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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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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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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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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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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)

3-Achieve results

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)

2-Communication skills

3-See the big picture

4-Honesty/transparency

5-Innovation

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:

1-Active listening

2-Seeking feedback from others

3-Being comfortable with change

4-Building trust

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:

1-Conferences

2-Mentor

3-On-site training

4-Stretch assignments

5-Networking

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.

Self-reflection

“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.”

Lessons learned

“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.

Thank you!

Till next time,

Karen

Leadership, leadership development, learning and development, Professional and team leadership

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Let’s Get Real About Leadership

November 7th, 2018

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, it’s time to get real about what makes a leader truly extraordinary. It’s not rocket science. It’s what I call the Get Real Leadership Basic 6 (or Leadership According to Karen).

Learn. 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.

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!

Tomorrow. What is your vision? Share it. Give your people a reason to want to stay. 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.

Resources. Give your people adequate resources, tools and support to do their jobs. Then get out of the way and let them do it. Don’t make them beg or want to look elsewhere to fulfill their goals. Be sure you have the right resources to make your team successful.

Please and 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.”

Laugh. Laugh often and laugh loudly. You spend a whole lot of time working. Make sure you create a work environment that people are happy to come to, where they feel supported and connected, where they can do their best work. Then enjoy the ride!

You’ll note that integrity, honesty and trust are not on this list.  Why? Because they are just “no-brainers.” Without trust there is absolutely no one who is going to follow you anywhere. Trust is the foundation of a leader.

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

Till next time,

Karen

Leadership, leadership development, self-awareness

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