Tuesday, December 24, 2013

You Are Not the Best Judge of You

You Are Not the Best Judge of You
by Scott Edinger (Published on 11/15/11 on HBR Blog)   

“To create a reliable 360 survey,” Marcus Buckingham concludes in his recent blog on this site, “The Fatal Flaws With 360 Surveys,” all you need do is…ask the rater to evaluate himself on his own feelings.” Since you are an expert on your own feelings, your responses have to be solid.

That seems logical, and yet I could not disagree more with this conclusion. In an effort to give equal time to the other side of the story, and to clarify some misconceptions, let me share with you the reasons why not getting 360-degree feedback may actually be fatal. (But here’s hoping that in the course of this debate there are no fatalities.)

Leadership effectiveness is in the eye of those who are led. “Rate me on ‘Marcus is a good listener’ and we learn whether I am a better listener than you,” Buckingham writes. But in my work with Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman analyzing the 360-degree feedback from tens of thousands of leaders, that’s not been our experience. What we find is: ask me to rate “Marcus is a good listener,” and we discover whether I think Marcus is listening to me. That’s certainly not objective data. But it doesn’t have to be. If Marcus is my boss and I think he’s not listening to me, that certainly plays into how effective he is as a leader, no matter how subjective my judgment is.

Subjective 360 data can correlate to objective business results. What I think about my boss wouldn’t matter if it had no relation to business success. But our analysis of the data from those thousands of 360s shows that it does, empirically. We have correlated the leadership-effectiveness scores we’ve collected with a variety of business outcomes — profitability, turnover, employee engagement, customer satisfaction — you name it, we probably studied it. What we’ve seen is that 360 data are an incredibly reliable measure of business success, frequently showing a lock-step correlation between the effectiveness of a company’s leaders, as measured by those subjective 360s, and the company’s objective business results.

You don’t have to be great at everything. “Most 360s are built on a logical non-sequitur,” Buckingham suggests, “namely that since a particular group of exemplary leaders possesses all the competencies measured by the 360, therefore the best individual leader is she who possesses all of them.” I agree that’s a non-sequitur, and that would be a problem if you used the full range of leadership skills on the assessment as a one-size-fits-all definition of the perfect leader. But our research suggests that’s not necessary at all, even if it were possible. When we analyze the most effective leaders in the world, we find that the truly extraordinary ones need only excel at a relatively small number of competencies — three to five. For us, the purpose of taking the 360 is not to see which leadership skills you lack so you can complete the set. Rather, it’s to find your best self — that is, the particular leadership skills you should focus on to become uniquely extraordinary.

You are not the best judge of you. Several years ago, while working on my first project with Joe Folkman, I asked him what was the most interesting finding he’d seen in his years of studying 360s. He responded, with a wry smile, “The average leaders don’t think they are.” Thus we, too, find leaders subject to “benevolent distortion.” But we don’t find it that benevolent. Our data show not just a gap — but something closer to a canyon — between people’s perceptions of themselves and how other people see them. “How could that be?” you might ask: After all, you are the only one there for everything! No doubt. And yet, our data tell us that you are a notoriously bad predictor of your own leadership abilities because it is so difficult to consistently know what impact you are having on others. In that regard, other people are experts at knowing how they feel about your effect on them. Ironically, we find, the best leaders in our database frequently rate their performance lower than their peers, bosses, and direct reports. From the perspective of inner strength and psychological health, it’s terrific to have confidence in your own views and convictions. But when considering your strength as a leader, doing so in isolation is, from where we sit, downright, fatal.

I’ll be the first to agree that a 360 assessment is no panacea and that the tool can be over-, miss-, and incorrectly used. But in my experience, there’s simply no substitute for getting feedback from the people who are the most influenced and affected by your actions, talents, and skills. Applied creatively, a 360-degree feedback process can be an incredibly powerful tool to help you identify your strengths, grant you insight into how you can make them even more effective, and alert you to any behavior that might be severely detracting from your effectiveness. Are the 360 data objective? No. But even so they can help leaders create an objective, personal plan of development. And they’re certainly more effective than just asking yourself.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Three Things that Actually Motivate Employees

Three Things that Actually Motivate Employees

The most motivated and productive people I’ve seen recently work in an older company on the American East Coast deploying innovative technology products to transform a traditional industry. To a person, they look astonished when I ask whether their dedication comes from anticipation of the money they could make in the event of an IPO.

Newcomers and veterans alike say they are working harder than ever before. Their products are early stage, which means daily frustrations as they run through successive iterations. Getting them to market demands more than corporate systems can handle, so they must beg for IT upgrades, recruit and budget themselves, and even take on sales responsibilities to explain innovations to customers — which adds to the workload.

So much pressure, yet they don’t seem to care about the money?

One person says that he can’t let himself think about an IPO. It’s too remote; it distracts from doing the work, and the work is the important thing. Another says she is most excited about the opportunity to change how the industry operates and have a big impact on improving lives. The chorus of voices is consistent: “We take the work in directions we choose.” “We’re working on the most advanced technology.” “Our products change lives.” Moreover, they have the joy of self-expression. One sales manager, a former actor, recited Shakespeare at a customer meeting and won over skeptical executives.

For these professionals, a future IPO is outweighed by today’s OPI — the opportunity for positive impact.
OPIs exert a strong appeal wherever I find them. In a different company in a middle American city, I talked with a couple meeting with a caterer to finalize details of their wedding — which was going to take place in the office lobby. Imagine that — people who feel so connected to their workplace that they want to get married there.

Both companies embrace a digital future still being invented. Yet leaders have turned change from exhausting to exhilarating by asking employees to open their imaginations. Although some professionals see transformation as a threat, most find chances for creative expression, especially as the companies evolve from siloed departments to flexible collaboration. Employees are encouraged to work on the best and latest concepts. Emphasis has shifted from output to impact – from how many products are sold to how much the products enrich people’s lives in the broader society.

There are no promises that these jobs will last forever. Loyalty comes from the daily work itself, a sense of community accepting of individuality, and constant reminders that what employees do matters.

I summarize these keys to strong work motivation in three Ms — mastery, membership, and meaning. Money is a distant fourth. Money can even be an irritant if compensation is not adequate or fair, and compensation runs out of steam quickly as a source of sustained performance. Instead, people happy in their work are often found in mission-driven organizations where people feel they have positive impact on social needs. As my HBS colleague Michael Norton shows in his book Happy Money, giving to others boosts happiness.

Unfortunately, happiness at work is rare. Numerous polls show low levels of work engagement in U.S. companies, with perhaps half of employees disengaged and disaffected. That’s an appalling finding. I think the problem is that human resource policy too often centers around compensation and benefits and not around the nature of the work itself. In contrast, the high-performance teams in sports and business I studied for my book Confidence focus on the work and its impact. They work harder, longer, and yet with more energy than low-performance teams. They make a difference day by day, making progress through small wins — a key to motivation that another HBS colleague, Teresa Amabile, studies in The Progress Principle.
To tap the three Ms, leaders at all levels can rethink how they define their strategy, jobs, and culture. They can:

Mastery: Help people develop deep skills. Stretch goals show faith that people can shape the future rather than being victimized by it, and find pride in constant learning. Even in the most seemingly routine areas, when people are given difficult problems to tackle, with appropriate and tools and support, they can do things faster, smarter, and better.

Membership: Create community by honoring individuality.  Community solidarity comes from allowing the whole person to surface, which means going beyond superficial conformity to know what else people care about. Encourage employees to bring outside interests to work. Given them frequent opportunities to meet people across the organization to help them get to know one another more deeply.

Meaning: Repeat and reinforce a larger purpose. Emphasize the positive impact of the work they do. Clarity about how your products or services can improve the world provides guideposts for employees’ priorities and decisions. As part of the daily conversation, mission and purpose can make even mundane tasks a means to a larger end.

Highly-engaged people who contribute more of themselves can produce Shakespeare recitations that win customers, weddings in office lobbies that build community, or the ultimate prize: innovations that change the world.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It

Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It

by Susan David
(Published on 7/15/13 on HBR Blog)

New data on employee engagement is in, and it’s downright discouraging. As this post by HBR’s Gretchen Gavett noted, Gallup’s research shows that engagement among US workers is holding steady at a scant 30%. This means seven out of ten people are either “checked out”, or actively hostile toward their employers. Seven out of ten.

Study after study shows that employee engagement, an index of bringing one’s best and full self to work, is not just an organizational nicety. It is a business imperative, linked to a number of performance outcomes, including profitability, customer satisfaction and turnover. A 2012 report on human capital from McKinsey added to the evidence, noting that organizations with top scores in employee motivation are about 60% more likely to be in the top quartile for overall business health. Companies I work with in my consulting practice who have done their own internal research have found similar linkages.

Of course, engagement is an emotional and deeply personal experience; it’s not simple or straightforward to address. But leaders must do so, for the sake of not only their employees but also their companies. Here are pointers to help you to make real inroads in this area:

Understand the basics of positive psychology and engagement research. At the end of her post, Gavett refers to an HBR classic on employee motivation, in which the famed management psychologist Frederick Herzberg argued that workers respond positively to more responsibility and authority in their daily tasks. This finding is resonant with self-determination theory, a well-established research program in psychology that has identified the universal human need for autonomy. In other words, people generally do well when they are empowered to make choices and decisions for themselves. Plenty more research has been done on work engagement, showing that factors such as social support and feedback can drive positive experience. Managers and HR professionals need to understand these and other robust psychological theories to more effectively shape their engagement efforts. A wealth of information is out there, ready to be put to good use.

Find out what engages your employees, not someone else’s. While broad research is a valuable resource, it can only take an organization so far. No theory or model is useful in the abstract. What matters is your business and your people. Ironically, most organizations use engagement results punitively; they focus on what is going wrong, and on why people aren’t as engaged as they could be. A better approach is to figure out what’s already working in your business, and find ways to replicate it. Go to the most engaged individuals, teams and business units, and help others model what they do. I’ve used this approach to help businesses identify a unique “engagement signature” suited to their culture and context.

Encourage grassroots engagement. Engagement cannot be mandated, but it can be ignited. Once you understand what matters to your employees, you can support its expression and replication far and wide. Empower your people, particularly the most engaged employees, to share stories, exchange ideas and disseminate best practices across the business. A well-designed piece of media, such as a video “starring” members of a thriving business unit, can gain traction and become a source of encouragement for others. With the rise of social media and digital workplace technologies, it’s easier than ever to connect employees and make engagement contagious.

Recognize engagement as a moving target, and check back often. While certain elements of employee engagement will surely hold over time, it’s not something that can be assessed and addressed just once. Research shows that engagement fluctuates daily, and with changing circumstances. What engages people during a surge in business may be very different from what helps them bring their best selves to work in a recession. To keep your organization engaged, you must remain engaged, curious, and connected yourself.
The next time Gallup or McKinsey do their polls, I’d like to see those engagement scores rise. What would it take to engage half, three quarters or 100% of the workforce? Imagine what it would mean to business success, employee happiness and productivity.

What are you doing about employee engagement, and what can you share with others? Let’s begin the conversation today.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

9 Best Practices for Creating Powerful Mentoring Programs

9 Best Practices for Creating Powerful Mentoring Programs  
by Ann Tardy, President
The LifeMoxie Consulting Group

Implementing a corporate mentoring program can be your wildly successful legacy or your administrative nightmare. The difference lies in creating a powerful, employee driven, effective program.

As an employee benefit, a powerful mentoring program can serve to develop your current team and attract new talent. A mentoring program is the perfect opportunity to leverage the skills and strengths of your employees in order to train and develop each other. And when designed properly, a mentoring program can enhance leadership skills, soften departmental barriers, increase employee effectiveness, and boost morale.
Alternatively, a poorly planned mentoring program can become an administrative nightmare. The burden of designing, implementing and maintaining a mentoring program often falls on the already-full plate of an HR director or diversity manager. And an ineffective mentoring program runs the risk of frustrating the employees (and you!) and negatively impacting morale.

The following are nine best practices for creating a powerful, employee-driven, effective mentoring program:
1)      Define Your Success - As early as possible define your program’s success factors in measurable ways and then design your program to achieve that success. For example, one of LifeMoxie’s clients created a mentoring program to increase membership in its company-sponsored affinity groups. Another LifeMoxie client is using the program to augment its succession planning initiative and develop its mid-tier managers.  
2)      Give them a Reason to Participate - time is precious, especially on the job. If you want your employees to participate in your mentoring program, give them an incentive to participate or obligate them to identify their own reasons for participating. For example, encourage participation in the program by making it a factor in annual performance reviews.
3)      Blow up Mentoring Myths - Mentoring often connotes “a guide for your whole life,” similar to the character Obi-Wan Kenobi from the movie Star Wars. As a result, employees often expect to find that one special lifetime mentor in someone of the highest ranks of the company. In reality, everyone on your team can be a Mentor and everyone, regardless of level, can benefit from a mentoring program. Encourage employees to participate as both a Mentor and a Mentee in your program so they learn from as well as develop each other.
4)      Think like a Dating Service - As the catalyst of your mentoring program, consider yourself a dating service for the professional development of your employees. As such you need to provide a way for people to find each other (think Match.com) while providing them the structure in which to make good matches (think matchmaker). Teaching people how to participate in their own matching will create more effective mentoring relationships while giving them lifetime mentoring skills, but will also require your employees to be proactive in the finding and creating of their mentoring relationships. Your challenge is to implement a program that acts like a dating service and not like an arranged marriage.
5)      Teach them How to Mentor - To create an effective mentoring program, you must teach the participants how to be effective Mentors and Mentees. Incorporate ongoing Mentor/Mentee training and educational opportunities, and provide your participants with tools for creating structure in their relationships. Your goal is to teach them how to create their own mentoring relationships so that your mentoring program becomes an employee-inspired, employee generated, employee-driven program year after year.
6)      Make them Commit - Make it a requirement that everyone who enters into a mentoring relationship must sign a mentoring agreement or complete an application (either on-line or on paper). In addition, require your participants to commit to the relationship for a certain period of time, preferably three to six months, while providing each party the opportunity to obtain a no fault split should the relationship not be working.
7)      Mentor around Specific Goals - As your participants start creating mentoring relationships, encourage them to work on specific goals that the Mentor and Mentee generate together. Having goals will create focus and contribute to the effectiveness of their relationship.
8)      Make it Easy to Play - There is nothing worse than an interested, inspired employee that becomes frustrated with the process. Make it easy to participate in your mentoring program, easy to access the mentoring tools and information, and easy for you to administer.
9)      Track Everyone’s Progress - Encourage your participants to track their progress in the program and their progress on their goals. Incorporate a mechanism for participants to provide their feedback on their relationship and on the mentoring program.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What can Mozart teach us about leadership?

 by James W. Wright, General Director of Vancouver Opera
5148.mozart What can Mozart teach us about leadership?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (centre) with
his sister Nannerl and father Leopold.
There are many reasons why I am passionate about opera: beautiful, emotional and inspiring music; literate, poetic language; grand and glorious productions on stages filled with singers, choristers and dancers; and very often, a link with important people and events in the past. But another reason I am passionate about opera is the relevance it has for our lives today. Opera is certainly not alone among the arts in this ability to speak to us about our own times, but it is the art form I know best and about which I can speak with certainty. At Vancouver Opera we often speak of opera’s relevancy to 21st Century British Columbians, and work hard to help long-time audiences as well as opera “newbies” understand and appreciate this fact; I know our colleagues at the symphony, in the theatre and dance companies and in the galleries work to do the same thing. Opera sometimes has a bigger challenge in this, I think, because of the music coming to us from an earlier century, the dress and manners of an earlier time, the “powdered wigs” and foreign languages. But here I believe is the wonderful secret of my art form: opera is about the big things, the important emotions of all of us humans….and these “big things” and large emotions don’t change from year to year, decade to decade, or even century to century.
Sometimes these sweeping themes are rather personal: love and betrayal; estrangement; the distances created between families and friends and the bridges to span those distances. Sometimes the big ideas are societal: when we last produced Aida, we investigated the plight of “Women in War” with Lloyd Axworthy, Ruth Segal and others; when we staged Macbeth our panelists examined “Power and its Abuse;” in 2002, during the opera Of Mice and Men important BC artists discussed the “Role of the Arts in Effecting Social Change.”
Our current offering, Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, is about one important thing: what qualities do we want in those who lead us?  Mozart’s gorgeous and spirited music, the intriguing scenery and stellar singing are all in the service of this big idea. Is ruling with compassion a better idea than ruling with vengeance? Is the good of the people more important than the reputation of the leader? Does forgiveness in a leader show strength or betray weakness? Mozart’s opera inspired us to bring together a first-class panel last week at the Vancouver Public Library to discuss this notion of effective and compassionate leadership. Columnist Gary Mason, UBC professor Michael Byers, Tsawwassen First Nations Chief Kim Baird, Superintendent of West Vancouver schools Chris Kennedy, and Brenda Eaton, Chair of BC Housing Management Commission, discussed with one another and the audience their beliefs concerning leadership.
Mason spoke of VANOC CEO John Furlong’s exercise in nation building which was built in part on the biggest Olympics torch relay in history, involving Canadians across this land, as well as convincing the powers-that-be to invest in the performance of our athletes, which paid off handsomely and helped unite the country in its pride and patriotism. Michael Byers noted that after his long prison sentence and eventual rise to the South African presidency, Nelson Mandela rejected revenge as a tool of governance and instead focused on “truth and reconciliation” and sought to heal his country by his ferocious support of the Springbok Rugby team as it grew to be the World Cup winner, as portrayed in the film Invictus.
Qualities of leadership: what the past can tell us about, warn us about, prod us to think about.  What great art – whether opera, symphonic music, great theatre or inspired painting – can help us to understand about our own lives and our own times: isn’t that a timely and relevant conversation for 21st Century British Columbians?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail

Another great post from the Harvard Business Review

Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail 

by Peter Bregman

The topic in the Executive Committee meeting turned to Europe. The technology company, Alentix*, was doing well and growing annually at the rate of about 15%. But its European division was struggling. It had been five years since the region turned a profit.
Yet no one had addressed that issue. Jean, the head of the Europe office, had been with the company longer than anyone else around the table — he had strong ties with the board — and the topic seemed untouchable.
This time looked to be no different. When Jean said he was on top of things, no one challenged him. I looked around the room at the silent senior leadership of Alentix, all of whom had privately complained to me about Jean's performance in recent weeks. I suggested we take a 15-minute break.
Every one of these leaders was smart, knowledgeable, and capable. They'd all read innumerable books on leadership, taken leadership skills assessments, and attended multiple training programs — including executive leadership programs at top business schools. They knew as much as anyone about leadership.
So why weren't they leading?
The answer is deceptively simple: There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders.
I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn't know enough about leadership. In fact, I can't remember ever meeting a leader who didn't know enough about leadership.
What makes leadership hard isn't the theoretical, it's the practical. It's not about knowing what to say or do. It's about whether you're willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or doing it.
In other words, the critical challenge of leadership is, mostly, the challenge of emotional courage.
Emotional courage means standing apart from others without separating yourself from them. It means speaking up when others are silent. And remaining steadfast, grounded, and measured in the face of uncertainty. It means responding productively to political opposition — maybe even bad-faith backstabbing — without getting sidetracked, distracted, or losing your focus. And staying in the discomfort of a colleague's anger without shutting off or becoming defensive.
These are the things that distinguish powerful leaders from weak ones. And you can't learn them from reading a book, taking a personality test, or sitting safely in a classroom.
Ever since I started teaching leadership on mountaineering expeditions in the late 80's, the question of how to develop leaders has absorbed me. I've designed and taught everything from one-day team buildings to 30-day wilderness trips, from business school classes to corporate trainings, from simulations to executive leadership courses.
The goal of any leadership development program is to change behavior. After a successful program, participants should show up differently, saying and doing things in new ways that produce better results.
By that measure, most of what I've done — and what I've seen others do — has failed. Sure, the trainings are almost always fun, interesting, engaging, and filled with valuable, research-based content. But they fail the test of significant and sustained behavior change that produces better results after the program.
Here's why: We're teaching the wrong things in the wrong ways.
If the challenge of leadership is emotional courage, then emotional courage is what we need to teach. You can't just learn about communication, you have to do it, in the heat of the moment, when the pressure is on, and your emotions are high.
In everything I've tried, I have discovered two things that work:
1. Integrate leadership development into the work itself. This is the ideal environment, where the learning and the work are seamless. The Executive Committee meeting at Alentix is a perfect example. That was a real meeting, where the leadership team was doing their real work. The difference, though, was that I was there.
I knew each person's strengths and weaknesses. That's why I called the break. During those 15 minutes, I approached several people and we talked about previous conversations I had with them and their concerns about Europe's performance. What will it take, I asked them, for you to speak up?
Here's what I didn't do: facilitate the meeting or bring up the issue myself. That would have been doing their work for them and they wouldn't have developed their skills. They needed to bring it up. They needed to push the issue. And they needed to do it in a way that didn't alienate Jean or make him defensive. Yes, I taught them ways to do that. But they had to do it, in real time, with real colleagues, doing real work.
2. Teach leadership in a way that requires emotional courage. Most leadership programs strive to create a safe environment for people to learn. At best, they teach about courage. They articulate why it's important, what it looks like, how it plays out in a case study. Maybe they do a simulation.
But that's a mistake.
The only way to teach courage is to require it of people. To offer them opportunities to draw from the courage they already have. To give them opportunities to step into real situations they find uncomfortable and truly take the time to connect with the sensations that come with that.
For example, most leadership programs give people feedback from anonymously collected forms they and their colleagues fill out before the program. That's safe.
In the leadership week I conduct for senior leaders, I have people give each other real feedback, in real time, face-to-face with each other, based on what they're witnessing in the program. That's courageous.
And the more they take those kinds of risks during the week — risks to be vulnerable, to communicate hard things, to listen to hard things, to try a new behavior — the more they will take those same risks in real life, when it matters most.

When we returned after the break at the Alentix Executive Committee meeting, the CFO interrupted the agenda to say he wanted to address the issue of Europe. Jean quickly stepped in and reiterated what he had said before: "We already addressed it."
The room was silent and I could feel the tension rise. This is the moment, I thought to myself, this is the hardest point in the conversation, in the meeting. Will someone step up?
Sure enough, emboldened by our break-time conversations and by the initial bravery of the CFO, the head of human resources spoke up, followed by the head of sales, and then the COO. The conversation was happening and it was skillful, respectful, and powerful.
That's leadership. That's emotional courage. And exercising that muscle is what develops powerful leaders.
*Names and some details changed

Monday, July 22, 2013

Keys for a successful coaching relationship

Keys for a successful coaching relationship
Is the executive highly motivated to change?
Yes : Executives who get the most out of coaching have a fierce desire to learn and grow.
No: Do not engage a coach to fix behavioral problems. Blamers, victims, and individuals with iron-clad belief systems don’t change.

Does the executive have good chemistry with the coach?
Yes: The right match is absolutely key to the success of a coaching experience. Without it, the trust required for optimal executive performance will not develop.
No: Do not engage a coach on the basis of reputation or experience without making sure that the fit is right.

Is there a strong commitment from top management to developing the executive?
Yes: The firm must have a true desire to retain and develop the coached executive.
No: Do not engage a coach if the real agenda is to push the executive out or to fix a systemic issue beyond the control of the coached individual.

Does the focus of coaching engagements shift?
All but eight of the 140 respondents said that over time their focus shifts from what they were originally hired to do.
“Absolutely! It starts out with a business bias and inevitably migrates to ‘bigger issues’ such as life purpose, work/life balance, and becoming a better leader.”
“Generally no. If the assignment is set up properly, the issues are usually very clear before the assignment gets started.”

What should you look for when hiring a coach. Here's how various qualifications stacked up. 

Coaching borrows from both consulting and therapy


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tips on Managing Difficult People (Harvard Business Review)

This article is worth sharing since the topic of my last newsletter was "Know Your Players and INVEST in Them". It is from Harvard Business Review - http://hbr.org/web/management-tip/tips-on-managing-difficult-people
Tips on Managing Difficult People

Three Ways to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Colleague

It can be incredibly frustrating when a co-worker agrees with a plan of action, only to go off and do his own thing. This type of sabotage is all too common and can make it difficult to achieve your goals. When you have a co-worker who says one thing and does another, try this:
  • Give feedback. Explain to your co-worker what you're seeing and experiencing. Describe the impact of his behavior on you and provide suggestions for how he might change.
  • Focus on work, not the person. You need to get the work done despite your peer's style, so don't waste time wishing he would change. Concentrate on completing the work instead.
  • Ask for commitment. At the end of a meeting ask everyone (not just the troublemaker) to reiterate what they are going to do and by when. Sometimes peer pressure can keep even the most passive-aggressive person on task.

Keep Your Composure, or Walk Away

With offices becoming more physically and metaphorically open, the privacy of a room with a closed door can be difficult to find. More often, everyone from the CEO to the receptionist is visible to everyone else. This level of exposure can encourage transparency but can also put you on display in fragile moments when you are stressed or upset. Next time you feel like you might lose your cool (and who hasn't had these moments?), take note of where you are. If you might be observed by others, take a deep breath or a drink of water. If that doesn't do the trick, get outside. In these new open work spaces, it's critical to maintain professionalism by being calm and supportive of others, and by doing your venting somewhere private.

Three Tips for Resolving a Conflict with Your Coworker

Differences of opinion between coworkers can be useful and even productive. But when clashes turn ugly, conflict can be harmful to working relationships. Here are three tips for handling the next disagreement you have with a colleague:
  • Identify common ground. Point out what you both agree on at the beginning of the conversation. This may be a shared goal or a set of operating rules.
  • Hear your coworker out. Allow your colleague to share his opinion and explain his point of view. Don't disagree with individual points he makes; listen to the whole story.
  • Propose a solution. Use the information you gathered in the conversation to offer a resolution. This should incorporate his perspective and be different from what you originally thought.

Turn Your Competitors into Allies

When a colleague's agenda is seemingly opposed to your own, it can be tempting to demonize him. Distorting other people is a common response to conflict, but not a particularly productive one. In fact, doing so undermines your ability to exert influence. Instead of deciding that everything about a colleague you don't get along with is hateful, get to know him better. Sit down and talk about what he cares and is concerned about. You may find that the source of your conflict is actually an area of mutual interest and rather than being enemies, you are natural allies.

Stop Being So Nice

Conflict avoidance is a common trait of most corporate workplaces. But, steering clear of disagreements and leaving things unsaid creates unnecessary complexity and needless anxiety. To get better at confronting conflict constructively, follow these three steps:
  • Reflect. Ask yourself whether there are times you should've spoken up but held your tongue. Do you avoid certain types of conflicts?
  • Get feedback. Ask trusted friends and colleagues how they perceive your readiness to engage in constructive conflict. They might see patterns that are less obvious to you.
  • Experiment. You don't have to change overnight. Try pushing back on a request or speaking up in a meeting and see how it goes. Preface your comment with an admission that you are working on getting better at conflict. This will help demonstrate your sincerity.  
Adapted from "Is Your Culture Too Nice?" by Ron Ashkenas.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How Poor Leaders Become Good Leaders by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Here is a great post on "How Poor Leaders Become Good Leaders" by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman from the Harvard Business Review.


Well worth the read and repost.



In our previous blog, Bad Leaders Can Change Their Spots, we described a group of 71 leaders who were able to elevate their leadership effectiveness from the 23rd percentile to the 56th percentile — that is, from being poor leaders to good ones. While many readers were impressed that it could happen, many more were curious (and even doubtful) about how it could happen. Admittedly, not every leader can do this. But all 71 of these individuals (who represented three-quarters of the entire group of poor leaders in this study) did accomplish this seemingly Herculean shift. How?
Using 360-degree feedback data over a 12- to 18-month period, we were able to track what, exactly, the leaders who'd made the most significant progress were doing. We found that practically all of them (more than 80%) significantly improved their ability to executive nine particular leadership skills.
  1. They improved their communication effectiveness. This was the most common skill that these people improved. Communication skills are highly malleable. For many of these leaders, improvement here was less about learning new skills than about using the skills they already had more often and with more people. (When we talk to groups of leaders and ask, "Who here communicates too much?" we see very few hands rise.) We have also found that when struggling leaders spend time improving presentation skills, the effort can produce an immediately payoff.
  2. They made an effort to share their knowledge and expertise more widely. Poor leaders tend to be stingy with information and know-how. By sharing their knowledge more frequently and teaching people what they know how to do they can simultaneously impress and develop their direct reports.
  3. They began to encourage others to do more and to be better. Some leaders believe that if they minimize challenges to their team and expect less of their people, subordinates will see them as better leaders. This is wrong! Fewer challenges is the opposite of what a work group or organization needs. When leaders challenge their direct reports to do more and be better they thought they could be, the leaders are actually perceived to be better themselves.
  4. They developed a broader perspective. It's easy for leaders to become preoccupied with work demands and internal politics and become oblivious to what's happening in the outside world. Getting leaders to stop and look at the bigger picture can help them see potential problems sooner and focus more on strategic and less on tactical issues. This leads to constructive change and innovation.
  5. They recognized that they were role models and needed to set a good example. It frequently happens that leaders unintentionally (or unknowingly) ask others to do things they don't do themselves. This never works. Many of our 71 leaders were surprised to discover that they were perceived as hypocritical. They learned to walk their talk (or at least to "stumble the mumble").
  6. They began to champion their team's new ideas. Many of our 71 leaders were also surprised to learn that their teams considered them to be the "Abominable NO man (or woman)." When they shifted from discouraging new proposals to encouraging and supporting innovative ideas and thinking, positive changes occurred.
  7. They learned to recognize when change was needed. More generally, our successful leaders were those who learned to willingly support and embrace change, and encourage others to do so, as well. How? Essentially, by becoming more proactive — that is, by doing a better job of spotting new trends, opportunities, and potential problems early.
  8. They improved their ability to inspire and motivate others. Practically all of the actions we've already mentioned create a more inspirational environment. In addition, there were two notable things these leaders did to inspire others. First, they did a better job keeping people focused on the highest priority goals and objectives. Second, they made a special effort to stay in touch with the concerns and problems of their teams. When a leader is the last to know that an employee is having difficulties, others interpret that as a lack of concern. Providing support and assistance to an employee in difficult circumstances not only helps that employee, but also reassures others they can expect to receive the same treatment.
  9. They began to encourage cooperation rather than competition. Many leaders come out of school believing that work is a zero-sum game that creates winners and losers, and so they compete, in an effort to get ahead. Battles are costly and consume a great deal of resources. In the long run, internal competition causes every participant to lose. When leaders look for ways to encourage cooperation and generate common goals, they become more successful.
As you review this list of what our bad leaders did to improve, we believe you'll agree that what we are describing are common virtues that had not been practiced commonly enough. Our data show that taking these steps are especially effective in increasing the success of leaders who've been formerly regarded as poor, but they can improve all leaders. To us, that means that everyone — bad leaders, average leaders, and even good leaders — can change their spots. So, what's holding you back?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Personal Element of Leadership

In my newsletter, I spoke of "Personal Element" of Leadership.  Take a few minutes to find out how you are doing.

Rank your answers from 1 to 5 to see what your "Personal Element" is in your business.

You are known by everyone in your organization and all your clients.
    Not like                                                  Exactly
    me at all                                                  like me
              1              2             3             4            5

"Go to"ness
When something needs to get done, everyone knows to come to me.
    Not like                                                  Exactly    me at all                                                  like me
              1              2             3             4            5

I am quick to make decisions and no one every questions it.
    Not like                                                  Exactly
    me at all                                                  like me
         1              2             3             4            5  

I mentor and coach my leadership team to be independent.
    Not like                                                  Exactly 
     me at all                                                  like me
         1              2             3             4            5

Personal Productivity
I spend more than 50% of my day working on the business instead of in the business
    Not like                                                  Exactly 
    me at all                                                  like me
         1              2             3             4            5
Personal Leadership
I have clearly defined values, goals and dreams and work every day to make them a reality.
    Not like                                                  Exactly     me at all                                                  like me
         1              2             3             4            5
What is one thing you can do to improve your situation?
If you would like to discuss these in more detail, give us a call.

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