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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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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

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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What’s Holding You Back?

February 26th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan


In my last blog, Becoming a Leader, I shared that self-awareness is the first step in becoming an effective leader. This means understanding your strengths, values, accomplishments, development areas AND…recognizing (and admitting) any beliefs and behaviors that may be working against you. These are what I call your internal barriers; the “show stoppers” that are preventing you from getting to where you want to be.





Here are some examples.





You’ve been unhappy for several years in your current role. You’re bored. You know you have more to offer, but you don’t see yourself getting an opportunity to do so in this organization. And you can’t seem to crank up the initiative to look for an opportunity elsewhere. What’s holding you back?  Fear of change? Self-doubt? Difficulty selling yourself? Procrastinator?





For the second time in the past 5 years you’ve been passed over for a promotion. You work hard. You know the organization. You always hit your goals. Yes, maybe you’ve had some difficulties with other team members, but only because you care so much about things being done the right way.  What’s holding you back? Perfectionist? Short-tempered? Controlling? Confrontational?





You’ve just come back from your annual review meeting with your leader. For the first time in your career, you’ve received less than a stellar review. You sat there in a fog of phrases like “deadlines missed,” “disappointing results,” “lack of commitment.” You can’t believe that after all you’ve done for this company, the long hours and lost vacations, that it has come to this. What’s holding you back? Difficulty asking for help? Lack of work/life balance? Burn out? Stress management?





OK. Now it’s your turn.





As you think back over your career, what are the internal barriers that have prevented you from getting to where you want to be? These may be beliefs or behaviors you recognize in yourself, or ones you’ve learned about through feedback. Be brutally honest with yourself. That’s the only way to GET REAL about them and start dealing with them.





Write them down. Choose from those I’ve mentioned above, or from the list below or add your own. The important thing is to identify, acknowledge and admit them!





Here are some additional common internal barriers to consider:





Absent-minded
Argumentative
Change-resistant
Communication barriers
Difficulty with authority
Disorganized
Fear of making the wrong decision
Impatient
Lack of focus
Limited network
Poor follow-through
Poor judge of others
Prioritizing
Time management
Timid
Too readable
Worried about what others think





If you completed the values exercise from last time and now have identified your internal barriers, you are on your way to building self-awareness.





Subscribe to my blog for more tips on GET REAL Leadership!





Till next time,





Karen


leadership development, Personal development, self-awareness

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