It’s a good time to think about what needs some sprucing up in your company.

Take a look back at the achievements and new opportunities presented in the first months of the year. What’s been achieved? How are you progressing? What new opportunities are presenting themselves in your market? What’s going on with your people – what talent do you have and what talent do you need? Are development plans moving forward?

It’s also a good time to clean things up. What’s no longer relevant? How have priorities shifted? What can fall off of your (or someone else’s) plate? What processes just aren’t working anymore and need to be revamped? What talent is not working out and may need to be reallocated inside or outside the company?

Don’t just save spring cleaning for the yard or your home. Do some spring cleaning at work, too.

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.

The Future Leader

leadersI saw my in-laws recently and once again, I had a conversation with my father-in-law about how baffling new technology is to him and how he wants nothing to do with it.  Why?  Complexity.  There are too many options, too many things coming at you at one time and it changes too rapidly.

More and more the core of leadership is about the ability to understand and integrate complexity.  Let’s look at the world of work today:

 

  • Economic uncertainty persists. We are slowly moving out of recession but it’s still not clear how this economy is going to grow.
  • Breakneck technological advances. Facebook. Twitter. Ipad.  Need I say more.
  • Generational diversity. Four generations in the workplace with each bringing their own values and constructs about work, its place in our lives, and how it should be done.
  • Multiple work options. Full time. Part time. Contractors. Temporary.  Virtual.  Many working side by side under very different job arrangements.
  • We compete and collaborate globally. Our global economies are intertwined.  Populations in India and China are becoming more educated and wage equity is expected by the middle of this century.

What do leaders need to succeed in the complex world of work?

In this complexity, a leader needs to see the way forward for their organization and create an environment that leverages the opportunities brought by complexity.  As you develop future leaders, consider what our research points to as the five key abilities for successful future senior leaders.

  • The ability to foresee societal, political and industry trends. It’s not enough to know your industry or your business anymore.  Competition and innovation can come from anywhere.  The future leader needs to be a lifelong learner and insatiably curious about what is coming from a wide variety of sectors.
  • The ability to think strategically. The future leader needs to be able to integrate this information and ideas to create strategies that will lay a foundation for growth.
  • The ability to create and communicate a compelling vision and strategy. Compelling is the key word here. Future leaders will need to engage a more diverse and dispersed workforce than ever before.
  • The ability to manage talent. Ideas, innovation, great products and great service will come from the talent in the organization. It is your competitive advantage.  It needs to be identified, developed and built just like any other key asset you have.
  • The ability to create a culture of accountability. People want to be associated with excellence.  They want to know that strong performance is viewed differently than just punching the clock.

 

What To Do When A Senior Leader Leaves

Executive ExodusI’ve been hearing from some of you about changes that are occurring in your company.  A few people have talked to me about senior leaders leaving their organizations — their manager or the executive who leads the division, department, or group.  Anytime someone leaves a work group it’s disruptive to the group but when a senior leader leaves, the organizational shock waves can really knock you back.

When a senior leader leaves and you are a leader in the organization, you are in a difficult position.  You are trying to navigate this change yourself and trying to provide guidance and support for others.

It’s common when a senior leader leaves, that the organization and you as an individual:

  • Feel like the rudder has come off the boat. As much as we talk about shared leadership, there are special expectations of leaders at the top.  They are the ones who establish a vision or direction and guide the organization in pursuit of that vision.  Without that, we feel we’re in a boat without a rudder.
  • Aren’t sure what to do.  People start to ask “is this still important?” “I was in the middle of this big project, will it continue?” “What about…?
  • Wait for the other shoe to drop. Now that X has left, how soon will it be until others leave?
  • Wonder what that person knows that they don’t. People will often question why the person left and because the reason isn’t often public information, people fill in the blank with negative reasons.

You’re thinking these things and you’re pretty sure you’re people are, too.  How do you lead now?

  • Reiterate that, unless a new person has been put in the role already and made a significant announcement, the direction has not changed. Clients and customers still need what they needed yesterday.  The products or services you provide haven’t changed.  You work in the same locations.
  • Use the opportunity to solve challenges collaboratively. If the person who left was your direct boss and you now find that you don’t have a sounding board, find a colleague you trust and can collaborate with around ideas and solutions to problems.
  • Take the bull by the horns. This may be that opportunity to shine you’ve been looking for.  When the world seems to be falling apart, if you are able to keep yourself and those around you together, you’ll be remembered.  Review what your team is doing.  Assess what the priorities are.  Maintain focus and direction.
  • Open up the dialogue. Talk and listen to the people on your team and the people around you.  Listen to the anxiety and concerns they’ll have, no matter how outlandish they seem.  Assure your people that, as of right now, you are still pursuing certain projects,  your customers still have needs, and that the business is still functioning as it was.  Let them know that the situation will probably be fluid and dynamic for the foreseeable future and commit to sharing what you can as soon as you can.
  • Talk to the new or interim leader as soon as you can. Introduce yourself and let him or her know that you want to provide whatever support you can during the transition.  Ask what he or she plans for the next 60 – 90 days.  Help this individual learn about your team. Position yourself to be viewed in a very positive way.  Do great work and help your team do great work.
  • Prepare for what may be next. It’s no secret that new senior leaders often change the membership of their new leadership teams.  If you reported directly to the previous incumbent, be prudent and prepare for the possibility that you may find yourself in different circumstances when the new leader is done putting his or her team in place.  Dust off your resume.  Make sure your network is working.  Think about what your next move could be if you needed to move on.

 

Quiet Leadership

Quiet Leadership

I had the opportunity this weekend to recall a fascinating story I read in The New York Times several years ago, about a leader most of us would never have heard about had they not chosen to write about her. She was about to retire after 25 years of leadership in her role as CEO of a $4.2 billion hospital network, one of the largest Catholic hospital networks in the nation. Formed in 1986, it consolidated the management of 15 hospitals and 2 nursing homes in Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

 

Here are some statistics and facts from her time as CEO:

  • During her 25 year tenure, operating revenues quintupled to $3 billion in 2010.
  • The hospital network produced a net income that year of $247.9 million and provided $115.4 million in uncompensated care.
  • A decade ago, she led a relentless campaign to improve performance resulting in the first Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award given to a health-care company.
  • She pays blue collar workers in the system above scale.
  • She has turned away arrangements with doctors who do not accept Medicaid.
  • She preaches about the dignity of patients.
  • She has made her hospitals smoke-free and banned the use of foam cups and plastic water bottles.
  • She has worked for free.*

Sister Mary Jean, a Franciscan nun, is characterized by those who know her as having iron-willed competence and unblinking compassion.  Her values-driven approach is what makes her health-care system distinct from some of its secular competitors yet does not seem to have detracted from its success. Those who underestimated nuns as managers “made a mistake,” Sister Mary Jean said.  Based on her track record, I think she’s right.

*Because of her vow of poverty Sister Mary Jean accepted no pay for her work but the health-care system compensated her $1.9 million in compensation for the labor of all of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary who worked in the system.

What Storytellers Can Teach Leaders

StorytellingPicture this scene.  We come into work on Monday morning and everyone is gathered around the coffee station, talking about their weekends.  Several people share the litany of activities they were involved in — ‘we went to Home Depot, watched my daughter play soccer and caught a movie.’  You start to think, “I really need to get to my desk and get to work.”  Then someone says, “Let me tell you what happened at this event I attended Saturday night.  We were all sitting down to dinner when…”. Your ears perk up, you really start listening and that work you needed to get to can wait.  You’re pretty sure you’re about to hear a great story.  Odds are that story will be repeated by everyone in the group to at least one other person.  On the other hand, very few people will remember the trip to Home Depot.

Leaders can learn a lot from great storytellers.  Leaders need to influence people to move in a particular direction, to buy into a vision, to join you in tackling a challenge.    Great storytellers know how to convey information so that we respond both emotionally and intellectually. In a post from American Economist Olivia Mitchell, she shares tips on how to tell stories like one of the great storytellers, Malcolm Gladwell (author of Outliers, Blink, The Tipping Point).  She uses examples from a chapter in Gladwell’s book Outliers to illustrate her points.

1.  He starts with one subject

Gladwell’s book explores why certain people are exceptionally successful.
We hear personal stories and detailed statistics – but Gladwell always starts with a story about one particular person.

2.  He paints word-pictures

Before he starts his story, we get a description of the main character. So as Gladwell tells his story, we can visualize the person in our minds.

3.  He gives us detail

He describes in vivid detail the circumstances that the character faced.
He gives examples that bring it to life.

4.  His characters speak

Gladwell doesn’t just narrate a story – he has his subjects tell the story in
their own words:

5.   He makes us curious

Gladwell tells the character’s story without revealing exactly why it’s
important.  He creates a bit of a mystery and promises to unravel it.

6.   He multiplies the story

He uses more than one example.  He uses an example of one person and
then shows how it is a story shared by many, many people.

7.  The clincher

Gladwell adds the clincher to prove his point.

The power of stories is real.  A large part of my work is facilitating teams and groups.  One thing I’ve noticed is the impact of stories on involvement and engagement.   When I start a sentence with “Let me tell you about a time when..” or “let me tell you a the story of…” The heads in the room pop up, people lean forward, IPhones they were looking at under the table are put away.

We all are looking for that emotional connection in the sea of facts and information we’re exposed to at work every day. Stories from leaders make them more human, help people identify with the what and why of a situation and to take action.  How have you used stories today?