Our Leaders of Tomorrow

Who are our next generation of leaders – who is going to step up and take the reins?

 Lead In, Lead On: Leaders and Culture

One of the key issues that I continue to note is that many companies are not adept at identifying the gaps in their business. This includes gaining a genuine and methodical understanding of leadership practices and effectiveness in the organisation. It is very difficult to solve an issue that is not identified or put another way, a question unasked remains unsolved. Non-awareness can be due to various reasons often cultural, political or personal. In a broader, strategic sense this lack of identification can be seen in the outcomes and sub-cultures born out of poor leadership. Leadership development is a theme explored in a recent article in the InsideHR magazine titled, The Best leaders: Few and Far, Born Not Made.

A significant leadership shortage is looming over the world…Leadership is in crisis. Baby boomers are retiring and fewer Gen Y’s want to step up to the plate, creating a massive gap. Quality leaders are now hard to find. We have some data here on 3000 Australian leaders and 50 percent of the leaders in our study are creating environments that are demotivating for people.

If identification and subsequent action is not a deliberate and discussed corporate goal, then other seemingly more critical focus areas will be followed instead. Denial of leadership ineffectiveness in the first place means that businesses ignore the existing issues and not enable future growth in individuals and culture as a result.

Part of the problem is that there are too many leaders who just don’t measure up.

Another related issue is the mismanagement in effort and action for those leaders who are not capable of effectively leading and developing their teams. It is a corporate and social responsibility to ensure we provide the platform, support and opportunity for leaders to contribute and grow in their roles. In my experience this is most commonly performed poorly, with the effort to change and address challenges seemingly too difficult, or is not performed at all.

I have been in positions where individual employees have been dismissed based on poor, ongoing performance and behaviour – some who are long-term employees. When this is discussed at senior levels, there is acknowledgment that these team members had been a ‘problem’ for many years in some cases. My response in return is always, if this was a known issue, then why was no action taken to either develop or remove them? To date, there has never been a reasonable response to this question.

Denial, ignorance and/or laziness to act only lead to dismal results. Is this something you are prepared to accept…or do you wish to alter the outcomes by changing your contribution? A challenging question to answer and even more so to exploit. It is an important query however, reflecting the tytpe of issue highlighted by poor leadership practices and a culture that accepts varying degrees of mediocrity.

Creating a regular process to identify actions for the development of your leaders is an important step. This may form part of a bi-annual review, linked to other formal appraisal or assessment processes. A quarterly review of the progress, goals, contribution and direction of all team members could act as a catalyst for discussion.

A focus on how results are achieved as well as focusing on the end results themselves adds more value to the process. How we get there is as important as the outcome, enabling relationship-building, trust and process improvement throughout the process, amongst other benefits. When we focus on the outcome only, there is a tendency to cut corners and drive aspects of culture that ignore many necessary positive aspects…and often drive negative elements of culture also. This is just as important when focusing on leadership as a contributor to and receiver of cultural growth initiatives. The InsideHR article highlights 5 key leadership trends:

1. A shortage of leaders means there will be a gap in middle managers.
2. Succession planning is likely to be the hot issue ahead.
3. The best companies will be out recruiting future leaders.
4. The shortage of leaders will shape HR strategies.
5. There will be a heavy focus on leadership training.

A willingness to acknowledge the gaps in leadership and developing a culture of learning and growth, along with succession planning steps is a useful next stage. The challenge for many organisations is their willingness to spend the time and funding to understand the existing situation and culture. Considering the current status of individual leaders and the organisational leadership position should be part of the review process.

A blind hope that culture and leadership will somehow ‘look after itself’ is naive and poor business practice. The effort and discussions at senior levels that drive culture and direction can be difficult. However the benefits of developing strength in leadership now and for the future can be seen and felt…now and in the future.

How does your business stack up?

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Why Leaders need to ask Empowering Questions?

Steve Riddle:

The willingness and ability for leaders to engage their team members through asking rather than telling is a critical skill, particularly in the current era. This blog by Tal Shnall via his Leadership Cafe site offers much to think about business culture and our contribution to it.

Originally posted on Leadership Cafe:

Leadership-Questions

Peter Drucker, considered the leadership guru of the twentieth notes that,

“The leader of the past may have been a person who knew how to tell, but certainly the leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.”

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Character and Personality Contribute to Leadership

Is a strong personality an asset or a hindrance in leadership and how does it compare to character?

In my current role we have been recruiting quite a few new team members to our business in recent months and it has me thinking about the impact of character on business and team success. Personality and character are regularly referred to in similar terms and sometimes interchangeably, but I think the difference is most stark when looking to find diversity and the right mix for your team. That has certainly been my experience.

What is the difference and does it matter? Read the most recent blog on my CoachStation website to see my view…Character and Personality Contribute to Leadership

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Leadership Guidance: As Parents and Mentors

Steve Riddle:

Two years on and our eldest daughter is celebrating another birthday. The advice highlighted in my blog at that time remains as pertinent as ever…maybe even more so. As I reflect on time passed, the growth we see in our daughter’s and the fact that the themes still hold true, it is worth revisiting this blog from 2012. Let me know what you think…

Originally posted on Linked 2 Leadership:

Handwritten Letter

Leadership points to ponder for teenagers are just as relevant to adults, especially new leaders, viewed via a father’s letter to a teen.

A Father’s Letter

Today you turn 13 years old. I am amazed at how quickly this time has gone and the next 10 years will fly by as well. Then you will be well into your 20′s, however there is a lot that you will see, hear and be tempted by during this time. Much of it will be wonderful, inspiring and of great benefit to you and how you are seen and interact with others.

There will also be some potential pitfalls and challenges, many of which you will not see coming. That is OK. Our job is not to wrap in you cotton balls or bubble-wrap, protecting you from what are ultimately learning opportunities. Our role is and has always been to help you through…

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Leadership Thought #463 – You Need To Have Thick Skin To Lead Others

Steve Riddle:

Ed always write with conviction and adds value to the discussion surrounding leadership. The ability and attitude to not take things personally and in fact, welcome feedback and criticism is a powerful message…yet difficult to muster the comfort and build the self-esteem to make this real.

Originally posted on Ed Robinson's Blog:

Leadership is not for the faint of heart.  It certainly has its ups and downs and can test anyone’s emotional fortitude.  However, this is the very reason so few people can do it well.  If you take every small slight and failure personally, the job will eat you alive.  Whenever you assume a position of responsibility, you automatically also assume a roster of critics and malcontents who aren’t always aligned with your leadership vision.  Since you can’t realistically fire everyone who disagrees with you (nor is it advisable), then you need to figure out other ways to handle the pressures and scrutiny.

I’ve found that the best leaders I work with welcome the criticism.  They don’t always like it, but they accept that a key aspect of leading people is harnessing disparate points of view and feelings.  I don’t care how smart you are, no one person has all the…

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Leadership and Communication: The Details Matter

One of the challenges of leadership and, in fact, communication in general, is understanding the level of detail required relative to each situation.

Lead In, Lead On and CoachStation: Communication

Depending on the need, it can be necessary to discuss in-depth the content for a piece of work; what role someone else is to play in the task; seek input into potential solutions and other relevant details. Knowing when this detail is going to add value and not detract from the message or subsequent actions can be the difference between a successful outcome or not. One of the risks is that you as the leader, either do not seek enough input from others and/or confuse the situation as a result of too much information.

I was recently involved in a project that had many layers to it. There were various roles, as you would expect, however the Project Manager (PM) and Project Sponsor were unable to come to grips with their roles to achieve a successful outcome. The PM worked at an ‘arms-length’ with both critical project team members and contributors and the Sponsor was also quite removed as a result. The decision-making process was slow at best and often times non-existent. This flowed into other areas of the project including the testing team and vendor support. Ultimately the project missed several important deadlines over many months and was delayed.

On occasion, it is important to note when it comes to communication and an appropriate level of detail and engagement, less is more!

Without oversimplifying what was a complex project, much of this could have been resolved through clearer communication channels, better-defined roles and improved structure. All of this would have been improved through greater clarity regarding the detail at the beginning of and at various stages of the project. Being able to answer key questions and revisiting them throughout the project can assist in reducing the risk and meet the milestones along the way.

  • What role does each person play?
  • How are the stakeholders to be involved and kept up to date?
  • Has each expert been engaged at the right level and time?
  • Have the end-users and SME’s been involved?
  • How much jurisdiction does the PM have?
  • Who are the key vendor contacts?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for keeping the project on track?
  • What is the role of the Steering Committee and Working Group?

At face value the answer to these questions may seem relatively simple. In reality, the issues that occurred in this project are quite common throughout most organisations in my experience. Leading through a major project, with the right format and level of detail understood by all involved, is difficult. In fact, it can be quite daunting!

Much of this confusion, fear and doubt can be overcome by seeking clarity and involving the project team at the right level. Overlapping and ill-defined roles; political maneuvering; ineffective leadership; poor communication; poor role selection; limited capability of key personnel in key roles; and a loose project plan are all contributors to a reduced outcome. Clarity in tasks, a communication plan/strategy and ultimately a reduction of these issues overall provides a much stronger baseline to work from and minimises the risk of project over-runs and missed deadlines. Understanding the necessary details and seeking clarity early in the project is key. Maintaining an appropriate level of clarity and direction throughout the project timeline also matters.

In leadership generally, the same inputs and questions listed above can be applied to many situations and team cultures. Too much or too little detail and/or a resultant lack of clarity and understanding for each role, position and person within your team is unlikely to add value to meeting goals and objectives. The risk of employee dissatisfaction, turnover and a lack of engagement is also often the result. Enabling your team to provide input into their roles and that of their broader team is critical. As the leader, ensure that clarity exists to the most appropriate degree possible. This does not remove all risk, however is a key piece of the leadership puzzle and as in the example detailed, the alternative can be a very messy and expensive option otherwise.

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Leadership and Team Development

Lead In, Lead On: CoachStation

Last week I wrote and published a blog on my CoachStation business site titled Leadership…This Year and Next. The premise for the content is that we should regularly review our progress and note how we feel about  development in various aspects of our lives. In part I wrote:

This time of year is often associated with resolutions or the idea that changes to what has been the past are required…when it comes to leadership, this ideal is as relevant as ever. As individuals and employees we should feel comfortable with this concept, although I recognise the reality is often somewhat different. Now is a good time to have a look at leadership in general and specifically review how you as a leader are performing against current benchmarks and needs, not those rooted in the past.

 What has altered in leadership for 2014?

The point that culture and society is evolving means that we as leaders need to keep abreast of cultural, societal, organisational behaviour and workplace adjustments. We are judged on many things including our ability to relate to people and influence others. This is a significant change in leadership principles from the past.

In addition to the points made in my original blog, there are several elements that many of us continue to expand upon and capitalise in both our personal and professional lives. This is most relevant when leading teams where each employee is looking to you for guidance and contribution. The premise of a ‘coaching leader’ has never been more relevant, nor important, to ensure that the skills and capabilities required in your leadership role are aligned with the essential tasks and accountabilities.

When performed well through action and coaching, a philosophy of continued development will maximise the opportunities for yourself, organisation and your team.

Whereas many of these elements are not new, it is of value to review and recommit to goals and progress. Too often elements such as time, procrastination, fear, pride and various other contributors stop us from really buying into ownership of our roles and fearlessly taking action. Challenging ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones, however briefly, remains a key doubt for some.

There are many reasons to develop yourself and your team, not the least of which is the satisfaction obtained when meaningful progress occurs. Knowing what each team member is looking for and connecting at an appropriate level is a great start. The desires and depth of experiences employees are looking for remains consistent. Being able to find these in reality remains a challenge. In general, people want to feel like they:

  • Can contribute to something larger.
  • Are respected and also are given the opportunity and environment to respect those they work with.
  • Can align their personal  values with peers, colleagues and organisations that employ them – this is critical!
  • Are able to ‘put their ideas out there’ without ridicule or dismissal.
  • Will be assessed on measurable performance and capability, not subjective, inconsistent, personality-driven assessments and reviews.
  • Have the opportunity to develop various aspects of their skills, capability and attributes based on their own needs, not on subjective, mass-produced training options.
  • Are empowered to make decisions and have relevant authority for their role.

Each one of us has the responsibility and obligation to commit to our roles and be accountable for our development. In an ideal world and in those cases where I see continued personal and professional growth, an assessment of progress and development is made regularly – at least each year. After all, as leaders, one of our key responsibilities is to develop other leaders. If there is no discernible improvement, growth or development in our team members at this point in time compared to the same time time last year, then both of us have failed.

Do you see areas where improvement or a refocus could be applied by yourself? When is comes to continued growth and development, where do you think you and your team are currently? Let me know your thoughts.

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