Tag Archives: Leadership development

Three Cornerstone Leadership Skills

There are many skills required to be a good leader. In my experience there are three core capabilities however, that when mastered, provide an outstanding platform for leadership success.

CoachStation: Leadership Development

These three skills are not only of great value to leading, but also to an extension/requirement of leadership which is the ability to build meaningful relationships with depth. Connecting with and the understanding of people is a key to earning the right to trust and be trusted; removing assumptions; accepting that differences between people is natural and when understood is a positive aspect of life; and increasing the opportunity to influence. Each of the skills detailed adds significant value to make these goals a reality.

Listening

The ability to truly listen forms a crucial element of any relationship. In my experience it remains the biggest single gap in capability and is not a strength across most people. Leaders who listen and take in the context and words of others have more chance to build a depth in relationships and purposeful direction, bringing others along on the journey. Listening impacts the level of respect people feel towards one another and taps into the core need to participate and be a ‘cog in the many cogs’ that make business run and life a success.

Associated skills such as paraphrasing; acknowledging; and body language are all important communication attributes, however listening has the most immediate impact both visually and practically. It is a difficult attribute to change or improve as it goes against the grain for most people. But it is not impossible and the power that comes from being a good and effective listener can be a game-changer for many of us in leadership positions.

Empathy

In my experience empathy is as much about acknowledging as anything else. I have worked within the leadership and customer experience areas for many years and it is amazing how customers and employees respond when empathy is provided at the appropriate time. It is just as impacting when the opportunity to show empathy is missed.

Empathy sits in the mid-range between apathy and sympathy. When practiced sufficiently so that empathy becomes a natural or unconscious part of how you think and operate, it can be a powerful tool in connecting with people. Empathy allows you to understand the emotional state of other people and build a connection though acknowledgment and understanding of alternative perspectives. The potency in this is enormous however is regularly a missed opportunity.

Questioning

The ability to ask the right questions at the right time is the single greatest skill I have been able to develop in myself and in helping other leaders develop.

How do you improve understanding? Ask!

This should not take the form of or feel like an interrogation. Developing the skills to know when is appropriate, what to ask and how many questions are relevant based on the person and situation will provide great clarity, purpose and direction. Again, this will also go some way to building a deeper and richer relationship with the person involved. We often feel the need to justify another’s position. When we seek solutions for a team member who has an issue that they want resolved or are unhappy with, we often try to resolve from our perspective, not theirs.

How can we answer a question that is not understood (or even asked)? It is neither our role nor right to speak on others behalf and we certainly don’t know as much about the issue or topic as the person involved. So don’t feel compelled to respond and justify what is not understood. Do question and paraphrase to understand and gain clarity.

None of these skills are a silver bullet that will resolve all relational and leadership issues. There is no doubt in my mind however, that by practicing and developing the ability to listen to what others are truly saying and meaning; ask the right questions to clarify and understand; and connect through relating to others via empathy actions and statements, you will become a better leader. In fact, these capabilities, when improved, will have a direct positive impact on all of your relationships…and who doesn’t want that?

Leave a comment

Filed under Leadership, Employee Engagement

Invest In Setting Up Your Leaders to Succeed

To succeed as a leader, significant support is required.

This starts before the opportunity to lead begins…or at least, it should.

CoachStation: Leadership Success

Setting up your leaders to thrive through a development program both prior to and during their tenure is key to the success of your leadership team and your business. Training in itself is one source of development, however must be supported in practice through a developmental culture, coaching and mentoring. Ongoing support ‘makes the learning real’ within the work environment, reinforcing the content and context provided during training.

How many of you support this development through an in-depth and formal induction process?

An induction is not simply an introduction to the business, its history and elements of purported culture. It should be a tailored set of tools that provide context, responsibilities, accountability and other relevant points that provide the leader with every opportunity to hit the ground running and flourish in the long-term. This should be the case no matter what level the leader is employed at. In a recent article Norah Breekveldt highlighted various points related to the investment required to ensure leaders succeed.

Businesses invest heavily in attracting and hiring the best executives the market has to offer. However, despite the best recruitment or search processes, success is by no means guaranteed and many new hires don’t make it – in fact around 40 percent of new hires derail in the first 18 months – that is, they are demoted, are fired, resigned or failed to be as successful as expected.

Can you imagine a business installing some new technology or investing in a piece of highly complex equipment and accepting a 40 percent failure rate? *

There are many reasons why a new hire fails in their role. Unfortunately, too often this is not the fault of them. Informal power bases, politicking, underestimating the challenges of the role, overestimating skills and capabilities, along with other influences are all elements that can derail an opportunity.

When leaders derail their problems can almost always be traced to complex chains of events that developed early in their appointment…Derailment emerges typically over a six to twelve month period as forces conspire against the leader and the impacts of misjudgements or poor decisions start to be realised. The consequences of these failures can be catastrophic for the individual and costly for the firm.

All new leaders require a proactive and supportive approach to their integration in order to succeed and excel. Leading firms recognise that investing in proactive support minimises the risk of outright failure, stems the potential loss of key staff and clients due to missteps that could have been avoided and ensures the new leader becomes productive and flourishes in the shortest possible time. *

The points raised above are logical and seem simple to apply. Yet, in practice few businesses truly succeed at maximising the opportunity for their new leaders, not to mention the existing leadership team.

To genuinely succeed in business, leaders must know their role, continuously develop their skills and be constantly supported to achieve the best they can as a leader, based on each individual. It is worth taking a moment to consider where your organisation succeeds or fails in this area. Take stock and make adjustment where required. The benefits will be felt by all!

 

Source:

Take Your Investment In New Executives One Step Further: Norah Breekveldt, Business First Magazine, July/August 2014 www.businessfirstmagazine.com.au

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Leadership, People Development

Are You An Accountable Person…and Leader?

Over the past 12 months I have noticed a trend within my circles of influence about the importance of accountability. Particularly in reference to leadership.

As a result when asked earlier this year to contribute to the e.Mile People Development Magazine by owner, Christina Lattimer, I jumped at the chance to write an article about this topic. I recently wrote a separate, yet related blog on accountability however wanted to bring to attention the importance of accountability and where it is ‘falling down’ in some quarters. By the responses received to the blogs, it is definitely striking a chord with many.

In my 25 plus years of working as an employee, consultant and leadership coach there have been several themes that continue to recur when working with senior leaders, many linked to being an accountable leader.

Earlier in my career it was initially surprising to me how many senior leaders were genuinely stressed and deeply concerned about their capability to lead others, regularly questioning whether they have earned the right to lead. In some cases they were losing sleep and living unhealthy lifestyles due to the real or perceived pressure of their roles.

I now recognise that much of this angst and lack of self-belief has been developed over time based on habitual, intrinsic and external influences, both perceived and real. Excitingly, for the same reasons, these skills and attributes can be grown to turn the negative aspects into positives.

Read More here…Be Accountable To Be A Leader

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Accountability, Leadership, People Development

Accountability In Leadership

For a variety of reasons I have recently been encouraged to consider where accountability sits within our businesses and cultures. Many would agree that it has always been one of the core inputs to success as a leader. However, how many of us can state with certainty that it is well understood in theory and more importantly in practice and application?

Accountability is defined as, the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. (1)

The word obligation is interesting in the above definition. I see many managers who balk at this type of ‘obligation’. It is often easier to work in a space of denial rather than acceptance that leadership is an earned right not a response to a title and is never enhanced through bullying or threatening behaviour. Embracing the responsibility of leadership and being transparent in all that you do is a great next step to leadership improvement and credibility in the eyes of others.

Many leaders I have worked with would nod at reading this, acknowledging the importance of being accountable and holding their team members accountable. Interestingly various studies and personal experience highlights that often the same leaders direct reports differ on how this is applied in reality. After all, as a leader how your team members perceive you and make choices as to whether to follow you is a decision made by them, not you.

Being accountable is an attitude and behaviour. As leaders we must hold ourselves accountable first.

What we do matters more than what we say.

Over the past few months I have been making notes as to the types of behaviours, attributes and attitudes that restrict or block people/leaders from being accountable. It is not an exclusive list although does highlight many of the core restrictive inputs to being accountable, especially prevalent in leaders:

  1. Denial: inability to see their part to play and contribution to cultures, situations and outcomes. Quite often this relates to the element of fear mentioned below.
  2. Pride: unwillingness to accept the views of others; inflexible thinking; arrogance and other related attitudes will stifle how accountable you are prepared to be. Importantly, others will see this very clearly, impacting your ability to influence and develop trust in and from your team.
  3. Recognition of impact: taking credit for work completed by others and conversely not accepting when things go wrong. Relates to blame.
  4. Failure to acknowledge or understand the culture of your business and sub-cultures that exist within smaller business units and teams.
  5. Blaming others for what is in existence or where it is at. You are the leader…be accountable and lead!
  6. Lack of self-awareness and emotional intelligence: understand the influence and impact you have on others. Use it to the advantage of all. The satisfaction and benefits far outweigh the stress of the alternatives.
  7. Filtered information acceptance: be honest and upfront in your conversations, even when it is hard…in fact, especially when it is hard.
  8. Fear: the fear of the unknown; change; your own capability; how things will be accepted and many other negative fear-based elements can stop accountability in its tracks.
  9. Make it about themselves: inability or unwillingness to put others first. Being a leader is a privilege and acknowledging that your role is about other people first and foremost, is a big step for many however is a critical aspect of effective leadership.

As leaders we are obligated to lead, which includes setting our team members up for success. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect people to understand our expectations if we have not clearly explained the context and parameters. Clarity matters. The onus is on us first. This can only be achieved if the responsibilities, tasks and expectations are clear and understood in the first place. A great way to lose trust and credibility is to hold others accountable for what we have not done initially and reinforced along the way.

To expand upon this point the simple step-process below that I created some years ago highlights 5 core steps that assist leaders in practice. It is a simple reminder that we can only hold others accountable to what was set up and clarified correctly in the initial phases of the relationship or role i.e. be clear about responsibilities, ownership and expectations. The ability to measure the performance including inputs and outcomes of every one of your employees and the team as a whole is important. Lastly, supporting the process of improvement and change through coaching and development shows that you care enough to be part of the solution rather than a manager who prefers to challenge from afar and criticise without assisting to improve the situation.

  1. Responsibilities
  2. Accountability
  3. Performance
  4. Measurement
  5. Development/Change

One of the key elements of accountability is the comfort to have the ‘right’ conversations. Being accountable is addressing all issues and providing feedback for positive behaviours also. This is not something that we pick and choose depending on our own levels of comfort or fear. You are either all in or you are out!

Strong relationships with high trust allow us to have the right conversations. In all of our relationships, both inside and outside of the workplace, we earn the right to hold others accountable. A surface level conversation once every few months will never cut it. I believe there is no conversation that cannot be had – with the caveat that it is what happens in between the formal discussions that enables us to ‘go there’.

Assessing the reality of situations and relationships is an important skill to gain confidence in these situations. Emotional intelligence and the ability to assess where an individual is ‘at’ will provide a platform for trust, connection and relationships with meaning. Once established most of these conversations become less stressful, relative to the depth of relationship.

One of the biggest challenges to accountability is politics and gamesmanship. These negative behaviours have very little useful contribution to holding ourselves accountable let alone others. In fact, whether it is clear to you or not most people can see politics in play early on – this is a relationship and credibility killer.

In my view those who feel the need to spend most of their time in this space often lack genuine direction, confidence and self-esteem. This style is a way to compensate for gaps such as these, along with skill and capability to own the relationships. Being accountable is a choice, but don’t fool yourself into thinking others cannot see through the masquerade.

Being consistent in your approach and following through on your commitments is a significant contributor to being seen as accountable.

Be an accountable leader by helping your team members through coaching and building a connection where the responses to your questions have depth and meaning. Most people cannot interpret feedback to the point where they are able to translate this information into a series of meaningful actions leading to growth, improvement or change. Interestingly, feedback instead of coaching is what actually occurs more often than not. Feedback has its place within the coaching methodology or framework but is neither a replacement for nor the same as coaching. The core mantra here is to give much more than you take.

The brief video below from Kevin Eikenberry highlights the importance of knowing that accountability is everyone’s responsibility…including yours!

 

(1)   http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/accountability.html#ixzz339dgjVXG

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership

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?

2 Comments

Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership, People Development

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership, People Development