Doug Thorpe is a proven business leader with experience in Fortune 500, non-profit, service sectors, and military. He has a passion to guide new, first time managers; helping them find health, wealth and happiness while they master the demands of learning how to lead others.
Executive coaching is growing in popularity. Former stigmas associated with having a coach are evaporating. There once was a time when Boards only hired coaches to “fix” someone. Now, very successful executives are hiring coaches to grow even further than before. Companies are embracing coaching as ways to leverage their investment in senior managers and leaders.
When executive coaching comes into play, it’s only natural that potential coaching clients (coachees) research the coach. Who is the coach? What kind of coaching does he/she practice? How do his/her clients rate the experience? What coaching certifications does the coach have? How deep is the professional experience? And then, once enough blind trust has been established, the coach is selected and the first coaching session is booked in the calendar.
However, in our conversations with coaching clients, we’ve learned that very few people actually research how to be a good coaching client. How should one approach coaching, from the client point of view?
There is a widespread belief that the coaching experience is entirely the responsibility of the coach and little to no preparation is undergone by the client. And this is interesting. While there are many definitions, types, and methodologies of coaching, coaching clients are aware, at some level, that the coaching experience will be about themselves, their problems/goals, their behaviors/feelings and what to do or who to become to change them, against given goals.
If this were true, as a coaching client, are you naturally ready to go there; diving into your behaviors, your feelings, your identity? How aware are you of what you really want? Are you naturally ready to reflect on your deepest inner workings, your belief system, your values? Probably not so much and it’s OK.
Finding the Edge
We’re not inclined to reflect on the deeper levels of ourselves. At least not as a general habit. But hey, that’s why we have the coaching profession, for those of us who are inclined to do these life searches and, having done it ourselves, we make it our mission to support others in this endeavor.
The thing is, having a good coach does not, by any measure, guarantee you’ll get where you think you want to go. Yes, good and experienced coaches will most likely help you spark some light that you never knew was there and you’ll use that light to shine in new and unforeseen ways in your life. Nevertheless, the road to getting ahead is neither easy, nor comfortable, nor fast. It is, most of the time, the exact opposite: complex, uncomfortable and slow. And, of course, not all coaches are good and experienced.
We’re going to share a few things to consider when preparing for that first coaching session. This will most definitely act as an accelerator for you on your path to your goal and will also help the coaching process reach its authentic conversational rhythm.
Think about your destination
Coaching is a journey. The coach is there to guide you, to make sure you are aware of the road, the scenery, the mud holes in the ground, to show you multiple potential paths towards your destination. However, you are the one to set the destination. It’s OK to not know exactly where you want to go, just make sure to reflect on it and ask the coach to help you identify a destination worth going to. Don’t pick any destination just for the sake of having a coaching goal. If you don’t really want or need it, you’re about to waste time and money.
Adopt the “Me stance”
As a coaching client, you’re there to discuss something that’s going on with you, be it a problem you have, or maybe a big decision you’re thinking to make, it doesn’t matter. It’s about you. Be prepared to have a conversation about you, how you see things, how you believe they affect you and why that happens.
Avoid talking about others (as tempting as it may be), because there’s nothing you or the coach can do about what others do/say/are. You can, on the other hand, focus on how external factors are affecting you, at all possible levels. This is the “Me stance”. Whenever you feel like talking about others, reposition that in terms of how what they do/say is affecting you.
As mentioned, coaching is a journey and one of the things you can expect from the coach is to show you multiple paths to try out. Remain curious about the coach’s invitations to explore.
A good coach will sense things that may be behind what you’re saying (or not saying) and will invite you to put it on the table, with the goal to deepen your understanding of the situation. Instead of questioning the validity or significance of the coach’s questions, go with the flow.
Be curious and explore (especially when it’s about your emotions), because it’s yourself that you are exploring and be assured: you are a fascinating human being and you are totally worth exploring. Without question, you will be astonished by your inner workings, just be willing to open the door.
Coaching is not just the conversation. It doesn’t end when the conversation is over. One of the ways we see coaching going wrong is when the coaching client does not attach any action to commitment. We’re not talking about the cases where the client hasn’t yet reached a high enough level of awareness of the problem, that would allow assuming the responsibility for the action.
No. We’re talking about when the client is aware of the problem desires to do something about it, yet he/she manages not to. There are many reasons for this, of course, most of them being traced back to a fear of something.
Be sure you will reach a place in the coaching process where you will need to commit to achieving your goal. In your endeavor to do so, you will be tempted to not do it. When those temptations appear, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to see your goals happen.
Doing nothing changes nothing.
Learn from the coach
At some point, maybe you’ll start noticing some kind of pattern in the coaching process; some themes that the coach repeatedly invites you to explore. Use this to self-regulate, when you feel you need coaching. What questions that worked very deep for you could be applied to another problem you have?
What have you learned about how you function (rationally and emotionally) from the coaching experience that you could scale for yourself, to tackle new goals?
Basically, how can you be your own coaching client? This, of course, happens after several sessions and depends very much on your general awareness and presence. Keep in mind that the trick with coaching is to reach a place where you can start helping yourself, not to create a coach-dependancy. There will be times you actually need a coach, just make sure you’ve first given it your best shot, yourself.
The coaching conversation is very dear to us and we strongly believe it to be a critical tool in any professional’s “toolkit”, especially in that of leaders. And by the toolkit, we really mean mindset, because coaching is, a mindset. So, we trust the above 5 reflection points will help you in your own experience as a coaching client and we’d very much love to hear your thoughts on them!
At a recent luncheon, I was involved in a discussion that I find becoming more common. The topic was this: Change Management is old news. The argument says the way we once understood change management has been overcome by several new and more complex drivers in business.
Here are some of the reasons old-style change management doesn’t work anymore.
First, we are now into Phase Three of technology advancements. Phase One was the development of the Internet; building the superhighway for information exchange. Phase Two was the emergence of power users who understood the opportunities from phase one and launched very disruptive platforms to overhaul the way we operate and live (think Apply, Amazon, Facebook, Google). Phase Three, our current phase, includes IOT (the Internet of Things), nanotechnologies, and other rapid response initiatives in energy, life sciences, and medicine.
The pace at which Phase Three operates has the potential for changing in an instant. Long, drawn out change management plans can’t sustain the rapid change happening required by Phase Three.
Another factor is the whipsaw effect most business leaders find themselves these days. Conflicting interests create massive paradoxes that keep managers and leaders on their heels. These are examples of polar opposites that now exist in businesses of all sizes, and the list goes on.
Be more hands-on with business, but less hands-on with people. Executives stated a need to find new ways to be inclusive and to help others develop. Meanwhile, they’re now more conscious of keeping their eye on the day-to-day business in a way that’s more encompassing.
Do more with less. Drive increased productivity while reducing resources and controlling costs.
Empower the work team but manage risk. Leaders must take chances while safeguarding the business. In a highly
unpredictable market, this balancing act is more difficult than ever before.
Seel diverse points of view but drive unified action. A leader must encourage people to share ideas while inspiring them
to embrace the ultimate decision.
Next, conventional leadership approaches involving annual reviews, merit awards, and other older compensation models don’t support the rapid change cycles. People can work multiple, very diverse assignments within a one year review period. Conventional tools like strategic planning and budgeting have time horizons that look like glacier movement when compared to the fast pace of some current change.
Lastly, old mindsets about human behavior in the face of change are becoming less effective for managing and leading work teams. Whether you blame it on the Millennial effect or some other convenient excuse for poor leadership, teams today don’t thrive under old ways of managing.
To better accommodate the rapid change in the business world today, you must adopt a different view. I have become an evangelist for one that makes much more sense.
I call it ACE for Agility, Core, and Edge. Let’s start with the Core.
The Core is who we are and what we know/believe. It’s the stuff we’re “made of”. Core comes from the composite experiences we have had in life. Your core includes values, beliefs, experience, biases, prejudices (yes we all have them). It also includes the knowledge you have accumulated whether by teaching, training or practical experience.
The Core is not limited to values and beliefs but has much to do with that. Understanding your own core can help define purpose. Core helps to understand the power of harnessing your mind’s attention and your hearts affection. When these two critical elements are running in harmony, you can be an unstoppable force.
Core creates our comfort zones. When you feel you are operating in a comfort zone, you are deep in your core.
As you face new challenges or get pushed into unfamiliar circumstances, you are walking on the Edge. The edge is where everything we don’t know lives. New ideas, new technology, new programs, business growth initiatives, all are edge things.
Standing on the edge takes us far away from our core and leaves us uncomfortable. Most of us don’t like the edge. We don’t like it on the edge. For many of us, we don’t even like stepping too far away from our core.
Yet changes happening around us demand that we visit the edge. All the “new” things in your world are likely Edge items, not core ones.
Agility is the special ability to move from core to edge and back again without losing all sense of balance or security. Great leaders develop their agility more than even their core. Having agility as a leader gives you the strength to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. The agiler you might be as a leader, the more you are known as the stabilizing force.
Requires being fully aware “in the moment” to concentrate intensely on the needs of the situation
Allows for behavioral transitions between proven practices and new approaches
Is employed in a proactive and intentional way to increase the effectiveness
Have you ever worked for someone who seemed to never get rattled despite some very stressful situations? That person had agility. They could go out to the edge (the stress) and not lose sight of their core. They knew their core was a strength and an ever-present reservoir of wisdom and experience. They knew that going to the edge did not require abandoning the core.
Lee Hecht Harrison conducted a survey of 130 executive level leaders (CEO, COO, CFO or Presidents) from over 92 organizations. FIndings show that the most successful leaders are adept at using a wide range of behaviors strategically matched to produce targeted impact.
Here are some of their top line findings:
In response to dealing with paradoxes and contradictory environments, leaders need to make frequent choices about the way in which they lead. They must draw upon a broad range of behaviors to navigate and lead most effectively.
In order to increase their agility, leaders cannot rely solely on their strengths and preferences. They must learn and practice new behaviors.
Behavior shifts cannot be prescribed; rather, personal capability must be developed to select the right approach “in-the-moment.” This requires the development of self-reflection, which builds the awareness to effectively scan the situation, select the most results-orientated focus, shift to the required behavior and learn from the experience.
The Best Type of Change
Back to the argument about change management. The best change you can pursue is learning to develop your agility. For the moment, your core is finite. It is only just so big.
The edge is arguably infinite. There are moments of all types every day that become edge events in our lives. Do you disagree with infinite? Think of the edge as a circle around your core. Mathematicians tell us there is an infinite number of points along the outer edge of a circle.
The best change you can pursue is learning how to grow your agility. Why? Because better agility gets you out to the edge faster with a more stable ability to respond. Then once the edge is handled, you revert back to the core. This push and pull build a resilience.
Steps for Increasing Personal Agility
Because self-awareness is the first step, you need to learn to “see” when agility is being used. The person may be aware or unaware that they are behaving with agility. What you will notice is that the person is using a combination of approaches in dealing with a group and has success in getting a broad range participation that leads to focused, productive action. They are curious about
what others have to say and respectful of diverse views, bringing a level of creativity and innovation to addressing complex situations.
Find a leader who demonstrates the ability to select the right behaviors for a range of different situations. Notice when they match their approach to the situation. Ask them to share how they make this determination. Have a discussion about how you both become aware of matching your behavior to the situation.
Identify what “clues” you use to determine whether to go for “core” or “edge.”
Practice identifying when you are in “core” and “edge” modes. Become aware of how you choose which approach to apply.
Practice becoming aware of yourself when you are distracted and how you can regain focus.
Practice concentrating your attention, identify a work or point of attention that you can use to refocus your actions. Use it when you notice yourself getting off track.
Identify the environment that gives you the highest level of performance. Notice the results you get when you are in this environment.
Identify how you “know” when it is time to shift and move on. How do you determine your point of diminishing return for an approach? Notice when you have stayed in one mode for too long.
Practice using this “signal” to make change earlier.
Notice what happens when you release your focus and move
There is an added benefit. Once you more effectively move back and forth between core and edge, you actually grow your core. Your experiences out on the edge become your new truth. The new impact of having completed an edge task adds to your core.
I know I’ll get letters from my change management friends. These I welcome because then we’ll all get to share ideas about new edges and where our core sits. Let’s ACE it!
Author’s Note: This ACE model is shared by permission of Lee Hecht Harrison, a global leader in talent development. It has been my privilege to work with their team across the U.S. coaching senior executives at major corporations.
The biggest buzzword in Human Resources these days seems to be “Big Data”—the idea that we can now gather so much complex information about our workforce processes and can churn that data into a meaningful analysis that will help us better manage our business. Like our federal government, however, we in HR can sometimes be accused of over-engineering, as in the proverbial definition of a camel being a “racehorse designed by Human Resources”. Still, we spend lots of time and resources on gathering and crunching numbers to either improve our processes or possibly to justify our professional existence.
In my last corporate assignment, our Big Data arrived each month in the form of a four-page report that contained about 125 statistics. I, personally, thought that only about three of them were really significant. That could explain why I no longer work there, I guess. Still, the question… have we become so fascinated with Big Data that we continually miss what I consider to be one of the most singularly important pieces of data in the HR world?
One of the largest public accounting firms in the world, Deloitte, conducted research that showed that their 55,000 employees were spending 2,000,000 hours per year on the annual, employee performance appraisal process (“Reinventing Performance Management”, Harvard Business Review, April 2015). On average, that computes to over 36 hours per year, per employee.
Deloitte determined that the return on that time and expense investment was unacceptable. Only 42% of their executives believed in any correlation between the appraisal process and increased employee engagement, improved performance, or enhanced bottom line. Like others, they have made some adjustments to their process but at last report, they continue to complete an annual, year-end, summary process.
Unlike others, however, Deloitte should be credited for gathering this data. Many Human Resources and C-suite executives in other companies seem to accept the inevitability of the annual appraisal without question.
The Dating Game
The vice-president of HR of one of the largest online dating services in the world, when asked about their program’s effectiveness responded: “While I don’t have any data, per se, I know my people and our process works well here.” Why do so many organizations spend so much time tracking and improving efficiency and profitability in other operational units while HR, at least on this issue, seems to get a “pass”?
How much time are employees spending on the annual review process? The research is sparse but telling. The least documented time data is found in the Society for Human Resources Management website, showing managers spending as little as eleven hours per year on the process. Research conducted by iSi Human Resources Consulting in Houston shows managers spending significantly more.
Big Numbers for Big Companies
The general manager of the Fluor Corporation’s Houston office tracked his actual hours spent on the process in 2008 and found that he invested 400 hours (ten weeks a year), of his time in the process. That ten-week commitment to the traditional process was verbally validated by the same online dating service HR executive mentioned above. An engineering manager at NASA who was recently interviewed said that he is responsible for producing formal appraisals for 43 different employees, three times per year and he is not allowed to delegate any of that responsibility. He spends about 1,000 hours on the process each year; almost one-half of his occupational life!
While these numbers may first seem unrealistically large, caution is advised. HR professionals will want to take ownership of this issue, conducting research to assure an adequate return-on-investment for their organization. Everyone in the HR world seems to be concerned with “big data”. It is difficult to imagine any bigger data than knowing the total amount of time, money, and resources organizations are committing to the appraisal process and, of course, the dollar value of the benefits or outcomes.
HR executives who determine that “the juice is not worth the squeeze,” will want to consider creative alternatives like Big Five Performance Management at www.bigfiveperformance.com.
“What have my people done and what are they going to do?”
“Big 5” has been in use since the late 80’s but has only recently been thrust into the corporate limelight. Big 5 is a simple, yet sophisticated way to cut to the heart of the employee performance issue.
The whole Big 5 process can be summed up this way. At the end of every month, have each employee submits twp shortlists:
What are the five biggest accomplishments this past month?
What are my next 5 priorities for the new month?
This process takes no more than 10 minutes per month per person but gives employees the chance to tell-their-story, taking credit for their contributions. Managers then have the opportunity to respond with affirmation/praise, coaching, and even correction, re-directing the team member’s efforts. DaVinci said that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” We could not agree more.
When a full year passes, you now have 60 data points from which you make your assessment decisions; employee rankings, merit awards, bonuses, etc. No need for really big data here.
Suit Up, Show Up, and Shut Up – Three wise words shared with Mothers of the Groom for wedding planning and etiquette. A friend whose son was getting married recently shared this with me. I had heard it before but had forgotten the teaching. It sounds cruel but it has merit in the situation. After all, weddings are for the Brides, right?
As this triplet rang in my ears, I realized there is a leadership teaching in here too. In a world of complex managerial challenge and voids of bonafide leadership, the ways executives and business owners conduct themselves takes center stage. These three gems just might hold some valuable truth.
When you are in a position of authority, you have to suit up every day. I don’t mean dress slacks and ties or dresses, I mean putting on your full wardrobe of talent and experience. You just can’t leave anything behind. Forgetting about the knowledge and experience you bring to the job can be fatal. You have to be prepared.
You must be willing to get ready for each and every day. You owe it to your team to come to the office or the plant as fully decked out in mental clarity, emotional energy, and technical skill as you can.
It can be tiring. It can be boring. You might even be tempted to “call it in” every so often. But if you do, you will have personally taken some air out of the room. Your people will know it.
Your team counts on you whether you believe that or not. Consciously or subconsciously they want their leader present. Presence has to be physical and emotional. You have to be connected.
As the moments of the day tick away, you need to be present in each of those moments. The best leadership doesn’t happen at big meetings or forums, it happens in the next minute when someone who works with you needs a question answered or asks for guidance. Great leadership is in those moments.
You don’t need to know it all. Rely on the people who surround you. Ask questions but don’t direct everything. You can guide but don’t dictate. Encourage rather than condemn.
There’s an old saying “it takes ten atta-boys to make up one OH s*&$t!” Your people will respond better to a level-headed discussion rather than harsh critique.
Work to be more of a listener rather than a talker. Use an empathetic ear when your team is talking to you. Either in group settings or one-on-one, be the one who listens more than talks. Measure your words and speak wisely when you do speak.
Find ways to turn issues into learning experiences. Yes, you may have to occasionally take a hard line, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.
Three Simple Truths
Suit up, show up and shut up – yes it sounds harsh, especially to Moms who are marrying off their precious sons. At work though, these can be some of the most powerful truths to live by. When you violate any or all of these principles you will find your team or your business operating a level much below your expectation. The problem won’t be your team. It might be YOU.
There’s a popular business analysis tool known as S.W.O.T. It provides a method for looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. As applied to a business, you can see the merit of doing this review periodically. SWOT reviews are done for business issues of all kinds like competition, market position, product design, sales, and technology.
However, it can be useful on a personal level as well. Managers and leaders should take time during annual reviews and goal setting exercises to add this powerful view as well. Here’s how it can work.
A plan of “right action” using a Personal SWOT Analysis can be developed for every life event in your future because there are always three critical components in every challenge:
These three components form a process of “right action”. Without understanding who you are or the depth of your business or organizational core competence, as well as your intended purpose, you are most times going to be guessing more than is needed. In the following analysis, you are taking a step by step walk through a proven process of creating clarity for right action.
You will focus on the following overriding questions:
What are your goals or objectives?
What are your values?
HOW Can YOU match your STRENGTHS to OPPORTUNITIES/Openings?
How can you reduce the impact of your WEAKNESSES and THREATS?
How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
Trying to analyze one’s own strengths can be tricky. Throughout all of my coaching, I seldom see anyone who gets this exactly right the first time. Some might be modest and undervalue great strength in areas like collaboration, employee empowerment, decision making or planning. Others can be more boastful, seeming to know without a doubt they are great leaders who people should feel honored to serve; “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.
Entrepreneurs can be especially blinded by the emotional connection to their idea. While the great new product or service has great potential, the business will fail because the founder doesn’t know what he/she doesn’t know.
Before isolating your own estimation of your strengths, seek some 360 feedback. Get input from others you value as trusted advisors. Do an informal ask session; asking those around you to share keywords they think describe you.
Then compile a list of the strengths that you can use to accomplish your goals and objectives.
Just like your strengths, identifying “weaknesses” in your personal domain can be hard. Objectivity can be lacking. You may even be suffering blindspots where your weaknesses reside. Using 360 reviews and stakeholder feedback can help highlight areas where there is an opportunity for improvement.
However, you may know exactly what areas or what issues give you the most trouble. Stating what these may be will help round out the SWOT analysis.
These are the things you can see as a new direction; changes that allow you to reach new goals. Taking a good look at the road in front of you can reveal opportunities for growth and change. Listing them while doing this personal inventory helps bring motivation and inspiration to the plan.
Don’t be shy here. Be creative. Also, don’t let limiting thoughts or beliefs cut down on opportunities that may exist.
Here you begin to list the forces that could prevent you from achieving the goal. Barriers like time, money and other resources can be considered. More importantly, you need to look at outside influences that pose challenges to you realizing any progress or accomplishment.
When you are planning for or thinking about that next big move or change in your life, doing this personal SWOT analysis can be helpful. However, to get the most from the exercise, be sure to be as thorough as you can. I know people who insist on identifying 10-15 things per section before they believe they have a complete analysis.
Once you build this inventory of things to consider, you have a basis for leveraging the strengths and opportunities against the weaknesses and threats. Hopefully, you see a clear path to success with the strengths and opportunities overtaking the weaknesses and threats.
With a comprehensive personal SWOT analysis, you can launch your next move.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to my friend, colleague, and mentor A. “Butch” Medrazzo of Silver Fox Advisors. He wrote the original thought on this matter. (At least the one that was original for me).
Leaders are looking for advice. Business people often need it. New challenges and ever-changing priorities leave us looking for fresh ideas.
Businesses operate at such a fast pace that owners and leaders are looking for advice wherever it is available. More often than not, you may reach toward the wrong resources. Un-tested advisors and questionable sources can send you down the wrong rabbit holes.
There are so many demands upon entrepreneurs and senior management of companies. Each organization is confronted with challenges and opportunities, both real and perceived. Without new ideas, it is tough to tackle all the obstacles and feel that substantial progress is being made.
It Is Lonely at the Top
From the owner’s seat, the need exists for comprehensive business ideas and growth strategies. Problem-solving solutions are valuable commodities. Couple these with the ever-present need for leadership development among senior executives and finding improved management skills, you have a serious thirst for new thoughts and ideas.
Top management regularly needs the creative inspiration to take the company to new heights. Cutting-edge executives (the very top and those about to take the mantle) need seasoned advice and inspiration.
The Go-To Ways We Find Answers
Here is where senior leaders and managers tend to go to get ideas, strategies, and help; in the order commonly used. The lower numbers represent the early choices. The higher numbers are where you should be reaching.
1. Hearsay and third hand – the “low lying fruit”, easy to find in abundance. Examples are comments heard at parties and networking functions, uninformed sources, friends of friends, high participation networkers, random research, and surveys.
2. Special Interests – narrows the expertise just a little more. These sources include websites containing educational material as a way to sell services, surveys, and their feedback.
3. People Selling Stuff – the Internet and social media is flooded with teaser offers to look like good information; vendors who distract you, using expressions like “funding to grow your business”, online marketing firms, Internet solicitors and sellers, website consulting
4. Internal Management – your own team should be reliable sources but can be risky at times. These are the people you work with, Mid-managers and supervisors, and Corporate leadership
5. Niche Experts and Consultants – moving up the chain further towards more reliable information: Trainers, Freelance consultants, niche solutions like banking, insurance benefits, human resources, etc. Then there are technology consulting firms and researchers.
In general, consultants are ranked lower on this scale for two reasons. First, the consulting field is over-crowded with sole practitioners who have lost jobs and cannot find work elsewhere.
Selecting a consultant is tricky business, not always much better than choices 1, 2 and 3 above. Plus, the better, more proven consultants quickly advance themselves to the higher ranking categories below; senior business advisors or outright gurus.
6. Educational Programs – better still might be dedicated educational platforms like speakers, seminars, panels at forums, workshops, trade conferences, webinars, and material published or broadcast in the media.
7. Books and Articles – sounds old school, but still valuable inspirations and information; books that withstand the test of time, articles excerpted for meetings, blog material posted online, self-published books by people with credible platforms, online articles and blogs, reputable authors already recognized as experts, and lastly cutting-edge books with original material (think Seth Grodin and Simon Sinek).
8. Advocacy Groups – these are everywhere. Some have long tenure, others not so much. Evaluate the reputation as you know it. Yet these can be rich resources for counsel and advice.
Chambers of commerce
People with whom you work in community and charity leadership roles
Boards of directors
The Better Business Bureau
Small Business Development Center
Trade industry groups
Consortiums of business
Cross-industry cooperative initiatives
9. Mentors – having a trusted advisor serving in a mentoring relationship can be a rich and rewarding experience for valuable ideas and wisdom. These are some of the better-known sources:
Corporate heir apparent training or high potential programs
Programs such as Shark Tank, Fox Den, Ted Talks
10. Senior Business Advisors – these are the professional service firms, including lawyers, accountants, marketing, public relations, quality management.
11. Major Business Gurus – top of the heap, proven thought leaders with wide, effective audiences who have used their advice and prospered. These experts have proven track records with many years in strategic advising, consulting or mentoring. The price point might be high, but the results are often 5x to 10x the investment.
Choose Wisely My Friend
With the field so full of choices, you must select wisely where you look for ideas, Then you must carefully decide which information to use for your next big decision.
Question: Where do you turn to look for inspiration and clear thinking about new ideas?
Hank Moore is that rare 1 out of 100,000 senior business advisors, a Big Picture strategist, with original, cutting-edge ideas for creating, implementing and sustaining corporate growth throughout every sector of the organization. His Business Tree is a trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business while mastering change.
This is a question I’ve heard asked far too many times in a boardroom or around the table when trying to select new managers. It comes from the full phrase “He/she may be the brightest bulb in the string (string of lights)”. It runs in the same vein as “Sharpest knife in the drawer”, “best crayon in the box”, and so on.
The idea is that we all have top performers on our teams. When a manager job opens up, we turn to high potentials to fill the role. The definition of high potential may be very formal or very simple. Who’s my best performer? Let’s make them the boss. It sounds genuine and logical, but not so fast.
The basic observations that get us thinking about ‘bright bulbs’ might be slightly valid but are seldom complete. The usual metrics such as quantitative data (volumes and output) plus qualitative values (like accuracy and effectiveness) are only part of the right consideration when picking your next team leader or unit manager. Just because someone is one of your best producers doesn’t mean they will be good managers.
If you look at why we think this way, you likely will realize that the argument does make sense. High producers and good workers “get it”. They are committed to the company and their fellow workers. They play nice with others and get along at work. Why wouldn’t you want a manager doing the same thing, right? I argue why would you?
In the late 80’s, the Head of the Management School at Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business started a program called the College of Business Administration (CBA) Fellows. The premise was to evaluate sophomores in the Business College. Academic performance (i.e. production) was only part of the evaluation. To be considered, other attributes were included; extracurricular activities, leadership positions in student and community organizations, and other demonstrated behaviors across the campus. Students were selected/invited to join the program. It was deemed an honor to be considered.
Once inducted into the program, students were given extra training and experience like internships and exposure to business leaders of Fortune 500 companies to build their leadership potential. The intent was to track these students long after graduation to monitor their advancement in the business world. The long-term performance of this group was compared to other business graduates who had not had the benefit of the extra development. It was no surprise that the CBA group outperformed the rest of the business school grads.
Extra development did enhance long-term outcome. The takeaway here is that while good production and indications of high potential may exist, you have no guarantee of successful movement into management without some form of added development.
How Does It Work Where You Are?
What do you do when evaluating talent for promotion into management? Do you let your gut tell you who to promote next or do you have a more objective way to define and measure someone’s potential for success? Here are some ways others make better choices:
Define the expectations of managers – First, you have to have a clear definition of measuring a manager’s success. By listing the elements of success, you can better benchmark the potential within a new candidate.
Look beyond current production – Dig deeper into the bright bulb’s wheelhouse. Do they even want to become a manager? Is that a talent they think they have? Use assessments to measure personalities and dispositions for a fit in management.
Evaluate other attributes – Think about other contributing factors that make good managers in your company. Are there work demands like sales, negotiations, or other technical skills required? Are there social demands like meeting clients, public speaking, or attending trade shows?
If you find yourself asking who’s the brightest bulb, stop and rethink your plans.
Question: How do you decide who should become the next manager on your team?
Leading an organization has never been easy. Increasing productivity pressures and demographic shifts have undeniably made it more difficult to be in executive leadership. During an economic boom, as long as organizations are in a prevailing growth mode, board members, shareholders, and the media take a hands-off approach.
However, when these pressures shift, corporate leadership is under intense scrutiny from all sides. Many executives are under pressure to reduce staff and cut costs while using their remaining employees to increase productivity, deliver innovation and build customer loyalty; all while maintaining a competitive advantage.
Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) interviewed 100 of the top executives in Fortune 500 companies they serve. The individuals they surveyed came from 92 organizations within 14 industries. These leaders were in the top two levels of their organizations: 65 percent at the CEO, COO, CFO or President level. The remaining 35 percent directly reporting to them. Forty-nine percent (49%) were in their current positions less than five years.
The LHH format was, by design, qualitative rather than quantitative. Therefore, their report does not include a statistical analysis, but rather reflects the rich dialogue and content revealed during the interviews.
The Consensus or Not
While the 100 executives agreed that the leadership models they previously used don’t seem to apply anymore, there was no consensus on a new model.
Many leaders expressed a sense of having to “make it up as they go along”. LHH heard from each leader that they are analyzing and reflecting on the best approaches more than in the past, but no single solution emerged.
There was an expressed need for a new leadership framework. Why? Because business leaders today are faced with dozens of competing behaviors they must demonstrate. Think of them as paradoxes. The forces from these expectations create a scissor effect, each pulling against the other. Here are the three most frequently reported paradoxes in the market today:
Paradox 1 – Be more hands-on with the business, but less hands-on with the people.
As Andy Lock, SVP of Herman Miller, said, “The challenge is to maintain a strong sense of community — both internally with employees and externally with customers.”
Another leader put it this way “Controlling the business is important, but controlling the people may feel like “over-control” to key performers. Just when a leader feels back in control personally, employee relationships suffer.” Empowerment was frequently cited as a goal for better employee engagement.
Executives felt a need to find new ways to be inclusive. Also to help others develop by giving them increased responsibility to keep them engaged and committed to the organization. At the same time, executives are now more conscious of personally keeping their eye on the day-to-day business affairs in a way that’s even broader.
Paradox 2 – Seek diverse points of view, yet drive unified action.
Leaders cited the need to incorporate many different points of view while fostering collaboration and ultimately getting people to move in the same direction. They said it’s a challenge to focus on encouraging differences of opinion one minute and then shifting to bring people to action the next. It is especially complex in global companies, which have diverse values, customs, and business practices.
A recent research report published by Management Research Group (MRG), a Lee Hecht Harrison strategic partner, cited the differences between U.S. managers and European managers from nine countries. When global organizations are working across various geographic locations and cultures, MRG summarized, “Global leaders need to understand that individuals from other cultures may have vastly different views of what is appropriate or inappropriate leadership behavior. No one is right or wrong, and the combined perspectives of several cultures can lead to even greater success than viewing the world and its opportunities through only one lens.”
There are also more generational differences showing up in the workplace. Younger employees are demanding more input. They are quicker to challenge mandates that are handed out without their participation in the process. As one leader said, “There has been a fundamental shift that is both generational and economic. Employees are looking for their leaders to act on good principles. Corporate loyalty is now even more short-term and transactional.”
Paradox 3 – Promote experimentation and contain risk.
Many executives were promoted to senior management because of their technical skills, experience, and knowledge. They excelled because they “knew the answer.” Current leaders wondered about what their successors will need to grow into their own leadership roles.
A key component of developing the next generation is allowing them to experiment when they don’t know all the answers. Experimentation may result in mistakes but has other payoffs. As Phoebe Woods, EVP-CFO of Brown-Forman, says, “Move fast — you can correct a mistake, but you can’t regain lost time.”
Overcoming paradoxes to lead successfully
These are only the most prevalent paradoxes the leaders in the LHH study identified. Each cited additional examples of having to move more frequently between opposing behaviors to meet the wide-ranging needs of their organizations.
In the next article, I am going to present a leadership framework that just might address the many paradoxes you face.
Question: What are some of the paradoxes you handle each day?
Lee Hecht Harrison
Excerpts posted by permission. Established in 1974, Lee Hecht Harrison is a global leader in creating and delivering customized and fully integrated human capital solutions. With over 240 offices worldwide, Lee Hecht Harrison is dedicated to partnering with organizations and individuals, enabling them to maximize their performance and achieve success.
Lee Hecht Harrison is the flagship brand of Adecco Human Capital Solutions, a division of Adecco, S.A., the world leader in workforce solutions, with over 6,600 offices in over 70 countries and territories around the world.
If you are already in a leadership position or want to be in one, you should reflect why? Are there certain skills you demonstrate? Have you always been in leadership? Or do you know you have potential that others may not yet recognize?
While our adult life and the effort to earn a reasonable wage both create opportunities to use leadership skills, there are core values that begin much earlier. Leadership begins at home.
Sunday, June 17th will be Father’s Day. The tradition started roughly around 100 years ago, but its exact origins are disputed. Some historians believe it began as an American movement.
But there are two different accounts as to who invented it and the reason behind it. Some believe the holiday was founded in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908. A year and a half before, there was a mine explosion in a nearby town called Monongah. 360 men died, 200 of whom were fathers, who left behind widows and children.
A woman called Grace Golden Clayton was moved by this and went to visit her Pastor, Reverend Robert Thomas Webb. She suggested that there should be a special day dedicated to honoring fathers. Grace chose July 5, 1908, to celebrate the first Father’s Day, because it was the nearest date to her late father’s birthday.
Unfortunately, Grace’s Father’s Day was unsuccessful, as it was not promoted outside of the town, and more importantly, her town held a huge July 4, Independence Day festival which overshadowed her event.
Meanwhile, other historians believe a woman called Sonora Dodd from Washington invented the holiday instead. After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day in 1910, Senora began to wonder why there wasn’t a day dedicated to fathers. Sonora and her siblings were raised by their father, following their mother’s death.
She wanted Father’s Day to be celebrated on June 5, her dad’s birthday, but the church felt they needed more time to prepare, so instead June 19 was chosen.
The United Kingdom’s celebration of Father’s Day is thought to have been inspired by the American version.
The Father Figure
Our experience with our Fathers influence who and what we become. If you were blessed with a Dad who was your first mentor, you are very fortunate. Life lessons, coping skills, hobbies, crafts, sports, and other life-long behaviors are nurtured by loving, caring Dads.
Sadly, too many of us suffer from relationships with Fathers that leave much to be desired. Perhaps even physical or emotional wounds were created that take years to overcome.
If you were in the first category, congratulations. Hopefully, the teaching and encouragement provided by your Father helped shape and mold the leadership values you use today.
However, if you count yourself in the second group, you have work to do. Throughout my career, I have encountered professionals who had the bad home life. Interestingly, they do one of two things. Either they perpetuate the brutish behaviors and emotional abuses with co-workers and employees or they turn 180 to run in an opposite direction, vowing never to be “that guy”.
The ones wanting to improve and grow beyond their bad start often make amazing leaders. Why? Because they are open and receptive to the things that can shape them into much better people. If your heart is open to that, good leadership frequently follows.
I never knew my Dad. He died before my second birthday. Fortunately, my Mother had the wisdom and foresight to know I would need mentoring from men. She worked diligently to build a small but dedicated network of men in our community who were willing to take me under their wing. Over the years I watched these men model what they told me.
Jack was my Scout Master. From ages 9 to 12, he was my rock. He was there for everything a young boy ever wanted to ask. Then there was George who taught me woodworking. But the lessons in the shop were not limited to just the tools and the wood. There were life lessons like don’t try something important when you are angry. Don’t use the wrong tool for the job, you’ll break the tool, ruin the material, or hurt yourself. Closer to high school Dan came along. He showed me his business. He taught me about inventory, cash flow, and sales. Those lessons were often discussed on the tennis court or wading in a stream, catching fish.
The collection of influence I received helped me to realize natural gifts and talents I could use while I learned other things. Leadership started at an early age and has grown ever since.
It Begins at Home
Regardless of your position in life right now, if you are a parent, you have a big responsibility. I’m not talking about the obvious care, feeding, and safety of your kids. Instead, I am talking about creating an environment for learning, growth, decision making, and creating in your kids their own sense of responsibility to others.
Setting a moral compass with strong core values of right and wrong, service to others, and love of something much greater than yourself; those are principles that build strong leaders. Our country and the world need the next generation of leaders prepared and ready when they become the “next one up”. You can start now building that legacy for yourself, your family, and the community around you. YOU can make a difference.