Guest Post by Bill Treasurer
Leadership: It’s amazing how complicated leadership “experts” have made the topic. I know because I am one of them. I am a senior ranking officer in what can only be called the Legion of Leadership Complexifiers (the LLC).
We members of the LLC make our livelihood plumbing, parsing, and peddling leadership concepts. We use fancy words and nitpick the life out of the subject.
Sure, most of us are well-intentioned, but by complicating leadership, we have created an unrealistic and largely unattainable standard for people to live up to.
We set impossible expectations when we tell leaders they need to be:
Bold and calculated
Passionate and reasonable
Rational and emotional
Confident and humble
Driven and patient
Strategic and tactical
Competitive and cooperative
Principled and flexible
Faced with such a laundry list of expectations, how on earth could anyone fulfill all these roles? Why would they want to be a leader?
Keep it simple! The truth is, leadership doesn’t have to be complex.
It’s time to lighten the leadership load and bring leadership back to what’s most essential. Here are six tips that simplify leadership and re-focus on what’s essential.
1. Focus on a Positive Future: Always keep the best days of the people you’re leading in front of them. Focus on looming achievements on the horizon, not the glory days of the past.
2 Stop Stoking Fear: Here’s the most overused phrase in the history of business: What keeps me awake at night… Phrases like that only serve to make people anxious. Followers would rather know what gets you up in the morning.
3. Motivate with Opportunity: People will move mountains, if in exchange for doing so, they grow and develop. Benjamin Disraeli was right, “Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets.”
4. Know Them Until You Care: Get to know the career desires, goals, and aspirations of each of your people. When you know them, you’ll care about them. And when you care about them, their trust and loyalty increases.
5. Stretch into Discomfort: People grow and develop in a zone of discomfort, not comfort. Task people with stretch assignments that cause them to grow and make them a tad uncomfortable.
6. Be Grateful: Your job is to help your people be eminently successful. When they are, you will be deemed an effective leader…because of their work. Be grateful, and say, “Thank you!”
Leadership may not be easy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. When you cut through the clutter, leadership is about advancing the growth and development of those you lead.
Think of a leader you admire – someone who actually led you. What do you admire about him or her?
- Did she provide you with an opportunity where you could grow your skills?
- Did he give you candid feedback that caused you to see yourself in a more honest way?
- Did she value your perspective, input, and ideas?
- Did he create opportunities for you to stretch, grow, and excel?
Leaders open doors. They create opportunities for those they lead. It’s as simple as that! And when you stay focused on this, everything else falls into place.
Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting. His latest book Leaders Open Doors focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of the bestseller Courage Goes to Work and Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations use to build workplace courage. Bill has led courage-building workshops for a huge range of companies such as NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @btreasurer.
A personal note from Jesse: This week marks the launch of Bill’s excellent new book, Leaders Open Doors: A Radically Simple Leadership Approach to Lift People, Profits, and Performance. It’s a simple, yet powerful, easy read, packed with helpful advice and illustrated with charming stories. Not only is this book a valuable resource, but when you purchase it, you will be “opening doors” for children with special needs – because Bill is donating 100% of the royalties to charities that support them. Check out this inspiring 2 minute video that explains why he is doing this.
Positive thinking can do wonders for your attitude. But it’s not enough to get you where you want to go. Instead of thinking positively about being great, imagine what great looks like.
Visualize a picture of the end-result. Create a picture in your mind of the future you desire. Close your eyes and see it happening right now.
If you’re concerned about giving a speech, it helps to imagine giving the speech successfully. But the real power is in visualizing the end result— see yourself getting a standing ovation at the end of your speech, or if you’re an athlete, see yourself standing on the podium receiving the gold medal.
The power is in picturing the end result. The process for achieving it, the path, will not necessarily be clear.
My first experience with the power of picture took place in a fifth grade classroom. My first job was teaching reading to children with learning disabilities. Most children learn to read the same way they learn to walk and talk. They get a little support from an adult, but they pick it up naturally. When it doesn’t come naturally, it’s really hard for them to learn.
By the time they are 10 years old, they are discouraged by years of failure, watching other children pass them by. One day it occurred to me that the children were so discouraged they probably couldn’t even imagine they could enjoy reading a book.
I had been reading about how mental imagery made a huge difference in the 1976 Olympics. The USSR had stunned the world by walking away with most of the gold medals. The Soviets had discovered that when competitive skiers supplemented their practice through visualization, not only were they better prepared to ski in a variety of conditions, but their motivation and self-confidence also increased.
So I tried an experiment with the children. Every day we spent ten minutes in a relaxed guided meditation. We began imagining going into the library, finding a cozy spot and curling up with a great picture book. By the end of the year, they were imagining going into the library reading long books with no pictures. I didn’t change anything else about the way I was teaching. I just added the relaxed visualization. That year the children’s progress increased, we had more fun in the classroom, and they started reading library books on their own.
Was this a real scientific experiment? No. But it made me aware of the power of creating a mental picture of what you desire, and it sparked my interest in vision.
How to harness the power of picture.
Over the years, studying vision and helping leaders in a variety of settings I learned that the real power comes when you focus on what you desire. Proactively focus on what you want, not reactively on your problems. While you might remove a specific problem, you are likely to discover another problem awaits, and you will move from one crisis to another. Instead of focusing on problems, picture the results you desire.
For example, if you want to lose weight, obviously you need to eat less. However, if you frequently think about the chocolate you can’t eat, it’s difficult to maintain motivation over the long term. Instead, picture what you’ll look like in your new jeans whenever your thoughts turn to chocolate.
Eight tips for creating a picture of your desired future:
- Be proactive, not reactive. Move toward what you want rather than away from what you do not want.
- Be creative and playful. Give yourself permission to explore, to dream.
- Do not let your fears and concerns limit your thinking.
- Visualize the end result, not the process for getting there. See yourself standing on the podium receiving the gold medal.
- Focus on what really matters to you. Ask, What do I want to do? not What should do?
- See it actually happening. Close your eyes and imagine what it looks like.
- Put yourself in the picture. Imagine what you are doing and what the quality of your relationships look like.
- Don’t waste your time imagining someone changing. The only one you can change is yourself.
Don’t stop here.
In our book Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision, Ken Blanchard and I say “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.”
Knowing where you’re going means having a picture of your destination in your mind. A picture is not the same as a vision, but it IS one of the three critical elements of a compelling vision, and it has a tremendous power. To create a compelling vision, remember the other two elements: Knowing who you are means being clear on your purpose, and what guides your journey are your values. Know what you stand for and live your values consistently.
Most of us know what Supervising Closely looks like. It’s doing things like:
- Setting goals.
- Telling what needs to be done.
- Explaining how to do it.
- Setting timelines.
- Checking progress.
- Providing frequent feedback.
And most of us know what Delegating looks like:
- You leave them alone and let them do their job.
If you want to be an effective leader, you need to be able to hang out in the space in the middle.
It doesn’t work when you try to jump over that space.
When you jump from Closely Supervising to Delegating.
Nancy decided to delegate her calendar to her new assistant. Her assistant took over scheduling like any other activity – she efficiently fit names in open slots. The problem was that friends who wanted a “let’s touch base” call were treated like clients and given “appointments.” (which they didn’t appreciate). And some clients were annoyed because they were used to a personal touch and felt distanced.
When you jump from Delegating to Closely Supervising.
After numerous complains by clients and friends, Nancy told her assistant to check with her before scheduling. Later she was surprised to overhear her assistant complaining that she was too controlling. Once someone has been given responsibility for something, it’s hard to take it back.
The space between Supervising Closely and Delegating is where growth occurs and where relationships are forged.
It’s an interactive space. It’s about both of you, not just the task at hand.
What you do in this space:
- Asking questions
- Asking their opinion
- Debriefing and learning from mistakes
- Providing perspective
As a leader, where do you spend most of your time? If you really want to know, ask your direct reports. You might be surprised at what they have to say.
When should you stop hanging out in the middle and move to Delegating? – When they have demonstrated they are fully competent and confident to do the work independently. Just as Nancy found out, you’re not doing anyone a favor by delegating too soon.
The Difference Between Delegating and Abdicating
When you abdicate, you disappear.
When you delegate, you stay aware of:
- Major issues that could affect success (ultimately you are accountable).
- Completion of major milestones.
When you delegate, your job is to make it easy for them to do their job. The kinds of things you do are:
- Remove roadblocks.
- Provide resources they need.
- Provide opportunities for interesting, new challenges.
- Protect them from unrealistic demands from the larger organization.
- Champion them in the larger organization.
Guest Post by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
I am delighted to host this guest post by my colleague Jennifer Kahnweiller in celebration of the launch of her excellent new book Quiet Influence: The Introvert”s Guide to Making a Difference. Jennifer is recognized world-wide as the “go-to” expert on the power of introverts following the success of her first book The Introverted Leader.
Who gets their voice heard in the office? Now more than ever, it’s not the ones shouting to make themselves known. It’s the highly effective quiet influencers: introverts who use their natural strengths to make a big difference without making a lot of noise.
If you tend to be more reflective than talkative, more into writing than presenting, or more into listening than selling, here are six ways to use your natural strengths to an advantage:
1) Take quiet time: Introverts prioritize periods of solitude that provides them with a powerful source of creativity and self-awareness. Tip: Schedule quiet time on your calendar. Dim the lights, turn off the radio and reduce distractions from technology to get inside your head.
2) Prepare: Introverts increase their confidence to influence others by increasing their knowledge, creating a strategy and rehearsing. Tip: Prepare on two levels. First, focus on content by researching your topic and getting your facts in order. Then, prepare yourself through visualization, role-playing and positive self-talk.
3) Listen: This innate introvert talent helps Quiet Introverts establish rapport and mutual understanding – especially when they observe body language, ask questions and serve as a sounding board for others. Tip: Slow down and get face-to-face when you can. Take the time to paraphrase what you are hearing to check your understanding.
4) Focus the conversations: Introverts excel at the serious, purpose-driven, one-on-one or small group interactions vital for problem solving, working through conflicts, and winning people over. Tip: Turn e-mail chains into conversations by picking up the phone or walking down the hall to see a colleague. You’ll make an impression and give yourself a better opportunity to use your strong listening skills.
5) Write: Introverts use this skill to influence others through deep, authentic, well-developed arguments that motivate others to action. Tip: Think of writing as your craft. Pay attention to words, build logical and persuasive arguments, and proofread to avoid distracting errors.
6) Use social media: Introverts naturally use social media in a thoughtful and more effective way to develop and grow relationships, achieve visibility, and mobilize people—even those far across the globe. Tip: Don’t stress yourself out by trying to participate in every new social media technology. Instead, go back to the plan you developed in your preparation phase. Match the social media you use to your intended audience and influencing goal, and then use that one tool well instead of diluting your efforts.
By tapping into these strengths of quiet influence, extroverts and introverts alike can better benefit themselves and their organizations by effectively communicating insights and innovative ideas.
Interested in learning more about what kind of influencer you are? Go to JenniferKahnweiler.com and take a quiz to determine your tendency towards Quiet Influence.
About Jennifer Kahnweiler. Jennifer is a workplace and career expert, international speaker and executive coach whose clients include General Electric Co., AT&T Inc., The National Center for Disease Control and Prevention and NASA.
Her new book, Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference (Berrett-Koehler, 2013) further establishes her as a “champion for introverts” and follows on from her 2009 hit, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength (Berrett-Koehler, 2009). You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @JennKahnweiler and find her on Facebook. For more information please visit www.jenniferkahnweiler.com.
In 1996, 51% of US employees were reported to be members of team. By 2006, it had increased to 84%. As our world becomes more complex, the need for teams will continue to grow. Understanding the characteristics of effective teams gives you a target to shoot for and better prepares you to support your team’s development.
Our research* revealed six Benchmarks of Team Excellence:
1) Alignment: Alignment around a shared vision.
All team members are moving in the same direction toward a shared vision. Individual and team goals are related to the purpose of the team. Team members clearly understand their goals and job responsibilities. There is a strong and clear connection between all activities and the purpose of the team.
2) Team Effectiveness: Effective team processes.
Coordinated efforts are supported by effective group dynamics and strong team processes for open communication, sharing information, flexibility, problem-solving, decision-making, goal-setting, accountability, and recognition.
3) Empowerment: Power to do what is necessary.
Teams members experience a sense of individual and collective power to do what is necessary. They are free to make decisions within the boundary of their assignment and have access to the resources they need. Practical risk-taking is encouraged and mistakes are seen as an inevitable part of the creative process.
4) Passion: Energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.
There is a high and sustained level of energy, enthusiasm and confidence about their work and the way team members work together. Team members feel inspired and able to perform at levels never before imagined and in their ability to overcome obstacles. There is an aura of excitement and focus that sustains growth of new capabilities and openness to change.
5) Commitment: Deep commitment to the team and to each other.
Team members are deeply committed to the purpose of the team, to the goals, to each other, and to accomplishing the work that needs to be done, regardless of the effort required. They know what needs to be done and they will find a way to do it.
6) Results: Sustained outstanding results.
High performance teams sustain results over time. They set high standards for performance that are clearly defined, measurable, and are consistently met by individual team members and the team. They “go for the gold” and are energized by the opportunity to provide top-quality services or products.
How Is Your Team Doing?
Here are some typical patterns and some tips on how to improve them:
High Results and Low Empowerment
Team with this pattern have difficulty sustaining their results over time because productivity and morale are interdependent. Often this pattern is due to one individual’s herculean efforts or due to an over-reliance on the team leader rather than through a cohesive team effort. Sharing decision-making and responsibility for results can help empower and unify the team.
Low Results and High Passion
This pattern is often found on teams that have functioned well in the past but now have a new, complicated assignment. To determine what to do, first see how strong they are in Alignment – Do team members understand what is expected of them as a team and how their individual roles will further the mission of the team? Next, look at their Team Effectiveness – Do they have the necessary team processes in place that will enable them to work in a coordinated effort? If both of these Benchmarks are high, the team can concentrate on improving Results. Otherwise, they need to answer the questions, “What do we want to accomplish?” “Why do we exist?” and “How do we want to work together?”
Higher Commitment than any other Benchmark
Often teams will be higher on Commitment than any of the other Benchmarks. This Benchmark is about the commitment of the individual team members and is often the last Benchmark to drop. Even if all of the other Benchmarks are low, there is hope for improvement here. Teams can capitalize on this aspect of human nature by revisiting their vision and by identifying the strategies and resources needed to move forward. If things do not improve, eventually, commitment will drop.
* About the Research: The Benchmarks of Team Excellence were identified as part of a research project conducted by Jesse Stoner that investigated the relationship between visionary leadership behaviors and good management practices and the performance of their team. An in depth analysis of the literature had revealed six characteristics of excellent teams. Although we could find assessments that measured some of the characteristics, we were surprised to find that a statistically-sound team assessment that measured all six did not exist. Therefore, it was necessary to develop a new assessment in order to conduct the research. Over 500 employees participated in the development of this assessment. It demonstrated strong validity and reliability, and a factor analysis confirmed the six benchmarks. For more information, see Benchmarks of Team Excellence Facilitator Guide (HRDQ).
5 Around, January, 2000
I just arrived in Sarasota, Florida for my 5 Around Retreat. Twenty-three years ago, we began meeting as a group of business executives and consultants with the intent of using each other as resources to address the challenges we were facing in leading organizations. One of the women was the first female officer of the Stanley Tool Companies, and we met after work in her corporate office.
We had only been meeting for about four months, when unexpectedly, her husband suddenly died from a heart attack. And just as suddenly our group was transformed as we struggled to support her. We discovered that who we are at work cannot be separated from the rest of our lives.
We moved our meetings to each other’s homes and opened up our conversation to include whatever is up for us, spanning the full range of professional to personal. For many years we held two or three weekend retreats a year, often focused on learning something new like the Enneagram Personality Type, MBTI, and even reflexology. Once our retreat was held during a snowstorm when I was 8 ½ months pregnant. We parked our cars facing downhill toward the road in case we needed to make a sudden run to the hospital.
Following the course of our lives, we have been through birth, death, divorce, retirement, and everything in between. As the circumstances and needs of our lives have changed, so has the structure of our group. We still meet monthly, but one of our members now lives in Sarasota and joins us via Skype. And instead of a several weekend retreats, we now hold a longer one once a year.
Our group is not about socializing, although we do that. It’s not a support group to get advice or complain, although we might do that also.
5 Around is about supporting each other’s exploration of what we care deeply about. We hold the space while we each explore our hopes, dreams, fears and struggles, and as a result we not only experience real connection, we learn more about our own lives and what it means to be a human being.
Tonight I asked them this question: what advice would you give to others who are thinking of starting a group, and why would you recommend it? Here’s what they said:
Advice for starting a group:
- A good size is about 4 to 7 people. It works best when everyone attends regularly; setting up a schedule that everyone can commit to can be difficult for a larger group.
- The group should gather at least once a month.
- You need to be intentional about setting it up and keeping it going or it won’t happen.
- Share leadership. Since we were meeting in homes over a meal (hence our name “5 Around the Table”), we created the role of “feeder/ leader.”
- Originally a theme might bring you together, but there’s a pivot point where you start going toward what’s real and deep, and you discover that when you bring your whole self to the group, it deepens and is more satisfying.
- Everyone needs to be truthful and authentic.
- Trust and respect that each person has the ability to discover what they need. Ask questions that help deepen their exploration instead of leading them to the answer you think is the correct one.
- Pay attention to your group process so you can continue to mature as a group. Talk about what works and what doesn’t. We discovered that because we were a group of bright women who were used to solving problems, we had a tendency to rapidly offer lots of suggestions. We realized we were acting like blackbirds, swooping in and rapidly picking up all the pieces. We now call that “blackbirding” and try to avoid it.
- Choose a name for your group. We call ours “5 Around.” Don’t just refer to it as a Mastermind Group or a True North Group. When you give your group a name, it creates its own unique identity.
Not only will you improve your leadership skills and grow in all facets of your life, you have the opportunity to develop a group of true friends who:
- Listen without judging you.
- Challenge you on what needs to be challenged.
- Don’t let you get away with things that aren’t good for you.
- Are courageous enough to tell you the truth because they love you.
- Allow you to relax inside yourself.
- Don’t care what you look like or how you’re dressed.
- Savor when you look good and aren’t jealous.
- Delight in your success as if it were their own.
- Deal with issues and don’t shove things under the rug.
- Are interdependent, but not dependent on each other.
- Ask for what they need so you don’t have to guess.
- Stay grounded in the presence of each other’s anxiety.
- Have fun together. And sometimes just hangout with a glass of wine, watching the sunset.
Guest Post by Dennis Bakke
“The meanest company in America,” Businessweek called Dish Network in a scathing feature last month. What struck me most after reading the article was the description of co-founder Charlie Ergen’s management style as “pounding people into submission.” Former president Michael Neuman resigned after eight months, and Dish lost yet another strong leader. “The hours were long, yes,” the article says, “but it was Ergen’s habit of unilaterally making decisions that most irked Neuman.”
Nothing tells you more about an organization than the way it makes decisions. Do leaders trust team members? Do team members have real responsibility and real control? These questions can be answered by one other one: Who gets to make the decisions?
And nothing affects an organization more than the decisions the people in it make. Great business minds know this. In fact, decision-making is at the heart of all business education. Nearly a hundred years after the case-study method was invented at Harvard, it’s still the foundation of the world’s best business programs. Why? It’s because the case-study method puts top business students in the role of decision-maker. Over the course of a Harvard MBA, students will make decisions on more than 500 cases. Decision-making is simply the best way in the world to develop people. Many years ago, as a student at Harvard Business School, I realized two things: decision-making is the best way to develop people; and that shouldn’t stop at business school.
But outside of business school, few business leaders tap into the value created by putting important decisions in the hands of their people. Instead, “team players” are taught to do what they’re told. This takes the fun out of work, and it robs people of the chance to contribute in a meaningful way. Or, organizations will use a participatory style of decision-making in which recommendations are given to the boss, who then makes the final decision. This approach also fails to fully realize the value of the people in the organization.
This happens in all types of organizations. I see it as a major failure in the Sept. 11 attack against the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, for example. It is clear that somewhere the process broke down, allowing for the “grossly inadequate” security that led to the deaths of four Americans.
My question is this: Were the wrong people given the power to make the critical decisions necessary to prevent this attack? Should those closest to the situation—those who were on the ground experiencing the turmoil firsthand—have been empowered to make the ultimate decisions, when they need to make them? I believe so.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, might agree. He spoke about decision-making in a recent Fast Company feature about what drives the success of some of today’s top organizations. “We had to change our structure, to become a network,” he said. “We were required to react quickly. Instead of decisions being made by people who were more senior—the assumption that senior meant wiser—we found that the wisest decisions were usually made by those closest to the problem.”
Most of us do not face life-and-death decisions each day in our organizations. But, as leaders, we all likely have removed decision-making power from people below us in the hierarchy, people better suited than we are to act in an appropriate and timely manner. We can’t possibly be privy to all the details necessary to make every key decision our organization will face. But we can choose the decision-makers in our organizations.
I believe—based on decades of leading companies—that everyone can make good decisions. And organizations (from Dish Network to the military to my own Fortune 200 Company) are much better for it. You don’t have to be a business owner to start the process; managers at any level can unlock the full potential of the people around them. No matter where you stand in your organization, change can start with you.
In a decision-maker organization:
- The leader chooses someone to make a key decision.
- The decision-maker seeks advice (including from the leader) to gather information.
- The final decision is made not by the leader, but by the chosen decision-maker.
These ideas can affect the bottom line: cutting-edge research indicates that a decision-maker culture improves financial performance. But it’s not just about the numbers. It’s about people: what makes them tick, and what they can achieve when they’re given real responsibility and real freedom. When leaders put real control into the hands of their people, they tap incalculable potential.
Dennis Bakke is currently the President and co-founder of Imagine Schools, the US’s largest charter school management company with over 70 schools. He is the author of The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time and the New York Times bestseller Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job. Bakke previously co-founded and served as the president and CEO of AES, a Fortune 200 global power company. He lives with his wife in Arlington, VA.
I first became aware of Les Hayman in July 2012 when I read his excellent guest post for Gurprriet Siingh – “Transforming HR – How a CEO did it.” Les was uniquely qualified to write this post. Having served as Chairman and CEO of SAP EMEA (Europe, ME, and Africa) and President and CEO for SAP Asia-Pacific, and a member of the SAP Global Board, Les was asked to delay his retirement for two years to take on the role of Global Head of HR, responsible for all of SAP’s Human Resources activities worldwide.
I was quite impressed with his astute observations and the lessons he shared, and I immediately subscribed to Les Hayman’s Blog. As a regular reader, I have great appreciation for his philosophy and ability to translate his 40+ years of real-life experience into relevant practices. His blog is a gift to us.
Recently I invited Les to write a guest post from the other side of the equation – rather than what HR can learn from a business perspective – what can business leaders learn from an HR perspective? I am delighted and honored that he accepted my offer and that I am able to share his wisdom with you here. You’ll find much practical advice, whether you are a CEO or desire to be a better leader at any level.
Guest Post by Les Hayman
In 2001, when I had actually decided to retire from “corporate life”, my company asked me to consider a change in direction, rather than a departure, by taking the role of Global Head of HR. I felt at the time that this was an unusual request as, after having spent the first 12 years of my working life as a “techie” (Programmer to Analyst to IT Manager), I had spent the next 25 years in sales and business management, my last such role as the President and CEO of a 15,000 person, €5 Billion EMEA based business unit across 25 countries.
To me, being asked to run HR was somewhat akin to someone asking Atilla the Hun to look after the Vestal Virgins.
The logic of the board which was put to me at the time was that, of all the board members, I was the one who was most concerned about people, having been one the first executives in the company’s history to introduce elements of traditional HR programmes such as management development, High Potential programmes, succession planning, performance reviews and structured recruitment. I had not done these because I felt that they were HR programmes specifically, but because I felt that these were needed in any business, and that they were issues that a CEO should be concerned with as a critical part of his normal responsibilities.
It was not an easy job, but in the three years that I filled the role I learned a lot about management and people, and specifically about HR and why internal HR organisations can struggle to be heard and to be included as strategic partners in the business, what I call a “player.” (See “HR … Polite to Police to Partner to Player”).
Here are some of the key lessons that I learned while running the HR Organisation that would have helped me when I had been a CEO.
1. Spend more time on making recruitment a core competency in the entire organisation. Throughout my time, when recruiting, I had focussed mainly on stealing from a competitor someone already in a role similar to the one we needed to fill, based on the fact that this would give me proven skills and hurt my competitor at the same time. It probably did in the short term, but it meant that we were often hiring for the present rather than the future. I learned two important lessons about recruitment during my time in HR. Firstly that a proven internal candidate who may only be a 60% fit is generally a better bet than an external candidate who looks like an 80% fit, and secondly that in most cases hiring for attitude is more important than hiring mainly for skills.
2. A large number of people who move into management are not comfortable when they get there and should be given the opportunity to move back out without being penalised, or better still, can stay in a professional role rather than being pushed into management. I was surprised at the number of reluctant managers I came across. People who, because of a lack of dual career path options, had moved into a management role just to be able to get more influence, more status, greater compensation or have more say in how they spent their time, rather than actually wanting to lead a team. It is critical not only that you spend time, energy and resources in preparing people for management roles, but you must ensure that there are valid vocational career paths for professionals so that those who do move into a management role do so because they see it as a “calling” rather than because there are no other options.
3. There are no such things as HR problems, only business problems that HR needs to help resolve. When I first took over the HR role I was amazed at the number of projects that were underway in the HR organisation, and the fact that many of these, even if highly successful, would actually achieve little in solving a critical business need. If HR is to be seen as a serious business partner, and player, and if HR is to stand any chance of “getting a seat at the table”, it must focus on helping to solve critical business pain points. I have seen too many instances of HR people wanting to focus on the “human capital problem de jour”, driven mainly by the HR consulting companies, and HR publications, in their own quest for revenues and business success.
4. Spend more time on underperformers. During my time as a senior manager I had allowed my own managers to be quite ruthless in their disposal of underperformers. When running HR I came to realise that if you have a skilled and truly capable approach to recruitment, if you hire people for their strengths you have no right to fire them for their weaknesses, without first making strenuous efforts to try to help them overcome these. It was during my time in HR that I developed my “ladder” as a way of making managers spend more time on identifying underperformers and helping them become more successful. (See “Move them up or move them out.”).
5. Put less value on formal performance reviews and more on managing behaviour as a moment by moment way of business life. The challenge is to manage behaviour rather than manage people, and the best way to do this is to use every interaction with a staff member to reinforce positive behaviour patterns needed, and nip in the bud any unwanted behaviour. The formal review process may be needed for grading, goal setting, record keeping and salary changes, but too often can spring surprises for both reviewer and reviewed. It makes no sense to wait for an annual review to tell people how you view their performance, nor to get feedback on how they feel about what they are doing, their boss and the company as a whole. (See “The fourth rule of management”).
My three years in HR were a challenging, often frustrating, interesting time of learning and growth as a manager, but it was a bit unfortunate that I had to wait till the end of my career to learn these lessons. I have realised that having potential C-level aspirants spend some time in the HR organisation, or at least being asked to drive the implementation of an important HR project would add significantly to their understanding of what is needed to manage an organisation.
About Les Hayman. Now semi-retired, Les sits on several corporate boards (US, UK and Switzerland), is an advisor to governments and corporations, coaches senior executives, and is a sought after keynote speaker.
When not traveling, Les and his wife reside in the French Bordeaux countryside. You can find more of his wisdom in Les Hayman’s Blog and follow him on Twitter @LesHayman.
Often the words collaboration, coordination, and cooperation are used to describe effective teamwork. But they are not the same, and when we use these words interchangeably, we dilute their meaning and diminish the potential for creating powerful, collaborative environments.
Collaboration has been a big word in the news lately, most recently due to Marissa Mayer’s explanation of her decision to bring Yahoo employees back to the office: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”
Mayer’s belief that we work together better when we have real relationships, and that it is easier to build relationships when you have face-to-face contact is not unfounded. Coordination and cooperation is essential for effective and efficient work accomplishment, and some research supports the notion that some face-to-face time makes a big difference.
Mayer’s decision might create better teamwork – cooperation, communication and coordination – but it won’t create collaboration unless she is intentional about creating a collaborative culture.
Collaboration is working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. The key points are that is is not an individual effort, something new is created, and that the glue is the shared vision.
Coordination is sharing information and resources so that each party can accomplish their part in support of a mutual objective. It is about teamwork in implementation. Not creating something new.
Cooperation is important in networks where individuals exchange relevant information and resources in support of each other’s goals, rather than a shared goal. Something new may be achieved as a result, but it arises from the individual, not from a collective team effort.
All three of these are important. All three are aspects of teamwork. But they are not the same!
We can find examples of effective teamwork in all types of environments – sports, military, and even historically in politics (e.g. Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet). All high performance teams have common characteristics. But depending on their purpose and intent, they might rely more on coordination or cooperation than on collaboration.
When is Collaboration Important?
In a network environment, where there is not interdependence, collaboration is not essential to the creative process. Through cooperative sharing of information and resources, creativity emerges through individuals and is hopefully recognized and supported.
However in an interdependent organization, collaboration is the bedrock of creative solutions and innovation.
If Yahoo is to reinvent itself, collaboration will be essential.
Collaboration Will Not Occur By Decree.
Can collaboration occur at a distance? Absolutely, IF (and this is a big IF) leaders are intentional about building collaborative environments, model collaborative leadership practices, and create opportunities to bring people together for occasional face-to-face conversations.
Collaborative leadership is based on respect, trust and the wise use of power. Leaders must be willing to let go of control. Collaboration does not naturally occur in traditional top-down, control-oriented hierarchical environments.
People need the freedom to exercise their own judgment. There has to be room for experimentation, failure and learning from mistakes. And there needs to be an opportunity for people to think together, valuing each other’s perspective and contributions, in order for creative new ideas to emerge.
Guest post by Steven Snyder
Leadership is often a struggle. Yet we can be brainwashed by western culture into thinking that struggle is inherently bad, a stigma that gets in the way when we find ourselves facing difficult or challenging times. Fears take over, leaving us embarrassed or ashamed, or even denying that a problem exists in the first place.
Something powerful happens when we defy cultural stereotypes and face struggle head on, embracing it as an art to be mastered. New possibilities emerge, beginning with the awareness that our difficulties are actually a gateway to greater growth and learning.
From that moment of awareness comes positive action. We let go of old dysfunctional habits and healthier patterns emerge, more adaptive and aligned with our core purpose, values and vision.
Here are five ways to get started down this path:
- Adopt a growth mindset. My friend and former Microsoft CFO Frank Gaudette (now deceased) used to say: “I reserve the right to wake up smarter every day.” When facing a new challenge, be honest with yourself about what new skills you need. Take the time to build them.
- Center your mind, body and spirit. Like the foundation under a building, you need a set of daily and weekly practices to anchor and steady you through turbulence and upheaval. Find the mix that works for you, whether it is exercise, prayer, journaling, being with nature, or meditation. Despite how busy you are, take the time to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. The more you nourish your body, the better it will work for you.
- Build your support community. You can’t do it alone. You need people to help and guide you, and give you feedback when you veer off course. Your support team can include your family, friends, peers, coaches, mentors, and, if you are lucky, your boss. Consider starting a True North Group to create an ongoing support system.
- Overcome your blind spots. We all have blind spots that can get us into trouble if we are not careful. A common one—I call it the Conflict Blind Spot—comes in the midst of intense conflict. Every interaction is interpreted through a distorted lens, further justifying that we are in the right and others are wrong. As conflict escalates it can undermine the very organizational mission we intend to serve. At the core of the Conflict Blind Spot lies fear or hurt; fear of an unknown or uncertain future, or hurt stemming from some past, even unrelated, trauma. By releasing these negative emotions you clear space for healing, self-forgiveness and compassion, opening new avenues to seek common ground.
- Recommit, pivot, or leap. During any struggle episode you ultimately face a choice. Do you recommit to previous goals, albeit with renewed vigor, a new attitude and newly acquired skills? Or do you pivot, slightly altering course, based on new understanding and awareness? Or is a more major step required—a bold leap into uncharted territory? The risks vary, as do the rewards. To choose the best path for you, search inward and ask yourself: which path is most consistent with your personal vision or mission statement? If you haven’t written one down yet, now may be good time to start.
All leaders face adversity. Exceptional leaders thrive in it. As you move down the path toward struggle mastery, your leadership capability will improve and your journey will become more gratifying and fulfilling. Who knows? You may discover that today’s difficulties and challenges ultimately are revealed as gifts in disguise.
Steven Snyder’s new book Leadership and the Art of Struggle has been called the “must read leadership book of the year.” Snyder was an early leader at Microsoft where he worked closely with Bill Gates. He was also CEO of publicly traded Net Perceptions. Snyder holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota. You can contact him at: email@example.com or visit snyderleadership.com.
Personal note from Jesse: This week we are celebrating the official launch of Leadership and the Art of Struggle, one of this year’s most important leadership books. It’s a must-read, not only for leaders, but for all of us! This insightful and practical book will guide you on a journey we all must take – learning how to navigate this complex world from a position of strength, not from a survival mentality. Keep your copy close at hand as you will refer to it often!