Imagine this. You've been in the same role and company for some time now. You're ready to move on, but haven't been able to get started looking for a new opportunity. A friend invites you to a networking event and introduces you to a senior leader from a company that you've always wanted to get into. Turns out they're searching for someone with the skills and experience you know you possess.
You chat. She asks, "What would you say are your two greatest accomplishments?"
How do you respond?
Would something quickly come to mind? Would you be able to easily describe your accomplishments in a way that is clear, concise and compelling? Or would you hem and haw while searching your mental database and then say the first thing that pops up? Or, worse, would you simply panic and head for the bar?
My point is, you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself, so you need to be prepared.
In my last blog, Leadership and Learning - An Essential Combination, I talked about keeping your competencies relevant and up to date and continuing to learn. It's also important to periodically pause and take stock of your accomplishments. Write them down. Prioritize them. Categorize them - tie them to relevant competencies so you can use them as specific examples that demonstrate the competency. Having this information in mind and/or easily accessible will help you in situations like the scenario above and in performance conversations, your resume or bio, or other situations where you need to share who you are.
Here's a simple template you can use to capture your accomplishments. Use the Situation-Action-Result (SAR) format to describe the accomplishment and then define the competencies associated with it.
SITUATION: What was the goal or challenge?
ACTION: What was your role? What did you do to address the goal or challenge?
RESULT: What was the result (your accomplishment)?
What COMPETENCIES did you use?
When opportunity comes knocking, be ready to open the door!
Till next time,
The best and most successful leaders recognize that the learning journey never stops. They know their strengths, and look for opportunities to leverage them. They also acknowledge that there are areas where they aren't as strong and need to continue to develop.
One of the challenges for new and emerging leaders is determining what skills and behaviors - competencies - are the most important to be an effective leader today and into the future. A Google search will result in myriad lists of "top" skills for leaders. "The Top 10 Leadership Competencies" (Psychology Today), "The 5 Most Important Competencies for Function Leaders" (Center for Creative Leadership), "The Most Important Leadership Competencies According to Leaders Around the World" (Harvard Business Review).
In a review of these lists, there are several core competencies that bubble to the top: strategic thinking, effective communication, a desire to develop others, decision making, creating a vision, ability to have tough conversations. And, of course, trust and integrity. THAT should be a no-brainer. As far as I'm concerned, integrity has to be at the foundation of leadership, 'cause if you don't have that, nothing else matters!
These are some of the traditional skills that make an effective leader. But there are additional skills that have become increasingly important over the past few years as we look at a new way of working in the 21st century. Skills like emotional intelligence, self-awareness, collaboration, global thinking, agility and future focus.
When was the last time you did an inventory of your leadership competencies - both strengths and development areas? What are you doing to prepare yourself to overcome the challenges, and leverage the opportunities, as a leader in the future?
I recently went to an inspiring talk by John Chambers, former CEO and now Chairman Emeritus of Cisco, and author of the recently-published Connecting the Dots: Lessons for Leadership in a Startup World. He spoke about taking Cisco from a $70 million, 400-employee company (1991) to a $47 billion tech giant (2015) and how important it was to have clarity around who he was as a leader - during both the good and the not-so-good times. He emphasized that you have to always be preparing for what's next.
Think about this: Gen Z (born 1995-2012) employees will have 12 jobs in their lifetime. Six of those jobs aren't event invented yet.
What do you need to do to prepare yourself to lead multi-generational teams? How will you lead as artificial intelligence becomes an integral part of the way we work? What are you doing to keep your competencies current and ready for what's next?
"The worst thing to do when things are running smoothly is to get comfortable. You've always got to be thinking what's next." - John Chambers
Till next time,
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 that 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how PeopleThink can help your organization build its people capability.
Till next time,
You’re in a job you like, you can do it almost on autopilot, and your performance reviews are stellar. No need to update your skills, right? Wrong!
Or…you’re in a job you hate, but, “it’s a job” and you are so overworked or busy trying to keep that job that you have no time to even THINK about what’s next, let alone PREPARE for it. There’s just no way, right? Wrong!
Whether you like your job or hate it, keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date and preparing for what’s next is a must. Here’s a “get real” process to help you get started.
Conduct an inventory. Look at your last performance review. Make a list of both strengths and development areas. Then think about what you want to do next. If you are currently working and want to progress on your career path, what skills and knowledge will you need to get to the next level? Add these to your list. If you are looking for a new opportunity, what are the requirements of your target position? Which of those requirements are you lacking? Add these to your list.
Create a personal development plan. Select one or two areas from your inventory that you will focus on in the next three months. Do some research to find resources to help you develop in those areas. Remember, learning doesn’t only occur in the classroom. Create specific development actions for each skill/knowledge area. Don’t forget to include target dates on your plan!
Execute the plan. Post your plan somewhere visible – your calendar, your refrigerator, your desktop. Stay focused! Concentrate on the one or two areas you’ve prioritized – don’t get distracted by the other areas on your inventory list. You can work on them in your next plan. Take a melting pot approach. Keep your eyes and ears open for articles, blogs by experts, presentations, webinars, etc., on your focus areas. Learning comes in many forms, from many places. Capture it! Be accountable and/or enlist someone’s help to keep you accountable. Reward yourself for completing your development goals.
Update your resume/personal “infomercial.” When you have gained proficiency in the skill/knowledge area, add it to your resume, if appropriate. Practice incorporating your new knowledge/skill into your interview discussions. Blend it into the evolving “you.”
Review, revisit, and revise the plan. Spend some time reviewing your plan and how it worked. Did you set reasonable goals? Were the resources worthwhile? Did you find additional/alternate ones you’ll use next time? Revisit your inventory. What are the skills/knowledge areas you’re going to work on next? Create and execute a revised personal development plan that reflects your new focus areas and development goals.
Putting a plan in place to continually add to your abilities and knowledge is an investment that will keep your market value on an upward trend. And…you never know when that golden opportunity will come along. Be prepared!
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” - Chinese proverb
Till next time,
As I work with leaders, teams and organizations to improve their effectiveness, it’s apparent that for many, learning and development has taken a back seat to, well, just getting the job done. Getting the product out…acquiring new customers…all while working lean and OVER-working everyone.
This is short-sighted and a sure-fire way to encourage top talent out the door. If you want to keep that talent and grow your business you’ve got to provide opportunities for your people to learn and grow. The best way to do that is by creating and implementing effective employee development plans. Here’s how.
Ensure job descriptions are current and well-defined. Roles often morph over time as responsibilities expand or business needs change. This can be frustrating to the individual in the role – and detrimental to the team/organization – if training around new skill requirements and responsibilities isn’t included with the change. It’s also difficult to hire for, train for or promote someone into that role if you haven’t updated the current skills and responsibilities for the role.
Create career path outlines. People want to know what’s next for them, what skills and experience they will need to get there, and the opportunities available for them to learn and develop those skills. People will be more engaged and loyal if they can see a future for themselves in the organization.
Incorporate development into Performance Management. According to a recent Gallup poll, 48% of employees say that they are reviewed just once a year. And only 14% say that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve. That’s no surprise. The annual performance review – dreaded by managers, hated by employees – typically focuses on weaknesses, and rarely includes a development component. How inspiring is that? Effective performance management is a continuous process (not an event) and includes a development component that both builds on strengths and develops areas that are not a strength.
Develop for future needs. Development plans should take into consideration organizational goals and the skills and behaviors employees will need to contribute to achieving those goals. They should also take into account 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
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Consider employee goals and interests. 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. Take the time to identify, develop and leverage those hidden talents and unspoken interests. Employees want to use their strengths and feel that they’re contributing to the organization in a meaningful way.
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.
“Developing talent is business’s most important task – the sine qua non of competition in a knowledge economy.” – Peter Drucker
Till next time,
One of the most satisfying aspects of the work I do is helping other women create a strategy to achieve their business or career goals, keeping them accountable, and then seeing them attain those goals. As I like to say, women supporting other women – just as it oughta be.
In my last blog on this topic I talked about tips for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. This time I’d like to share some tips for women who want to grow their careers in the corporate environment. (Men, these tips will work for you, too!)
First of all, it’s important to understand that you are in charge of your own destiny. You need to keep an open mind, be curious, and get really clear about what YOU want for your life and career, and stop listening to those voices telling what you “should want.” Remember the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.”
Assess where you are. When you’ve decided what you want, take inventory. What skills do you have, what skills do you need? How will you attain those skills? What are your values and interests? What are some internal blocks or other obstacles that have held you back so far in your career?
Understand trends. Bersin by Deloitte recently published a research report about HR and talent in 2017. Here are a few of their predictions based on trends they saw.
-Organizational design will be challenged everywhere. Organizations have to be able to “focus on customer-centric learning, experimentation, and time to market.” Functional groups should be organized into teams that are “smaller, flatter, and more empowered. Leaders should focus more on hands-on leadership, and less on leadership from behind a desk.”
-Culture and engagement will remain top priorities. Deloitte research shows that “86% of business leaders rate “culture” as one of the more urgent talent issues, yet only 14% understand what the right culture is.”
-Human performance and well-being will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership. Employee engagement levels have not improved in the past 10 years, productivity is down, and U.S. workers take 4 to 5 fewer vacation days today than they did in 1998.
What opportunities do you see in these predictions based on your skills, experience and competencies?
Assemble your supporters. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, talks about 3 important people you need to cultivate to help advance your career: an advisor, a mentor, and a sponsor. Their roles are different.
Your advisor is there to help you understand who’s who in the organization, provide context about the way things are done, and answer the “dumb questions” you think you should already know the answer to. Your mentor is the one you share your hopes and dreams with. Maybe they’re already doing what you want to do and can share how they got there. Or maybe they’re in a different organization, but know you well and can give you honest feedback and advice. You can tell your mentor both the good and the bad stuff. The sponsor plays a different role altogether. This is the person – maybe someone on the senior management team – who advocates for you when you are not in the room. This is the person you share only the good stuff with.
Learn continuously. Not just to attain the skills to achieve your current goal, but also so that you are always ready for the next opportunity. As we all know, the world changes at a rapid pace. The job or skill “de jour” may not be needed in a year or two. Keep up to date on technology, pursue new interests, read, network, stay informed about what’s going on in the world around you. Many have watched their careers go adrift because they failed to do this.
Give back. As you move ahead in your career, never forget how you got there. Be willing to be a mentor or advocate for those in whom you see potential. Give honest productive feedback. Help others avoid the bumps you had along the road. Be willing to give informational interviews.
And, of course, don’t stop believin’.
Till next time,