Issue 186 - September 2018
Does a retreat help a leadership team advance? Or does a retreat mean falling behind as work piles up back at the office?
We worked with a CEO to plan and run an offsite leadership and culture development session. He refused to call it a retreat. He insisted everyone refer to the session as an 'advance.'
The CEO was right, the reason for taking any leadership team offsite for two-days is to advance. We can debate terms and change words, but there's now lots of evidence that in today's frantic and crazy-busy times, stepping back helps us to step ahead. It's the pause that refreshes, renews, and refocuses.
Fall is a popular time for leadership team retreats. Leadership teams need time away from daily operations and everyday distractions to work together in planning and strategy, reflection and renewal, team building, and development planning. This time away carves out space for the collaboration and planning so vital to increasing safety, service/quality improvement, leadership, or culture development.
In over four decades, we've seen too much time, money, and effort wasted on the 50-70% of leadership, culture, and organization change and development efforts that fail. Here are some of the key failure factors:
A leadership team retreat is an excellent way to ensure you're pulling together and focused on a shared strategy to boost the success of your development efforts. Effective offsite sessions are tailored to your organization's culture, team dynamics, development needs, strategic issues, and priorities to make the most of this valuable time together. To review retreat resources, click on leadership team retreats and the links under "Planning a Retreat?"
Envisioning your team or organization's desired future is a critical step in a leadership team retreat. This issue provides new research, some examples, and links to harnessing the magnetic power of visualization. You'll also find suggestions to increase participation and autonomy. This is a core value that's a cornerstone of most high-performing cultures. Leaders need to debate and decide if doing it with and not to or for people in their organization is a priority. Performance reviews are a culture outcropping that shows the values and approaches of the leadership team and the culture they want to build. Follow the link in this issue to a webinar showing essential performance elements in building a coaching culture.
I hope this issue gives you a brief personal retreat so you can advance your leadership effectiveness.
A senior leader was determined to strengthen her organization's culture. She recognized that getting her executive team to work together more effectively was a key first step. In preparation for an offsite leadership team retreat I interviewed each executive with a series of team and organization assessment questions and ratings.
It became clear that a major cause of the executive team's struggles with each other and building their culture were disjointed views of what they were aiming for. Teamwork and culture are general terms with a broad range of meanings. It was as if the executives were putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, with each leader working on a different color -- some green, some brown, others blue, and so on. Each team had a different image of what the finished puzzle should look like.
The team had a vision statement but not a shared vision. "Imagineering" is a vital element in bringing teams and organizations together. Envisioning our desired future together is one of the most powerful elements of team building and culture development.
Andrew Carton, assistant professor of management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, found that "visions with image-based words are more consistent with the literal meaning of the word 'vision.'" He and his research associates discovered that when leaders use vivid images, they transport people to the future and make stronger emotional connections. "We determined that a vision communicated via image-laden words ('our toys...will make wide-eyed kids laugh and proud parents smile') triggered stronger performance than a vision with similar content but without visual wording ('our toys...will be enjoyed by all of our customers'). We found that image-based words have a galvanizing influence -- they inspire people to work together toward the same crystal-clear snapshot of the future."
But many executives are informing (head-based goals and targets) rather than communicating (heart-based images and feelings). Carton reports, "my co-authors and I have found that more than 90% of leaders communicate visions without any image-based words."
During their offsite retreat, the executive team of an international mining company were debating and describing the culture they wanted to build. Their silent envisioning and clustering exercise showed strong alignment across key themes. The team also described the behaviors they needed to model to move from passionate lip service to involved leadership. A key component of that culture meant putting safety front and center. Rather than using a target like "zero harm," they headed their culture shift as "work safe, home safe." That paints a clearer and more compelling picture of what the company is shooting for.
Management is seeing things as they are. Leadership is seeing what could be. As the pioneering French psychologist, Emile Coue, observed, "Imagery may be the highest form of mental energy we have. Reason can analyze and organize, but only imagination can create. It is through imagination that we create the future -- ours and the world's."
Many studies have shown the impact that control of our situation has on our health, happiness, and effectiveness. In one experiment a white-footed deer mouse was placed in a brightly lit cage. The mouse could press a bar to alter the light. The mouse reduced the lighting to a dim level. The next morning experimenters set the lights to dim. The mouse immediately stepped up the lighting to bright. The mouse didn't seem to care about its level of lighting. The critical issue was having control.
Another autonomy and control experiment was in a nursing home. One floor of residents were allowed to rearrange their room layout, schedule their time, and given a plant to keep and look after. Another floor or residents were told about all the good things being done for them. The staff arranged their room, scheduled their time, and gave them a plant that the nurse looked after. Eighteen months later, the residents on the floor with more control were more active and healthier than their controlled peers. Only 15 percent on the control floor died compared to 30 percent on the other floor.
Countless organizational studies show that autonomy, participation, "having some say," and a modicum of control in the workplace are vital to employee engagement. Here are a few ways you can engage your work teams:
Resistance to change often frustrates managers. But most of us enjoy change -- especially for the better. What we resist is being changed. Effective leaders "do it with" their team or organization rather than doing it to or for them.
What's your experience with performance reviews? How energizing and helpful are they -- to give or receive? Do you look forward to performance discussions with excitement or dread? Do performance reviews in your organization boost, block, or befuddle effectiveness?
In a Harvard Business Review article on "The Performance Management Revolution," the authors write, "hated by bosses and subordinates alike, traditional performance appraisals have been abandoned by more than a third of U.S. companies." They report that performance focus is shifting from accountability to learning because of the return of people development, the need for agility, and the centrality of teamwork.
Many organizations mandate that managers must complete performance reviews with their direct reports as a way to force some type of coaching conversation. But those discussions often do more harm than good. Zenger Folkman's research shows:
On the other hand, ZF research shows:
Improving a manager's coaching effectiveness involves shifting mindsets (often embedded in organizational culture) and building skillsets. In a recent webinar, What to Do About the Performance Review? ZF Vice President, Jared Harding showed how management styles impact these important vital conversations. Watch to learn:
Click here to watch this webinar now.
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:
Do the most effective leaders push for results, inspire through pulling, or balance both? What's your preference?
All age groups want effective leadership - "generational differences are small to near-zero."
The items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my 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!
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©2018 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group