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Sustaining Resilience – 6 Steps Invest Your Time Wisely

December 15, 2014

Prioritize goals cc sewpixieOne of the biggest challenges I see with highly accomplished leaders is knowing when to “down shift”. They consistently produce high quality results and do high quality work. This is true on the most important tasks and also on the less important ones. Many of us grew up with the message that if you can’t do something right – do not do it at all. As we advance in our careers, this belief can contribute to our sense of overwork and actually take critical time away from the most important activities in our lives.

I am working with Mike; he was recently promoted and is taking on a team that is 10x larger than his prior team. He will need to relate to his team differently to ensure the larger group gets sufficient attention, and he will need to do less of the tasks he did well in the past. Mike has been trying to work through the challenge of identifying what he is doing that he can stop or delegate and also what he is doing with great attention where he needs to take a “good enough” approach. In our discussion, we talked about the idea that he has always been proud of his work ethic and meeting high standards and now that same work ethic is leaving him exhausted and feeling overwhelmed.

How do you, as a leader, know when it is time to do less? Here are a few steps that will help you become more goal focused and clarify where to spend your time and attention:

  1. Have a clear sense of your professional goals. Know your #1 objective and review it every morning before starting work.
  2. As you review your schedule for the day (the night before or in the morning), clarify what you must get done during the day.
  3. If possible, build time on your calendar to accomplish your primary tasks.
  4. When you get a break in your schedule, focus on your most important tasks first.
  5. Set a couple of times during the day to attend to e-mail, texts, and phone calls, and build discipline about how often you check.
  6. For each activity ̶ rate it high, medium, or low in importance. For highly important tasks, focus your energy on getting those done to the best of your ability. For low priority tasks, it is still important to do them well enough to satisfy the recipient of this work product but invest only the time necessary to complete them effectively, and reallocate the time you would have gone “above and beyond” to the highly important tasks.

For over achievers, we are working to our own high standards that far exceed the person receiving the work product. It is important to remember that we are investing our time at work and our goal is to produce the greatest return (or impact for our employer) on our investment.

How are you investing your time?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

5 Steps to Building Individual Capacity to Navigate Organizational Change

December 8, 2014

Become change innovative leadershipMany organizations are undergoing significant change. These changes range from focusing on growth and merging to divesting and shrinking, and are expected to continue to accelerate during the balance of our careers. We’re likely to see multiple concurrent change on an ongoing basis. For this reason, developing the ability to navigate organizational change is critical to individual and organizational success. This post focuses on the key elements to build individual capacity for change.

Wayne is a middle-level manager in a technology company. This company, like most technology companies is positioned for growth. Wayne is highly aware of technology growth trends and how they impact his specific industry. His organization has been on a growth trajectory for several years that is now leveling off. Wayne is aware of their positioning relative to the competition and aware that for his company to remain successful they must accelerate their growth. With this in mind, he has aligned himself with the highest growth segment in the company. He is building skills to ensure he is able to contribute significantly to the growth this segment will produce. Wayne has also taken it upon himself to mentor people within the organization to help them understand the changes and position their work to add maximum value to the company. The good news for Wayne is that he continues to build skills, keeps a positive attitude, adds value to the company, and builds his network. Irrespective of his company’s success, Wayne will thrive professionally because he manages his contribution and also is positioning himself for long-term success within his industry.

The three things successful employees have in common across all organizations are their ability to anticipate change, manage their own reaction, and help others— and the organization—succeed. During times or organizational change, there are five common practices of successful employees practice. They are:

  1. Take responsibility for their own careers and success, and adopt the mindset that they are the drivers of their own career success.
  2. Pay attention to industry and organizational trends and anticipate when and where change will occur. They keep current on trends.
  3. Proactively prepare to manage the change in their lives and careers.
  4. Focus on adding value to the organization with all of their interactions aware that organizations generally reward those focused on contributing to the organization’s success.
  5. Help others succeed. Success is contagious and, as a key part of your strategy, you can help others.

As employees, we may think that a company will take care of us. This thinking can be dangerous. While good companies are dedicated to taking care of their employees, they are also taking care of their owners (for public companies this is stockholders), customers, suppliers/partners, and employees. Even the best companies take actions occasionally that are not be in the best interests of individuals or employee groups because they are making a decision for the benefit of the larger organization. For this reason, it is imperative that employees manage their own careers.

The most successful executives also demonstrate these qualities. It is often these, among other qualities, that have allowed them to rise in the ranks and retain leadership roles.

What are you doing to anticipate the change your organization might be facing in the next year? Do you read industry publications, belong to industry-based associations, read futurist materials in your field? How are you using what you are learning to navigate the organization and ensure you are adding value to support the organization’s success and, thereby, your own personal success?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com andyadontstop

Tool to Build Resilience – Find Your Feet

December 1, 2014

Feet cc Jonathan Cohen

Today’s post is written by Virginia Macali, a member of our consulting team and also the Founder of High Point Transitions.

VUCA. Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous. This is an acronym created by the US Army War College to describe the state of our world today. Leaders in business, government, and non-profit organizations are very familiar with VUCA. This level of constant disruption pervades the workplace with a powerful undercurrent. As leaders, we’re thrown off center many times a day from large challenges such as changing economic conditions to policy and priority changes. We are thrown off center by smaller challenges like too many emails to respond to, interruptions, or running late for a meeting.

Leaders are hungry for ways to deal with VUCA. They have found that pushing harder does little to stem the tide of the disturbance. At a recent program on Resilience for Leaders for the Leadership Challenge for Ohio Job and Family Services, we taught leaders how to use the body to calm the mind. One of the practices is called Find Your Feet. Here are the instructions:

Find your feet touching the floor. Press your feet into the floor. Focus on any sensations in your feet. Feel the soles of your feet. Feel your toes. Feel the whole foot.

This simple practice can be done in a minute or less. It may bring a sense of grounding, quiet the mind, and interrupt habitual patterns. People who use this practice report feeling more resourceful, more clear-thinking, and take effective action with greater ease. This is a practice that can be done anywhere, requires no special equipment, and is always available.

The day after the program, David Sapper, the director of The Leadership Challenge, gave an example of how this practice worked. As he described how mentors would be matched with participants, tension increased in the room. David invited everyone to stand and Find Your Feet. Within minutes, tension was reduced, participants felt calmer, and the matching process was smooth and successful.

The next time you feel tension rising, take a minute to Find Your Feet.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com Jonathan Cohen

Giving Thanks – Good for Your Health

November 24, 2014

Monster thank you I’ll guess that most of you have heard of the old song “Accentuate the Positive.” First published and performed in 1944, the message is as relevant today as it was then. Staying positive is linked with gratitude, and so as we approach Thanksgiving, I want to talk about the notion that being grateful is actually good for your health. Being grateful has been linked to reduced stress, improved physical health and better psychological health.

According to University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons in an article on Webmd.com: “’Grateful people—those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind—have an edge on the not-so-grateful when it comes to health…’ It’s no secret that stress can make us sick, particularly when we can’t cope with it. It’s linked to several leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer, and claims responsibility for up to 90 percent of all doctor visits. Gratitude, it turns out, can help us better manage stress. ‘Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,’ Emmons says.”

If you think of your stress on a scale from one to ten, what is your average daily stress level? Is your stress affecting your health? Would you like to change that by developing a gratitude practice?

So, let’s do an experiment. Choose a time when you have two to three minutes to close your eyes, sit quietly, and let your mind roam to a time in your life when you were completely happy. Let yourself feel this happiness and absence of negative feelings. Enjoy this feeling for a few minutes then think about what you are most grateful for in your life now.

Now select a regular interval to revisit this feeling of joy and gratitude. It could be a “conscious coffee/tea break” in which—rather than refilling an actual mug—you take a couple of minutes to refill and revisit this feeling of joy. Or, create another one. The objective is to build a routine to rid your body of negative chemicals that build up from stress and to release positive ones. The more often you get rid of the negative, the better. Our goal is to create a habit of gratitude.

Since it takes approximately twenty-one days to build a habit, are you willing to continue this practice for the next twenty-one days? If you are in the U.S. and reading this post around our Thanksgiving holiday, twenty-one days will take you through much of December— one of the most stressful months of the year for many of us.

At a minimum, try the gratitude practice when you wake in the morning and when you go to bed at night. This way, you will start and end your day on a positive note. Listen to the song—it’s simple and you might even use it as a prompt to remind of the good things in your life. Whistle it when you’re feeling stressed to put everything in perspective.

Most of us have many reasons for gratitude even during our most challenging days. By building this routine you will strengthen your ability to navigate the challenging days.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com AForestFrolic

Resilience – Creating an “I’ll do that” Culture

November 17, 2014

CJTF-HOAThis post is written by a guest blogger Brent Barkett Account Manager, Mountain Region at Cardinal Health, Capital MBA student, and former US Marine.

November 10 being the Marine Corps Birthday and November 11 being Veteran’s Day I decided it was the perfect time to expound on resilience and how it is key to emerging successful in our changing market place across all industries.

Why should leaders hire, promote, teach, and help identify resilience as a key characteristic of success and aptitude?

Change is constant for better or worse. Organizations change, cultures change, finance changes, customers change, how we market changes, our True North changes etc…Resilience is one of the basic skills that allows us to meet these changes and turns them to success.

I was speaking with a group of Veterans the other day on what makes them successful and what makes veterans successful in general. During the discussion a common theme emerged and we all had a good laugh when someone called it out to our attention. “The problem is we all think we can accomplish any task…and we are probably right”. Just hearing this should be a win for the military. The armed forces produce a spirit and mindset that convinces an individual that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to…seriously. It is the one characteristic that sets aside, in our minds, Veterans from Civilians. So why do recruiters and managers look at this as almost a negative when it is mentioned in the context of hiring value? I asked a lot of questions regarding this to some managers and HR folks and when you really get down to it, it’s too broad and not tangible on paper. It almost sounds silly.

To the lay person hearing someone, who may not appear to have a certain background on paper say “I can do this” in reference to a job or task sounds like desperation or lunacy. But to someone who was been trained and forged to act and think this way, to adapt and overcome countless obstacles, contradicting orders, uncertainty, low budgets-no budgets, and lack of support on a daily basis it sounds normal and expected.

When I was serving in Iraq we experienced a period of time without a communications operator to coordinate a 56 man platoon to include the equipment, frequencies, call signs, etc. that are needed as part of routine communications effort. No worries, Private Jones jumped in and within a few days he was running our communications and servicing the equipment. How? We were faced with adversity and a motivated young man jumped at the opportunity to provide his resilience as a skill set (he was not a radio operator). He sought the information from a nearby group of radio operators. He had them run him through a crash course in radio operation and implementation. Now the good of the platoon could persevere. He bet on himself and knew that all the pieces were out there somewhere. He just had to put it all together. Why not him? After all, he was taught that there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish. It was not his aptitude to learn radio operation that made him successful, it was his resilience. His mind set was not “I could learn the radio” it was “I can learn the operation, I will do my best, and I will do it in a short period of time”.

Situational AnalysisBack to the original question, why should managers focus on hiring and seeking those with reserves of resilience? Let’s break down the indicators and alignment of Resilient Organizations and see if we can’t answer this question. Let’s start with this diagramthat helps us create alignment between individuals, culture and systems. Implicit in this diagram is that expectation that systems are aligned with one another and that those systems are aligned with the overall mission.

At the foundation we identify the basic accomplishments that need to happen to overcome change and be successful. We need to pass or leverage knowledge throughout the organization. If marketing catches a big trend shift the whole corporation needs to follow the trend to better serve the customer and introduce products and values accordingly. We all need to think horizontally not vertically. Breaking down silos…this is business cliché 101. Organizations need to unite and align with their purpose to overcome external changes to mirror internal positive change. We need to be aware of the situation, have creativity, be proactive, make a decision based on little knowledge, partner with subject matter experts and use internal resources. We need to inject resilience into the overall system. There are a few elements of resilient systems that stand out. The culture and the leaders must value resilience. Then, the systems need to be structured in a way that people are encouraged rather than penalized when acting with resilience. That can mean employees are encouraged to find balance and healthy lives and it can also mean the systems they use to do their jobs can be changed to meet the organizational changes.

Even without formal business training Private Jones walked through this diagram focusing on what needs to be done. He sought training on his own from internal subject matter experts, he was pro-active, thinking horizontally, he got creative, formed partnerships, and most importantly he brought the motivation to accomplish this. What else was missing? Managerial road blocks? As his Sergeant I didn’t stop him from running with this. I stepped aside and put my trust in his fidelity and resilience.

Why should managers hire and develop resiliency? Instead of having a “That’s not my job” mentality or culture in the work force, imagine how you can out rebound your competition, gain leverage in accounts, and decrease your down time response in service by having an “I’ll do it” culture? As a manager and leadership team are you equipped with the skills and tools to teach, train, and develop resiliency? Have you measured your own resilience and do you consider yourself a resilient person. Resilience is not something you are born with. You must be trained in the thought and cultured to mentally adapt and overcome. If you are not one to push your comfort zones or try your boundaries then perhaps you could enjoy some resiliency training.

As a leader and manager if you are looking at your work force and scratching your head as to why changing is so difficult, why no one wants to step in and take on a roll, if there is a lack of resilience in your organization it may start at the top. Leaders should have the pulse of the culture. Does it feel like your business is lashed tight and can turn on a dime? Do you feel that if the market were to shift right now that you could overcome adversity with your cultural toughness?

In a previous post I spoke to Strategic Disengagement and Transformation Leadership. These all have to do with change. However, as a leader and as a company it will do no good to simply find the new course and direct that the culture must change to it…we need agents of change internally. These internal agents or shining stars are most likely the most resilient men and women you have when you size up their values.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com US Marine Corps

Four Recommendations to Deal with Challenging Situations

November 10, 2014

North Star cc Tom BlackwellA leader’s effectiveness is often measured by her/his ability to deal with challenging situations on the fly in a competent and efficient manner. Most people can deal with challenge when given time to prepare and plot a strategy, but what about when time is limited, emotions are running high, and you are asked to do something difficult, or you’re are facing an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation?

In the past week, I worked with two people who faced difficult situations. One got an opportunity to do something he expressed a deep desire to do, yet instead of going forward he withdrew and returned to something more comfortable without stretching his capacity. He missed a great opportunity and may have damaged his career —something that is still to be determined. I would call this a leadership failure—and it is one that could linger him in unanticipated ways through future interactions with those who were involved.

The second was a client recently promoted to a significant leadership role. She is facing new challenges on a daily basis that may have far-reaching impact. I consider hers the success story. She has developed a series of strategies to navigate the increased level of complexity. Key among these strategies is a high degree of self-awareness. She is able to identify her anxiety quickly and use one of these or other strategies:

1. Make the smallest decision required at the time and gather information to test your hypothesis and approach. With quickly changing situations leaders can make small decisions quickly and let constituents know they are invited to give input going forward. This speeds the process and allows those not consulted during the decision process are invited to give input during the testing phase. I often talk about this using phrases like: My hypothesis is that xxx is the best path forward and we are going to test it. I invite your input as we go forward so we can refine this approach.

2. Pay attention to inner stress points and areas of resistance. When we are in new roles we are asked to do things differently and our inner compass has not yet tuned to the new role. We are recalibrating and still we got where we are by having solid judgment. It is important to balance looking to our inner guidance and allowing ourselves to refine that process as we also look externally to others for guidance.

3. Develop the inner and outer skills to deal with conflict. When we face challenge, many people either strike out or withdraw. Neither of these approaches works. When striking out others feel attacked and when withdrawing they feel abandoned. So the question is how do you recognize when you are acting in one of these modes; then, how do you create an alternate and more effective path forward?

4. Use the managing negative thinking process to manage thinking as you face challenges that cause anxiety (see 4 minute video). Self-awareness is indispensable. As leaders we think that taking the time to reflect and develop self-awareness is a luxury we do not have time for. Yet without self-awareness, we can let anxiety go unchecked for too long. When unchecked, anxiety can have several negative outcomes from acting less rationally than we should to working continually with a high level of stress that can cause physical illness. By developing self-awareness to acknowledge feeling stressed, and practicing these or other practices to manage the stress, we can function effectively when things do not go as we had planned.

The mark of a brilliant leader is not how effectively he/she manages the daily business but rather how he deals with the extraordinary challenges. One misstep during a critical event can undo a reputation built on years of steady performance. As our environment and organizations are changing at an ever increasing rate, the number of unexpected changes will increase and our need to build skills to navigate them will become a much greater differentiator between mediocre and exceptional leaders. Which will you be? What are you doing to build your skills? Being truly exceptional requires ongoing practice – are you dedicating the necessary time to practice?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com Tom Blackwell

Building Support Routines – Four Questions

November 3, 2014

Resilience during holidaysNovember is when we begin to notice holiday decorations in every store we enter. Despite the wonderful times that the season brings, most of us feel pressured by the constraints of time and money. As a result, we often go through the holidays tired, grumpy, and waiting for it all to be over. It’s helpful to have a plan to navigate these murky waters. As we approach this unique time of year, I wanted to write a few posts on building resilience—something most of us need to attend to even more during the holidays.

By our definition, resilience is staying flexible and focused during times of stress or change. It is important to build personal resilience habits, as well as and create a routine within your organization and family that also supports resilience. Today’s post will talk about creating a practice of resilience supported by your family and friends.

Rick came home from a particularly difficult day at work in which he received some negative news about an upcoming project he wanted to lead. He found out that someone else would be taking this role. This news left him feeling less secure about his future. He felt angry and worried. During his drive home he continued to rehash over and over in his head what he might have done differently to produce a different outcome. How did they come to this decision? Was his job at risk? Did they have something bigger in mind for him? How was he viewed by the decision makers? Was there any corrective action he should be taking?

Rick’s ability to bounce back from this crushing news will depend not only on his personal practices, but also on his families’ resilience routines.

I define family very broadly as a personal support system outside of work. This could be family of origin, people with whom we live, or people who live separately, our friends, and provide emotional support as we sometimes wish family would.

Here are four questions to ask yourself when building a resilience plan:

  1. Is maintaining my personal resilience a priority for me?
  2. Am I willing to build daily routines that support my resilience and get rid of habits that put my resilience at risk?
  3. Does my family value my resilience and our resilience?
  4. What do we do together that builds our ability to navigate challenge?

In talking with colleagues about resilience and support, one of them shared her favorite practices. She recently relocated and lives far from her best friends and support community. She has initiated a practice of “tele-cocktails” where she schedules Skype dates to share key events with her closest friends. She attends birthday parties this way and has even been known to make dinner with friends— sharing menus and dining together via Skype. While being in the same room to discuss the day would be her preference, she has found a creative alternative that has enriched her life and left her feeling highly supported during her physical move.

What routines are you building that support your resilience?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com Deep Shot Photography

Six Ways to Manage Negative Thinking

October 27, 2014

In building resilience, one of the key skills is learning to manage negative thinking. Research suggests that five minutes of negative thinking can cause of to six hours of physiological negative impact. To mitigate this impact, managing negative thinking is a key skill. Think of a time you found yourself distracted by your thoughts rather than focusing on what is happening? Think of a time you imagined the worse about a situation or person and continued to think about this for the course of the day. How did this negative thinking impact you over the day?

The following 4 minute video provides a simple six step process to help you manage your negative thinking thereby improving your productivity and reducing the impacts of stress on your body and your work.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Four Steps Increase Your Ability To Navigate Change

September 22, 2014

Navigating Change Alice and the White RabbitI am collaborating on a chapter in a book about leadership 2050 and at the same time watching several colleagues and friends who are facing significant changes in their personal and professional lives. Interestingly, according to Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” So, how are you dealing with the change in your life? In your organization? What can you do to improve your capacity?

So what do you do when you begin to feel like Alice in Wonderland – you are Alice and you have fallen down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass and nothing make sense? When we do things that worked for us in the past, we find that they no longer work as we expected, and we do not know what will work. Basically, we just want to have the uncertainty and sense of anxiety or unease go away. For me, I want to DO something to make it stop.

I am working with a colleague who has recently made a dramatic change in her personal life and at the same time she learned last week that her job is changing significantly as her company announced a major reorganization. Her job will change, and it is possible that she will be unemployed in 6-12 months. She happens to be a beacon of resilience and positive attitude even during the most challenging of times. She may be genetically blessed on some level but on another level, she has developed really strong skills at responding to change. These skills did not happen on accident but rather she has consciously focused on developing this capacity just like she is conscious of learning other professional skills.

To build your resilience, we encourage you to take the free on-line resilience assessment to determine where to focus your energy right now. Here are four recommendations on building resilience:

  1. Attend to your physical health. During times of stress it is easy to fall into habits that are less healthy such as eating comfort food, lightening up on workouts, or having an extra drink on a tough day
  2. Focus on your self-talk. Pay particular attention to when you allow your inner voice to run on overdrive telling you what is wrong with you. If you do not have a gratitude practice, this is a good time to consider one. Do an experiment – when you are feeling down, think of one or two things you are grateful for. Even better, call someone you care about and tell them how much you care about them. Since our self-talk is connected to our feeling of wellbeing, it is important to manage it aggressively.
  3. Reconnect with your sense of purpose. What is most important to you? How does your daily work and daily life help you make an impact on the world? This could be something big or it could be small acts of kindness and being a good friend. By remembering that we make a difference and focusing on that difference, it is easier to put our setbacks in perspective and remember how we have overcome many of them over the course of our lives.
  4. Connect with supportive friends (and disconnect from unsupportive people). We all need someone to listen. Most of us probably are better at listening to others than asking others to listen to us; so chances are your friends will be happy to reciprocate when you reach out and ask for a supportive conversation.

Change is challenging, especially when the change is something we did not chose. For me, managing my emotions and inner conversations are the toughest. When I am under stress, my emotions can be out of balance, and what I feel is often much worse than the objective reality of the situation. I encourage you to take the assessment and take 1 small step today and tomorrow and the next day to build and maintain your resilience. If you are in a great place, these steps become part of a strong routine; if you are struggling with your own change, it will help you to build yourself up while you navigate challenge.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com Loren Javier

How Accurate Is Our Measurement of Leadership and Leadership Traning?

September 17, 2014

Measuring LeadershipThis post is written by a guest blogger Brent Barkett Account Manager, Mountain Region at Cardinal Health, Capital MBA student, and former US Marine.

Are companies measuring to the standard of their leadership performance? For leadership training?

Like most of you, I’ve had the opportunity to experience many forms of leadership training, team building, and fostering of professional development.  Since the Great Recession in 2008, and its fall-out, why have companies not improved in their leadership more?

According to a study done by the Ethics Resource Center in 2012 (Ferrell et al) comparing an earlier study done in 2009, many metrics remain the same. For example: Discrimination, Abusive Behavior, Conflicts of Interest, Health and Safety Violations, Stealing, Sexual Harassment, and Disengagement levels have all remained the same if not elevated slightly. How are we ensuring the lessons “learned” during the Recession aren’t lost on the next generation? Every leader speaks of disengagement and turnover, but what are the real follow through actions to curb it?

Additionally, when we look at a leader’s ability to implement transformative change, studies like those conducted by McKinsey Consulting along with many others suggest that change efforts fail between 60-85% of the time depending on the study. These numbers have also not increased significantly over the last decade or more. In a time when leaders are increasingly expected to drive change, their results indicate that the training and development focused on driving transformation are not increasing their rate of success.

In the military there was a phrase “Inspect what you expect”. I think supervising and inspecting the standards that we set or expect may be falling short. Once we send our future leaders through company sponsored courses are we following up to see if the time and money for these lessons has been properly ingrained and carried out? As higher level (Director, VP, SVP, etc…) leadership how are you measuring mid-level management (the hinge pin of small unit success) to the standards you expect? I think we would all love to believe that managers and leadership should be above reproach but perhaps the data may tell a different tale?

We may also be looking at incomplete measures. If we send our leaders to training then they return to organizations that do not allow them to use their new skills, the training may be fine and the leaders may be learning. We may have created a situation that causes leaders to be even more frustrated – they learn that there is a better way but they do not get to do it because it “is not how we do things around here”

How do we get around this? Many companies make it mandatory for all leadership positions to submit or adhere to certain goals throughout the year as part of the compensation plan. Are these goals consistent with the leadership teachings that are company provided? Are these goals parallel with the standards or company credo that adorn or hang on the walls of your conference rooms? Are companies changing their systems and cultures in ways that allow their leaders to use their new knowledge to drive success?

I was having a chat with a peer that I had worked with previously. It was around the time of their Voice of the Employee Survey (VOE). Anyone who has ever taken these surveys knows they are about as secret as the launch of a new iPhone. I asked how he felt about them and his response hit a nerve. There were only four direct reports to his manager in the region. He was proud that he lied on each VOE survey so as not to rock the boat. His team always grumbled about the leadership and had misgivings to the contribution management made to the teams’ overall goal. He couldn’t say this, as he felt certain that if four less than beaming survey results surfaced in reference to one leader, the dissent would be met with retribution. The cycle of sub-par leadership would continue. Many people being promoted to a management/leadership position have probably all been in a similar position prior to the promotion. Once promoted, how do we measure the nuance, intangibles, and true leadership styles? Performance to quota? Turnover ratio? In correlation to the data above at the Ethics Resource Center it seems that no matter how we measure, it may include too many false positives. How do you find a comprehensive approach to measurement that is also cost and time effective?

On a different but related topic, how do we get around the “Peter Principal” of people getting promoted who do not have the right skills for the role? Many companies still promote the subject matter expert to leadership roles without providing management or leadership training. It is not surprising with this approach that instead of producing better leaders we keep making more of the same? When I was in the Marines they had a separate option that included high anonymity. If there was anything that didn’t seem right or any qualms you could Request Mast. You could go right to the top leadership, in private, and express your thoughts. Most corporations have a direct hotline to HR but who knows how that information is disseminated and who hears it.  Why is this powerful? Everyone knows it exists and in many cases it acts as a deterrent for mismanagement and fostering a transparent and inviting work place. If people do not know how their information will be used and if they cannot trust with certainty that it will remain anonymous, the risk of expressing concern is too high.

I ask three questions when I stand in front of groups. 1) Raise your hand if you have ever had a less than stellar boss. 2) How many people here have been promoted to management level and beyond? 3) If I asked the first question to all of your reports…how many do you think would raise their hand as you had?

It’s great that companies provide such amazing opportunity for development and we need to take it to another level and measure the stakeholders and future leaders to the standard we expect the training and opportunities to produce. We also need to measure the organization’s ability to adapt so our newly trained managers and leaders are able to implement what they are learning. If not…I’m sure we all enjoy more of the same.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

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