The greatest untapped resource for leadership development is experienced leaders who have done the work to improve their effectiveness as leaders. That’s why I recently conducted a survey – the PeopleThink Leadership Journey Survey – to capture insight, experience, and lessons learned from people who have “earned their stripes,” so to speak, as experienced leaders of teams and/or organizations in a variety of industries. I’ll be integrating the results of the survey into my GET REAL Leadership Program, which I’ll be rolling out early next year.
Survey respondents represented more than 10 different industries across the US and Europe. Industries included Technology, Life Sciences, Financial, Professional Services, Learning and Development, Nonprofit, and others. Leadership roles represented ranged from Mid-Level Manager (17%) to Senior Leader (31%) to Founder/Entrepreneur (21%) to C-Level Executive (18%). The average length of respondent leadership experience was 13+ years.
Here are some highlights of what the leaders collectively shared from their Leadership Journeys.
Primary purpose of a leader. The majority of respondents said that the primary purpose of a leader is to 1-Build a Strong Team. Other purposes that rated highly include (in order):
2-Focus on the people (coach, develop, grow)
4-Set the vision
5-Shape the culture
Since one of the goals of the survey was to capture insight that I could incorporate into my leadership development and coaching work, I wanted to understand what respondents believed were some of the key actions that helped them achieve their purpose as a leader. Here are some responses:
“Hire the right people” (Build a strong team)
“Learn to listen” (Focus on the people)
“Hold yourself and others accountable (Achieve results)
“Communicate the vision” (Set the vision)
“Build trust” (Shape the culture)
Leadership competencies. Respondents identified the following as the competencies that most helped them succeed as leaders (in order)
1-People focus (coach, develop, grow)
3-See the big picture
Personal development. A rather alarming result from the survey was that while 74% of respondents said they believe that leaders should carve out time to develop their leadership competencies, 40% spend LESS THAN 15% of their time developing those competencies. Competencies they identified as important to work on:
2-Seeking feedback from others
3-Being comfortable with change
5-Having difficult conversations
Developing others. 86% of respondents said they believe that leaders should carve out time to help their people grow and develop. The top resources they currently make available to their people:
Some of the greatest insight from the survey came from the open-ended questions where respondents were asked to reflect on what they would have done differently on their leadership journey, and what their key lessons learned were.
“I would have invested in myself earlier in the journey.”
“I wish I had taken more risks.”
“I was once told that if I felt like an ‘imposter’ in my leadership role, then I didn’t understand my true value. So, I began to ask what value I provided, and in all my years as a leader that has made the biggest difference for me.”
“I would have started sooner to take more time to work on my leadership competencies.”
“Hire the right people and invest in their development.”
“Focus on the people and the results will follow…This is now my leadership philosophy and it has proven true many times.”
“To make critical decisions, always keep in mind the mission and vision of the organization. When you lose sight of that, it never turns out well.”
“Delegate and empower people! It’s the only way to achieve multiples of what you can achieve on your own.”
“See the future, believe the future, feel the future.”
If you didn’t have the opportunity to complete the survey, but would like to share some insight or lessons learned from your leadership journey, please complete the The PeopleThink Leadership Journey Survey.
Till next time,
What is it that differentiates a high performing team from a team that never gets beyond the “storming” stage in the forming/storming/norming/performing (The Tuckman Model) journey? How does a high performing team continue to achieve milestones and meet deadlines even as dynamics change due to a new or departing member? How do they manage to overcome the inevitable differences of opinion or even conflict to stay on track?
They establish and adhere to Rules of Engagement.
Think back, for a minute, to when you were in school. No, not college. Think waaay back to kindergarten or elementary school. Most likely on the first day of class your teacher shared with you “the rules.” No talking in class. Raise you hand to go to the bathroom. No fighting. Turn your homework in on time. You knew what the expectations were upfront, and you knew (and, yes, perhaps even experienced) what the consequences were if you didn’t meet those expectations. The goal of the rules was to create a harmonious and productive environment for learning. Without establishing and enforcing those rules, the classroom could have been chaos.
And so it goes with teams. In fact, we’ve seen (or at least read about) that chaos on a nearly daily basis with one very, very visible team. Don’t let that happen to your team.
Allocate some time – as a team – to establish your team Rules of Engagement. These should align with your company values and culture. As you think about what to include, consider things that have been an issue for the team in the past – what guideline can you put in place that will prevent that issue in the future? Here are some topics your rules can address:
Communication. What is the preferred method – email, phone, in person – for sharing information vs. decision making vs. resolving conflict?
Meetings. Is there a limit on length? How will you handle chronic late-comers? How will you ensure that everyone is heard (at the meeting rather than post-meeting in a hallway discussion)?
Decisions. How will you make them? A vote? Who’s the tie breaker?
Conflict. What’s your process for managing it? What will you do when it escalates?
Other potential topics are prioritization, accountability, coordinating task hand off, reviewing each other’s work. And certainly don’t forget to include a general rule about good behavior – kindness, respect, integrity.
Diversity of ideas, opinions, skill sets, experience and background enhances a team’s ability to innovate, and to provide the full complement of capabilities to achieve desired results. The best way to leverage those capabilities and to increase your team’s performance is by defining and maintaining your Rules of Engagement.
Till next time,
It’s easy to become complacent at the top. You may tell yourself, “I worked hard to get here and now I’m just going to coast for a while.” Or, “I’m waaaay too busy to carve out time for learning.” Or even, “I’ve maxed out my learning capacity” (AKA “I already know it all.”)
Here’s a reality check. There’s always more to learn. And the best and most successful leaders recognize that the learning journey never stops.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has done extensive research on achievement and success. In this work, she discovered that people tend to have one of two mindsets – a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that their innate qualities such as intelligence or talent are fixed traits and that any success they achieve is directly attributable to those qualities. No need to work hard or continue learning.
Conversely, people with a growth mindset believe that their innate qualities are just a starting point and that those qualities can be further developed through hard work and dedication. Dweck found that the most successful people have a growth mindset. They have a love of learning and a resilience that helps them achieve great things.
PeopleThink recently did a series of interviews with experienced leaders to learn about their respective leadership journeys and what they each considered the keys to their success.
The most common theme? Continuous learning and development.
And it’s not just about learning and continuing to develop the skills you need to lead – setting a vision, effective communication, people care, achieving results, etc. It’s about identifying and developing the personal behaviors that will help you lead effectively. Things like listening to others, accepting feedback, embracing change, learning to be more confident, becoming self-aware. Carving out time to work on these leadership skills and behaviors – competencies – is essential to becoming an effective leader.
So how do you do it? First of all, adopt the right mindset. Be curious, and admit that you still have room for improvement. Recognize that investing the time to do so will not only benefit you, but will also benefit your team (we’ll get to developing them in my next blog). Then, follow these steps:
Identify and acknowledge gaps. What are the areas you need to develop to become the leader you want (and need) to be? Do some self-reflection to make a list, and then get some feedback from others (here’s where you develop “accepting feedback.”)
Create a plan. Select one or two areas that you will focus on in the next three months. Do some research to find resources and opportunities to develop and practice those skills/behaviors. Carve out and schedule the time.
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 you’ve identified. You can work on them in your next plan.
Remember that learning comes in many forms, from many places. In my leadership development work with organizations, I’ve seen the greatest benefits come from programs where we used a variety of components including: workshops, mentoring or coaching, assessments, stretch assignments to apply the learning, teach-back sessions conducted by participants, leadership forums, and required reading.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.” – John F. Kennedy
Till next time,
One of the activities I often incorporate into the Leadership Workshops I facilitate is having each participant develop their own “Leadership Mantra.” The original meaning of the word “mantra” was a sacred (Hinduism and Buddhism) utterance, sound, or word that was repeated over and over to aid in concentration during meditation. More recently, though, it has come to mean a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently; a truism, or saying. Although the definition has strayed somewhat from its original meaning, a mantra can still be very effective in helping you achieve clarity and maintain focus. And clarity and focus are essential to your success as a leader.
Your Leadership Mantra is what you are willing to “own” as a leader. It is created by you and for you. It is an oath that you will live by as a leader. Your Leadership Mantra will help you gauge your actions with your colleagues, your direct reports and your superiors. It also gives you clarity around how you operate in the world. You will make decisions based on your Leadership Mantra. It will serve as a guide throughout the day as you ask yourself, “Does this action align with who I am and who I want to become as a leader?”
The leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – looks at four domains of leadership: Leading with Vision, Leading with Drive, Leading to Deliver, and Leading through People. As leaders, we should develop competency in each of these domains, yet we tend to operate most frequently in one or two of them.
A leader strong in the Leading with Vision domain tends to focus on strategy, innovation and inspiring the team. A leader strong in Leading with Drive provides the team with very clear direction and is focused on achieving excellence. The strength of a Leading to Deliver leader lies in planning, follow-through and accountability. And a leader strong in Leading through People focuses on coaching and developing the team, and creating win-win partnerships. Where do you see yourself?
Here’s an assignment. Take some time to think about where your strengths are as a leader, and what kind of leader you want to be. Then develop your Leadership Mantra. Your mantra should be simple, memorable, and applicable. It should be no more than three short phrases. Once you’ve developed your mantra, write it down, memorize it, and live by it.
And on those days when everything seems to be falling apart or going haywire – use your Leadership Mantra to bring you back to clarity and focus. And if you do that while meditating, so much the better!
Till next time,
We’ve all experienced them. Those bosses who are incredibly good at the business or technical side of their role – be it finance, sales, technology or whatever their expertise –and who are painfully lacking when it comes to dealing effectively with the people around them. The constantly closed door. The blow up in meetings. Communicating via email vs. face-to-face. The total disregard of others’ feelings. It’s all about the business! The human connection is missing.
Sound familiar? If you can’t think of an example in your office, think about the recent incident when AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong fired his creative director in front of 1000 employees. Although he apologized later, clearly he had checked any people skills he has at the door that day.
For many years the trend has been to promote people to leadership roles because of their domain expertise or bottom line results regardless of how many bodies they may have left in their wake. Thankfully, things are changing. In fact, Emotional Intelligence (EI), the “human” skill set, is becoming as important, if not more important, than the “hard skills” in determining leadership success. According to a TalentSmart study, EI accounts for 58% of a leader’s job performance. And among top performers, 90% of them rank high in Emotional Intelligence. But what exactly is EI?
Emotional Intelligence, as defined by EI expert Dr. Daniel Goleman, is the capacity for:
1. Knowing your emotions
2. Managing your own emotions
3. Motivating yourself
4. Recognizing and understanding other people’s emotions
5. Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others
How does this translate into the workplace and leadership? People with Emotional Intelligence are able to quickly build rapport and connect with others. They listen. They have the self-awareness to know how they’re going to respond in certain situations and can self-manage to direct their behavior positively. They can disagree without being disrespectful. They have empathy. They control their emotions. Great leaders recognize that human relationships and connecting with others is as important as their domain expertise in order to be successful.
Some people come by these capabilities naturally. For others, the skills must be learned. Wherever you are on the spectrum, it’s essential to understand that you can no longer succeed on expertise alone.
Till next time,
Conflict on teams is inevitable. And when managed effectively, it can actually be a good thing. New ideas are born; relationships are deepened through the airing and resolution of differences; teams grow stronger. But when you are a leader in the midst of conflict and attempting to deal with it while juggling everything else, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are 5 tips for managing team conflict effectively.
1. Know your own style and “over-extenders.” Understanding your leadership strengths and how you react under stress is essential to handling conflict in a constructive manner. Often our positive traits can be perceived as negative when over-extended. For example, if you tend to set the bar high for yourself and others (Leading with Drive) this may be perceived as an unreasonable demand for perfection by a team that is struggling with workload or other internal issues. If your strength is Leading through People, when over-extended you may spend too much time trying to make sure everyone is happy rather than focusing on the collective team goals.
2. Know your team. The best teams bring diverse personalities, skills and experience to the table. Recognizing the value each individual’s skills and traits contribute to the team and how they complement (and potentially conflict with) each other will help you lay the groundwork for effective conflict resolution. Build team awareness and appreciation of different styles, and provide opportunities for productive interactions and mutual understanding.
3. Make the time to just listen. When a deadline is looming and the team can’t seem to get past a conflict barrier, you may be tempted, as the leader, to force an end to the issue and just push your position through. Don’t. Make time to listen to all sides so you can get to the core of the issue and help the team develop a solution.
4. Harness the power of diverse thinking. Create an environment that encourages open communication and fresh ideas and approaches. Reach out to those who are less vocal to ensure that their ideas get added to the mix. When everyone feels heard and appreciated, “conflicts” become productive discussions.
5. Chart the way forward. Embrace the “lessons learned” from the bumps on the journey, refocus on the goals and move forward.
Want to learn more about your leadership style and the styles of your team for more effective conflict resolution? Contact me at kcolligan@PeopleThink.biz.
Till next time,