Archive for the ‘Leadership’ category

Appreciate The Value Of Personal Accountability

October 27, 2017

The one personal skill that continues to differentiate success from mediocrity is personal accountability.  Personal accountability is defined as the ability to be responsible for the consequences of one’s actions and decisions.  Personal accountability is a personal skill that can be observed and developed.

A person who has a strong sense of personal accountability has an internal responsibility to be accountable; a willingness to “own up” that will be exhibited in the person’s actions.  Someone who has personal accountability will perform well even when expectations are not clear, resources are hard to find, or competition is tough.

How do leaders know if the people they are looking to hire or their direct reports have personal accountability?  Ask these questions:

  • Tell me about a time when it was necessary to admit to others that you had made a mistake.  How did you handle it?
  • Give an example of a situation where others had made an error or mistake and you had to take the blame for their actions.  How did you react?
  • What is the worst business decision you ever made?  What made it the worst? Would knowing what you do now have helped you to avoid making that decision?
  • Give me an example of a lesson you have learned from making a mistake.  What did you do differently going forward?

Leaders who understand the personal accountability capacity of each direct report will be empowered and empower others for greater success.

Impulse Control Creates Better Leaders

October 20, 2017

In 1972 at Stanford University, Walter Mischel studied a group of four-year old children and conducted the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  Each of the children was given one marshmallow, but were promised two if they waited twenty minutes before eating the first marshmallow. Some children were able to wait the twenty minutes, and some were not.  Mischel then studied the children into adolescence and found that those children able to delay gratification were psychologically better-adjusted, more dependable, and better students.  Bottom line: delaying gratification resulted in more success.

Good impulse control is considered a positive leadership characteristic and as psychologist Daniel Goleman indicates, an important component trait of emotional intelligence.  Leaders are under much pressure to deliver results faster and often forsake greater future success because they choose today’s immediate gratification.

We see this in leaders who hire questionable candidates who can immediately contribute over high-potential candidates needing some grooming.  We see this in leaders who choose to complete a task themselves today instead of delegating it to a developing direct report because it gets done faster.  We see this in leaders who fail to prepare a succession plan for their direct reports because it takes up too much time today and figure they’ll just deal with it later.

Empowered leaders control the impulse of today’s short cuts and experience greater success tomorrow.

Through Preparation, Then Through Trust

October 13, 2017

One sign of a controlling leader is they become ineffective when they or their cohorts are not around to use external controls.  It’s not uncommon to hear a leader say, “I can’t go on a two week vacation, the place will fall apart if I’m gone that long.”

Going away for two weeks is a perfect way to test for empowerment; however, leaders cannot just dump and run.  Here are some actions leaders can take to ensure they and their direct reports feel confident while they are gone:

  • Document the critical aspects of the leader’s position;
  • Identify direct reports who are capable of these aspects (they need not all be carried out by the same person);
  • Train and/or cross-train;
  • Have a direct report do the aspect of the work as a trial run before leaving;
  • Finally, enjoy the time away.

By empowering direct reports to perform aspects of the leader’s job while they’re gone and entrusting them to make decisions in their absence, direct reports will successfully increase trust, confidence, engagement, and productivity.  Leaders may even find that allowing the direct report to continue that work upon their return opens new options up for them.

Direct Reports Should Be Challenged To Continuously Develop

October 6, 2017

In his book “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains”, Nicholas Carr argues that our reliance on the Internet is changing how our brains operate.  As we become more reliant on the Internet, and electronics in general, our brains are required to do less memorization and deep reading.  With facts and data being just a few keystrokes away, why tax our brains with memorization?  Why read a complete article or book, when with a few clicks several summaries and reviews give us what we need to know?

The Internet has made things much easier for our brains.  But the brain is like any other muscle and needs to be exercised or will atrophy.  Leaders must ask themselves how they are challenging their direct reports to exercise their brains.

One leader asked each of his direct reports to read the first chapter of a popular personal development book and send him a brief review of what they read and how their executive team could be more effective.  The direct reports enjoyed the exercise, the leader enjoyed the improvements, and the team became stronger.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to develop their brains will enjoy success too.

Screen For Core Values Early In The Selection Process

September 29, 2017

Almost all business leaders agree the most important component of their cultural fabric is their core values. Executive teams and strategic coaches have spent countless hours developing and refining these crucial organizational identifiers.

Good hiring managers screen for the organization’s core values early on in the screening process to gauge core values fit – before the hiring manager has fallen in love with the candidate. A core values email screen should be conducted after a candidate has successfully passed the first phone screen.

In the email screen, the candidate is asked to reply in an email how they have lived each of the organization’s core values. This not only gives the hiring manager a feel for how the candidate internalizes the core values, but also provides a great sample of their writing and email skills.

Here is a sample email screen:

Below are the core values for the ABC Company. Please take a few moments to provide an example of how you have demonstrated each of these core values in your professional life. We are looking for specific examples; if you do not have one, you may leave it blank, but we are not looking for hypothetical situations. We don’t expect a novel, but sometimes being too brief loses the meaning or the context. Please respond as though you were responding to an email request from the individual to whom you report.

Results Driven: Be accountable for getting the right things done right and on time.

Team Focus: Place team goals ahead of personal goals.

Do the Right Thing: Even when no one is looking or will ever find out.

Empowered hiring managers use a core values email screening to increase their odds of making a successful hire.

Take A Bullet For Direct Reports

September 22, 2017

Baseball fans have probably seen times when a player begins to argue with an umpire and is about to be ejected from the game.  Suddenly, their manager leaps out of the dugout and interrupts the argument, engaging the umpire while deflecting attention from their player.  The manager kicks dirt, throws objects, and screams inches from the umpire all in an attempt to rescue the player.  After the game, when tempers are back to normal and in the privacy of the clubhouse, the manager will offer feedback to the player, coaching them on what to do when experiencing similar situations in the future.

Empowering leaders challenge their direct reports by putting them in difficult situations. Inevitably, direct reports will struggle as they learn from the experiences.  Good leaders know when to jump in and use their influence to prevent their direct report from too detrimental an experience. After the incident, in calmer circumstances, the leader provides course correction coaching and helps the direct report grow from the situation.

Not only will the leader benefit from their direct report’s development, the direct report will move mountains for the leader in the future.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to pursue challenging tasks, but will also jump in and save them when necessary will experience more success.

Be Honest With Direct Reports

September 15, 2017

Anyone who has ever experienced flight delays while traveling knows how frustrating it is when the airline withholds or sugarcoats bad news.  We’d all like to know our flight is delayed or cancelled when the airline knows about it.  But airlines, concerned they might disappoint their customers, often conceal or soften the bad news.  Travelers, even though it’s unpleasant, much prefer to know what’s happening and want the airline to be honest with them.

This is how direct reports feel when leaders aren’t completely forthright with them.  Leaders need to be completely honest when delivering feedback and conducting performance reviews.  Like airline customers, employees want to know when there are issues impacting the company sooner rather than later.  Though it may feel uncomfortable, employees have much more respect for the leader who is forthright and direct.

Leaders should empower themselves to be honest and prompt when delivering tough messages, and everyone will be more successful.

The Most Effective Leadership Practice

September 8, 2017

When it comes to leading others within an organization, the most effective leadership practice is weekly one-on-one meetings between a leader and their direct reports.

It accelerates performance because the one-on-one is all about the direct report and their needs.  Specifically, the leader should ask:

  • What is going on at work and in life that might impact performance or effectiveness this week;
  • What activities are the direct report focused on this week;
  • What obstacles have they run into;
  • What resources are needed?

When the direct report believes this simple 30 minutes each week is completely dedicated by the leader to focus on their success, the engagement and passion for results is unbelievable.

Additionally, these meetings create trust between the direct report and the leader.  When a direct report knows their leader will share information, trust soars.

This is not the time for the leader to micromanage; the focus of the one-on-one is on the direct report and their needs – the leader is the resource, not the solution.

Leaders who empower themselves and their direct reports to hold weekly one-on-one meetings experience much more success.

Think Empowerment When Delegating

August 25, 2017

One of the most difficult decisions for successful leaders is delegating an important task.  Once the leader finally decides what to delegate, they then need to decide how to delegate.  When delegating, the leader can take a controlling or an empowering approach.  Think empowerment.

Empowerment does not have to mean surrendering control.  Effective, empowering leaders establish borders and boundaries around the delegated task. There are four areas to be established and communicated when empowering direct reports:

  1. Describe success;
  2. Specify restrictions (non-negotiables, budget, authority);
  3. Define time frames (hours to dedicate, milestones, checkpoints/updates, completion date);
  4. Identify available resources (people, information, training, processes).

Whether it’s empowering a direct report to purchase the organization’s next computer system or empowering them to plan the holiday party, leaders experience much more success when they and their direct report discuss the borders and boundaries associated with the delegated task rather than micro-managing all the details.

In The Absence Of Information People Will Make It Up

August 18, 2017

In the absence of information, we make stuff up.  Our brain won’t live with a void, so it fills in the blanks.  When we do this, we believe what we made up to be true.  Because we are wired for survival, most of what we make up is negative.

We see this in the workplace all the time: the closed door meetings, the popular co-worker who was terminated, the new policy change, and the unannounced job posting are all common situations where uninformed employees make up information to fill in the blanks.  Though all of these situations have perfectly reasonable explanations, employees left without clarification will behave skeptically and unproductively.

Most leaders are oblivious to the ramifications of these seemingly routine actions, and when asked about them will openly explain the circumstances.  Unfortunately, leaders have no idea of the disruption caused by these perceived clandestine actions.  Leaders can do the following to minimize these impacts:

  • Be aware of the actions that can be misinterpreted;
  • Encourage direct reports to ask for clarifications to the mysteries (easily done through the weekly one-on-one meetings);
  • Remember the “average” person needs to hear something 7 times to remember it  (imagine the below average person), so determine what message needs to be heard and clearly state that often.

Empowered leaders appreciate how lack of information can disrupt their team, take measures to lessen the impact, and experience more success.