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Five Steps to Building Authentic Leadership

May 18, 2015

CEOs biking to workLeadership guru, Warren Bennis, says: “letting the self emerge is the essential task of leaders. Indeed, leadership is, first and foremost, all about you. People often have a misguided notion that leadership is about everyone else. But if a leader hasn’t journeyed inside first to get clear on his or her values, strengths, passion and vision, their lack of authentic grounding will cause them to behave in inconsistent ways, eroding trust and undermining their leadership effectiveness.”

Bill is a highly-skilled leader. Self-aware, he makes a concerted effort to create an environment in which each of his team members can be their most effective at work. He has assembled a diverse staff with unique skills and a lot of idiosyncrasies, and he has worked hard to help this staff of stars come together as a cohesive team.
One morning he arrives to find an obviously upset employee, Michelle, sitting in his office. Michelle, who is clearly concerned about the condescending behavior of another colleague, suggests that the work environment Bill created is hostile and not supportive enough for her to do her best work. She feels belittled by her colleague and is seeking Bill’s support to ensure the office in which they work is conducive to delivering top quality service to their clients. As she leaves, Bill thinks about his leadership style. He asks himself if his style has created an environment that promotes a positive work environment for all employees. Is he allowing some people to treat others in a negative or unsupportive way? Is there anything he could do differently to promote a more productive and supportive environment? How can he create an environment that allows unique people to be themselves and, at the same time, work as a cohesive team? Bill’s instincts say he has created a positive environment but now he hears from a valued employee that he may not be doing as well as he thought. Fundamentally, the question becomes: Is Bill’s authentic leadership style supportive of organizational success? Does he need to refine his style or develop as a leader to be both authentic and create a positive environment?

These questions beg a new one: How can leaders be authentic and encourage others to do the same while concurrently meeting the needs of the overall team and organization?
Let’s start with a definition of authenticity from a recent Forbes article by Henry Doss: “Learning about yourself is perhaps the single most important outcome of a powerful educational experience. Self-awareness can lead to an ever-increasing authenticity, which in turn leads to powerful leadership abilities. Authenticity is not about ’accept me for what I am‘; authentic leaders are self-aware, willing to adapt and change and ’be who they are in service to others.’ Education should be a powerful process of increasing self-awareness, of coming to know yourself and of learning the intrinsic value of who you are as a human being. . . and then understanding the need for constant change, personal growth and learning for the rest of your life.” 

Innovative Leadership Model

Innovative Leadership Model

Let’s explore how the five elements of innovative leadership can help leaders become more authentic. By using the five key elements of the innovative leadership pyramid as described below, you become a more authentic and effective leader:

  1. Build your self-awareness by understanding your Leader Type.  Take an assessment to understand yourself; then, learn about your colleagues’ types. By knowing who you are and who they are, you can create an environment in which people are able to comfortably be themselves and create a common language where they understand one another. The balance of self-awareness and understanding others allows colleagues to be authentically who they and also aligned with the culture of the overall group.
  2. Understand your own Developmental Perspective (complexity of thinking, emotional intelligence, and behavior) and the perspectives of others allows you to take the perspective of many different people. By understanding the primary perspective of your colleagues and meeting them where they are, you are showing the highest degree of respect and appreciation. The golden rule of authentic leadership could be “treat people as they need to be treated to perform at their best.” Since we are all unique, and have different expectations, treating others as you want to be treated may create some significant problems for leaders.
  3. Enhancing Resilience includes developing a strong sense of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, and knowing your strengths and preferences. It also includes understanding others’ strengths and preferences, and demonstrating the flexibility to respond to another’s level appropriately. Developing emotional intelligence skills increases your leadership success.
  4. Applying Situational Analysis is the combination of understanding yourself and the organization. By using situational analysis, you are able to understand the balance between your values and the needs of the organization and act in a manner that attends to your authenticity while balancing the organization’s expectations and norms. This means you can read the situation quickly and respond accordingly. This does not mean you change your innate preference or act in a way that is not genuine, but rather in many cases learn to expand your repertoire of skills and behaviors. It is a bit like learning to swing forehand and backhand in tennis. You’ll continue to have preferences, but, by expanding your abilities, you can be both authentic and agile.
  5. Aligning Leadership Behaviors means behaving in a manner that is authentic to you, and appropriate to the organization and situations in which you find yourself. To do this well it means you need access to a broad range of behaviors and have the skills referenced in situational analysis to diagnose the organization’s requirements and your authentic style, and have the skills to balance both.

How can leaders be authentic and encourage others to do the same while concurrently meeting the needs of the overall team and organization? The innovative leadership model offers some support in identifying who you are so you understand what authentic is for you. From there, you will have a strong foundation to determine how to navigate the questions of authenticity and being a good organizational steward. This navigation is the art of leadership.

I will be a presenting Building Authentic Leadership by Innovating how You Lead at the WELD Leadership conference on June 4, 2015 at Otterbein University in Columbus Ohio. Click for more information.

To read more about Authentic Leadership, read the full paper published in Integral Leadership Review.

If you wonder about the image, it is from CEO bike to work day in Columbus, Ohio. This represents for me leaders who model their authentic values through their actions.

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.

6 Steps to Building Emotional Intelligence: Learn from Lincoln

May 13, 2015

Emotional IntelligenceWhen we consider what set Abraham Lincoln apart from so many other leaders, emotional intelligence is often noted. His behavior indicates that he was aware of his feelings and managed them well. I believe he understood that managing the feelings he expressed would impact the outcome he received. He had a broad range of emotions and used them as the situation required, not indiscriminately as he felt. His ability to “curate” his feelings to drive outcomes was – and still is – a rare skill that has become even more critical to leaders in today’s complex world.

Daniel Goleman wrote in the Harvard Business Review article, What Makes a Leader, ‘I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities;” that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.’
Interestingly, we primarily teach leaders how to work. We don’t focus on who they are as people, but rather, on what they do. The average organization is full of “leaders” who are highly skilled in their functional roles but lack emotional intelligence.

As the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 describes, ‘Middle managers stand out, with the highest EQ scores in the workforce. But up beyond middle management, there is a steep downward trend in EQ scores. For the titles of director and above, scores descend faster than a snowboarder on a black diamond. CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace… Among executives, those with the highest EQ skills are the best performers. We’ve found that EQ skills are more important to job performance than any other leadership skill. The same holds true for every job title: those with the highest EQ scores within any position outperform their peers.’

So what is Emotional Intelligence?

Using the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 framework, emotional intelligence is comprised of four competencies; two are about relating and managing self, and two involve relating to others.

Emotional Intelligence

Personal and Social Competence
Leaders must manage themselves first. Since emotions are contagious, it is important to ensure that you, as a leader, are aware of your emotions and control them so the message you convey to others is one that motivates them to move forward irrespective of how you are feeling. Lincoln was a great example: when he became frustrated and, some even say, depressed with the progress of the emancipation proclamation, he expressed emotions that motivated his team to get the votes they needed.

The ability to manage emotions is particularly important to leaders as they navigate difficult projects. The leader has often been involved since inception, has worked to advance it every step of the way, and may be the first to become exhausted by the sheer amount of energy and emotion involved in creating forward momentum – setting the vision, getting people committed, allocating resources, and dealing with the inevitable issues that arise. Somewhere along the way, the leader will feel overwhelmed and exhausted. It is these times, particularly, where leaders must be clear about how they are feeling, why they feel that way, whether it needs to change, and whether there is value to sharing it. This insight enables them to ensure that what they ultimately convey is what constituents need – not simply what they feel.

It is important to balance authenticity with sharing feelings that will cause unnecessary stress in others. In Lincoln’s case, he would have been less effective if he shared his concerns. Rather he shared that he was a highly powerful man who made things happen. It is likely that he deeply questioned this statement in his more reflective moments. As you read this – you may be thinking I am talking about manipulating others – I am not. I am talking about walking the line between being authentic and managing relationships so I allow everyone to be as successful as possible at meeting the overall goal. If as a leader I share my deepest fears, I will disempower some people who need to believe their leader knows what to do and how to get there. For others, it will be important to share more authentically. The art is in knowing how much to share with each person or group.

Building emotional intelligence requires ongoing practice in each of the four areas of the graphic above, starting with self-awareness. To begin the practice of self-awareness, use the following process:
1. Develop a list of feelings – Emotional Intelligence 2.0 has a useful sample on p. 15.
2. Identify what you are feeling once a day during the work week; log it in a journal or spreadsheet that is easy to access.
3. At the end of the first month, identify trends you noticed and discuss with a trusted friend or colleague.
4. Get feedback from that person. Is s/he noticing the behavior that you logged?
5. Think about how you can use what you have learned about your feelings to manage them in a way that will contribute to your professional success. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 provides several self-awareness strategies (starting on p. 61) that are quite helpful as you begin this practice.
6. After you have developed the habit of self-awareness, move to the practice of self-management, followed by the social competence areas.

If you are interested in taking an emotional intelligence assessment, please contact us.

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.

Performance Management AND Coaching Drive Success

May 4, 2015

Employee EngagementBill goes into his boss’s office to receive feedback on his annual appraisal. He learns that he is meeting expectations, and, subsequently, he is excited to shift his focus to further developing his plan. He is disappointed to learn that performance management only involves determining what he will deliver next year and not at how he can grow in order to expand his capacity to perform better. He feels as though he is falling behind his peers who focus on both performance and development.

I teach a class on managing employee performance and coaching employees that proposes we shift from emphasis on managing performance to emphasis on coaching employees. The Gallup Q12 Meta Analysis in 2013 showed that organizations with engaged employees are 22% more profitable. Employees are more engaged when they feel as though the organization cares about them and their individual development.

Performance management involves setting employee and organizational goals into alignment and providing feedback about performance within those goals. When supervisors connect employee skills with employee goals, employees become more engaged, and the organization benefits. Furthermore, performance management includes identifying the top performers to succeed important roles and identifying the lower performers to receive assistance. The person giving feedback requires proficient skills in evaluating and motivating employees. A strong relationship between manager and employee is necessary when providing effective feedback – this relationship should be one where the employee feels safe receiving constructive criticism and believes that, by making the requested changes, he or she will be rewarded in the future.

To meet stated objectives effectively, improving performance is needed. After employees are able to meet their objectives, it is important to then focus on meeting new goals to continue building employee capacity. At this point, coaching becomes fundamental to the process.

Coaching helps employees achieve their developmental goals beyond their mere ability to perform the job. A coach helps foster an employee’s developmental goals which are typically in sync with organizational goals. Development is vital in order to advance to the next level within an organization. It is also necessary when building skills like executive presence or resilience. The coach can be an employee’s manager or someone in a different reporting line or work group. It is important that the coach and coachee have a strong relationship of trust and respect.

The distinction between performance management and coaching may appear to be one of semantics, but it is nevertheless important. It is important for leaders and managers to have BOTH skills and to know when each skill is best used. When employees are performing poorly, the manager must determine the cause, which is often either a result of a training deficiency or a motivation/engagement gap. Once a manager identifies the cause of the underperformance in an employee he or she can create an improvement plan to help the employee meet the stated goals.

We prepare managers and leaders to

  1. Teach the basics of employee engagement – learn the basics of what engages and disengages people.
  2. Teach performance management basics – understand how the organization’s performance management system is designed. Performance management can have legal and financial implications, so it is important to understand the impact of the actions surrounding this system.
  3. Teach/practice giving and receiving feedback – PRACTICE (capitalized to emphasize skills are developed through ongoing practice) giving and receiving feedback with difficult employees.
  4. Teach coaching basics – practice coaching conversations. Coaching conversations have different objectives, content, and tones. Managers who are good at performance feedback still need to build coaching skills.
  5. Teach/practice coaching – PRACTICE coaching employees who are focused on growth.

For many organizations, employees are the biggest driver of success and, consequently, failure. To outperform competition, investing in employee engagement and development is crucial. If focus on performance management and coaching is mediocre or an afterthought, the ability to deliver positive end results will likely suffer.

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 get everwise

Five Key Elements In Performance Management Design Part 2

April 27, 2015

Performance measurement Blog post written by Rob Harman, II CPA, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP

This is part two focusing on of five things to think about when designing a Performance Management System and Process. Part one covered use. This part will cover design, measurement, output, and competencies.

 

2.  Design (see blog series part 1 for the first item).

There are many factors to be considered when designing a performance management system. Below are factors that are important as you consider designing a system for your organization.

    • Simple to use. If your system is cumbersome, people are not going to want to use it, or will just do the minimum it takes to achieve the “goal” of giving feedback. Complicated systems only produce good results when everyone involved is dedicated to spend the time to provide the input. The evaluator and evaluatee need to have the ability to choose from a range of selections based on each item being measured (i.e. a rating scale of 1 to 6 for each question). The system should also have an open text box after every question in the event the individual would like to input comments or examples to support the rating.
    • Accessible anywhere anytime. As many in today’s workforce work from remote locations outside the office, the system needs to be web based and accessible outside the office. Consider if you want to use cloud based software for your performance management system. Many systems offer other capabilities and modules than just performance management and could be a part of your HRIS and total financial system software package.
    • Ongoing feedback. The system should be designed to provide ongoing performance feedback throughout the year based on projects, time intervals, or at the employee or managers request. Therefore the system is always open and on. This will be a culture shift for many organizations as many only give feedback when it is needed or at set intervals in time. Giving real time feedback is not only a powerful motivational tactic for good and high performers, it will help an employee or manager who may be having some challenges. It is important to provide that feedback as soon as possible so it can be addressed without sacrificing additional work productivity losses and damage to internal and external clients.
    • Reporting. The system should have robust data gathering and reporting capabilities for the evaluator, evaluate, and of course HR, to help monitor and track completion and other statistics for a particular group and the organization.
    • Easy to interpret results. The system should have a dashboard where the manager and employee are able to view performance feedback and goals that are compiled and aggregated throughout the year. The dashboard should be able to track the number of “to do” tasks, what stage of completion they are in, and the date of the stage. Consider the interface of the design to feature simple graphics, colors, and analysis for a quick glace of reporting and statistics.

3. Measurement.

Ask yourself, what specifically do you want to measure, and who should be measuring it? Consider the following when deciding what to measure around performance.

  • Performance on a project or in a cross functional group
  • Customer impact
  • Individual contributions
  • Pro-bono or other volunteer work
  • Attitude and ability to work and team with others
  • Ability and drive
  • Upward feedback

As mentioned employees should be able to ask for feedback in the system at any time on any measurable item and the system will trigger the evaluator responsible for providing the feedback. Employees need to be set up with responsibility evaluator(s) for each type of measurement and they should have the ability to do self-evaluations in the system.

Another item to consider is what type of rating scale do you want to use? Traditionally, companies used scales of 1-7, or something similar. Many companies are considering either doing away with the numeric rating, or making it a smaller part of the process. A numerical rating triggers a psychological response and people tend to focus only on the number and what the implications of that number may mean, and thus are not engaged fully in the conversation. An alternative could be to borrow from the color spectrum and use red as high performance, green as expected performance, and indigo as needs improvement.   Some organizations are giving feedback without ratings with some early success. For other companies, foregoing measures would be counterproductive given the cultures they have built around measurement. This is where the ability to give and receive feedback is imperative to success! One of the challenges with measures is how the feedback is delivered more than the fact that performance is measured.

An example of the ratings shown on the dashboard could look something like this.

Performance Management

Some companies are beginning to use values-based ratings1. This is done by looking at how the employee fits in with the company values and aligns with company objectives. Other approaches are to design a system where the output is not only feedback on performance, but focuses more on giving advice and coaching and not just a final “rating”. You will want to look for a software vendor that has designed newer products that will be able to accommodate these non-traditional ways of measurement and delivering feedback and coaching.

 4. Output.

Now that you have designed a system, how you will use it? What decisions will you need to make as a result of the process? Do you need to implement training? Are there performance issues with a particular group, or a particular manager? Is there a morale problem at the organization? A well thought out and designed performance management system will help your company answer all of these questions and more.

5. Competencies.

Finally, competencies are an area where many organizations design complicated frameworks by level, group, subsidiary, or other measures, in an effort to define every possible measurement of performance at every level. While that is admirable, even a well-designed system will be unsuccessful if the competencies being measured are too complicated or the forms are too lengthy. There is value at developing expectations of performance at all levels of the organization from staff to executives. The competencies should be progressive, meaning each level has mastered the competencies of the preceding level. Competencies need to be designed with examples of what high performance (red), expected performance (green), and needs improvement (indigo) mean at each level and for different categories such as client services, team work, attitude, etc. The competencies need to be designed to achieve organizational and individual goals. Competencies will be a topic in another blog series, so stay tuned!

In a future post we will also talk about how to plan employee development and discuss how it links to evaluation. Some organizations couple performance evaluation and development planning while others separate them. We will talk more about performance management next week.

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

1 Predictions for 2015: Redesigning the Organization for a Rapidly Changing World, Bersin by Deloitte / Josh Bersin, January 2015

Photo credit: www.flickr.com William A. Clark

Five Key Elements in Performance Management Design – Part 1

April 20, 2015

Blog post written by Rob HarmanPath to success cc traumaandissociation, II CPA, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP.  You have just received an email from your Human Resources Department advising you it is time to begin the annual performance review process. Do you react by thinking, great, I have an opportunity to showcase the great work I’ve done and provide meaningful feedback to others? Or do you suddenly feel the 12 week job assignment overseas is looking like a real opportunity? I think most of us will agree the performance management process is something that can be improved upon at most organizations. It is often a once or twice a year task that is required by the company in order to assess performance, determine promotions, discipline, or terminate employees who are not performing at a level that is expected.

While having the greatest intentions, many organizations come up with sophisticated competencies that are often very long, cumbersome, and complicated at best. The performance management process then becomes a necessary evil. Since most of us are being asked to do more with less, performance management becomes a low priority because the business of doing business always comes first. Often then, the performance management process becomes an annual exercise of trying to remember what you did for the year, what your team did, how well it was done, and what you can say about it in enough words to satisfy the owners of the process, while getting it done quickly enough to move on to your other tasks.

The sad part is that performance management is very much about running the business and meeting client needs, both internal and external. What is needed in today’s workplace is an efficient, effective, easy to use, continual performance management system that is transparent. Everyone needs to be trained on how to give effective feedback, and how to receive it. This should be an ongoing refrain! EVERYONE needs to be trained to give and receive feedback! Repeat – EVERYONE needs to use the training they received to give and receive feedback. Think of how many people you know who are ineffective at giving and receiving feedback and either are too busy to get better or think they are already good enough. The changes we recommend ONLY work if leaders and managers are GOOD at giving and receiving feedback!

With those criteria met, the performance management process will become a much easier task, one that is continual throughout the year, will deliver feedback, and will help set goals to help employees and the business.

In the following sections are five things to consider when building a successful performance management process and system. Use, design, measurement, output and competencies. We will cover use this week and the following four next week.

1. Use.

How will you use the system and what is your goal for the system? What organization and talent objectives are you trying to meet? Common uses are compensation decisions, promotion decisions, training, and what I’ll call leveling. Leveling can mean holding someone in their current position for a period of time, providing them with additional training, or finding other opportunities for them in the organization if their current position isn’t the right fit. Ultimately, it can mean counseling someone out of the organization.

As a side note, when making compensation decisions based on performance, many organizations are considering unlinking the direct connection between compensation decisions and the overall rating. Compensation decisions can still be made by performance, but other factors such as job position, job skills, market conditions, and contributions to the organization can be the main drivers1. This allows for more direct and honest feedback, and ultimately improving employee engagement and performance by honest coaching.

In part two, I will talk about what your intended use of the system should be, what to measure and how, as numeric ratings are falling out of style. We will also touch on competencies and how those are built into the system.

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 traumaanddissociation

9 Steps to Building A Mentoring Program and Retaining Employees

April 13, 2015

mentoring cc nasa appelMike, an experienced leader, came back to his office after an intense meeting. He had been taken off guard by the exchange he had with a couple of team members. He took a couple of deep breaths to gather his thoughts and think through what had just happened. He knew that part of what he felt was frustration at what he thought would be a simple conversation ended up with a colleague taking offense to what he had done and how he had explained it. He had acted with integrity and was unsure how the meeting had gone so terribly wrong. Through feedback he knew that people see him as a bit aggressive in his approach. He has been working on that and thought he had made some great breakthroughs. So, it was even more disconcerting to see the reaction from someone he trusted and thought he had a strong relationship with. On days like this, Mike wondered if his style was just a bad fit for this company and if he should find another place to work that valued his direct approach to work and problem resolution.

After taking some time to reflect, he reached out to his mentor to help him figure out how much of this situation reflected something he needed to pay attention to. Did he need to build additional interaction skills? Or, was this less about him and more of a reflection of his colleague’s own frustration with a difficult day? He left the discussion grateful to have a mentor who regularly served as a thought partner in his personal improvement and development. Mike knew he could count on this person to provide candid and supportive responses. Over the years Mike and his mentor have been connected, they have built a deep trusting professional relationship. Of significant importance to the company was that Mike left the conversation with his mentor feeling like he was a strong fit for the organization. The company may not have known when they created the mentoring program how much of a positive impact it could have on employee retention.

McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm that helps clients make lasting improvements to their performance and realize their most important goals. In its recent article on The Power of People Analytics discussed how it developed an approach to retention: to detect previously unobserved behavioral patterns, they combine various data sources with machine-learning algorithms. The insights have been surprising and, at times, counterintuitive. They expected factors such as an individual’s performance rating or compensation to be the top predictors of unwanted attrition. But their analysis revealed that a lack of mentoring and coaching and of “affiliation” with people who have similar interests were actually top of list. More specifically, “flight risk” across the firm fell by 20 to 40 percent when coaching and mentoring were deemed satisfying.

Do you have a mentoring or coaching program? How would you go about setting one up?

  1. Identify mentoring program goals and objectives
  2. Determine who is offered a mentor (new employees, women, people at a specific level, high-potential employees)
  3. Determine if mentoring should become part of an ongoing development program to support the overall development goals
  4. Identify who is interested in serving as a mentor
  5. Create mentoring processes and tools that will accomplish the program goals and provide resources to mentors
  6. Develop a process to connect protégés with mentors
  7. Pilot the program and measure successes and areas for improvement
  8. Refine the program
  9. Launch the program

Mentors provide a variety of support. In addition to sharing knowledge directly related to business, they also act as a sounding board for protégés to verbalize concerns and frustrations. As well, they also can function as a mirror so that mentees can see an accurate reflection of themselves in a non-threatening way.

Evidence supports that providing mentors to employees increases job satisfaction, greater interpersonal skills, and higher productivity. Employees who are paired with mentors also feel a stronger identity with their employer; hence, the personal investment that leads to higher levels of retention.

Maureen participated in a formal mentoring program while working for a large consulting firm. It was directed toward women because the firm was seeing high attrition rates. She found the additional access to a highly successful executive invaluable in improving my ability to increase my effectiveness.

The program needs to balance organizational goals with the cost (time and money) invested in it. When done well, everyone benefits.

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 Nasa Appel

Four Recommendations to Keep your Plan Current and Adaptable

April 6, 2015

Innovative leadership overcome stressThis post is by James Brenza co-author of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.

It’s 7:00 am in the hotel parking lot and I’m facing a 20 minute commute to the office. That leaves 10 extra minutes before my 7:30 presentation. Complicating factor number 1: the windshield is covered by a thick coat of frost. Complicating factor number 2: the car rental agency decided I didn’t need a window scraper. I didn’t have many options as I stared at my ungloved hand, a credit card, a frost encrusted windshield and listened to my watch continue to tick. I knew the commute very well and needed to improvise to arrive as expected. Have you ever been in a similar predicament? Despite your original plan, the next step includes an unexpected twist.

Isn’t it “funny” how we all encounter distractions from our plan? Whether you’re completing a product launch, a customer segmentation strategy or a new price optimization method, it seems there is always a wrinkle in your plan. In many circumstances, you may face challenges with your stakeholders, team members, incomplete data, inadequate models or insufficient time to properly train the models. In most of these situations, the mark of a strong leader isn’t their ability to personally resolve the underlying problem. Innovative leaders are known for their ability to adapt to the situation, pressures, team dynamic and think creatively to help the team resolve the issue. The following section explores various distractions from plan and recommended actions to mitigate the impact.

  • Communicate quickly and honestly. Key indicators and keys to success of innovative leadership are integrity and adaptability. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the adage that bad news doesn’t age well. When facing adversity such as distractions from our plan, an unexpected or delayed outcome, deceiving the stakeholders is never an option. However, we have the ability to creatively and adaptably apply our resources to attain all or a portion of the visionary goal.
  • Address leadership gaps quickly. If the distraction from your plan included a gap in your team’s skills or leadership capability, you can seek substitutes, additional resources, coaching or training. In especially challenging situations, including specialized consultants in a coaching mode can meet the short-term objective and bolster long-term capability. You can also leverage your network and personal skills to fill small gaps.
  • Address data availability and integrity. If your analytic initiative is struggling with data acquisition or qualification of available data, you may need to revise your objective until the data is available, validated and qualified for use. If you drive forward with inadequate data, you risk developing inaccurate models. Since the predictive ability of the available data may have some value, another alternative is to segment the population and attempt a small pilot with highly structured A/B testing.
  • Validate our analytics model. If your analytic models are evolving slower than planned, you can support your data scientists with a fresh perspective to validate the underlying descriptive statistics, foundational predictors or potentially confounded attributes. It’s especially important to ensure the models aren’t being over fit due to inadequate data or hasty elimination of valid predictors.

With all of these technical mitigations, your role as a leader is even more vital. You’ll need to ensure your communications are completely transparent, and your stakeholders are aware of the issues and mitigations. It may be necessary to remind them that the only thing worse than not implementing a predictive model is an inaccurate model that may reduce value through sub-optimization. In difficult and tense situations, your team’s resilience may crumble. Scheduling special activities or a little time away may help refresh them. It’s also vital to take care of yourself. With the extra stress and high expectations, your competing commitments may erode your performance. It’s critical to maintain your life balance and control any conflicts raised by your “inner voice”.

For the curious few seeking closure, I survived my frosty morning commute by using the defrosters to help with the windshield, minimized scraping on the side windows, skipped scraping the back window and missed seeing my favorite barista on the trip to the office. By adapting my expectations, reducing my typical commute plan and accepting a few risks, I was able to meet all of my commitments.

What adjustments are you prepared to make so you can meet your expectations?

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.flick.com By: Techniker Krankenkasse

Have We Taken Optimization to Painful Extremes?

March 23, 2015

What is too optimized?This post is by James Brenza co-author of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.

As we hurriedly boarded the plane for our 6:00 AM departure, we sleepily threw our carry-on items in the overhead compartments and hoped for a calm, restful flight. The challenges started with the pilot’s innocuous announcement that we may have a short wait for de-icing. That short delay became a 30 minute line followed by a 90 minute wait for de-icing equipment repairs. Despite the pilot’s polite updates every 15 minutes, sleep was a lost opportunity due to the stress of missed connections and passenger calls to customer service to rebook connecting flights. Have you ever had a travel misfortune like this? Doesn’t it seem like the slightest disruption anywhere in the continent can disrupt the flow for the entire day (or longer)?

As seasoned travelers embrace winter’s grip, we brace ourselves for a plethora of difficulties. We all seem to encounter flight cancellations, late arrivals, insufficient or ill-equipped rental cars and overbooked hotels. I always find it interesting that other travelers complain that it wasn’t always this bad. Have you ever considered what changed? Is it possible that with more data and stronger optimization models that we’ve over-optimized based on profitability?

When creating optimization models, one of the very first steps is to pick an outcome. If the selected outcome includes only profitability, full asset utilization, minimal inventory or razor thin times to repurpose assets (e.g., airplane turnaround time, restaurant table turns per shift), we can certainly drive to that outcome. But if you don’t consider the ecosystem and especially the customer, you can actually sub-optimize the business ecosystem with excessive optimization. A few simple examples include:

  • Profit optimization is frequently accomplished at the expense of workforce capability and resiliency.
  • Operational efficiency optimization can compromise the customer satisfaction.

Don’t turn your back on optimization in haste! There’s no reason to throw in the towel yet. One of the best remedies has been available for decades (yet easily forgotten). The Balanced Score Card was developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in 1992. The approach is still operationally sound and perfectly complements optimization and executive analytics.

Optimize your business

By considering the ecosystem impact of excessive optimization, you can ensure you establish the countering measures during your development process. Since these measures need to incorporate an extremely broad view of the enterprise, they are best aligned with the executive view of the system.

As your team considers the optimization outcome, the leader should challenge them to consider the risks created by excessive optimization. They can brainstorm outlandish extremes to help make the point clear. After they consider all possible sinister outcomes, the next step is to consider the counter measures or optimization models that will prevent such extremely negative outcomes. It’s possible some of these outcomes should be factors in the primary optimization model (e.g., incorporating the cost of accommodating and compensating displaced airline passengers while optimizing fleet utilization).

It’s critical to associate and integrate the competing models while conducting what-if analysis or simulations. As various scenarios are modeled, the impact on the counter measure should be examined. Even if the models appear to be balanced for the “standard” outcomes (e.g., first standard deviation), the models should be stress tested for the edge cases and counter measures examined.

Since the results are vital to the ecosystem, core operating measures or KPI’s placed on the executive dashboard should have the counter measures visually aligned and updated at the same frequency. Unless all levels of the organization understand and monitor the impact of myopic optimization, the enterprise will increase risk to unacceptable levels.

Just in case you’re wondering about our flight disruption and connecting flights, many of us were fortunate that the connecting aircraft was delayed due to a mechanical fault. We were equally fortunate that it was promptly repaired considering the next available substitute aircraft wasn’t available for 5 hours. That’s a shocking delay considering this airport was a hub for that airline. By failing to model adequate substitute hardware during a predictably difficult travel season, they’ve embraced and accepted a significant level of customer dissatisfaction.

Are you doing the same thing to your customers? Are you prepared to ask the difficult questions and respond to the challenging answers? How are you leading your teams to ensure your optimization strategy is balanced?

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 frakus

 

Want to Improve Thinking? Try Meditating!

March 16, 2015

meditation - resilienceThe following blog is written by guest blogger Zachary Poll, featured in Entrepreneur Magazine with Maureen Metcalf.

We have all heard stories of the chosen few people who change the world. The Steve Jobs’, the Larry Ellison’s, the Gandhi’s of the world. These people are given such descriptions that would make a listener believe they have divine powers. So much of us seek to attain this power, yet few know where to begin. The first step? Simple: try meditating. For the purpose of this post we are talking simply about the practice of stilling the body and focusing on your breath, allowing thoughts to flow through your mind and just noticing them. When you find you start thinking about something, simply focus on your breath and “park the thinking” until after meditation. This practice of dropping (or not attaching to thoughts) is a learned skill that is only built with practice.

Most of us have heard the statistic that we only use 10% of our brains. Even though this statistic is debatable, it sparks the imagination of what is possible if we had significantly increased functionality of the brain. The movie Lucy, with Scarlett Johansson, explores the possibilities of the brain if this were possible. With greater functionality of the mind, she is able to read minds, jump on air particles, and move buildings with her thoughts.

I am not suggesting meditation will give you the ability to jump over buildings, but meditating over the long-run will give you the power to maintain focus and manage your negative thinking during times of stress. Meditation is a workout for the mind like exercise is for the body. Many of us can’t imagine going a week without exercise yet we can go months and for many people for years without exercising the mind. Starting to meditate routinely provides us a much greater ability to focus our attention and manage our thoughts, driving our performance in almost all areas of life.

To understand why, it is important to understand the evolution of the brain. Humans used to be no more dominant than any other animal. Then, one of the most defining events in Earth’s history happened: humans began developing a prefrontal cortex. This evolutionary process did not happen in one day, but took millions of years to develop into what it is today. Think of how much this development has changed the world!

The human brain’s competitive advantage to all other life forms lies within the development of the prefrontal cortex. The denser it is, the greater it functions. Hence, the more developed our prefrontal cortex, the greater control we have over our selves. So the question becomes: how do I make my prefrontal cortex more dense? Great news, an evolutionary process that can take millions of years, can be obtained to an extent in as little as 8 weeks.

Scientific studies now show meditating each day, even for just 10 minutes per day, increases gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, as well as regions in the brain that support self-awareness.

This increases the minds ability to: pay attention, focus, manage stress, control impulses, and become more self-awareness; all of the traits that provide humans our advantage to other animals, and the traits innovative leaders possess.

Here is an example most people can understand: two basketball players, one who relies on natural talent, and the other who practices their skills. The one who relies on their natural talent spends the summer hanging out with friends and relaxing. The other gets up at 6am, and practices every day on their fundamentals. After the summer, try-outs for the team start. Who do you think gets the spot on the team? Which person do you want to be?

Meditation is the way we practice and improve our minds ability to perform and manage stress. So, where to start? If you are looking for a quick boost in cognitive function, or want to test this research on yourself, there is a way to do it in one minute! Try this:

  1. Set a timer to one minute, that will make a sound when the timer is done.
  2. Put yourself into a relaxed state, free of distractions.
  3. Start the timer, and try to take only 4-6 breaths during this minute.

For more detailed instructions and practices, there are lots of great resources ranging from mindfulness based stress reduction to basic meditation classes and books.

Of course, you must know how to channel this increased cognitive function correctly to make yourself an innovative leader. We recommend reading up on other resources we provide in developing innovative leadership.

Here are the main points you should remember from this article:

  • The competitive advantage humans have over other life forms is the development of our prefrontal cortex.
  • By increasing the density of our prefrontal cortex, the greater our cognitive advantage relative to other humans. Most Level 5 leaders possess this.
  • Meditating for 10 minutes each day, for as little as 8 weeks, increases prefrontal cortex density.

Think of it like stretching your body before exercising, except for your brain. If you still have your doubts, research any of the three names at the top of this article and their use of meditation.

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 Elf Sternberg

Leadership 2050 – What Qualities Will We Need?

March 9, 2015

Paradoxical leaderThis blog post includes excerpts from chapter 13 or an upcoming book edited by the International Leadership Association: Building Bridges series in June 2015. The chapter was written by  Susan Cannon, Maureen Metcalf and Mike Morrow-Fox to explore the question of what does leadership look like in 2050.

The qualities of effective leadership can be paradoxical—requiring effective leaders to be passionate and unbiased, detailed and strategic, hard driving and sustainable, fact-focused and intuitive, self-confident and selfless—often at the same time. Such complexity is rarely found in leaders even under optimal conditions. As we move toward 2050, new contexts and conditions are poised to emerge that will create challenges beyond the abilities of most leaders or any single nation to manage. This powerful contextual shift—a time of great stress and constraint—has the potential to drive a new and more complex stage of human culture and consciousness to meet these challenges.

Historically, as new stages of human culture and consciousness have emerged, the requirements for effective leadership have shifted accordingly. Such a shift is already underway in small pockets; in the next few decades, we expect its significance to increase. This shift will call for and catalyze what researchers and scholar-practitioners of adult developmental maturity (developmentalists) call “Strategist” leadership skills ). Strategist leaders have a world-centric, truly inclusive capacity to see, make meaning, and respond in a way that facilitates consistent, flexible, holistic, meta-systemic, broadly collaborative, and transformative problem-solving that endures even during times of times of stress and constraint. In this chapter, the authors describe research-based probable futures that will require more Strategist

This perfect storm of increasing complexity, accelerating change, and near constant uncertainty is creating conditions that exceed the mental and emotional capacities of most leaders. While technology is advancing exponentially, our laws, culture, and social contracts are moving in a linear fashion. The same is true for conventional approaches to leadership development. Four recent global studies on the future needs and gaps of organizational leadership concluded that current leadership lacks the higher-ordered skills and capacities to meet the complexity of even today’s challenges. For example, current leaders lack the ability to function in environments that have a high degree of ambiguity and uncertainty, to build cross-cultural strategic relationships, to facilitate collaboration between diverse groups, or to sense the crucial and unspoken undercurrents and relational dynamics in a meeting. The systematic cultivation of such higher-ordered capacities in leaders requires more than training—it means they must psychologically evolve to a more complex way of being.

The stages of a leader’s growth have a direct correlation, and thereby a natural fit, with stages of cultural evolution. The new leader that emerged with each cultural stage had the requisite capacities and developmental maturity to reach beyond what came before. For example, someone seeking to become a term-limited chief executive of a Modern era nation-state democracy must have the more complex, nuanced, and emotionally intelligent capacity to gather support and communicate with the electorate and representatives in a way that a Traditional era bloodline monarch, ruling by fiat, would not need or understand.

This emerging cultural stage of development structurally correlates to the Strategist leader.

According to an HBR article, Seven Transformations of Leadership by Torbert and Rooke, 4% of leaders test at the Strategist level. Characteristics include:

  • Perceives systematic patterns and long term trends with uncanny clarity.
  • Can easily differentiate objective versus subjectively biased events.
  • Exhibits a strong focus on self-development, self-actualization, and authenticity.
  • Pursues actualizing personal convictions according to internal standards.
  • Management style is tenacious and yet humble.
  • Understands the importance of mutual interdependence with others.
  • Well-advanced time horizon: approximately fifteen – twenty years with concern for legacy.

In future posts we will explore how to recognize Strategist leaders so you can hire them and/or position them in strategic roles within the organization. We will also talk about how to develop them.

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 Hartwig HKD

References

Brown, B. (2011). Conscious leadership for sustainability: How leaders with a late-stage action logic design and engage in sustainability initiatives. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3498378)

Cook-Greuter, S. (2000). Mature ego development: A gateway to ego transcendence? Journal of Adult Development, 7(4), 227-240.

O’Fallon, T. (2013, July). The senses: Demystifying awakening. Presented at the 2013 Integral Theory Conference, San Francisco, CA. Available at https://metaintegral.org/sites/default/files/O’Fallon_ITC2013.pdf

Rooke, D., & Torbert, W. (2005, April). Seven transformations of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 83 (4), 67 – 76. Downloadable at https://hbr.org/2005/04/seven-transformations-of-leadership

Development Dimensions International & The Conference Board (2014). Ready-now leaders: Meeting tomorrow’s business challenges. Global leadership forecast 2014|2015. Retrieved at http://www.ddiworld.com /DDI/media/trend-research/global-leadership-forecast-2014-2015_tr_ddi.pdf?ext=.pdf

Gitsham, M. (2009). Developing the global leader of tomorrow. Ashridge and EABIS report. Available at http://www.ashridge.com/Website/IC.nsf /wFARPUB/Developing+the+Global+Leader+of+Tomorrow+Report+-+2009?opendocument

IBM Corporation (2010). Working beyond borders: Insights from the global chief human resource officer study. Available at http://www-935.ibm.com /services/c-suite/chro/study/

Leslie, B. (2009). The leadership gap: What you need and don’t have when it comes to leadership talent. Center For Creative Leadership. Available at http://www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/research/leadershipGap.pdf