Issue 145 - February 2016
The Leader Letter
In its Human Capital Trends dashboard, Deloitte surveyed over 2,500 leaders in more than 90 countries who are concerned with talent management. The survey respondents see talent as a major challenge to growth. A few key findings were:
Research from Bersin by Deloitte also found that organizations with strong learning cultures were 92% more likely to develop innovative products or services and 52% more productive.
Many executives consider leadership and culture to be factors like strategy, structure, marketing, financial management that determine an organization's success. Decades of research now show that leadership and culture are catalytic agents. They have a multiplying effect that top leaders and organizations use as leverage on those other factors to elevate performance to the very peak of their industry.
This issue looks at a few crucial aspects of leadership and culture. You'll find a link to last month's webinar on key elements of leadership, coaching, and culture development. And we're now planning to drill deeper into those areas with a March 9 webinar on Executive Team Building and Culture Development.
Many leaders and leadership teams fall into 7 deadly time traps that drain their energy and effectiveness. This issue reports on how one team addressed a few key traps they'd fallen into.
Two of January's blogs published here looked at the futility of the yearly ritual of forecasting and predicting. The key is to strengthen leadership and culture to be much more agile and adaptive to change since predicting the future is impossible.
You'll also see how building on the uplifting forces of leadership strengths is much more effective than being drawn to the dark side of fixing weaknesses. As Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi famously told Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie, "Use the Force, Luke."
Building off last month's webinar on Essential Elements of Leadership, Coaching, and Culture Development (click to view in our archive), we're now planning a webinar for March 9 on Executive Team Building and Culture Development (click for more details and to register).
Here's what we'll cover:
Click here for more information and to register. Hope to "see you" online in March.
During these rapidly changing times leadership skills are critical. Yet many studies show a profound dissatisfaction with leadership effectiveness across most organizations. And a vast majority of executives feel their leadership skill development efforts aren't effective.
A major part of the problem is that we're "seduced by the dark side" of fixing weaknesses or closing skills gaps. Over a decade of research shows that "building leadership strengths is 2 - 3 times more effective than fixing weaknesses". A recent survey from the positive psychology movement is pointing toward a "strengths revolution in our workplaces". But a lifetime of conditioning tells us that improvement comes from fixing our weaknesses. The dark side is strong and "letting go of our weaknesses is really hard". But when harnessed effectively, elevating leadership strengths is a powerful force that can build "towering strengths to overshadow weaknesses".
Click here to watch a two minute video clip taken from an overview of The Extraordinary Leader development process. This short clip on The Well Rounded Leader and Weakness Trap outlines a few reasons the pull of the dark side is so strong. Its argument ends with arguing for "the end of the weak."
May the force be with you...
Condensing 40 years of lessons learned into a 45 minute webcast was an invigorating challenge. A few months ago I stepped back for a long and broad look at hundreds of keynotes, workshops, and retreats we've delivered across a full range of industries and organizations in many countries. This led to a complete overhaul and update of the Custom Keynotes & Workshops and Leadership Team Retreats sections of our website.
Last month I further boiled our learning into Essential Building Blocks for Leadership, Coaching, and Culture Development Webinar. The webinar was structured around three core elements emerging from our work in leadership, coaching, and culture development:
From Inspiration to Application: Essential Building Blocks
Elevating Leadership and Coaching Strengths
Many coaching models we've used or developed prior to working with Zenger Folkman are based on sports coaching approaches and designed to provide training, give advice, mentor, solve problems, and set action plans. A core difference of The Extraordinary Coach approach is moving leaders from telling, directing, and giving advice to asking non-leading and open-ended questions that guide the conversation so both coach and coachee learn, arrive at a better solution, and ultimately the coachee owns the outcome.
Strengthening People and Processes through Culture Development
It was a fast-paced 45 minute overview of these three core elements followed by a short period of questions and discussion. If you're a senior HR, OD, L & D professional or senior operating executive concerned about these vital development issues click here to watch the archived webinar.
Have you ever been stressed out by a bad boss? If it was bad enough you likely found yourself saying "they can't pay me enough to put up with this." At the other extreme, have you been part of a team led by an outstanding leader? Did the spirit of we-can-conquer-all, electric energy, and stretch goals achieved leave you feeling "and I get a paid for having all this fun too. I love coming to work!"?
Such is the huge positive or negative impact of leadership. This chart correlates data from organizational satisfaction surveys on pay and job security with 360 data on leadership effectiveness. Survey respondents are in the same organization under the same pay systems and organizational circumstances. The key variable is the effectiveness of their boss. There's a very big gap between the very worst and the very best leaders. Even the difference between good leaders in the middle of the chart and great leaders at the 90th percentile is significant.
This is consistent with research just reported in Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge newsletter article, "Is it Worth a Pay Cut to Work for a Great Manager?" The researchers looked at football and baseball managers to measure the impact of their leadership on team and individual performance. They concluded:
In a recent Leadership Team Retreat we used a survey based on "7 Deadly Time Traps for Leaders". The biggest trap this team fell into was Acceleration and Overload. This was closely followed by Reactive and Busyness and Coaching Skills. We agreed these three areas were intertwined. These were creating a growing sense of frantic urgency and stress within this team and rippling throughout the company.
In discussing research on the best practices of top performing organizations the team realized they badly needed to establish a more disciplined pruning process. As Jim Collins writes in Good to Great, "most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding 'to do' lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing -- and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of' 'stop doing' lists as 'to do' lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk." The team decided to initiate "kill meetings" and a project termination process. This would include reviewing key processes and products to trim out "all the white noise" and distractions.
It also became apparent that low coaching skills were trapping leaders in the Manager-Employee Dependence Spin Cycle. They needed a coaching framework and skill development to get the monkeys off their back and create empowerment and growth.
Taming "The E-mail Beast" and improving meeting effectiveness were also identified as vital steps in reclaiming their time and effectiveness.
A key theme through the retreat and these action plans was the importance of more regular offsite retreats to continue their strategic focus and team/leadership development. Far too many leadership teams are caught in ever faster spirals of crazy busyness. This team realized there's much more to leadership effectiveness than increasing their speed.
How about your leadership team? Which traps are you falling headlong into? What's your plan for overcoming them?
A couple goes to a fair, where there's a large, impressive-looking machine. The husband puts in a coin and receives a card telling him his age and what kind of person he is. He reads it and gets excited. It says: "You're brilliant and charming. Women fall all over you." His wife grabs the card from him and turns it over. "Aha!" she crows, "they got your age wrong, too."
It's as predictable as champagne and the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve. At the start of every year futurists, forecasters, and analysts line up with the seers, fortune tellers, and clairvoyants to prophesize what the coming year has in store for us. Instead of tea leaves, animal entrails, and crystal balls, the "experts" use data, charts, and complex theories. And they'll be wrong.
I keep an extensive database of failed predictions. I have collected hundreds of examples and dozens of studies showing the woeful record of forecasting. I'll share some of my all-time favorites in my next blog post.
When I hear an economist or any other forecaster making predictions, a voice in my head says, "Yeah, right! You have no idea what's going to happen." These ponderous forecasters remind me of a banner my cousin had hanging on the wall in his bedroom when we were kids: "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"
Why are these self-proclaimed "experts" working for someone else or just appearing as talking heads on news networks? If they're so prescient, why aren't they multi-billionaires running the most successful businesses or investment funds on earth? Or if they're altruistic, why aren't they directing humanitarian organizations in preparation for impending famines, wars, and natural disasters?
The great British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who led England during the Second World War, wryly reflected on his frustration in getting "expert" advice: "It's the ability to foretell what will happen tomorrow, next month and next year -- and to explain afterwards why it did not happen." British actor and writer Peter Ustinov echoes, "If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can't be done."
Rather than trying to guess the future, we need to build highly agile and flexible organizations to rapidly respond to and lead at the speed of change.
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
"University of California political psychologist Philip Tetlock spent two decades asking foreign policy experts to make predictions about world events, and then tracking their accuracy. In that time, he has assembled a database of more than 80,000 individual predictions by 284 experts. The result: Expertise and experience made very little difference (he published his findings in his book, Expert Political Judgment). Experts on the whole barely outperform a coin toss in predicting the future ... The best experts ... can get their success rate up to nearly 60 percent -- better than 'heads or tails,' but not by much."
"The accuracy of an expert's predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and, beyond a certain point, depth of knowledge. People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote. Our system of expertise is completely inside out: it rewards bad judgments over good ones."
"Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
"Trouble is, despite their efforts, forecasters aren't particularly accurate and their track record isn't improving, particularly when it comes to predicting recessions. 'They tend to make the same forecasting mistakes,' said Merv Daub, professor emeritus at Queen's University's business school. 'Much of the process relies on guessing what will happen to external factors such as the global economic and political environment,' said Daub, who has extensively researched the accuracy of forecasting. 'How the hell do you forecast these things?' he said. 'Forecasters are not witches. They don't possess some mythical way of foreseeing the future.'"
"Victor Zarnowitz, a professor at the University of Chicago and one of the leading trackers of economic forecasting accuracy, analyzed the error rates for six prominent economic forecasters -- the big three plus GE, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the National Bureau of Economic Research -- in predicting real gross national product (GNP) growth and inflation ... He found that of the forty-eight predictions made by the economists, forty-six missed the turning points in the economy ... Roy A. Batchelor and Pami Dua, professors at City University in London and the University of Connecticut, respectively... In analyzing the track records of thirty-two forecasters, they found almost no differences in forecast accuracy among the different economic schools of thought... "The Economist" was right to declare that economic forecasters 'are worse than useless: they can do actual long-term damage to the economy.'"
This section summarizes last month's LinkedIn Updates and Twitter Tweets about online articles or blog posts that I've flagged as worth reading. These are usually posted on weekends when I am doing much of my reading for research, learning, or leisure. You can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JimClemmer
My original tweet commenting on the article follows each title and descriptor from the original source:
Research data on 11,954 leaders showing that leadership flows downhill and how senior leaders stimulate or stifle development.
Further evidence that leadership behaviors are highly contagious and ripple throughout the team or organization.
Discover why it is so important that leaders at all levels-- especially top executives -- pursue the ongoing practice of personal development.
This study shows the cascading impact of coaching skills and outlines three steps for improving effectiveness.
The items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my twice weekly blog during the previous month.
If you read each blog post (or issue of The Leader Letter) as it's published over twelve months you'll have read the equivalent of a leadership book. And you'll pick up a few practical leadership tips that help you use time more strategically and tame your E-Beast!
I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at Jim.Clemmer@ ClemmerGroup.com or connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, or my blog!
May the Force (of strengths) be with you!
In this Issue:
Please forward this newsletter to colleagues, Clients, or associates you think might be interested -- or on a 'need-to-grow' basis.
Did you receive this newsletter from someone else?
©2016 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group