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The Best Leaders Grow Their People

August 30th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”  - Former CEO of GE, Jack Welch

I often talk about how important it is for leaders to continue to grow and develop. And…it’s also important to grow your people. Both are essential if you want to prepare your organization to succeed today and into the future.

Employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized.  Providing them with opportunities to build on their strengths, learn new skills and prepare for the future needs of the company demonstrates in a very real way that they are integral to the organization and its success. And when employees feel that kind of connection they will be more engaged and loyal.

Employee development can happen in many different forms: on-the-job training, personal development, cross-functional projects, coach and/or mentor, special projects, stretch assignments, training courses, reading and personal study, online courses, peer coaching, job shadowing, etc. The important thing is that it is available and encouraged.

Too often development opportunities are limited to “fixing” an employee’s weaknesses rather than leveraging and developing their strengths. Yet, according to Gallup, organizations that focus on employee strengths have higher engagement, less turnover and a better bottom line.

Create development plans that take into consideration organization goals and the skills and behaviors employees will need to contribute to achieving those goals. It’s also essential that individual employee career goals and personal interests be taken into account in development plans. All too often employees have skills and talents that are under-utilized. In fact, 74% of employees feel that they are not reaching their full potential. (The Learning Wave)

Also consider the skills and behaviors employees will need in the future to succeed (yes, even if it’s not in your organization).  According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills in 2020 will be:

-Complex problem solving

-Critical thinking

-Creativity

-People management

-Coordinating with others

-Emotional intelligence

-Judgment and decision making

-Service orientation

-Negotiation

-Cognitive flexibility

Creating, implementing and supporting development plans for your employees will not only help keep them loyal and engaged, it will ensure that your organization is ready for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

"The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." - Henry Ford

Till next time,

Karen

Engagement, Leadership, learning and development, People, Professional development

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Soft Skills Win in the Race for Job Success!

August 28th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

Think about this: 85% of job success is due to having well-developed soft skills, and only 15% is due to technical, or hard skills.  This is from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Center.

It amazes me that despite this research, organizations (and individuals) still tend to focus on developing hard skills. In 2010, employers spent $171.5 billion on employee training and only 27.6% of those training dollars went toward soft skills, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

It’s time to put more of our dollars and development efforts where they really count. In our increasingly global, dynamic and service-oriented way of working, organizations need leaders, teams and individual contributors who have the personal behaviors and interpersonal skills that will help them grow and thrive.

So what are those skills?  In my work with organizations to create leadership and employee development initiatives, these are the 10 soft skills/behaviors (in alpha order) that leaders most often tell me they need in their people.

Collaboration – the ability to meld ideas and share credit with others.

Creativity – initiating new approaches to projects, solving problems, etc.

Effective communication – clear and concise speaking and writing paired with active listening.

Emotional intelligence – self-aware and sensitive to others, empathetic.

Flexibility – adaptable to change.

Growth mindset – recognizing they don’t know it all. Being willing to learn.

Leadership – the ability to lead, even without the title.

Reliability – do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.

Resilience – the ability to continue pursuing the goal despite roadblocks and challenges.

Teamwork – sharing the work and supporting others toward a common goal.

Organizations who want to remain competitive and individuals who want to increase their marketability would do well to put more emphasis on identifying gaps in these skills and then creating a comprehensive development plan to close those gaps.

One of the best ways to identify gaps is through a behavioral assessment. The one I use with leaders, teams and individuals is Lumina Spark.  Lumina Spark is a state-of-the-art psychometric assessment that provides a framework to help people achieve better self-awareness and learn how to improve their working relationships with others.

Check out the Lumina Spark fact sheet and then contact me to learn how PeopleThink can help your organization build its people capability.

Till next time,

Karen

Career, learning and development, Professional development

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Let’s KEEP it REAL about Leadership!

August 26th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

On any given day, in just about any given business publication, you will find one or more laundry lists of skills, qualities, behaviors, competencies, and whatevers that are attributed to an effective, successful or great leader. It’s actually a bit mind-boggling. How can anyone possibly be all of that?!

Well, here’s the thing.

I’ve been working with leaders at all levels for…well, a long time. I’ve implemented leadership development programs across organizations large and small, and I’ve worked one-on-one with senior leaders and executives.  I’ve been a leader in the corporate world, on boards and in my own business.  And here’s what I’ve learned. While the leadership competencies touted in those lists are important, let’s keep it real about what makes a leader truly extraordinary. It’s not rocket science. It’s what I call the KEEP it REAL Leadership Principles (or Leadership According to Karen).

Before we get to those principles, though, note that they don’t include INTEGRITY.  Why? Because for leadership that should be a no-brainer! The is NO negotiation on integrity. If people don’t trust you, there is no way they’re going to follow you. Be accountable and tell the truth. Do what you say you’re going to do. Show up whole, and be YOU and no one else.

Now. Here are my 6 KEEP it REAL Leadership Principles:

BOLD. Have a backbone, state your opinions and hold strong to your beliefs. Be courageous. Protect your team and staff – make them proud to be part of your team. Be accountable – do what you say you’re going to do. And have the hard conversations. Putting them off helps no one.

TOMORROW. What is your vision? Share it. Where is your team and the organization headed? Let them know what’s next, how “we’re” going to get there, and what they can do to help. Give your people a reason to believe in the future and to want to participate in building it. Provide them with development opportunities that will grow their capabilities to help achieve the vision.

TAWK. That’s New Jersey-speak for talk. Communicate, communicate, communicate. People need to hear things multiple times in multiple ways before they really “hear” it. Adapt your communication style to the listener – everyone takes in information differently. Remember it’s about them, not you. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Oh! And don’t forget to listen!

LEARN. You cannot stop learning! Be self-aware: know your strengths and be willing to admit (and work on) your blind spots. Make the time to get to know your team. Be curious. Cultivate a growth mindset and set an example of continuous learning. Provide learning opportunities for your people and encourage them to keep growing. As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.”

PLEASE & THANK YOU. Say it. Always. No excuses. Always be courteous and kind. Express your gratitude and mean it. No one gets tired of hearing: “Please” and “Thank You.”

FUN. Create a culture where people want to come to work, where people enjoy the projects, their colleagues, the stretch assignments, their team. When people enjoy their environment, they’ll be more innovative and creative, and they’ll want to stay in your organization. Culture starts at the top. Create the team YOU want to be part of.

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader.  A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”  - Eleanor Roosevelt

Watch for more about KEEP it REAL Leadership – coming soon!

Till next time,

Karen

Leadership, leadership development, Learning

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Sink or Swim is NOT Leadership Development!

August 12th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

Eighty-four percent of organizations anticipate a shortfall of leaders in the next five years, according to a State of Leadership Development report by Brandon Hall.  And a nearly equal number (83%) say that it’s important to develop leaders at all levels.

Yet here’s the thing. Only 5% have actually implemented leadership development at all levels. In fact, the biggest chunk of money spent on leadership development goes toward senior leaders and executives, instead of to those who need it most – first time, frontline leaders. All too often these new leaders are put in a “sink or swim” situation, thrown into the deep end of leading a team and left to figure out for themselves how to stay afloat.

This is both unfair to the new leader and detrimental to the organization.

Most people are promoted into their first leadership role as a result of their high performance as an individual contributor and/or because of their technical skills. Yet what helped them succeed as an individual will not necessarily contribute to their success as a people leader – where the challenges and responsibilities require a different set of skills. Without some sort of leadership development early on in their transition from individual performer to leader, new leaders may simply mimic the behaviors of a leader they’ve had in the past, and not necessarily a good one. And those behaviors, once ingrained, are difficult to change.

A survey of HR leaders and practitioners conducted by the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that “the sink or swim mindset toward new managers is ubiquitous.” In that survey, respondents were asked to rank the must-have skills for frontline managers in order of importance. Technical expertise was ranked 7th, preceded by:

Ethics and integrity

Communicates effectively

Drives for results/motivation to succeed

Flexibility/adaptability

Develops effective teams

Maintains relationships with internal stakeholders

While some of these skills might be inherent in a new leader, being able to apply them effectively while adapting to leading people requires coaching and support.  People leaders need to learn how to identify individual strengths, motivators, skill gaps, personalities and how individuals work together as a team. They need to be accountable not just for their work but for the work of others. And they need support with the challenge that many internally promoted leaders face – transitioning from peer to leader.

New leader training needs to be a key component of every organization’s learning and development plan. And it should not be just a one-day event around policies, performance reviews and disciplinary actions.  It needs to be structured in a way that gives participants time to apply their learning, receive feedback, and get the ongoing support necessary (mentoring, coaching) to grow into the next line of senior leaders and executives.

Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.

One last startling factoid for you from that Brandon Hall Report:  More money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate training, yet 71% of organizations do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future.

Doesn’t it make sense to take the time to effectively develop leaders from the very beginning?

Till next time,

Karen

Leadership, leadership development, Professional development

Boost Your Confidence with a Power Pose

August 5th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

We all know that body language has a huge impact on our face-to-face communications. Our facial expressions, head nods, and body posture can influence whether the other person thinks we are sincere, are listening, and/or are telling the truth.

Generally, we think of body language, or nonverbals, in relation to how we communicate with others. But how does it impact our communication with ourselves? Does your body language make a difference in how you think and feel when you’re – in a group of strangers, feeling unprepared or unworthy in the face of a new challenge, or standing before a group of 200 people about to deliver an important presentation?

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who teaches leadership at Harvard University, says it does. In her TEDTalk, “Your body language may shape who you are,” Cuddy describes how our bodies affect our thinking and our thinking affects our behaviors. If we adopt a “power pose” we are more likely to feel confident and capable, overcoming the anxiety that may be associated with a new or unfamiliar situation. She expands on this theme in her talk, and in her recently published book, Presence, with examples of her research and her personal story.

And…she shares how adopting a power pose for just two minutes can alter how you feel about yourself and how you approach a challenge.

Professor Cuddy describes the typical body postures of people who tend to feel powerful, either naturally, or in the moment. High power poses “are about expanding. You make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space.” She gives the example of athletes who win at competition – “When they cross the finish line and they’ve won…the arms go up in a V and their chin is slightly lifted.”

We all saw this recently in the iconic image of US Women’s Soccer Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe.

When we feel powerless, on the other hand, we do the opposite. In low power poses we close up. We make ourselves small. We adjust ourselves to get out of other people’s way. Visualize someone hunched over their desk, or sitting with their arms and legs crossed, or always moving to the back in group photos.

In one research study, Cuddy and her team found that when participants adopted a high-power pose for just two minutes their “confidence” hormone (testosterone) levels increased and their “anxiety” hormone (cortisol) levels decreased. It was the opposite for participants in the low power pose group.

So, the next time you’re anxious about a situation – an interview, first day on a new job, delivering an important presentation – try this: stand in front of a mirror and adopt a high-power pose, shoulders back, open stance, chin up. Hold that pose for two minutes.

And then, go get ‘em.

Till next time,

Karen

Communication, Learning, self-awareness

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