Sunday, 30 October 2011
Succession planning, sometimes referred to as talent management or bench strength, gets mixed reviews. It has been said that many succession planning initiatives often fall short of their original intent. How well is it being done in your organization?
We need your inputs and opinions for the November edition of The New Face of Leadership.
We will collate and report results for multiple choice questions. The last question is an optional short essay opinion question. We will feature selected responses to this question (about 250 words + digital photo and short byline) in the opinion column Based on Your Experience.
Thanks for your participation!!
CLICK HERE TO TAKE SURVEY!
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Be Clear with Your Feedback
Most managers have good intentions when it comes to delivering feedback to employees. But the reality is that most of them aren’t very good at it. What’s the cause? Few role models combined with few training opportunities.
It’s something that Phil Reynolds, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies, runs into all the time.
“After almost every class I give on feedback, I will have participants come up to me and say, ‘I wish I would have gotten this type of feedback when I was an individual contributor.’ They can see the value in learning the skill because they realize that they can make a bigger impact on their people by using it.”
The Importance of Clear Expectations
One of the biggest issues that Reynolds sees with feedback as it is delivered in most work environments is a general “fuzziness” that doesn’t change or reinforce behavior.
This fuzziness usually starts with managers not setting clear expectations of what a good job looks like in the first place. These managers are often surprised later when they find out that their people aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing.
Why the fuzziness? The response Reynolds hears most often is, “They should know what they need to do.”
As Reynolds explains, “Leaders often think that people should know something through their own devices and so they don't give them feedback, or clear expectations, or redirection toward the target that they are looking for.”
Striking the Right Balance
By avoiding the situation and not addressing it early, managers will tend to create a lot of emotion around the issue when they finally deal with it. At that point, the tendency is to come down hard, and say things like, “You're doing this wrong; fix it!”
The basic mistake here is not separating the performance from the person. Now the feedback sounds like a personal attack. Once that happens, resistance goes up.
With newer managers, Reynolds will often see behavior swing to the other side of the scale. Now the emotion centers on the relationship and how the feedback may damage it. As he explains, “Younger managers want to project a positive image and have people like them. When feedback gets tied up with emotion, these younger leaders find it difficult to give corrective feedback or to hold people accountable.”
Feedback and Trust
One negative aspect of poor feedback is the impact it has on trust. When managers give feedback poorly, or avoid it entirely because they are unsure about their ability, it causes problems.
Feedback is an important part of a healthy relationship. When a direct report is not soliciting feedback and a manager is not giving feedback, that's a pretty clear sign that there's a lack of trust in the relationship.
Our closest friends, for example, are the ones who usually serve as our truth tellers, the people we can talk to about anything. At the other end of the spectrum are the people we never share anything with. These are the people we don’t trust with information about ourselves.
When a manager is not confident in his or her ability to give employees straight feedback, employees can feel as if they are not getting the complete story. This lack of trust impacts the leader’s ability to lead and influence employee performance.
Three Ways to Improve Feedback in Your Organization
As a leader, there are a couple of things that you can do to help improve feedback in your organization and get conversations happening again.
- Provide training. People can only do what they know how to do. It's unreasonable to ask people to do something at which they don't have the training or skill set to be effective.
- Model what effective feedback looks like. Demonstrate what positive and redirecting feedback looks like for the people reporting to you.
- Take a look at your organization's culture. Culture drives organizational behavior more than anything else. Make feedback a priority, recognize people who are good at feedback, and let people know that feedback is something that is valued and encouraged.
Feedback Pays Dividends
A focus on feedback is an essential ingredient in today’s work environment. People want to work for managers they trust and who will be honest with them and tell them what they need to know. It can be a challenge at first but it’s worth the trouble, says Reynolds.
“Feedback is not for wimps. But the bottom line is that there's going to be better performance. When you are getting more effective feedback and trust is being built, there is a higher possibility that an individual will open up and share what is going on with their job. That lets the manager be more helpful in providing individual employees with the direction and support that they need.”
What kinds of conversations are occurring in your organization? Are people having the type of performance-related discussions they need to be having? If not, take a look at the skill level your managers have with feedback. It’s a great way to make a big difference in everyone’s performance.
Thursday, 20 October 2011
By Ann Lee, Lt Colonel, USAF (Ret), CMBA
I became familiar with the phrase opportunity to excel when I was a brand new lieutenant, fresh out of college with "butter bars" and no idea of how to do anything. I remember at some point I was voluntold for a task. Not familiar with the term voluntold? That is when you are highly encouraged (told) to volunteer for a task. Or, better yet, your boss is at a meeting and he/she volunteers you for a project and tells you about it afterward. The first time that happened to me, I remember being a little irate. It wasn't even related to my job, in my mind--just some ridiculous extra duty I got stuck with because I was the newbie in the office. I was prepared to have a royal attitude for the entire project until a friend, who had a little more experience in these things said, "it's not a problem--it's an opportunity to excel". In all honesty, it wasn't even really meant as a word of encouragement--it was just a nice way to inform me that I had to do it and I might as well figure out how to change my attitude about the whole thing because I was stuck.
Getting stuck with projects nobody else wants happens a lot, especially when you're the newest hire, least experienced or at the very beginning of anything--like a new lieutenant. So I got voluntold a lot--or, at least until I learned it was just easier to actually volunteer in the first place (that way, at least I knew it was coming). I found myself repeating that phrase--opportunity to excel--quite often. The funny thing is, it eventually ended up changing my attitude about more than just additional duties as assigned. Changing my perspective of how I viewed the problem--as an opportunity to excel--changed my general attitude towards the task and gave me the energy to figure out how to just get it done.
I've learned that when a problem or challenge presents itself, we have a decision to make. We can either allow it to remain a problem or, we can flip it on its side to find that opportunity to excel, which can also resemble change, growth, or new knowledge or experience. It may also, initially, resemble failure. The key is that, no matter what it looks like, we get to choose how to approach it, and that can make all the difference.
There are tremendous risks involved in seizing an opportunity, but we have to remember that with great risk comes great reward. We don't have to jump in foolishly or leap without looking, but we do have to deliberately and on purpose decide that, since we have to deal with this problem anyway, we may as well milk the experience for all it has to offer. If nothing else, once the lesson of the moment is over, the experience gained is ours to keep forever, to use as we see fit. So, go for it!
I once heard that the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Problems will never be resolved by using the same kind of thinking and perspective that created them in the first place. A change in perspective, or taking a look at a problem from a different angle, is the way of the great innovators. I was reminded of this with the death of Steve Jobs. In the wake of his death, his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University was heavily referenced and circulated on the Internet. One of the (many) pearls of wisdom in that speech refers to taking a different view of problems, or what he learned from failure. Referencing his very public firing from Apple in 1985, he said,
"So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating..I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."
His decision to start over--to focus on finding a way to do what he loved, instead of looking at his problem--changed not only his life, but the lives of future generations. So, remember the wisdom of Steve Jobs. And remember, it's not a problem, it's an opportunity to excel.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
Is There a Leadership Crisis in America?
By Steve Tobak
If I had to come up with one definition of leadership, it would be the ability to motivate people to work together toward a common goal. Leadership is about uniting, not dividing.
In that context, I'm thinking we have a serious leadership crisis in America.
Now, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of us can probably agree on some things that are backed by some pretty stark quantitative data, not to mention our common anecdotal experience.
Regardless of what you do for a living, I'm sure you'd agree that, when it comes to our economy:
- There aren't enough jobs
- Our individual expenses are going up
- Our GDP growth is stagnant
- Our nation's deficit is too high
- There's fear in the air
- We're divided on how to fix the problem
Now, that may sound like a recipe for disaster, but to me, it's a perfect storm for leadership, and not in a bad way, either. When times are good, leadership goes almost unnoticed. But when times stink, like they do now, well, that spells opportunity for leadership to come along and pull things together.
Sure, it's one helluva challenge, but hey, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it, right?
In any case, this is not rocket science. When it comes to our leadership in America, we need three things:
- Common goals we can all get behind,
- Some sort of direction or strategy for achieving them, and
- To work together to execute those strategies and achieve our goals.
That's exactly how all the best-run companies operate. Apple, IBM, Qualcomm, Intel, Starbucks - these are not divided companies where management is at war with employees. That's because they've got solid leadership.
Granted, a nation is a more complex entity than a company, but I can still say with absolute certainty that, while strong leadership isn't the only thing that matters, you can't pull it all together without it. Yes, I know that sounds all-too simple, but all the most essential truths are.
Now, here's the problem. Whenever there's a leadership crisis in an organization, there's a vacuum. When that happens, various factions will always materialize to fill the void. And when their message is divisive instead of unifying, that tends to polarize people, which doesn't help the situation one bit.
Here are three business leaders with their own unique perspectives on what it'll take to improve our economy. You tell me which one is the divisive and which are unifying:
Warren Buffett, one of the most brilliant business minds of our generation, has also been an economic advisor to the Obama administration. That alone should give you some indication of his credibility - or lack thereof - when it comes to the economy.
Nevertheless, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO's latest refrain - that the wealthy should pay more taxes because his secretary pays a higher effective tax rate than he does - has not only resulted in proposed tax reform, known as the "Buffett Rule," but it's sparked a brutal debate over whether the wealthy are paying their fare share of taxes or not.
Now, contrast that with Fedex founder and CEO, Fred Smith, who says that, when it comes to taxes and the role they might play in our economic recovery, we need to divide and conquer the problem, not the people:
"Well, I think you have to divide the tax argument into a little bit more discreet argument. First of all, the top 10 percent of the taxpayers in the United States pay 70 percent, or near 70 percent of all federal personal taxes. Corporate taxes are only about 9 percent. The problem is, when you talk about personal taxes, it takes everyone's eye off of the corporate tax situation."
And Robert Johnson, founder of BET Television, said this in a recent interview:
"I've been in business for over 30 years. I've never seen a time when there's been more zero-sum game mentality in the United States among political parties."
"Unfortunately now I don't think we have the leadership either in the White House or the Congress to end [the] zero-sum game mentality towards the U.S. economy. And until both parties agree that the goal is to rebuild the American economy to reflect the 21st century on a global environment-we're going to be stuck. And it's a little bit frightening from the standpoint of a business person ."
Personally, I'm very much inclined to agree with Johnson, that America is suffering from a leadership crisis, and until that void is filled with leadership capable of uniting our people behind a set of common goals and strategies, nothing much is going to get done.
I also agree that the situation is frightening, but not just for business people. For all of us. That's what I think. Now, what do you think?
Sunday, 09 October 2011
Time Versus Money: What We Really Want
By Kimberly Weisul
Would you rather have a job that pays $80,000 a year that lets you get 7.5 hours of sleep a night, or a job that pays $140,000 a year and allows you time for only six hours of sleep a night?
According to a recent study from researchers at Cornell University and the University of Michigan, the result may depend quite a bit on whether you’re a student or whether you’re working full-time. Here’s what they found:
- Adults want sleep. A representative survey of 1,000 adults, conducted by researchers at Cornell, found that 75% of respondents preferred the $80,000 job that let them get 7.5 hours of sleep.
- Students want money. Some 69% of them said they’d take the job that paid more but allowed them less sleep.
The researchers actually asked two sets of questions, along the lines of, “Which of these would make you happier,” and “Which of these would you actually choose?” They were trying to see if people actually chose the things they thought would make them happy, or if they were willing to trade their own happiness for status, a legacy, or their family’s happiness.
- About seven percentage points of the adults who chose money over sleep did so even though they said they thought sleep would make them happier.
- The students were more willing to vote against their own happiness. Of those who chose money, 23% did so even though they thought sleep would make them happier.
The researchers didn’t address the dissimilarities in these findings. My own view is that more students would take the less-sleep job mostly because they’ve never gone a prolonged period without sleep. Most parents can tell you what it’s like to go months or even years without getting enough sleep, and it’s ugly.
Students may also think they’ll get a high-paying job for just a few years right out of college, pay off their debt, sock some money away, and then get a more mellow job. Of course, once they get used to a big income, relatively few young people willingly jump off the treadmill.
These results also suggest that companies’ work/life initiatives and perks might have a bigger impact on older workers than on those fresh out of school.
Cheap rent versus a long commute
The researchers also asked adults if they’d rather have a short commute or low rent. One hypothetical apartment was a 45-minute drive to work, and rent was 20% of the respondent’s income. The other apartment was a 10-minute drive to work, but cost twice as much. The apartments were identical in every other way.
- Having more money-this time in the form of low rent-won out over more time. Some 63% of people chose the cheaper apartment with the 45 minute commute.
This question is more similar to the first than it might appear. Both ask people to trade off money versus time. In the first question, 75% of adults chose time (sleep). In the second. 63% chose money (low rent).
The difference, of course, is that while your commute may eat into the amount of time you could spend sleeping, most people probably don’t see it that way. They figure they’ll make up the time somewhere else. But being told flat-out that you won’t be getting enough sleep is too much to take. Unless you’re a student.
Would you prefer a high-paying job that didn’t let you get more than six hours of sleep, or one that paid less but let you sleep 7.5 hours a night?
Saturday, 08 October 2011
The 5 Best Ways to Praise Employees
By Jeff Haden
Think your "Employee of the Month" program is a great way to recognize performance?
Think again. Praising an employee should:
- Boost their confidence and self esteem, and
- Reinforce positive behaviors, and
- Reward their effort and accomplishment, and
- Build their motivation and enthusiasm.
Can a special parking spot, or a photo in the newsletter, or a $20 gift card really accomplish all that? Nope.
Here are five great ways to praise employees:
1. Ask for their help. Asking another person for help is possibly the most sincere way to recognize their abilities and value. Why? Asking makes us vulnerable: We admit weakness or need or a lack of skill. Ask employees for help and not only do you show you respect their skills, you also extend your trust.
The key is to ask for help partly or totally unrelated to their function, and to make the assistance relatively personal to you. I once returned from a corporate meeting where layoffs had been discussed. I proposed alternatives to cutting staffing but was unsuccessful. By the time I got back word had already spread throughout the plant that layoffs were imminent. Just before the plant meeting one of my employees said, "So, layoffs, huh?" I didn't have to confirm it; he knew. I said, "I have no idea what to tell our employees. What would you say?"
He thought and said, "Just tell everyone you tried. Then talk about where we go from here."
Simple? Sure. But powerful. Later he told me how much it meant to him that I had wanted his opinion and took his advice.
2. Ask for their ideas. Again, make it somewhat unrelated to the employee's function. For example, don't go the typical, "Do you have any ideas regarding how you can do your job faster?" route. Instead, build off skills or insights they possess to use them in other ways.
Say an HR employee is incredibly organized. Say, "I'm always impressed by how organized you are; I wish we could clone you." Then ask if she has thoughts about how to streamline warehouse processing, or streamline the paperwork involved in hiring new employees, or how another department could handle data collection more efficiently. Not only will you get great ideas, but you also recognize skill and ability in a more meaningful way than simply saying, "Wow, you're awesome."
3. Create informal leadership roles. Putting an employee in a short-term informal leadership role can make a major impact. Think how you would feel if your boss said, "We're swamped. and now we have this huge customer problem. If we don't take care of it we may lose them. Can you grab a few people and handle it for me?"
Informal leadership roles show you trust an employee's skills and judgment. The more important the task, the higher the implied praise and the greater the boost to their self esteem.
4. Do something together. Since you're the boss, you and your employees are on unequal footing. A great way to recognize an employee's value ? especially their value to you ? is to tackle a task together.
Years ago my boss said, "I'm thinking of joining Toastmasters to improve my presentation skills. Would you be interested in joining with me? Might be good for both of us." I was flattered he asked, flattered he saw me as someone who would someday need great presentation skills..
What you choose to do together doesn't have to be outside of work, of course. The key is to do something as relative equals, not as boss and employee. Unequal separates; equal elevates.
5. Play Priceline.com. Congratulate an employee for a job well done, then let them name their "price." Say, "You did an outstanding job; what can I do to reward you?"
You might be surprised by how simple the reward they choose will be.
Bottom line: Verbal praise is always great, but implied praise can be even more powerful. Asking for help or ideas, putting an employee in charge, dropping hierarchical roles and working together. each is a powerful way to recognize the true value of your employees.
And to show you trust them ? which is the highest praise of all.
Tuesday, 04 October 2011
The 10 Rules of Social Media Commentary
By Steve Tobak | September 30, 2011
Chances are you spend more time commenting on blogs, updating, linking and tweeting than you ever imagined you would. We all do. Some post anonymously on blogs, but most of you see it as a means to establish an online presence to network, raise your visibility, and invite business opportunities.
At the same time, employers are checking the social media activity of potential new-hires and companies are monitoring social media sites for competitive intelligence, as we discussed in The Hazards of Being Too Social in the Age of Social Media. Everything you post - every comment, tweet, link, and like - is ultimately linked to you.
That’s a pretty big deal. Unfortunately, since this is a relatively new thing, a lot of you come across like amateurs (like the guy below). That isn’t good.
What you say and how you say it has a direct and material impact on your online presence, marketability, career, and your company’s business. There are real-world consequences to your virtual actions.
As a blogger whose posts are widely disseminated and commented upon, I see a pretty clear distinction between folks who add value and help their cause, and those who don’t. I’ve even done business with a few. Guess which camp they’re in? That’s right, you don’t want to be in the don’t category.
To help you accomplish your goals instead of unwittingly squashing them, here’s …
The 10 Rules of Social Media Commentary
- Share thought provoking stuff, not trite fluff. There are hundreds of microbloggers and commenters that are complete frauds who pass themselves off as leadership gurus and the like. They post mountains of obvious platitudes that thousands of mindless followers eat up. If you want to be taken seriously by real business people, steer clear of that route.
- Differentiate; don’t be a contrarian just for clicks. Sure, you’ve got to have a bold, unique value proposition to rise above the noise these days. Still, if you’re going to challenge conventional wisdom, you’d damn well better have something solid to back it up. Otherwise you’ll instantly lose credibility.
- Tell interesting anecdotes; don’t overreach with broad conclusions. One commenter recently ranted about the screwed up, dysfunctional, evil little family-owned business from which he was recently fired, then concluded it foretold the demise of corporate America. Bit of a reach.
- Relate to the post; don’t spam it with gratuitous self-promotion. When you comment on a post just to get your link in there, you’re like a parasite who adds no value. It’s tantamount to unwanted telemarketing calls and spam that fills up our email in-baskets. Really.
- Have a sense of humor and humility; don’t be thin-skinned and fatheaded. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves or puff themselves up to appear like they’re big shots. It’s sad to watch. All that does is make you look frail and small. Business people see right through that stuff. Great example: “I’m unsubscribing.” Nobody cares.
- Comment with passion and resolve, not anger and vitriol. Conflict can be constructive or destructive depending on how you do it. It helps to follow the golden rule of conflict resolution: address the problem, not the person. Too many use comments to act out and throw tantrums like whiny children.
- Stay on topic; don’t go off on a tangent. One of my recent posts used a metaphor that involved orange juice (don’t ask). You wouldn’t believe how many people commented about orange juice - all the sugar, the calories. Sheesh. And God forbid you use a politician as a leadership example - some people will always go off on the politics.
- Give your opinion; don’t pass judgment. Saying “you’re right” or “you’re wrong” can be a figure of speech to denote agreement or not, but some folks come across as the social media equivalent of judge and jury. You’ll find plenty of sad examples of that - even by some well-known people - in controversial posts like The Gender Pay Gap is a Complete Myth.
- If you can’t write, don’t. When comments are incomprehensible jumbles of misspelled words and poor grammar, that doesn’t reflect well on you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you wouldn’t speak that way in a business situation - at work, in an interview, with a customer - don’t write that way when you link or comment.
- Read the whole post; don’t go off on a headline or one sentence. All too often, folks retweet or comment on something they haven’t even read all the way through. They come across like they have the attention span of a flee or they don’t know what they’re talking about. Ever heard of RTFM? Same thing, except I’ll call this RTFP.
Leadership: From Ordinary to Extraordinary Blog