Issue 158 - May 2016
The Leader Letter
The evening before a speaking engagement in Vancouver, I was in a hotel room on the 37th floor overlooking Stanley Park, English Bay, and The Lion's Gate Bridge. After a pleasant dinner with a friend, I returned to my room. The sun was setting on a beautiful, warm spring evening. Wanting to enjoy the view, I took my phone out onto the balcony to check my voice mail. When I turned to go back in my room, I found that the sliding door to the balcony was locked. The latch had fallen into place as I closed it behind me.
I called the hotel on my phone and a manager was sent to help. He, however, could not get into my room, either. It seems the night latch had swung into place behind me when I entered the room. So he went into the room next door, came out on its balcony, adjoined to mine, and stepped over the small railing separating us so he could help me get back into my room and undo the night latch from the inside.
We tried lifting the door out of the frame or unlatching it. It would not budge. Ten minutes later, a maintenance man arrived bearing a three-foot-long flat steel rod. He unscrewed the frame from the sliding door, slid the steel through, and unlatched it.
It's so easy to lock doors behind ourselves and not realize what's happened until it's too late. Whether we just accept our fate or find ways or help to unlock those doors depends on whether we're green and growing or ripe and rotting. If we are stagnant in our same old thinking as the world changes around us we can become trapped.
The American author and humorist said, "twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
This issue provides webinars, personal growth strategies, and leadership approaches that challenge conventional thinking and stretch growth in new directions. I hope it helps you to explore, dream, discover -- and avoid being trapped by old thinking that latches doors behind you.
Would you like to help your leaders increase employee engagement by up to 8 times, double or triple their motivation to implement a personal development plan, build coaching and leadership skills around natural strengths, make performance appraisals an inspiring event people look forward to, and double rates of improvement from 360 feedback?
As farfetched as those BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) sound they're grounded in evidence-based leadership research. I addressed this research in my complimentary webinar on Groundbreaking New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development. Two objectives in this webinar were to summarize counterintuitive new research on coaching and leadership skill development and show how these approaches are breaking new ground -- and significantly boosting results.
Here's the agenda I covered in the webinar :
An example of some research I discussed is shown in this chart:
This correlation was brought home recently in a coaching session with a leader. He was resisting the connection between his 360 feedback report on his leadership effectiveness and the disappointing engagement levels of his direct reports. But the data from him and his cohort of 20 other leaders also going through the assessment and development process showed the highest and lowest rated leaders also had the corresponding highest and lowest levels of engagement of their direct reports.
Click on Groundbreaking New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development to watch the webinar. Covering these topics in a short, condensed webinar is like skipping across ice bergs with so much more below the surface. Here's where you can dive deeper below the surface of what was covered:
Bill Bryson's book, A Short History of Nearly Everything is an extremely entertaining -- at times LOL funny -- recap of some of the world's biggest shifts in scientific understanding. He cites many humorous, and sometimes tragic, examples of prominent scientists who can't change their thinking despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
Here's an example:
While not as sharp and clear as the existence of ether, I am continually struck by how much difficulty senior HR/OD/training leaders and operating executives have in letting go of old ideas about leadership and coaching skill development that are now proven to be less effective or just not so.
I covered some of this research in last month's complimentary webinar, Groundbreaking New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development. Here's some of the counterintuitive and research findings I touched on:
Go to Groundbreaking New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development to view the session.
If you watch the webinar, perhaps you'll see with new eyes the truth of Umair Haq's advice, "It's only when you drop yesterday's assumptions that you can glimpse tomorrow's patterns and possibilities."
A sure path to marital unhappiness -- if not divorce -- is when a newlywed sets out to change his or her spouse. Yet how many performance management discussions are built on the same premise? Too often managers set about trying to "improve" his or her direct report by fixing weaker areas.
How enthused are you about fixing a weakness? Weaker areas are often weaker because we don't enjoy doing those things. It's a chore. Like New Year's resolutions, when our hearts not in the task we feel obligated rather than energized. Fairly quickly those development goals fade and we drift back to what we find most rewarding.
Joe Folkman's recent Forbes column appeared as I was preparing a progress report on the personal development and one-on-one executive coaching of over a dozen high potential leaders with a major global manufacturer. In The No. 1 Reason Most Personal Development Plans Fail, Joe highlights the magnifying power of the CPO model in turning good managers into great leaders.
This three step process starts with identifying strengths (Competencies) to be leveraged. Unless there's a glaring weakness or fatal flaw that needs to be addressed, building strengths is 2 to 3 times more effective than fixing weaknesses. Strength building leads naturally into identifying which competencies generate the most energy (Passion). This is when we're "in the zone" -- that state of flow where time zips by and we feel most masterful. The third step is aligning our strengths and passion with what's most valued/expected in our role or position (Organizational Need).
My report to the CEO and HR/OD leaders on the work with their high potential leaders showed the exponential power of the CPO model. We started the process with these leaders with one-on-one coaching sessions to understand their career and development goals. In the next session we reviewed 360 feedback on their strengths as seen by their manager, direct report, peers, and others. As we so often see, many of these high potential leaders underrated -- and underused -- their strengths.
Each leader then built a Personal Development Plan around his or her leadership sweet spot of strengths, passion, and organizational need. Energy and follow through is much higher than traditional performance improvement planning or leadership training.
Helping leaders find their leadership sweet spot and build their Personal Development Plans based on a strengths-based 360 assessment is highly fulfilling. I am looking forward to doing that with a limited number of participants this June in Toronto. Click on Extraordinary Leader and Extraordinary Coach public workshops for details if you'd like to join us.
Alvin Toffler, former associate editor of Fortune and bestselling author of books such as Future Shock, The Third Wave, and Powershift advises, "You've got to think about 'big things' while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction."
This is an update of ancient wisdom from the Roman philosopher, Seneca the Younger, "When a sailor does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind."
Strategic vision is one of the most crucial competencies for effective leaders to possess. Interestingly, it is one of the most often quoted weaknesses.
Some of the most common comments we hear about a person's area of weakness are, "This person is not strategic. This person is not perceived as looking at the longer term, the broader view of the organization's vision and mission. They are stuck in the same way of getting things done. They are not skillful in helping others to understand the vision so that it can be translated into challenging and meaningful goals. They are not able to connect the big picture to tactics and short-term goals." This is a problem.
Last month Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman provided a complimentary webinar, How to Develop Strategic Vision - Eight Critical Behaviors, that answered these questions:
Click here to watch the archived webinar to learn the eight proven companion behaviors that most strategic leaders possess and how you can develop them.
A study recently published in Organization Science ("Motivational Spillovers from Awards: Crowding Out in a Multitasking Environment" ) reviewed the results of data from an attendance award program at one of five laundry plants in the U.S. Midwest. They concluded:
Bribing people to perform turns them into mercenaries. It debases, degrades, and demeans work. It sets a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle into motion -- incentives, inducements, rewards, and the like leave people feeling manipulated and overly focused on what they get for complying with management's goals and direction (tuned only to WIFM -- "what's in it for me").
The emptier work is, the more people look elsewhere for fulfillment; so they demand more money and incentives to continue working in such a meaningless, unfulfilling job (which then "proves" to managers that people won't improve their performance unless they're bribed to do so). Incentives are rarely an effective rallying point for high performance. That's often because extrinsic rewards don't provide deeper meaning and inspiration for a bigger cause and purpose.
Weak managers try to use incentives as a motivator to direct behavior. Strong leaders shower their teams and organizations with recognition and rewards to reinforce desired behavior:
How are you or your organization using rewards and recognition?
See Recognition, Appreciation, and Celebration for more on pitfalls and traps, do's and don'ts, Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm..., keys, and other resources.
Communication is critical to team and organization effectiveness. Communication is the lifeblood of trust, cooperation, and teamwork.
But communications is a complex topic with many interconnected elements. Communication breakdowns are a major problem that prevents many leadership teams from being highly effective and leading their organizations to peak performance.
Many breakdowns in leadership communications can be traced to one or more of these common causes:
How's your team communication? Which one or two of these factors might be derailing your team? How do you know? Compounding the problem is that less effective leaders often think their teams don't have these problems. They don't know what they don't know.
"We all have our boss horror stories. The underminer. The bad communicator. The credit hog. The snake. Then again, if we're lucky, we've all had those amazing bosses as well -- the supervisor who encourages all employees to take their work up to the next level; the manager who makes everyone around them look better."
This all too true observation comes from Michael Blanding in, "What's a Boss Worth?" just published by Working Knowledge from Harvard Business School. Michael's article cites new research from Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Christopher Stanton. Stanton and his coauthors worked with a technology services company that tracked all workers' transaction times. Since supervisors were rotated frequently and team productivity was carefully tracked it was possible to isolate and compare the impact of the leader on the team's effectiveness.
Once they reviewed all the data they concluded that "replacing a boss who was in the bottom 10 percent of the distribution with a boss who was in the top 10 percent had the same effect as adding another whole worker to a nine-person team -- a huge effect for such a small variation in quality."
This is yet more evidence of the strong need for effective leadership development. Of course, not all leadership development efforts actually change behavior and helps the leader to be more effective. When it does -- as shown in Stanton's research -- the payback can be substantial.
In a two minute video clip on The Impact of Leadership on Employee Turnover you can catch me presenting our 360 data on the multiplying -- or diminishing -- effect of the boss' effectiveness on his or her direct reports. I also discuss "on the job retirement" of disengaged people brought about by weak leaders.
For more research and data on the pivotal impact of leadership, view these links:
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:
Specific and key behaviors that team leaders can further develop to boost the effectiveness of their teams.
Inspired by this summer's Olympics, a humorous 3 minute video illustrating a key coaching technique in dealing with a late employee.
Watch this two minute video for an overview of ZF's latest research and powerful new leadership development workshop.
Looking forward to attending another powerful Summit with outstanding speakers and a few intense days of learning and networking.
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:
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©2016 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group