Video Clip: Focusing on Gaps 2 – 3 Times Less Effective

Focusing on Gaps 2 – 3 Times Less EffectiveLast week I had two separate one-on-one coaching sessions with the Provost and a key Dean at a major university. We were reviewing the 360 assessment report they’d just received from students, faculty, peers, their manager, and others. Both assessments were quite strong with many leadership competencies rated at the 90th percentile and most above the 70th percentile. These scores put them in the top 10% of leaders in both our academic and global databases.

Perhaps because of their careers steeped in academia they struggled to let go of a few weaker areas (they weren’t “fatal flaws”) and focus instead on building strengths from good to great. We discussed how it might make sense to raise a grade point average by focusing on lower scores because it’s a straight mathematical formula.

But a leader’s effectiveness is not judged by objective criteria carefully and mathematically weighed out by everyone around him or her. We live in a world of perceptions. Great strengths will tower over and lessen weaker areas, and glaring weakness blocks others from appreciating our strengths.

Weighing ourselves five times a day won’t change our weight if we don’t do anything with the information. The main point of getting feedback on our leadership effectiveness should be to help us improve. What to focus our personal development plan on becomes the key issue. Our research clearly shows that focusing on fixing weaknesses is 2 – 3 time less effective than building strengths. Click on Focusing on Gaps 2 – 3x Less Effective for a two minute video clip explaining this further.

I’ll be covering strengths-based leadership in my upcoming October Talent Management webinar and executive briefing. See our Coming Events section for details and to register.

Further Reading:

• (Research paper) Developing Strengths or Weaknesses: Overcoming the Lure of the Wrong Choice
• “Building Leadership Strengths 2 – 3 Times More Effective Than Fixing Weaknesses
• “Don’t be Fooled into Focusing on Weaknesses
• “Wasting Time on Weaknesses
• “Struggles with Wasting Time on Weaknesses
• “Join Our Strengths-Based Leadership Discussion Group
• “Authentic Leadership Comes from Building Our Strengths

9 Habits That Lead to Terrible Decisions

9 Habits That Lead to Terrible DecisionsZenger Folkman continues to mine their growing database (over 500,000 raters of more than 50,000 leaders) for new leadership insights. Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s recent Harvard Business Review blog reports on their latest research study comparing the behaviors of the very best and the very worst decision makers.

These nine behaviors — listed from most to least significant — emerged as the most common approaches of the worst decision makers:

• Laziness
• Not anticipating unexpected results
• Indecisiveness
• Remaining locked in the past
• Having no strategic alignment
• Over-dependence
• Isolation
• Lack of technical depth
• Failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions

Click here to read Jack and Joe’s column for a more detailed description of each behavior.

Many of these pathways to poor decision making leads to going down the middle of the road. As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Jim Hightower once observed, “Ain’t nothin’ in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”

Webinar: 10 Keys to Identifying People with High Potential

Identifying People with High PotentialA critical Talent Management challenge is who to promote into leadership roles.

Many organizations, either formally or informally, compile a list of people they believe will have high potential for promotion. These high potential individuals, HIPOs, often receive extra developmental opportunities beyond what’s available to the rest of their peers. But will these people succeed?

From an individual’s point of view, being selected to be on the high potential list has enormous benefits.

From the organization’s point of view, however, there is a great deal at stake in this process. If they select the wrong individuals, then they are pouring valuable development resources into the wrong container. Even worse, a wrong choice means highly talented people whose development is ignored.

How do you identify your candidates for promotion? People may stand out for a variety of reasons. Tune into our webinar to learn the 10 competencies our research shows differentiate the very best candidates for promotion.

Join our complimentary webinar on September 24 for insights and advice from Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s extensive research. The webinar runs at 1:00 ET. Click here to register.

Is Your Organization Facing a Talent Gap?

Talent GapAs summer fades like the flowers in our garden and we move into a busy fall season we’re planning a series of webinars, executive briefings, and workshops focused on Talent Management. Here’s why:

• 70% of executives think their organization lacks adequate bench strength
• 97% of organizations report serious leadership gaps, 40% say these are severe
• 65 to 75% of current senior management will be eligible to retire by 2020
• Of leaders hired from the outside, it is estimated that 40% are pushed out or leave 18 months after joining an organization
• 60% of companies face leadership shortages that impede their performance
• 31% say developing leaders is their largest talent issue

And current development approaches aren’t working. Needs assessments and performance evaluations look for gaps and design training programs to fix weaknesses. This is a major reason participant motivation to build skills has been very low and transfer of learning poor. In a large scale global survey of CEOs and senior executives, 76 percent cited leadership development as important yet only 7 percent thought their organization was doing it effectively.

On October 2 at 1:00 EST I’ll be delivering a fast-paced one hour complimentary webinar on Facing a Talent Gap? Keys to Engagement, Leadership Development, Succession/Career Planning, and Coaching Effectiveness. The morning of October 28 Brad Smith will be hosting and I’ll be delivering a complimentary executive briefing on Strengthening Top Talent: Engaging, Developing, and Coaching Leaders (at all levels) to Exceptional Performance in Mississauga (just south of the Toronto airport). We’re also planning public workshops of The Extraordinary Leader, The Extraordinary Coach, and The Extraordinary Performer, in Mississauga, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Click here for details and to register for any of these upcoming events.

Tomorrow we publish my August blogs in the September issue of The Leader Letter. It will feature the presentation Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman delivered at our summer Extraordinary Leader Summit on discovering an organization’s hidden talent. We’ll also look at an inspiring story illustrating our Likability Index, do we need different competencies for different levels?, leadership reflections from the life and work of Warren Bennis, proactive versus reactive leadership, recognition pitfalls and traps, and tips for taming The E-mail Beast.

Different Leadership Competencies for Each Organizational Level?

Leveraging Strengths and Building Team SpiritLeadership competency models are now used widely by many organizations to define the skills and behaviors of effective leaders. They’re often used for “talent management” such as coaching and development, performance management, succession planning, identifying and developing high potentials/emerging leaders, and the like.

Many competency models are multi-layered with differing competencies for supervisors, managers, and executives. But how useful are these layers of complexity? Zenger Folkman reviewed input from 332,860 managers, peers, and subordinates to see which competencies would have the greatest impact on a leader’s success. Each respondent was asked to rate the most important 4 out of 16 competencies for over 30,000 supervisors, managers, and executives.

This analysis showed:

• The importance of a competency depends on the job, the situation, and individual needs. These may or may not correspond to what level in the organization the leader is at.
• The most important competencies for supervisors, middle managers, senior managers, and top management were remarkably consistent. These same seven competencies were rated as the most important at all organizational levels:

o Inspires and Motivates Others
o Displays High Honesty and Integrity
o Solves Problems and Analyzes Issues
o Drives for Results
o Communicates Powerfully and Prolifically
o Collaboration and Teamwork
o Builds Relationships

• All levels showed the need for a balance of management skills like driving for results or analytical/problem solving and leadership skills like interpersonal, integrity, communication, and teamwork.
• There is a slight change of order and emphasis between management levels. For example, Developing Strategic Perspective and Communicating Powerfully and Prolifically raises up the importance list of competencies as a leader moves up the organization.

The study showed that competencies are best tailored to each leader’s role. Click on “Are Different Skills Required for Senior Executives?” to read more about this research.

Competency models often use a one-size-fits-all approach for each organizational level. Besides focusing on fixing weaknesses, that broad brush approach creates a number of problems as outlined in our white paper Leadership Competency Models: Why Many Are Failing and How to Make them Flourish. Let’s build “talent management” approaches around each individual’s unique and personal talents.

Workers Force Reinstatement of Highly Likable CEO

Leveraging Strengths and Building Team SpiritLabor Day was celebrated yesterday in Canada and the U.S. “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers.” Last week’s story of how fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was reinstated in his role by force of his employees’ fierce loyalty to him contains a powerful leadership lesson. Demoulas was fired as head of New England Market Basket, a 71 store supermarket chain, in a dispute with his cousin and rival over ownership of the family company.

After Demoulas was let go hundreds of warehouse workers and drivers refused to deliver fresh produce. Customers began shopping elsewhere because of the lack of fresh food and showing support for the workers and their beloved CEO. During the six weeks of protest and turmoil the very busy stores looked like ghost towns and the company lost tens of millions of dollars.

News reports of this remarkable story cited many examples of how Demoulas inspired such intense loyalty and likability. He cared about employees and their families, knew most by name, and treated them as valued associates. The Washington Post quoted Paul Pustorino, an accounting professor at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School. “What this proves is when a CEO can align the best interests of the company with the best interests of the employees, that generates strong employee loyalty and customer loyalty.”

This is a powerful example of what we’ve found in our research on leadership likability. As outlined in a previous blog, “Demanding Leaders Are Much more Effective – and More Likable“, leaders who score high on our Likability Index are also rated as highly effective leaders by their direct reports, peers, manager, and others. These ratings correlate to sharply higher employee satisfaction and engagement, sales, customer service, safety, productivity, quality, and profitability.

Our Likability Index goes beyond an engaging personality and strong interpersonal skills. It also includes attributes such as integrity, problem solving, inspiring and motivating others, and honesty. Click here to see the complete list and take a self-assessment of your personal likability.

Your leadership likeability likely won’t be demonstrated quite so dramatically. But you can have a huge impact on your team and organization.

Effective Leaders are Proactive not Reactive With their Time

Effective Leaders are Proactive not Reactive With their TimeTime is the great equalizer. We all get exactly the same amount of it every day.

What a leader does with his or her daily time allotment distinguishes good, bad, and extraordinary leaders. Many less effective leaders are sucked into the busyness trap trying to keep up with their daily deluge of e-mails and stream of constant meetings. They lose control of their time and lose control of their lives.

In a recent interview, I outlined a classic study on leadership time effectiveness and discussed how poorly run meetings waste time. Click on Effective Leaders are Proactive not Reactive with their Time to watch the two minute clip.

You can invest more of your precious time to get tips on freeing up and strategically using your time from these links:

• “Managing Time Like Money

• “Five Steps to Making Time for the Work That Matters

• “Another Study on Slowing Down to Speed Up

• “Spring Clean-Up: Does Your Team Keep an Active To-Stop List?

• “The Acceleration Trap: Frantic Busyness and Priority Overload is Overwhelming Way Too Many Teams and Organizations

An old fable tells of a farmer with a wagon brimming full of cabbage heading to a new market. He stops for directions and asks, “How far is it to the market?” The man replies, “It’s about an hour if you go slowly but if you rush it will take all day.” It was a bumpy road and if the farmer went too fast he’d spend most of his time picking up the cabbage that bounced off his wagon.

Taking the time to slow down and watch, read, and reflect on how we’re using our time can move us more quickly along our way.

Recognition Pitfalls and Traps

Recognition Pitfalls and TrapsA friend with a past drinking problem has been a devoted member of Alcoholics Anonymous and not touched a drop of alcohol for many years. Recently he gave up most of his weekend to deal with a Client emergency. The next week his manager “thanked him” with an expensive bottle of wine.

This breaks one of the most basic rules of giving recognition: tailor it to the individual. For example, some people love public recognition. Others consider being centered out and put on stage a form of punishment.

Here are other common recognition pitfalls and traps:

Random Recognition
To keep others from thinking that those who get recognition or special honors are management’s favorites (“How did you suck up for that award?”), use peer review, customer feedback, and solid key performance measures.

Phony Flattery
Employees quickly catch on to “I’m doing my recognition thing now.” Managers who won’t practice and develop their thanks or catching em doing things right skills often have less engagement and inspired teams. Recognition is at the core of effective coaching.

Jelly Bean Motivation
This phrase was coined by motivational expert M. Scott Myers to describe that empty praise that congratulates and thanks people for something that hasn’t been done. It’s “keep up the good work” from a manager who has no idea what work was really done.

Tinsel and Trinkets
Recognition can’t make up for paying people peanuts (which, as the wag said, only attracts monkeys). Formalized recognition programs can also reveal those managers who see employees not as partners to be listened to and involved in running the organization but as chattels to be exploited and manipulated.

Front Line Fixation
Don’t focus just on front line servers who have the heaviest customer contact. Employees who “serve the servers” are also vital links in the service/quality chain, and they too need to be energized by recognition and rewards.

Big Bangs
A few mega rewards to your superstars will have far less pay off than a large number of smaller rewards distributed broadly. Top performing organizations set up personalized and relevant recognition and reward programs that create many winners and recharge as large a number of individuals and team members as possible.

Clumsy Coaches
Make sure your managers’ coaching skills are strong so they are confident and competent enough to give plenty of recognition and build a “thank you culture”.

Some managers give recognition as if they expect a receipt. Others operate on the principle that “your recognition is you get to keep your job.” Sincere and honest recognition is one of the lowest cost and highly effective ways a leader can inspire and energize people.

Tips for Taming the E-Mail Beast

Taming the email beastE-mail continues to be a huge challenge for many leaders. In our workshops, leaders often assess how much time they spend dealing with technical, management, and leadership issues and where they’d prefer to invest their time (“Check Your Balance with the Performance Triangle“). Every poll we’ve ever taken with participants shows that 80 – 90% want to increase the time they spend in leadership.

As discussions go deeper into what’s getting in the way of leadership, e-mail is quickly identified as one of the biggest problems. Most leaders complain about hours of their days being sucked into the e-mail vortex. It doesn’t have to be that way. Research shows that highly effective leaders aren’t managed by their inbox and use e-mail much more effectively than everyone else.

Click here to view a short video clip of me providing a few quick E-mail Tips for Leaders.

When untamed, The E-mail Beast can be a time sucking vampire drawing the life out of our day and taking us away from more vital leadership practices. Click on the following links for more tips and techniques:

• “Research Shows Strong Leaders Aren’t Controlled by Technology and Workloads

• “Are You in Control of or Controlled by Technology?

• “Measuring the E-mail Beast

• “Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmmm… on Taming the E-Mail Beast

• “The E-mail Beast Grows Ever Larger

• “E-mail Peeves and Protocols

May you find the courage and approaches to tame the beast and regain control of your leadership time.

Thoughts on Leadership Reflecting the Legacy of Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis, Leaders are made rather than born.I was saddened to hear of the passing of Warren Bennis. Over the past 30 years my views and practices on leadership have been profoundly influenced by his research and writing. After reading his personally revealing and deeply thoughtful memoirs a few years ago (“Review of Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership“) he almost felt like a friend or close colleague. I quoted a few highlights from his book in “Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm….Leadership Reflections from Warren Bennis“.

Looking back at “the wisdom of Warren” quotations we still use in workshops today or I’ve published in books or The Leader Letter, here are a few of my very favorites:

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

“One of the greatest challenges a leader faces at the height of his or her career is not simply allowing people to speak the truth but actually being able to hear it.”

“An essential factor in leadership is the ability to influence and organize meaning for the members of the organization.”

“A basic ingredient of leadership is passion — the underlying passion for the promises of life, combined with a very particular passion for a vocation, a profession, a course of action. The leader loves what he or she does and loves doing it.”

“To be authentic is literally to be your own author (the words derive from the same Greek root), to discover your native energies and desires, and then find your own way of acting on them. When you have done that, you are not existing simply to live up to an image posed by the culture or by family tradition or some other authority. When you write your own life, you have played the game that was natural for you to play. You have kept covenant with your own promise.”

“Management is getting people to do what needs to be done. Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done. Managers push. Leaders pull. Managers command. Leaders communicate…”

“Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right. Both roles are crucial, and they differ profoundly…. many an institution is well managed yet very poorly led.”

“Leadership is not so much the exercise of power as the empowerment of others. Leaders lead by pulling rather than by pushing; by creating achievable, challenging expectations and rewarding progress toward them, rather than by manipulating; by enabling people to use their own initiative.”

“Hearing ‘reflective backtalk’ from friends, colleagues, spouses, and significant others allows us to ‘true’ ourselves in relation to their perceptions. With this input we can integrate our internal conversations with data from the external world to enrich the process of knowing ourselves better.”