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It’s Time for a Leadership Makeover

October 15th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

So far this year, more than 1,000 CEOs have been terminated, according to a recent Yahoo Finance article. That’s up 15% year-over-year.

The reasons vary. “Concerns over the company’s marketing practices.” (Juul). “Pressured profit margins and stagnating sales.” (EBay). “A badly mangled IPO process.” (WeWork). And a variety of other performance and lack of leadership issues.

Of course, as we all know, this “leadership recession” as the article describes it, doesn’t confine itself to the corporate world. We see it in front of us every…single…day.

I think it’s time for a leadership makeover, and I think it begins with effectively developing new and advancing leaders – raising the bar for what we expect from them and lowering the bar for the behaviors we will tolerate. Yes, we want good performance (numbers!) but not at the expense of ethics, employees, the environment, lives.

All too often individuals are put into leadership positions based on their good performance as an individual contributor or their seniority with the company. They are then thrown into a “sink or swim” situation with minimal if any leadership training.

My surveys and conversations with leaders have consistently shown that formal leadership development often doesn’t kick in until middle management or executive level. In fact, research shows that the bulk of leadership development dollars are spent on senior leadership development. By that time any bad habits developed over the years (or modeled after another, not necessarily good leader) are ingrained.

Let’s start now developing the leaders we need to take our companies, large and small, into the future. Frame the development on a foundation of integrity, trust and accountability. Teach new leaders that achieving the numbers is important, but that it should not be at the expense of ethical behavior or of employees. Provide them with the resources, coaching and growth they need and make it clear that as leaders they need to do the same for their teams.

Inspire them to be bold, and to always do what they say they’re going to do. Develop leaders who can create a vision and motivate others to work toward that vision. Stress the importance of continuous learning (John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”), always saying “please and thank you” and making time for fun. And, of course, teach them to communicate – early, often, and honestly. And remember, communication includes listening!

Look around your organization. Do you have leaders that you look up to and want to learn from? Or do you also have a leadership recession? How does that impact you? Think about it.

Till next time,

Karen

Accountability, Leadership, leadership development, New leaders

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Transitioning from Peer to Leader

July 16th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

Kudos to the companies that promote from within. Leveraging internal talent is a great way to keep employees engaged and to prevent a vast and valuable source of company knowledge from walking out the door.

Yet all too often employees are promoted internally to leadership roles without the benefit of the leadership training to help them succeed. This is critical. Especially for those employees who transition from coworker to team leader. Not only do they have to learn their new responsibilities as a people leader, they may have to deal with resentment from their former teammates who didn’t get the job.

Sound familiar? If this is something you’re experiencing, here are some tips.

Start by building trust. You may be following in the footsteps of someone everyone loved, in which case the expectation will be that things remain the same. Or you may be following someone who wasn’t popular (or got fired) and the expectation will be that things will change immediately. Give yourself some time to assess the team and get established in your new role before making any changes (or not!)

Meet one-on-one with each direct report. Spend the majority of your time listening – to their updates, their concerns, their ideas. Ask about specific areas where they need your support. Summarize what they’ve said so they know you were really listening. Keep it positive. Express a particular contribution that that individual makes to the team. Share how you want to lead. Ask about their career aspirations. Help them see you in a new light – as a leader, coach, visionary.

Hold an initial team meeting. Reintroduce yourself in your new role. Share your values, how you like to operate, and the best way to communicate with you. Convey confidence. Address ideas that came up in the one-on-one meetings (again, demonstrating that you were really listening). Enlist the team’s support in collaboratively creating guiding principles for how you will work together effectively.

Address any resentment – swiftly and privately. If you sense resentment from a team member, meet with them privately to discuss the issue. Acknowledge their feelings, and…be clear that you are counting on them to continue to be a contributor to the team effort. Mutually define the best way to work together effectively going forward.

Be prepared not to be liked by everyone. Your relationships have shifted. You are now in a position of writing a review for someone who may be a personal friend. Their lax attitude toward work may not have mattered when you were “buddies,” but it will definitely matter when you are responsible for the team. Just sayin’.

Be a leader more than a manager. It’s tempting to go overboard in “managing” at the beginning to differentiate yourself from the team. Don’t. You have the advantage of, having worked with them, knowing their strengths. Empower them to use those strengths. Let them know you are there to help when they need it. Coach them. Make sure every team member feels valued, connected, challenged and recognized.

And most of all, communicate, communicate, communicate!

Till next time,

Karen

 

Leadership, leadership development, New leaders, Professional development

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Becoming a Leader: Start with Self-Awareness

February 12th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan


Studies show that nearly half of new leaders do not receive any leadership training. 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 has 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.





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.





With that being said, it is EQUALLY important that new leaders – and leaders at all levels – proactively share the responsibility for their own development.  Ya gotta put some skin in the game.





In my recent survey of senior leaders, the PeopleThink Leadership Journey Survey, many respondents said they wished they had spent more time on leadership development early in their career. “I wish I had invested in myself earlier in the journey. It would have accelerated the impact I could have on others had I been more aware and insightful.” “I would have started sooner to allocate more time to work on my leadership competencies.”





So, if you are new to a leadership role or working toward becoming a leader, what can you do to prepare?





Start by becoming self-aware.  This is what I call the inventory stage of leadership development, and it’s a key component of my GET REAL Leadership Program. Understanding your values, competencies, accomplishments and those behaviors or beliefs that have (yes) worked against you is the first step on your journey to becoming the leader that only you can be.





Let's begin by Defining Your Values. This is an extremely important step in clarifying who you are or want to become as a leader. Your values – those things that are non-negotiable for you – will be key to guiding your behaviors and decisions on your leadership journey. Have you defined your values? If not, here’s a 10-minute exercise that will help.





On a sheet of paper, write down one-word descriptions of all the things that are important to you at work and in your life. Here are some examples: Appreciation, adventure, balance, challenge, competition, dependability, empathy, flexibility, fun, health, humility, independence, influence, kindness, knowledge, learning, power, prestige, quality, safety, risk-taking, success, teamwork, visibility, wealth, wisdom. Now go back and circle 10 that are the most important to you. Review those 10, and then put a star next to your top 5. These are your TOP 5 Values - the non-negotiable things you must have in order to do your best. Keep them visible. Use them as a guide to ensure that what you do, what you say, and what you decide aligns with your values.





The next step in becoming self-aware is identifying internal barriers that have prevented you from being who you want to be. We all have them. Calling them out helps us overcome them. Tune in next time to learn more.





Till next time,





Karen


Leadership, leadership development, New leaders, self-awareness

Letting Your New Leaders Sink or Swim? Big Mistake!

March 16th, 2018

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 development opportunity 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 as Number 7, 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 – understanding individual strengths, motivators, skill gaps, personalities and how those individuals work together as a team, being accountable not just for their work but for the work of others – requires coaching and support.  Not to mention the challenge that many internally promoted leaders face – transitioning from buddy to boss.

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?

For more on this topic, check out my podcast: Sink or Swim is NOT Leadership Development.

Till next time,

Karen

company culture, Development, leadership development, New leaders

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Giving New Leaders a Strong Start

May 25th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

Imagine yourself in the shoes of someone who has just been promoted to their first leadership role. This may have been you some years ago. Or perhaps you are early in your career and it’s something you aspire to. Either way, chances are you felt/would feel: excited, proud, curious, and maybe just a tad bit…anxious. What’s expected of me? What will change? Will I succeed? How…do…I…lead?

As I discussed in my last blog, Sink or Swim is Not Leadership Development, all too often new leaders are thrown into the role and left to their own devices for answers to these questions. Expectations are not clarified until the unspoken goes unmet. No preparation for the change in peer relationships and broader accountability. And the answer to “how do I lead?” usually becomes, “the way I’ve been led,” which isn’t necessarily the path to success.

Organizations need to give new leaders a strong start with a well-defined and consistently implemented leadership development program. In the course of my career, I’ve created and delivered many leadership initiatives. Here are what I’ve found to be “best practices” when developing new leaders.

Duration. Conduct the training over at least a 6-month period to allow for shorter sessions, application of new learning, and feedback. Learning is a process, not an event.

Mentor. Each new leader should have a seasoned leader mentor. Ideally, this is someone other than their immediate leader.

Commitment. Both the new leader and their immediate leader sign a contract committing to the development program. The new leader to participate and complete it, the immediate leader to support and reinforce the learning.

Regularly scheduled short workshops. These can be weekly or bi-weekly, but should be regularly scheduled over the course of the program and a priority for all involved. (This is where the commitment comes in). For weekly workshops, I recommend two hours on the same day each week. For bi-weekly, you may want to go a little bit longer. Topics should be built around what it means to be a leader in your organization – expectations and responsibilities, managing vs. leading. I also recommend including sessions on effective communication, resolving conflict, team building, coaching employees, and transitioning from peer to leader.

Self-discovery workshop. The best leaders are self-aware. Giving new leaders the opportunity to understand themselves – how they communicate, how they interact, how they are likely to lead – early on, increases the likelihood that they will adapt successfully to the role. I use the Lumina Spark assessment for this. Done in a workshop setting, it also helps leaders gain a better understanding of others, which will help them successfully lead the individuals on their teams.

Individual Development Plans. Throughout the program, participants should be receiving regular feedback from their immediate leader as well as guidance and feedback from their mentor. Upon graduation from the program, each participant should work with his/her leader to identify strengths and development areas to create a 12-month IDP.

A few other components I’ve also used in the past with positive results are: a syllabus of reading materials – books, white papers, articles, on leadership topics; having participants work in teams to research and present on one of the topics outlined in the program; and creating a “New Leader Forum” where new leaders get together to share issues and ideas, with alternating senior leader facilitators.

“Winning companies win because they have good leaders who nurture the development of other leaders at all levels of the organization.” — Noel Tichy

Till next time,

Karen

Leadership, leadership development, learning and development, New leaders

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Sink or Swim is Not Effective Leadership Development

May 17th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

Organizations spend a fair amount of their corporate training dollars on leadership development. And the biggest chunk 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 as they try to navigate the transition from individual contributor to people leader.

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.” Although 96% of respondents said that frontline managers are vital to driving business success, only 48% felt that their organizations adequately invested in frontline manager development.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, author Victor Lipman said, “As I neared the end of my corporate days, I realized I’d received much more management training in the last five years than I did in the first 20 years - when I really needed it - combined."  Lipman is the author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.

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. In that same HCI survey, respondents were asked to rank the must-have skills for frontline managers in order of importance. Technical expertise was ranked as Number 7, preceded by:


  1. Ethics and integrity

  2. Communicates effectively

  3. Drives for results/motivation to succeed

  4. Flexibility/adaptability

  5. Develops effective teams

  6. Maintains relationships with internal stakeholders


  7. While some of these skills might be inherent in a new leader, being able to apply them effectively while adapting to leading people – understanding individual strengths, motivators, skill gaps, personalities and how those individuals work together as a team, being accountable not just for their work but for the work of others – requires coaching and support.  Not to mention the challenge that many internally promoted leaders face – transitioning from buddy to boss.

    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. Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity, according to Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report.

    Isn’t it worth increasing your investment in time and training to develop effective leaders – from the very beginning?

    Till next time,

    Karen

    Leadership, learning and development, New leaders

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