A leader’s coaching skills are vital today. Millennials especially want direct feedback and supportive guidance. Leaders aspiring to build coaching skills need to do a “check up from the neck up.” Am I in a growth or fixed mindset about the people I am coaching?
Ineffective managers ask, “How am I expected to soar with the eagles when I’m surrounded by a bunch of turkeys?” Effective leaders with growth mindsets see people as they could be — eagles in training. Managers with fixed mindsets simply see them as turkeys. They’re both right. Research shows managers and leaders often get what they expect.
In his Harvard Business Review classic “Pygmalion in Management,” J. Sterling Livingston draws from the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who carved a statue of a beautiful woman that came to life. George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (which was the basis for “My Fair Lady”) used a similar theme. In the play, Eliza Doolittle explains, “The difference between a flower girl and a lady is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.” Livingston presents a number of his own studies, as well as other research, to prove that “If a manager’s expectations are high, productivity is likely to be excellent. If his expectations are low, productivity is likely to be poor.”
“The Pygmalion Effect” was uncovered years ago by psychologist Robert Rosenthal at Harvard University. He told a group of students that high or low intelligence was bred into laboratory rats through genetic manipulation. One group of students were given the “bright” rats. The other group of students drew the short straw and got stuck with the “dunce” rats. When tested in their ability to navigate a maze, the bright rats dramatically outperformed the dunce rats. What the students didn’t know was that there was no difference in the rats’ intelligence levels. Both groups of rats were the same. The only variable was the expectations of the students handling the rats.
Educational research supports the theory that we get what we expect from people. In his book, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Robert Tauber, a professor of education at The Behrend College of the Pennsylvania State University at Erie, compiled over 700 doctoral dissertations and countless journal articles on stereotyping, perception of social differences, race, gender, ethnicity, body features, age, socioeconomic levels, special needs, and other personal and situational factors showing, “What we expect, all too often, is exactly what we get.”
A study by David Upton of Harvard Business School on the billions of dollars invested to increase manufacturing flexibility concluded, “Plants that managers think are flexible tend to get a lot of practice and get better at it. It’s a self-fulfilling belief. We’ve found that flexibility is determined much more by the people in the plants, their industry experience, and the practice they get, than by the use of a certain type of technology.”
It’s a vital head check for would-be coaches — behaviors reflect what he or she sees. Whether the leader thinks they can or thinks they can’t, they’re often right. They become what we expect.
We’ve been using that tagline on bookmarks, our web site, and other development materials for years. It’s not just three catchy words that rhyme. There’s plenty of evidence to show that many highly effective leaders are avid readers.
In his Harvard Business Review article, “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read,” John Coleman writes, “deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.” He points out that, “history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace), but with business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.”
Neuroscience is showing that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. As an avid reader and author, I’ll admit to perhaps a little bias on the importance of leadership books! As Socrates advised way back when, we should improve ourselves by other people’s writing so, “you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”
Effective leadership and learning are intertwined more than many people realize. When we see strong leaders we often don’t appreciate how hard they’ve worked to develop their abilities. They make it look so natural. Leadership researcher and author, Warren Bennis, spent much of his career trying to dispel the myth of the born leader. He writes,
“Biographies of great leaders sometimes read as if they entered the world with an extraordinary genetic endowment, as if their future leadership role was preordained. Do not believe it. The truth is that major capacities and competencies of leadership can be learned if the basic desire to learn them exists.”
Growth is a vital sign of life. We’re most alive when we’re more than human beings, we’re human becomings. As the world and our lives continue accelerating at Mach speed, it’s easy for growth to stagnate. We have no time to become more effective, so we speed up our ineffectiveness.
Tomorrow we publish my May blog posts in our June issue of The Leader Letter. This issue discusses the speed trap that snares many leaders and makes them runner faster, not smarter. You’ll also see the results of our “readersourcing” survey on book topics and have a chance to participate in stage two of my next leadership book. You can also get high again — on your career. And we’ll discuss a critical learning and development topic: succession planning.
May this issue help you avoid the problem Douglas Adams outlined in his book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
Workplace stress is rising while employee engagement and performance is sinking. A major cause is mediocre managers and bad bosses. The poorest leaders are often the ones who need leadership development the most. But they’re too crazy-busy and running faster and faster on their treadmill just to keep up, and don’t take time for development.
Not all learners are leaders, but most highly effective leaders are learners. Reading leadership books continues to be a popular way for learning leaders to continue their growth and development. With personal development time getting squeezed ever tighter, leaders want books that:
Cut through the clutter to the vital topics and applications more relevant in today’s fast changing organizations
Are grounded in research to identify what’s practical and easiest to apply
Succinctly get right to the point
Entertain and inspires action by lighting logic on fire
You know how some “technogeeks” joyfully create features that are really fun for them, but regular people don’t use? Last year I began to review all that research and writing to identify core themes and topics most relevant in these turbulent times. As a “leadergeek” I want to avoid writing a book that’s fun for me but won’t help leaders succeed today.
Eight major topic areas emerged. As part of a “readersourcing” project, we invited senior executives, managers, and HR/development professionals to rank order the eight topic areas (with descriptive sub-sections). Nearly 500 people completed the survey.
The envelope please… the top rated topic areas were:
Gold mining companies crush and process tons of rock to get one ounce of gold. I’d appreciate you joining our Book Advisory Panel to help find “the gold in them thar hills” of development theories and approaches. If you’d like to help, please rate the sub points in the top four topic areas, your opinion on why each one ranked in the top topics, and what you think are the biggest issues a book should address for each topic. Please click on Book Panel Advisory to complete this short readersourcing survey.
A critic once told an author “I’ll waste no time reading your book.” Your help can keep me from writing a book that wastes time — and causes me to pull out what little hair I have left.
I once sat through a frantic, high-energy presentation by an author on knowledge management. He deluged us with a flood of statistics showing how the world’s knowledge was growing at mind-blowing rates. The gist of his presentation was that we need to re-train our brains to absorb more information at faster rates so we could cram more stuff in our craniums.
Beware of this lethal speed trap! He’s peddling dangerous advice leading to high stress, reduced effectiveness, and exhaustion. In these times of light-speed change, we must get off the ever-accelerating treadmill before we burn out — or burst a blood vessel! We need to step back to step ahead. We need to slow down to increase our speed.
I flashed back to Mr. Speedster this week as we created a 90 second video clip for our June public workshops. We focused on the “I am too busy” explanation leaders often give for not investing time in their development. Far too often they’re running faster and faster just to keep up. As the Red Queen said to Alice in Through the Looking Glass, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” We had fun running a video clip of a leader multi-tasking as he ran flat out on a treadmill with “Flight of the Bumblebee” playing in the background and me narrating at break neck (nearly break voice) speed!
In his book, Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap, psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, warns,
“you can feel like a tin can surrounded by a circle of a hundred powerful magnets. Pulled at once in every direction, you go nowhere but instead spin faster and faster on your axis. In part, many people are excessively busy because they allow themselves to respond to every magnet: tracking too much data, processing too much information, answering to too many people, taking on too many tasks-all out of a sense that this is the way they must live in order to keep up and stay in control. But it’s the magnets that have the control.”
This is the harried flight of the bumbling leader. Based on five years of research studying 500 managers, Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal, published their conclusions in a Harvard Business Review article, “Beware the Busy Manager;” “Fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities… the smallest proportion of managers we studied — around 10% — were both highly energetic and highly focused. Not only do such managers put in more effort than their counterparts, but they also achieve critical, long-term goals more often… spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner.”
In 1891, the Anglo-Irish playwright and author, Oscar Wilde, wrote, “We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid.” Over 100 years later, as leadership and coaching effectiveness gaps widen, the treadmill of industrious stupidity is speeding up. What’s that catchy tune playing in the background? And how did that bee get in here?
In today’s frenzied world, it’s way too easy to fall into the trap of confusing busyness with effectiveness. That proverbial woodcutter who’s too busy chopping trees to stop and sharpen his ax, reminds leaders to keep sharpening their skills. There’s a much better flight path to higher results than increasing our speed.
As a road sign on a winding mountain highway warned, “Slow Down or Die.”
Take a short time out — a couple of days — to focus development on using your leadership strengths, passion, and organizational needs to leverage your effectiveness.
What’s your combination of strengths or competence, passion, and organizational need for your work? Are you playing to your strengths and filling an organizational need, but it’s a real chore and your heart isn’t in your work? Then you’re likely serving time in “day prison.”
What if you’re doing work you love, and it plays to your strengths but it’s not serving an organizational purpose? Your work might be a professional hobby. That’s a dangerous place to be when payroll costs are being tightly scrutinized.
Think back to a career high when you were performing at your peak. You may have been high for days, weeks, or even months (without ingesting anything). You achieved something significant on the job. It’s a time you look back on fondly as a career highlight.
Your career high likely resulted from being “in the zone” or sweet spot at the intersection of your strengths, passion, and organizational needs. Many personal development plans fail or careers slide off track from misalignment of these key factors. This has been documented by positive psychology research behind the PERMA framework (positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment) that leads to flourishing lives.
How do we create extraordinary work experiences that can be repeated again and again? Discovering purpose in our work drives personal satisfaction and organizational success. Unfortunately, we often allow ourselves to go too long without it.
On May 24, Jack Zenger and Joyce Palevitz are providing a complimentary 45 minute webinar and interactive learning experience. During this webinar you will participate in a personal assessment that will indicate if you are primed for a career high or headed for a danger zone. Use your assessment results, delivered live during the webinar, to discover the actions that will lead to your next extraordinary work experience. Click on The Key to Unlocking Your Career Highs Again and Again! for details and registration.
Jack and Joyce will take you inside a process we use to help leaders build their strengths-based personal development plans based on 360 feedback. I’ll be delivering our last 2018 public workshop of The Extraordinary Leader using this process on June 21 in Mississauga (10 minutes from Toronto’s airport).
Studies show a growing sense of urgency for succession planning. One survey found 92% of respondents felt it was risky not to have a succession plan for key employees but only 25% of companies feel they’ve identified adequate successor candidates and less than half have a process for developing candidates. Other research shows 70% of executives think their organization lacks adequate bench strength while nearly 75% of senior managers will retire by 2020. An HR software study reported that over 90% of millennials say working at a company with a clear succession plan would “improve” their level of engagement. Another report found that promoting internal leaders has a success rate of 70-80% while the rate for external leadership hires drops to 50% — about the same as flipping a coin.
Many organizations recognize the critical need for succession planning. But the way they’re approaching this talent development challenge is with piecemeal programs. Too often internal support specialists such as HR, OD, or Talent Management professionals manage the program. They focus on tools like the 9 box grid, competency models, and organization charts. These tools are highly useful. But they’re severely limited when they’re bolted on the side of the senior leadership team’s crazy-busy agenda.
In high-performing organizations, tools and approaches like succession planning are owned and driven by the senior leadership team. They understand that implementation of their strategies and plans are highly dependent on culture development. Talent and leadership development are a vital strategic issue as vigorously managed as sales, marketing, operations, or finance.
Executives often check out (and start checking their email) when a deck of slides is read to them on succession planning tools, models, and processes. But if the senior leadership team is engaged in rich discussions on what their succession issues are and how to address them, they’ll quickly shift from passive approvers of their support staff’s plans to active leaders and drivers of the process. This becomes even more effective when senior leaders link succession planning to their strategy and culture.
Here are key steps for bringing a senior leadership team into alignment in moving succession planning from bolt-on programs to a built-in strategic process:
Set/refresh the three or four core values anchoring your desired culture.
Define the behaviors that model each core value and the negative behaviors that create eye-rolling “yeah, right” reactions to each core value. The clearest signal of an organizations lived (versus espoused) values is who gets promoted for what behaviors.
Use a safe and anonymous process to identify moose-on-the-table (or elephants in the room) and what must be dealt with to move toward your desired culture.
Agree on three or four Strategic Imperatives to address your “moose issues” and build an implementation plan for your desired culture. Set up teams for each Strategic Imperative with ownership/accountability, charter/mandate, and timelines.
Decide on core succession planning tools such as 9 box framework, a competency model for hiring, promoting, and development, high potential programs, software, talent pools, etc.
What’s critical to this approach is managing group dynamics, meeting flow, and discussion process. A skilled, external facilitator with a toolkit of group processes, exercises, and applications has a huge impact on the success of planning sessions like this.
In their Harvard Business Review article, “Developing Your Leadership Pipeline,” Jay Conger and Robert Fulmer report that high-performing organizations marry succession planning with leadership development. “At the foundation of a shift toward succession management is a belief that leadership talent directly affects organizational performance. This belief sets up a mandate for the organization: attracting and retaining talented leaders.”
“The whole human side is now more important than skills or IQ. Everything we hear from clients is about the human aspects of leadership,” reports Rajeev Vasudeva, CEO of the Egon Zehnder executive recruiting firm. In a feature article on today’s “ultra-tight job market,” Fortune magazine concludes, “across industries, employers are prizing people skills, the so-called soft skills, more highly than before.”
Jason Baumgarten, a search consultant at Spencer Stuart, advises leaders to attract today’s top talent by “making people feel they’re part of an organization that matters.” Adds HR chief at Intuit, Sherry Whiteley, people today “want to make a difference. They’re very purpose-driven.” A study of 500 global CEOs by Egon Zehnder found that “building an emotional connection” has become a key leadership objective.
These trends also show up in a recent LinkedIn survey of 1,200 talent developers, 2,200 employees, 400 people managers, and 200 executives. The “Workplace Learning Report” found, “among all groups the top priority for talent development in 2018 was training for soft skills.”
Here are a few key points of the report:
“…the pace of change is fueling demand for adaptable, critical thinkers, communicators, and leaders.
Leadership skills are in high demand… (to) inspire others, not only to do their own tasks but to come along on the ride to success… no company can survive without them.
Lack of collaboration can put the brakes on even the simplest task, once an environment of trust is established, collaboration skills can be taught.
With targeted training and mentoring, a business can develop or polish the communication skills employees need to work effectively.
As the workforce goes global, so does the need for training — across time zones and even cultural norms.
Learning and career development is at the core of the employee experience and personalization is critical to engaging a multi-generational workforce with varied learning needs.”
“Soft skills” are core elements in leadership effectiveness and high performing cultures. It’s a central thread running throughout the May issue of The Leader Letter that we publish tomorrow. The 4th Canadian conference on the emerging science of Positive Psychology is drilling ever deeper into clarifying what makes individuals, teams, and organizations flourish. The first global assessment of the current state of organizational excellence is your chance to be part of important research and assess the state of your own culture. Excellence models are becoming ever better maps on balancing the hard data, analysis, and processes of management with the soft emotions, people, and culture of leadership. And you can see how customer service levels reflect just how balanced and effective an organization’s culture really is.
Two decades of Emotional Intelligence research clearly shows that understanding and controlling our own emotions while making emotional connections with others is a vital component of personal, team, and organization effectiveness. As we know by the lack of leadership effectiveness in so many organizations, consistently practicing those “soft skills” can be really hard.
Work is a four-letter cuss word for too many people. Monday morning is often the toughest time of their week. Too many people are mumbling, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go” as they trudge off to check into their “day prison.”
In other workplaces people are leaping out of bed in the morning excited to get to work. They are feeling highly fulfilled and energized by their co-workers and their workplace. Many people in these organizations feel that their co-workers and leaders enhance their well-being with a healthy and productive workplace.
Building healthier workplaces is one of the reasons I am really looking forward to attending and speaking to the 4th Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology: “Bridging Canadian Wellbeing” at the University of Toronto on May 23 to 25. More than 500 researchers, organizational leaders, educators, clinical practitioners, coaches, and development professionals will explore how to help individuals, organizations, and communities flourish.
For the past few decades I’ve followed the ground-breaking work of Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. Based on his extensive research, articles and books, and his 1998 term as elected president of the American Psychological Association he’s now considered the founder of the burgeoning new field of positive psychology — defined as “the science of happiness, well-being, and what makes life worth living.”
Team or organizational culture is a core factor in creating energizing or enervating workplaces. And that culture ripples out from the team or organization’s managers. Numerous studies show that the single biggest factor in employee satisfaction and well-being is the immediate manager or supervisor. The daily work environment — how team members treat each other, respect, trust, communication, relationships, shared ownership for group goals, understanding and buying-in to the why of changes, autonomy, having a say in daily work, job design — are paramount to engagement.
My conference presentation on “Leveraging Leadership Strengths with a 360 Assessment and Development Process” will draw from Zenger Folkman’s extensive and continuing research in The Extraordinary Leader development system. Over the past six years, The CLEMMER Group has helped over a thousand leaders leverage their strengths using this powerful feedback and development process (I am facilitating public workshops on The Extraordinary Leader and The Extraordinary Coach in Mississauga on June 21 and 22).
Studies continue to show that workplace stress and low engagement levels are a big and growing problem. Helping leaders leverage his or her strengths to increase leadership effectiveness has a major impact on the workplace environment and everyone’s health and wellbeing.
With years of travel I’ve experienced the full range of frontline servers. Some are warm, friendly, and genuinely want to help. They seem to have bounced out of bed that morning thinking “how can I brighten our customers’ day?” Others are sour and surly. For them, customer service is an oxymoron and a huge pain in the paycheck.
A minority of servers are born to serve or born to snarl. It’s the large group in the middle that makes or breaks an organization’s service levels. They could go in either direction. Their customer service efforts reflect the service levels they’re getting from the organization.
IBM draws a direct link between employee engagement and customer service. Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Diane Gherson, said, “We’ve found that employee engagement explains two-thirds of our client experience scores. And if we’re able to increase client satisfaction by five points on an account, we see an extra 20% in revenue, on average.”
The Customer Service Chain is often a useful visual in building a culture of serving the servers to boost the customer experience and live up to the organization’s brand promise. Its core message is “if you’re not serving customers directly, you need to serve someone who is.”
7 Tips for Co-Creating a Higher Service Culture:
Draw a customer-partner chain for your organization. Start with a key customer segment and work your way back through external partners and each team or department to external suppliers. Help everyone see where they fit in the big picture.
Regularly bring the voice of the customer and actual customers into your organization. Take support staff who rarely deal with customers out to meet them.
Update customer and internal partner performance data frequently (daily or weekly) and make visible to everyone.
Work with servers to systematically identify root causes of service problems and involve them in a continuous improvement process.
Post service trend charts and customer experience/process maps for all servers to keep score and stay engaged in the improvement process.
Continuously ask servers to identify and prioritize what’s getting in the way of higher service levels and involve them in addressing the issues.
Make it easy and painless for internal partners to raise issues and concerns. Respond promptly and systematically to analyze the trends for improvements.
I often encounter caring servers who want to respond to my request or help me deal with a service problem. Many times, they’re as frustrated as I am with the situation and their inability to solve it. Too often I’ve heard some version of, “Please complete our survey or make a complaint about this. Nobody listens to me. Maybe they’ll do something about it if enough customers like you complain loud enough.”
Over the last few decades research on the key elements of top performing organizations has dramatically increased. When I wrote Firing on all Cylinders, organization effectiveness frameworks focused on service and quality improvement and were just being developed in Canada, the U.S., Japan, Europe and other countries. The book’s “cylinders” framework draws from that research and the work our consulting companies (The Achieve Group and Zenger Miller) were doing at that time.
Dawn Ringrose’s career has followed a similar path through three decades of evolving organizational excellence models and approaches. Today she is Canada’s representative on the Organizational Excellence Technical Committee (OETC) and Global Benchmarking Network (GBN). Recently the OETC launched the first global assessment of the current state of organizational excellence and the work has been supported by the GBN, International Academy for Quality and ISO Technical Committee 176.
This project is “intended to provide data on the extent to which organizations are characterized by the principles and the best management practices of high performing organizations that are found in excellence models.” The principles are “a reflection of the culture of excellence that exists in the organization and include:
Focus on the Customer
Prevention Based Process Management
Data Based Decision Making
The project centers on an assessment tool based on Dawn’s research and development of the Organizational Excellence Framework. You can help your own organization/culture development work and contribute to the research by completing the Teaser or Full Assessment. The five minute “teaser assessment” provides an opportunity to assess the culture of excellence in your organization and delivers a feedback report to your inbox. The Full Assessment provides a more robust diagnostic of your organization on the culture of excellence and deployment of best management practices. When the final report is completed and the aggregate results are shared, it will provide an opportunity for you to benchmark your organization with others by size, industry sector and country (region).
Teaching a pig to sing wastes your time and annoys the pig. While training and development programs aren’t at that level of futility, many try to “development dip” participants in a one-off effort and then put them back into the same organization culture. I’ve been a “monomaniac on a mission” about integrating leadership and training efforts within a larger culture/organization development effort. So much money and time has been wasted with isolated efforts that don’t provide broader context, support, and follow through.
This framework and research continues the evolutionary path of bringing together approaches like Lean/Six Sigma, Quality, OD/OE (Organization Development/Effectiveness), L & D (Learning and Development) Talent Management, and Culture Change/Development. Take these assessments to gauge the state of your culture and development efforts.