Articles tagged with: Advanced People Skills

Top Ways to Ensure Leadership Failure

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What causes a leader to fail?

The truth is, there are many things that cause failure at all levels of leadership. There is not a specific “formula” for leadership failure, just as there is not a specific “formula” for leadership success. There are however, actions or behaviors that drive a leader toward the path of success or failure.



Leading With Emotional Intelligence

What sets one leader apart from another leader? Why do some leaders have an ability to motivate themselves and those around them to accomplish great things?

There are several factors that create success for a leader; however, Emotional Intelligence is being quickly rated among the top indicators. In the article "EQ vs. IQ - emotional intelligence, intelligence quotient", Cynthia L. Kemper states, “For those in leadership positions, emotional intelligence skills account for close to 90 percent of what distinguishes outstanding leaders from those judged as average.”

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Be A Change Champion

Great leaders love and champion change…well, at least that’s what most business articles would have you believe. I believe that the question begs a more complex answer to provide true guidance. As managers, we can each “champion” change, what we need to explore is how to develop our personal skills and how this becomes part of our leadership journey.


So what do we mean by “championing change”? Change Champions are leaders selected and trained to manage the inevitable uncertainty that is bound to arise within your team when faced with a program of change. To consider your role, I will examine change at three core levels: Championing a Quality Culture for Change; Leading your Team through Change; and Your Role as a Change Champion.


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Visionary Leadership: Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

Visionary Leaders are often identified as innovative, out of the box thinkers, risk takers and able to see the possibilities for the future.  While all of these things are typically true of visionary leaders, they show up as outward attributes that make the visionary leader successful. These things are the aspects of the process that goes on internally within the leader individually. There is another key aspect to being a visionary leader that does not get as much attention or "flair."  This other aspect of visionary leadership is knowing how to empower others.  This attribute of empowering is not only essential to one's development, but it is also important to the success of relationships.


The ROI of Coaching

According to a study conducted in 2008 by PriceWaterHouseCoopers and Association Resource Centre, Inc., companies that use professional coaching reported a median return on investment of seven times their initial investment. The study was the result of a survey of corporate and individual clients of ICF (International Coach Federation) member coaches. It also found that individuals who participated in coaching reported a median return on investment of 3.44 times their investment...


Five Ways to Prevent Downward Spiral Thinking

I was looking for a particular book for a client and during my search in my library of way too many books, I spotted the book Art of Possibilities. I read it several years ago and have often recited some of my key learnings to leaders that I thought could benefit from Ben Zander’s approach to leadership.

As I thumbed through the book, one of Zander’s key concepts caught my attention – the downward spiral. That was it – the “thing” that my client was caught in. We had been discussing for months possible solutions for a very specific issue. Although we had brainstormed several potential solutions, it seemed each of them had major flaws or “just wouldn’t work”. I realized the leader was in a constant downward spiral and I had joined him. In case you’re wondering exactly what I mean by downward spiral – it is that tendency to get caught up in “what’s wrong” and “why it’s wrong” conversations thus spiraling into negativity. And when you are in a negative spiral, possibility doesn’t exist.

So how do you stop the spiral and get unstuck? Here are five ways to avoid the downward spiral:

  • Recognize that you’re in a downward spiral. Some people don’t realize or not willing to admit that they are in a downward spiral. So a little self-awareness: if someone offers a potential solution, and you’re first thought or comment is how it will not work or the potential problems you already see, you could be in a downward spiral.
  • Stop the negative chatter in your head. When you think about a problem, examine the facts. What are the concrete facts? When we judge people’s intent, character, and abilities, facts can become distorted and overstated.
  • State the problem without assigning it to a person or particular group. Example: Joe and his team failed to meet their sales goal this month. Possible restatement: We had a sales goal of $____ and the month-end result was $____. In the first example, you can easily move into a downward spiral with a focus on Joe and the team. The second example, the facts speak for themselves and puts the emphasis on the goal. You want Joe and his team to make goal not spend energy and time trying to defend their character and abilities.
  • Have a “possibility” brainstorming session with the team. Give everyone a 2-3 day notice to come to the session with suggestions and ideas about how to resolve the problem. The key to the success of this approach is to take all ideas/suggestions without any discussion of their potential or viability. This will keep the ideas/suggestions coming and prevents those downward spiral conversations. Once you get all the possibilities listed, then you look at viability. Again, keep the conversation centered on how you could make it work. Don’t allow anyone to “shoot holes” into the ideas. Those holes will become evident if they exist during the process. Narrow the ideas/suggestions to the top 2-3 and create an action plan.
  • Once you create the action plan with the potential solutions, enroll people into the plan. A good way to create buy-in is to invite people to give frequent feedback on how the plan is going. Encourage them to speak-up if there is a need to “tweak” something.
  • Celebrate the successes along the way and continually ask for input on ways to improve the workplace.

Often leaders wait too long to address a problem or is only made aware of a problem when it has reached a near crisis. This creates a stressful environment for everyone. And a stressful environment creates downward spirals. Good leaders create environments that exudes, “We are in this together.” When leadership and associates work as a team in an environment of trust and individual value – the possibilities are endless.


Dr.Seuss Strategy

For strategy, Dr. Seuss said it best…. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose...”

When I first started working in strategic planning, this became my favorite quote. Meetings were a sea of vague but lofty strategic terms. Discussions focused on visionaries who could see and define a future the rest of us could not. I cringed at critical assessments such as “she can’t think strategically” or “he doesn’t have vision”. I was frustrated by the conflict between this elite view of strategy and my values that each individual has insights to contribute to future planning. I see this collaboration as the very essence of a leadership planning model.

My work is energized by a much simpler and more basic view of what is important for effective strategy…an engaged team that understands and contributes to a common future vision. In one of my favorite books, Being Strategic, Erica Anderson has a quote “Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future”. This simple definition in a complex world of business, knits operations and strategy into cohesive future direction. If you can create actionable strategy that your whole team understands, you create communication to power your organization.

So how do you actually build effective strategy? Like any team effort, diverse thinking builds a better product. Committing the time and effort for the process is critical and well worth the investment. Invest your time for strategy in the following ways

  1. Solicit input from a broad group of constituents – include time for surveys, brainstorming, and research to fuel creative thinking.
  2. Revisit and refine your Mission – The mission statement can provide a bright light for your planning, so take the time to work with it.
  3. Actively listen to your clients – Remember why you exist and who you are serving. Don’t rely on dated input and information. Bring in new opinions.
  4. Define 3-5 high level goals, themes, or objectives for dynamic progress – Be sure to take the time to synthesize to this manageable number. This focus is critical for action.
  5. Define process checkpoints to discuss and measure progress. A great strategic plan that is left on the shelf is meaningless. Inclusive strategy needs to be reviewed regularly to stay on course.

The business world of today is powered by diverse teams. Success is driven by passion, commitment, and a plan. Strategy is the plan to energize and empower the people in your organization “in any direction you choose”. Hats off to Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel for saying it best. Use your strategy to “steer you in any direction you choose”.


The Dangers of Calling It Like You See It

Have you ever found yourself making this statement, “I just call it like I see it” or have you known a leader, friend or family member who says this?

Calling something as you “see” it can be strength. People are not left wondering what you think or how you feel, which can be refreshing and provide clear communication. So many leaders “beat around the bush” and their teams are not clear on what they want.

The challenge in “calling it like I see it” is one key word, “I.” We all see things differently in the world. One of the most thought provoking movies I have seen that illustrates this is the movie, Crash. If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it. It will open your eyes to your own personal judgments and the importance of creating strong paradigm shifts. Just about the time you think you have a character figured out in the movie, something shifts and your paradigm is rocked. You will find yourself in deep thought and mentally stimulated at the end of the movie.

Similar to Crash, in our leadership when we “call it like I see it,” we may learn that the way we see it could be very different from how another person sees it based upon their perspective.

I could place 5 people at 5 different vantage points to view an automobile accident. Each person would come back with a different story of what happened, simply based on the location from where they were able to view the accident. I am confident each person viewing the accident in this experiment would feel quite confident in their story based upon what they saw. They would each be “calling it like I see it.”

 

As leaders we need to guard against “calling it like I see it” until we know exactly what “it” is that “I” just “saw.” To help you, try the stop, look and listen technique:
  • Stop – and think before you judge or speak and ask yourself “is there another way to see this?”
  • Look – inside to determine how your beliefs, judgments and personal opinions could be affecting your response
  • Listen – ask someone else what they think, saw or concluded about the situation

 

Thinking before speaking, drawing judgment and conclusions will help in the following areas:
  1. You will reduce the times you have to come back and clean up a mess made based upon wrong assumptions you made
  2. You will build trust with people by not going straight to conclusions
  3. You will learn to broadly scan and take in all that could be going on and not just what you see from where you stand
  4. You will build relationships through asking for feedback to learn whether what you saw, judged, viewed, etc., is the same as what others observed.

 

I am sure there are other benefits to thinking before speaking, judging or drawing conclusions. What are your thoughts?


Random Acts of Kindness and Influence

I was recently at one of my favorite coffee shops, grabbing a cup of coffee, before hitting the road for a long drive. The shop was unusually busy that morning, which was not that big of a deal, other than that it took a long time and I was in a hurry.

I was having a great time "people-watching", as several of us waited with baited breath for our morning cup of joe. There was one woman in particular that stood out to me. We didn't speak to each other nor did I observe her talking to anyone else. She stood out to me because she had a sense of peace about her.

About the time I was trying to figure out what is was about her that made me feel this way, my drink was called and I was snapped out of my trance. I reached for my drink to discover it was very hot. I looked around but there was no sleeve for my cup, went to the condiment counter… no sleeves there either. I even tried to get a worker’s attention, again, to no avail. I was scurrying around looking for a cup sleeve and noticed this woman was watching me. I smiled and said, “I am trying to find a sleeve for my coffee… it is really hot.” She smiled back and that was that. I decided to give up the search for a sleeve and run to the restroom to wash my hands before leaving.

I left my coffee on the table right outside the restroom. When I came out, the lady was gone, but next to my cup of coffee, was a sleeve for my coffee. In that moment, my heart was warmed by the kindness of a stranger…. Nothing major, it didn’t even cost her anything, but it was just thoughtful.

I walked to my car and could not stop thinking about how such a little gesture brought so much joy to my hectic morning. Kindness is “indulgent, considerate or helpful.”1 This lady was all of these things. She was also being something else she didn’t even realize. She was being influential. Influential means “the act of producing effects on the actions, behaviors or opinions of others.” In that moment, and for the rest of the day, the kindness of a stranger influenced me to want to share kindness with others. I focused on just that for the rest of the day. In fact, she influenced me so much, I am writing this blog about it.

What about you? Have you ever had someone do something simple for you that had lasting impact – a random act or gesture of kindness? As leaders, it is important for us to remember the value in simple, arbitrary acts of kindness and the long-term effects they have to influence others.


To Lead or to Manage? OR TO LEAD AND MANAGE!

 

There is an ongoing debate about the differences and definitions of leader and manager and many are striving to identify which is better. The bottom line is, organizations need both leaders and managers in order to be successful. In fact, the more "lean" organizations become, the more we will see leaders who need to be able to manage and managers who need to be able to lead.

One of the mistakes that have been made is trying to make management and leadership independent of one another. The truth is they are both dependent upon one another for a company's profits as well as their people's success.

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What Happens When You Lose A Great Team Member?

Have you ever found the perfect new team member? A person who fits exactly what your organization needs from their skills, experience, talents, connections and even personality? Hopefully you have had this experience at least once in your leadership career. It is one of the most exhilarating feelings! Maybe this person was hired to be a successor for a senior leader or to take over a new division. Whatever the reason, it is rewarding to everyone when you bring in the right person at the right time.

Have you found yourself in this position only to later find out this person was not the perfect fit you were looking for; worse, maybe they were perfect but after awhile they decided it was time to move on to another opportunity? Either way there are some important lessons to learn and use moving forward when this happens.

Lesson one: What did you (the leader) learn from this experience? Here are a few questions to ask yourself (be sure to include what did you do well and what would you do differently):

  1. Did you indeed hire the right person at the right time…. If so, move on to the next questions, if not, what have you learned specifically that tells you this person was not the right hire and what will you do to avoid this pitfall next time?
  2. Was this person challenged enough in the role they were given?
  3. Were these person’s needs met both professionally and personally?
  4. How did this person connect with others in the organization?
  5. How did this person navigate the “political” climate of direct reports, peers, boss, clients and stakeholders?
  6. What did you do to ensure this person was set up for success?
  7. What support did you provide for this person?
  8. What on-going development did you provide for this person?
  9. Were there opportunities for growth in the areas of this person’s expertise?
  10. Were you surprised when this person decided to leave – if so, what warning signs did you miss?

Lesson two: What feedback can you get from person leaving and/or lessons they learned? Here are a few questions to ask the person leaving (ask for specifics, what did we do well and what could we have done better):

  1. What was your greatest take a-way from your time with us?
  2. Did you feel supported?
  3. Did you feel there were opportunities for growth – both professionally and personally?
  4. Was your role a right fit?
  5. What was your greatest challenge while with us?
  6. Did you understand the “political landscape”?
  7. What affected your decision to leave?
  8. Could anything have changed your mind?
  9. What are three things you would recommend to us in the future to ensure we continue to attract and retain talent such as yourself?
  10. Would you recommend a friend or colleague to work with us?

Lesson Three: It is important to make sure the message of this person’s departure is communicated properly and you capture the opportunity for feedback moving forward. Below are a few questions to help you navigate this process:

  1. How will I communicate the message to others that this person is leaving?
  2. How will I make sure other team members feel supported in the transition?
  3. Is there a successor or will we need to look outside the organization…. Or is this role still relevant?
  4. What will be done to create an opportunity to receive feedback from others?
  5. How will I reassure others we are fine and moving forward?

The answers to the questions in all three “lessons” will help you personally reflect, learn, grow and make even better hiring and retaining decisions in the future. As your organizations grows and changes it is inevitable that some of the “perfect” hires at one point may not be the best fit for the future. It is also important to realize there are times when a person needs to move on, even when everything has been done correctly. Rather than looking at this time as a loss, look at it from the standpoint of how fortunate you were to work with this person and them with the organization.

Moving on is often like a graduation… it is simply time to move on. I use to be a school teacher and I think the best metaphor here is recognizing we may love a student and be very proud of them; however, we would never keep them from passing to greater things just because we like them and they did a great job! One of my favorite sayings is, “your ceiling should be their floor”…. Learn what you can and then, let people “graduate” when they need to. Stay in contact with them. Be proud that you were a part of their leadership journey and career development.

 

What lessons have you learned from losing a great employee? I would love to hear your stories and/or questions you would add to the list/s above. If you are interested in working with a coach on how to attract and retain (or even let go in the right way) great talent please contact me today at


Could Relationship Be the Motivational "Carrot" You’re Looking For?

My husband and I recently traveled to Italy with several of our family members.  We were fortunate enough to be hosted by dear friends of my in-laws who are natives of Pesaro. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful; the architecture was inspirational. I enjoyed the savory food and delectable wine, but what most impressed me most was the allure and authenticity of the people and their relationships.

From the moment we met our new “friends”, we were embraced as family.  We did not have to “do” anything to earn or deserve their affection… we didn’t even have to “wait” for a certain period of time to prove ourselves.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  We were welcomed with warm smiles, holding of hands, sincere hugs, kisses on the cheek and instantly meaningful conversation.  I immediately became skeptical (even though I loved it).  I thought… “This is just because they are long term friends of my in-laws”.   Over the course of 10 days in Italy, I found this sort of charm and openness to be legitimate in relationships and consistent with most of the people I met.  We were also fortunate enough to be in a location that was not populated with tourists. So, our experience was authentically Italian.  Whether I was meeting someone in a shop or observing total strangers interact, relationships were the center focus.

This experience caused me to reflect on my own view of relationships and how I interact with strangers, new acquaintances, and even a friend I run into, on the street.  I have a tendency to be very focused (especially during work hours).  If a specific time was not scheduled, I rush any “interruptions” or “spontaneous encounters” in order to get back to my scheduled agenda.  I realize in doing this, I may be missing out on much of the richness of life that my Italian friends have mastered.

As I reflected on my own behaviors in relationships, I began to think about the importance of relationships in leadership.  If you have spent any time developing yourself as a leader, you know relationships are a vital part of being successful.  I wonder how many of us know this in our head as true (theory) but struggle to genuinely practice it.  I realize I do.  Even though I have spent years talking about how important relationships are, my short time in another country proved I do not practice it as much as I should. 

I am writing this to challenge myself and other leaders like me to make room for spontaneity in relationships and to embrace a less guarded approach… an approach that focuses on the individual and what they are saying and not on the next meeting.  I also encourage you (and myself) to not be afraid to appropriately give a hug or a pat on the shoulder.  I think we may both discover this to be rewarding both personally and professionally.  I am also confident there is a positive unintended by-product of truly connecting with people. Many times, we're looking for all kinds of ways to motivate people. Cultivating relationship frees up that mental energy we're using, because sincere and meaningful relationships are the motivational carrot that brings loyalty, commitment and drive.  I realize my behavior may never be as my new friends in Italy; however, I can work to be a little more like them.

What are your thoughts on this subject? If this is an area you would like to further develop in, I'd encourage you to contact us to discuss leadership coaching.


Windows and Mirrors in Leadership

As a leader, do you use a window/mirror approach?  This is a meaningful question for authentic and effective leaders to ask themselves.  When things are going well, and goals are being met or exceeded, a compelling leader will use the window approach.  The window approach transpires when a leader points out the window and says, “look out there… they did it… they are the reason for our success!”  On the contrary, when there is a failure or let down, the leader with integrity holds up the mirror and says, “I am responsible. Where did I fail to communicate, motivate, understand, or explain?” When using the window/mirror approach, it is important for leaders to know their intrinsic as well as their extrinsic motivations.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be valued and appreciated for the work you have done (and for some leaders this is an important source of motivation).  Nevertheless, it becomes your responsibility to share the glory once you step into the leadership role. As leaders, let’s hold up the mirror with the following questions:

  1. Have I ever taken credit when I shouldn’t have?
  2. Were there times when I had the opportunity to share the glory and chose not to?
  3. Have I ever pointed the finger at someone or something for a failure or a mistake?
  4. What are three action steps I will take to use the window/mirror approach in my leadership?
  5. Who can be an “accountability partner” to help me make sure that I am following through with these new leadership behavior patterns?
  6. If receiving credit is an important motivation for me, how can I share the credit and still be fulfilled?
  7. What will be the benefits to me if I use the window/mirror approach to leadership?
  8. What will be the benefits for my team if I use the window/mirror approach?

We know from Gallup research (http://www.gallup.com/poll/150383/majority-american-workers-not-engaged-jobs.aspx) that only 28% of employees are “actively engaged”, a staggering 53% are “disengaged” and 19% are “actively disengaged”.  These numbers have drastic negative effects to the bottom line.  But leaders who practice the window/mirror principle create a bond with their employees to help increase employee commitment and the organization’s bottom line.  Leaders also start to see team members who are happier and more self-confident.  The window/mirror approach to leadership builds trust, loyalty, and employee engagement throughout the organization. Do you have any questions to add to our “mirror” list above?  Can you think of any instances where you have successfully employed the window/mirror approach to leadership, or some instances where you wish you did?  If so, I hope you will share your insights with us. Having a coach is a powerful way to become more effective with the window/mirror approach.  A coach will partner with you to help you uncover leadership blind spots, and steer you towards a more effective leadership approach.  MSBCoach specializes in leadership and executive coaching.  If you are interested in learning how to work with a coach and improve your leadership effectiveness, I invite you to contact us today to find out more.


Pushing Past the Fear

The words leadership and fear seem to be in direct contradiction with one another, yet if we are honest and authentic, I believe most leaders would admit that there is something they fear, or of which they are at least a little intimidated.  One fear that I have often witnessed among leaders is the fear of allowing - even encouraging - people to out-shine them. Let me explain a little more what I mean through a personal story. 

My husband (Steven) and I enjoy the sport of running.  While we are not exceptional athletes, we both are committed and consistent.  A new person came into our running world a few years ago, on a brisk fall Saturday morning.  Every Saturday morning in October a group of crazy people begin training for the Charlottesville 10 Miler.  This year was no different - except for our new friend Mike, who was not a runner; in fact, this was his first attempt at training.  As the months went by, our friendship with Mike grew into one of value, held in high regard; however, something else happened during this training.  Mike discovered in his mid-50s that he has a natural talent for running.

After completing his first 10 miler at a much better pace than he anticipated, he went on to run a half marathon.  He did that so well and with such ease that he decided to run a marathon. This year he ran the Boston Marathon and had a record PR (personal record). The point of this story is that there was a time when Steven and I were better runners than Mike.  While we are committed runners, we do not have the talent and passion that Mike has discovered within himself.  Yet through all of this, we have maintained a strong friendship and continue to support and encourage Mike as he surpasses us.

There are strong parallels here between our friendship with Mike (and not being threatened by his success) and leaders being able to let those in their lives move beyond what they only dream of accomplishing.  It’s easy to let pride get in the way and become uncomfortable being around someone who was once a “novice”, but who is now better than you.  Or perhaps you can allow yourself to have a paradigm shift and see the influence you had in this person’s life.  As Mike discovered his hidden talent, Steven and I encouraged and supported him to pursue it more… until he was way past us.

A great mentor in my life, Yvonne Black, always said to me, “put people around you who are better than you and don’t be afraid of that.”  This is something I strive to live into.  I admit there are times I have to remind myself that this is not a threat.  Just as it is with our children, wanting them to go further than we have ever gone, so it should be with those we lead.  Our ceiling should be their floor.  “The key to change, is to let go of fear,” Rosanne Cash.

So, what have you done to move past the “fear” in leadership and encouraged someone you lead to become all they possibly can – even if that means passing you up for a promotion?