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.”

Webinar: Secrets to Discovering Your Company’s Hidden Talent Pools

Secrets to Discovering Your Company's Hidden Talent PoolsOne of the highlights of the Leadership Summit was a keynote presentation by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman on a critical topic that’s vital to the future of many organizations. In much of the Western World we’re on the edge of a dangerous talent precipice. For many it’s becoming a crisis.

In America 60% of companies face leadership shortages that impede their performance. Ten thousand baby boomers retire every day, and data predicts a 30% drop in available managers between 2009 and 2015.

Yet many organizations have three overlooked resources that data reveals are largely untapped:

• Aspiring women — they surpass men in many leadership skills
• Individual contributors — because they do not currently manage others their potential is being overlooked
• Young managers, Gen Y — development efforts for these future leaders start far too late and generally don’t begin until age 40

The solution to our talent shortage is already within most organizations. By developing these forgotten groups, everyone wins.

Focusing on these three overlooked groups would not only answer the talent gap, but according to scientific data would result in:

• 4 – 8 times higher profits
• 70% higher engagement and productivity
• 40% higher customer satisfaction
• 50% less turnover

This webinar is a recording of Jack Zenger’s and Joe Folkman’s thought provoking and revealing keynote presentation. Click on Secrets to Discovering Your Company’s Hidden Talent Pools to register for the complimentary webinar.

We need to find and develop all the leadership talent we can if we’re going to capitalize on the many opportunities and rise to the challenges ahead.


Leadership Lessons from The Summit

Zenger Folkman Leadership SummitOur Business Development Director Brad Smith, and I just returned from an intensive week in Park City, Utah. This idyllic setting in the mountains above Salt Lake City is famous for their natural beauty, numerous ski hills and resorts, and the Sundance Film Festival.

We didn’t have much time to enjoy this beautiful location with an action packed schedule that included Zenger Folkman’s Annual Extraordinary Leadership Summit, International Strategic Partners conference (which included updates to ZF’s programs and services), and certification in our newest coaching program, Elevating Feedback. We also heard presentations on leadership development using ZF’s programs and services from Sony Computer Entertainment, DirectTV, Renault, Celgene, and the State of Minnesota.

We came away with extensive notes, many insights, and personal skill development. As we continue digesting and preparing to implement some of what we learned, here are a few key points that stand out:

• The most powerful leadership development is based on data and connects the approaches used to profitability, sales, turnover, engagement, safety, and productivity. If those don’t improve we’re squandering dollars and wasting everyone’s time.
• Strengths-based leadership development is now being used by the biggest companies in automotive, financial services, telecom and other industries because they’ve rigorously tested this ground breaking approach against traditional competency and 360-based approaches focused on fixing weaknesses.
• Getting senior executives to actively lead and even deliver leadership development programs has a powerful impact.
• Interest in and application of, coaching skills is growing rapidly. But most approaches don’t have a measureable impact and aren’t based on research.
• Talent management is becoming a vital issue as retirements loom and organizations grow. Leading companies are stepping up their high potential programs, creating “Talent Dashboards,” revamping career/performance management, and focusing on developing non-management but highly valuable individual performers.
• People crave meaning in their work. Highly engaged employees feel a deep connection to a higher organizational purpose.
• Research shows there are six different ways to inspire and motivate that needs to match a leadership strengths and authentic style.

Tomorrow’s issue of The Leader Letter publishes my last month’s blog posts. In it you’ll find video clips, research, a new white paper, self-assessment, probing questions, and a book review with excerpts related to many of these themes.

May you find a few leadership lessons to help in scaling your leadership summit.

Why Do You Want to Lead?

Why Do You Want to LeadResearch shows that extraordinary leaders are made, not born. Ultimately it boils down to motivation. How much does a leader want to move their skills from good to great?

Perhaps an even more important question is why. Why do you want to lead?

I recently came across Harvard Business School professor Bill George’s article on Why Leaders Lose Their Way. His observations and advice along with dozens of reader comments provides a thought provoking look at the critical why question:

• Leaders who lose their way are often good people who lose their moral bearings.
• Before moving into leadership we should ask ourselves “what’s the purpose of my leadership?” Finding the answers could take decades.
• The most enduringly effective leadership goes beyond power, prestige, and money to “a deeper desire to serve something greater than oneself.”
• When leaders lose sight of their inner satisfaction they lose their grounding and cut off honest dialogue and feedback.
• Leaders need to “true north” themselves by reframing their leadership toward serving those they lead and making meaningful contributions.
• Leaders often need spouses/partners, mentors, coaches, or others who aren’t impressed by their titles, prestige or wealth to help them stay grounded and avoid losing their authenticity.

This is very consistent with Joseph Campbell’s immense body of research and extensive writing on mythology. His life work focused on the many similarities and consistent patterns found in mythical stories of heroes who’ve inspired and guided countless societies across the ages and around the world. In his PBS TV series of interviews with journalist Bill Moyers captured in The Power of Myth, Campbell states, “if you realize what the real problem is — losing yourself, giving yourself to some higher end, or to another — you realize that this itself is the ultimate trial. When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”

What’s Your Coaching Style?

What’s Your Coaching Style? Do You Have What It Takes to be a Good Coach?” showing our research on the connection between coaching effectiveness and employee commitment. This blog also provides a link to take a coaching evaluation to see how you compare to outstanding coaches. This follows from Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s recent webinar on becoming a better coach. Click here to view the webinar.

In their latest Harvard Business Review blog, Most Managers Think of Themselves as Coaches, Jack and Joe report on the results of the survey completed by over 2,000 readers. The survey measured three styles on a scale of coaching versus directive leadership:

• Collaboration over giving direction
• Acting as an equal rather than an expert
• Prefers discovery to giving advice

Three-quarters of survey respondents preferred to use a coaching approach rather than directive leadership. Top managers expressed the strongest desire to be collaborative and supervisors were the lowest. This aligns with how many supervisors — often mistakenly — believe their role is controlling, directing, and problem solving daily operations. Many haven’t seen any other leadership style or been trained how to be effective coaches.

This survey was based on self-assessment. And there’s often a big gap between knowing what leadership or coaching style is most effective and doing it. Our 360 assessment data consistently shows that self-perceptions are only half as predictive of results like engagement, customer service, safety, profitability, etc., as the perceptions of direct reports, manager(s), peers, and others. One reason for that is that we assess ourselves by our intentions whereas everyone else can only rate our behavior.

What’s your coaching style preference? What kind of coaching behaviors does everyone see from you? How do you know?

An Overview of Key Insights from “The Extraordinary Leader”

Key Insights from The Extraordinary LeaderThis week I am attending my third Extraordinary Leadership Summit in Park City, Utah. This Zenger Folkman annual conference is a wonderful time to reconnect with ZF’s great people and international partners. These conferences provide updates of ZF’s new and revised programs and services. They also feature Clients outlining their successful approaches, plans for further work, and challenges they’re working to overcome.

Zenger Folkman’s foundational research and approach is The Extraordinary Leader named after their highly acclaimed and bestselling book by the same title. Recently we published a white paper detailing these key insights from this seminal publication and body of work:

1. Great leaders make a huge difference, when compared with merely good leaders.
2. One organization can have many great leaders.
3. We have been aiming too low in our leadership development activities.
4. The relationship between improved leadership and increased performance outcomes is neither precisely incremental nor is it linear.
5. Great leadership consists of processing several “building blocks” of capabilities, each complimenting the others.
6. Leadership culminates in championing change.
7. All competencies are not equal. Some differentiate good from great leaders, whereas others do not.
8. Leadership competencies are linked closely together.
9. Effective leaders have widely different styles. There is no one right way to lead.
10. Effective leadership practices are specific to an organization.
11. The key to developing great leadership is to build strengths.
12. Powerful combinations produce nearly exponential results.
13. Greatness is not caused by the absence of weakness.
14. Great leaders are not perceived as having major weaknesses.
15. Fatal flaws must be fixed.
16. Leadership attributes are often developed in non-obvious ways.
17. Leaders are made, not born.
18. Leader can improve their leadership effectiveness through self-development.
19. The organization, with a person’s immediate boss, provides significant assistance in developing leadership.
20. The quality of leadership in an organization seldom exceeds that of the person at the top.

Click here to download a complimentary copy of An Overview of Key Insights from The Extraordinary Leader and read more about these points. Canadian readers can find links to purchase discounted copies of The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders from McGraw Hill through our book store. It’s also available as an e-book from Amazon, Apple, and other retailers.


Video Clip: Towering Strengths Overshadow Weaknesses

Towering Strengths Overshadow WeaknessesAs I outlined in “Exceptional Leaders Aren’t Well Rounded” and “Outstanding Major League Baseball Players Aren’t Well Rounded” extraordinary leaders aren’t defined by the absence of weaknesses but the presence of a few profound strengths. In The Extraordinary Leader workshop we help participants uncover the power of leadership perception from their own experiences with a simple Best Leader/Worst Leader exercise.

Click on Towering Strengths Overshadow Weaknesses for my three minute video clip explaining the essence of this exercise.

Even the greatest leaders have weaknesses. Think of historically great leaders like Churchill, Gandhi, Kennedy, Lincoln and the like. These were not perfect human beings. Many had big weaknesses. We outlined more recent examples in “Steve Jobs Showed How Towering Strengths Overshadow Weaknesses“.

Despite the growing evidence and our own experiences, building on strengths is a counterintuitive way to develop leadership skills. Many leadership development approaches have big “Struggles with Wasting Time on Weaknesses“.