3 Tips for Doing Leadership Development Better Than Your Competitors

I was with a leadership team of a high growth/dynamic company yesterday. One target they put on their Rock list was developing their future leaders. They inherently understand a couple of things:  *Rock = high priority/commitment item from my strategic planning process

  1. Developing future leaders means intentionally devoting effort to it.
  2. A constraint to doing this well IS NOT money. Time and/or focus are their real constraints.
  3. As an Inc 5000 company – their company is their best classroom.

I have done a past trUTips on this very topic.  It is actually a very simple process, and yet not that easy because there is so much you can do with it.  While this trUTips is a recipe to structure a great program, there are some details that will differentiate you. Here are three additional tips to making it great:

  1. Focus on selection(with executive team) – Use your values and three conversations with your leadership team to select the right people.
    • First conversation:  What are the criteria we will use to select our leaders?  (Focus more on attitude than aptitude)
    • Second conversation:  Finalize criteria and take first pass at the people who stand out.  At the end ask questions like:  How can we make this group more diverse?  What questions do I still have about each person that I need to work on finding an answer to before I can cast my vote?
    • Third conversation:  Vote for the final candidates.  Pick a threshhold for the number and create a list of why we picked you for each person.
  2.  Make the first phase a 12 month commitment, and begin by asking each person if they would be interested (share list from Step 1-Third Conversation).
  3. Make the first step a learning about myself (assessment based) and learning about what will be asked of me as part of the program. (there is an opt out option at the end of this step with no negative impact.

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin says:

Telling people leadership is important is one thing.  Showing them step by step precisely how to be a leader is impossible.

He goes on to say:

The alternative is to draw a map and lead.

Make sure your leadership development effort puts people to work on real problems(and make real mistakes), gives them feedback and support, and challenges them to always be learning.

It is that simple – so make it a Rock and get started.

 

Read Seth

Read Seth

Entrepreneurial spirit.

A popular way to explain what you want in a person.  I recall a conversation with an HR VP at a Fortune 500 company explaining why they need more people with an entrepreneurial spirit.  I recalled the scene from A Few Good Men where Jack Nicholson’s character responded after being badgered about telling the truth with “You can’t handle the truth!”  I had a quick image of Jack Nicholson delivering the line “You can’t handle the entrepreneurial spirit!”

To truly support the entrepreneurial spirit people have to have the power to make decisions, to fail, and to get the support to fix them.  It is a common method for Seth Godin, which is why I read him everyday.  I like and respect the voices of Drucker, Collins, and Covey in the space of personal and business growth, but Seth does it in less words and it always resonates with me.

My advice – Read Seth.  Here is a sample.

My second piece of advice – Add a Seth moment to your team meetings for people to share a 30 second clip of something that resonated with them over the past week/month of his posts.

What Seth Said – and more . .

I listen to many experts/sources – Seth Godin, Wired Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Parker Palmer, Huffington Post, Thomas Friedman, Emily Bennington, my Mom, the Wall Street Journal.  There are more, but these stand out for me this morning.

The one I go back to daily is Seth Godin.  I like Seth because his voice is edgy and challenging, and he writes about things that are important.  Here is a piece of his recent post called The feedback you’ve been waiting for . . .

“You did a great job. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I wouldn’t change a thing. You completely nailed it, it’s fabulous.”

Of course, that’s not feedback, really. It’s applause.

Applause is great. We all need more of it.

But if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback.

(here is the full post if you are interested)

It is so true, and I am guiltier than most.  I know that.  Traditional wisdom would tell us, as leaders, to commit to this and go start asking for it.  That will be nice, but it won’t work because unless we put ourselves in situations where it HAS to happen it won’t.  Most people are too nice, and most of us are too afraid to ask.

For leaders – Here is what you can to get feedback:  1) Create a safe space where it can be given   2) Ask  3) Be genuinely excited/grateful when you get it  4) Don’t give up.  (fyi:  #3 is harder than #2 – and you won’t be successful unless you do #4)

For individuals – See above – – and when you see a leader looking for help to get better, be courageous and constructive.  We are constructive when we focus on behaviors, not intent.  If you are not sure what that means – go study Fierce Conversations)

The safe space is the one on one.  When we create time for others to help us lead them/support them, and ask the right questions we will get feedback eventually. (see previous post).

Seth started this thought, and I am more than happy to finish it.  More importantly – Are you ready to finish it with your actions?

 

Owning it

Owning it

When you develop an ear for ownership, it reveals a lot.

  • Yeah, but . . . .
  • They must be thinking . . .
  • If you didn’t . . . .
  • I couldn’t because . . .
  • They are . . .
  • How could they . . .

It is not that others don’t get in our way, it is that we quickly dismiss movement for ourselves because of something they did.

When I started my business, a dear friend told me to read Do The Work by Steven Pressfield and The Dip by Seth Godin. Both have become constant reminders and equippers for me when I need to manage through these moments. When you are engaged in meaningful work with great people, it is surprising how often it happens.

The biggest barrier for big companies to act like small companies is ownership. Blaming accounting or the person who is going through a divorce and off their game or blaming others because they don’t get your ‘situation’ is the easy way out.  Jumping in to do something is actually harder, because it involves more work for you and maybe a good argument about priorities and ownership. In the end, the work has to get done. We need more people willing to go into these moments with a good heart, and a relentless resolve to do the work that matters.

The biggest reason people get stuck OUT of work is ownership.  Not that companies don’t do bad things to people in how they handle separations – they do.  We just don’t process it and move through those endings well.  When we don’t we suffer, and we blame them.  Sure it is not fair, and it is also not necessary.

Listen to your words today. Which side of the conversation are you on?

7 Books That Make Great Gifts For A New Job

My personal graduation party count is in the teens now and I am not done.  Strangely I find myself energized with each new party because it gives me a chance to connect with a graduate, hear some of their plans, and revisit their first 18 years by looking at all the pictures they (or their parents) have posted.  It if fun and scary at the same time.  I always appreciate the graduates that look me in the eye and admit some of those fears.  I get it.

Transitions are like that – fun and scary.  Fun because of all the new things that are presented to us – new people, new challenges, new learning, and new perspectives.  Scary because they often bring us into unfamiliar territory that will challenge our basic beliefs and put us into situations where we will experience failure.

Failure.  It is a word that nobody likes to hear, and yet it is so necessary to learn.  One of the reasons I like hanging around a start-up minded community is they see failure as a way to grow.  You cannot have growth without it.  While graduation is a great thing to celebrate, those graduates that will be going off to their first job in the next several months will need more help.  The help they need is the support from the people around them for a great start in that new role.  In the corporate world it is called, and when it is done well it provides a foundation for success.  The key to onboarding is really after the program(or first 2 weeks), when the work begins.  Being able to step into that work with the right perspective and attitude is critical.

Lets focus on the college graduate that will be starting their first job. As part of any new beginning, it is good to mark that day with a gift.  Here are several books that have the potential to equip people and start some great conversations that will lead to a successful transition into their new role.

If you have read my blog long enough you know that I believe in learning pairs.  My philosophy of giving a book as a gift is simple – keep the books thin(<200 pages) and as part of the gift offer to read it/discuss it with them.  (here are some other helpful gift giving tips)

 

 

Forget your brand. What is your art?

 

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.  the medium doesn’t matter. ~ Seth Godin (Linchpin, p.83)

It is popular now to talk about our reputation in terms of our Brand.  Just this week I received an email touting a class to define and grow your brand.  Coincidentally this week has also been a big week for another brand that is working hard to salvage its reputation.  Have you read anything about Livestrong?

Inherent to every coaching or development conversation I have is focusing on the foundational understanding of who you are, what you bring, and the experience you are creating for others.  I don’t like using the word brand because it is a word that too easily moves into the area of spin and perception.  I follow Seth Godin’s quote (fyi – he is also a world class marketer, among other things) to use the word Art.  Inherently, Art is personal and carries with it a passion for creation and sharing.  In the age of flat organizations, fuzzy job descriptions, and leaders too busy to provide daily care and leadership to their people – the world needs more artists.  An artist sees their gifts and finds ways to practice it because they love it.  An artist finds community naturally because they understand other artists and express sincere appreciation for what they do.

The other quote that Godin shares on the same page is from Roy Simmons ~ Most artists can’t draw.

Quit worrying about your brand.  Worry about your art and your medium.

(If you want to explore this further is to read Linchpin by Seth Godin.  I also use a model called trUYou to help clients frame this conversation.)

For a full list of books/resources I recommend here is my library.

Time – What does your graph look like?

When I saw the graph above(from a Seth Godin blog – here is the link) I immediately thought about my business.  How do I spend my time?  Which pieces should I spend more time on?

Several years ago I created a leadership development program to help prepare leaders to launch sales offices in other states.  As part of the program, each leader was to receive a 360 evaluation nine months after the launch.  I did this mainly because I had a feeling that bad habits were going to develop during launch because there was so much to do and resources were scarce.  When the first 360 came back – what was the message?  Time.  Spending too much on little things and not enough focused on big things (growing sales, etc.).  Even great leaders get sucked into the little things.

Are you always out of time?  Try this – spend 2-3 days tracking your time, then spend 15 minutes reviewing your results by answering three questions:

  1. What are the priorities for our business / my team?
  2. How much time am I spending on those priorities?
  3. What one change could I make to become more focused on those priorities?

Our time is something WE all control.

What are some things you have done in the past to take control of your time?

My Top Shelf – Books that I love

Everyone should have a top shelf – the one you share with people at work when they ask for a reading recommendation.  A few caveats on my list:

  1. I generally only recommend books <200 pages, with a few exceptions.  (I favor authors who have mastered clarity, passion, and brevity)
  2. These are around business and/or personal development books.
  3. I will explain any selection, but not apologize or argue about it.  It is my shelf – so build your own if you disagree. 🙂
  4. I do not loan these out, but will often buy people a copy.  They are marked up and I would hate to lose them.

It has expanded over the years, but my general rule is that the number has to be limited.  Now to add one I have to take one off.  I had a shelf with about 8 books for many years, then I got a bigger shelf. 

Here is my top shelf:

(they are in no particular order – but left to right in the picture)

  1. The Mindful Coach – Doug Silsbee
  2. Co-Active Coaching – Whitworth/Kimsey-House, Sandahl
  3. Sway – Ori/Ram Brafman
  4. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  5. All Things New, A Fable of Renewal – Rodger Price
  6. Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun
  7. Good to Great – Jim Collins
  8. First, Break all the Rules – Marcus Buckingham/Curt Coffman
  9. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
  10. Linchpin – Seth Godin
  11. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  12. How Full is Your Bucket – Tom Rath/Don Clifton
  13. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
  14. Drive – Daniel Pink
  15. One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard/Spencer Johnson
  16. For Men Only – Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
  17. Mastery – George Leonard
  18. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  19. Rework – Jason Fried/David Heinemeier Hansson
  20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  21. Death By Meeting – Patrick Lencioni
  22. The Will of God As A Way of Life – Gerald Sittser
  23. Season of Life – Jeffrey Marx
  24. The Servant – James Hunter
  25. Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson
  26. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  27. HalfTime – Bob Buford
  28. Tribes – Seth Godin
  29. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  30. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
  31. Do the Work – Steve Pressfield

Some are great books, and some have achieved significance for other reasons.  In the end, I will recommend other books on occassion, but I love these selections.  In addition, I also have 2-3 Harvard Business Review articles I love for people not having time to read.

Looking for a good question to ask your new leader?  What two books stand out in your mind as great?  (might be a good idea to read them – it will often explain how they think and what they value)

Submit a question to this posting if you want a more detailed explanation on any of these selections.

Failure (continuing a thought from Seth Godin)

 Learning from a failure is critical. Connecting effort with failure at an emotional level is crippling. After all, we’ve already agreed you did your best.

Early in our careers, we’re encouraged to avoid failure, and one way we do that is by building up a set of emotions around failure, emotions we try to avoid, and emotions that we associate with the effort of people who fail. It turns out that this is precisely the opposite of the approach of people who end up succeeding.

See entire post from Seth Godin.

Great leaders make lots of mistakes.  They get the title GREAT LEADER because they push through the mistakes and get on with things.  In the end, they make more good/great decisions than bad ones.

I have learned over the years that many of these same leaders had to grow through getting hung up on thinking about some of those bad decisions.  No one really accepts failure with no pain, some just dwell on it less.  In addition, too often their people are still pointing at the bad decision and going “See!” – but doing it secretly.

So how does a leader get through this?  One way is to process bad decisions openly with their team so everyone learns from those choices – including them.  It shows transparency, vulnerability, creates safety for other people to step forward, and teaches people to problem solve and push through.

When I see leaders saying I am sorry and leveraging their team to learn I stop and pay attention.  It takes a special leader to do that and a special follower to allow it.  I like being part of teams like that.

To Know Yourself – Know your Art

The Mona Lisa (or La Joconde, La Gioconda).
Image via Wikipedia

Seth Godin made the comment “Art is not in the eye of the beholder.  It’s in the soul of the artist.”  One thing I always see when talking with people about careers is their art.  It is the heart of their story, and if I don’t see it I make them talk until it oozes out of them.  It is there, it just needs to be named.  Here are a few artists I have met recently:

The construction project manager who takes over a project that is behind schedule and over budget.  The work –  many hours and many difficult decisions.  The Art – completed, on time and on budget. 

The entrepreneur who is fanatical about taking care of the customer and giving back to the community.  The work –  two jobs through the first two years of being in business.  The Art – twenty people, a just completed 100% growth year, and numerous awards recognizing the big heart of this small company.

The administrative assistant who sees the workplace as something to be organized.  The work – anything to make sure meetings go smoothly, things get fixed, emergencies get handled, and nobody ever sees her sweat.  The Art – an amazingly well run department where things just happen smoothly and finding things is easy and logical. 

The administrative assistant who realizes everyone needs a friend at work – and a occassional kick in the pants.  The work – always willing to listen and connect with people in the organization, even while getting her work done.  The Art – some call her mom, some call her friend, I call her the pulse taker and doctor – in any case she is a cultural definer.

Final point, the art takes work.  Funny thing, the artist does not see the work, just the art. 

Today, look around at the artists and make sure they know you see their art.  Challenge others to create some art.  What art are you creating and sharing today?