March 23, 2016

How Would You Do It Differently?

A recent article, 4 Traits of Exceptional Leaders, references Gallup research showing that just 10% of people have the talent to be good leaders and 82% of the time organizations put the wrong person in a leadership job. 
Those are not good odds. If you’re working, you’re far more likely working for a bad leader than a good one.
Then there people like me who are doing our best to lead our teams day to day while our boss (or boss’s boss) happens to be on the “not so good” end of the leadership spectrum. I expect many of you have been there...
I guarantee that someday - maybe even today - a leadership “no-no” will happen which impacts you and your team. You can’t protect your team from the fall out and you shouldn’t even necessarily try. To grow and develop into leaders in their own right, your team needs to see and experience “less than good” leadership in action so they can recognize and learn from it.
Your team, like mine, will easily recognize when "not good” leadership behavior happens so it’s not likely you need to point it out. Your job, as an exceptional leader, is to help your team to constructively process their feelings about what happened, and then move forward.
It’s important to be able to quickly address a bad situation and then focus them on moving forward. HBR’s article, “You Can Deliver Bad News to Your Team Without Crushing Them” shares research showing that when people came to solutions they could implement themselves to address something negative, it increased productivity 20%.
In addition, I like to ask my team members to reflect on the situation and think of a future time, when they will be leading teams, departments, organizations or companies and ask them, “When you're leading a team someday, how would you do it differently?”
A question like this requires them to think through both the business need and the role a leader's communication plays in creating buy-in and motivating/influencing others to take a desired action. It helps them to recognize the role empathy plays in the workplace and helps them build the required awareness that (I hope) will make them exceptional leaders when that day comes.

Focus on the future and ask "how would you do it differently" -- two ways to turn a bad situation into a productive, coachable moment.

March 11, 2016

3 Leadership Nuggets for Self Aware Leaders

I’ve felt inspired by some recent thought-provoking HBR blog posts on leadership. So, I thought I would quickly share a few of the “nuggets” I’ve collected as they may be interest to other self-aware leaders who are looking to continually improve.

Net net - the older we get, the more confident we feel and the more open we are to self improvement. Women demonstrate this confidence gain more consistently over time - probably because we start out at a lower baseline (boo). The best leaders help their people move from a “proving” mindset (coming from a place of low confidence) to an “improving” mindset.

The good news - time, experience and increased self-awareness all factor into these beneficial changes in people’s mindsets and their resulting work accomplishments. I guess there is a benefit to getting older!

Fortunately, there are just 4 things:
  1. Great leaders understand how all parts and functions of the business work together to generate value. They actively work on cultivating the needed cross-functional working relationships to minimize fragmentation and poor coordination.
  2. Great leaders effectively balance instinct and analysis when making decisions. They are not prone to knee-jerk reactions because they trust the process and their teams.
  3. Great leaders have high contextual intelligence. They continuously solicit and integrate insights from all the sources and have a clear understanding of the value the business provides within the wider industry and trends.
  4. Great leaders authentically care about forming and maintaining real relationships with superiors, peers and their teams. They reach beyond the superficial, transactional level to form mutually beneficial relationships.
Great leaders know and do all 4 well while “good” leaders just 2 or 3. And lacking a strength in #4 is what trips up most executive careers because people can spot a phony a mile away. Be warm, be kind, be real.

While we know the saying that good employees leave bad bosses, being a good boss does not necessarily beget retention. In fact, team members with the good bosses received the coaching, development and support necessary to get them ready for greater responsibility and higher paying roles. These folks can be called “happy quitters” because their satisfaction with the organization remains high even when they leave for greener pastures. And with this happy quitters, good bosses create strong “alumni networks” that are beneficial to the firm long term.  

All of the “happy quitters” in my past are part of my forever team - you know who you all are!

Hope you found these nuggets as interesting and thought provoking as I did!