“Leadership Acts of Courage” is a series of articles I started on Memorial Day 2018 as I reflected on my gratitude to those, past and present, who have chosen to be leaders in serving our country. While most of us may never serve as leaders in this way, I got to thinking about some of the leadership acts of courage that I see in the workplace.
So, this is the first article of the series for existing and emerging leaders on courage. Not the “lay down your life” acts of courage so common to those in the military, but the seemingly simple — though not necessarily easy — acts required to improve one’s organization and achieve important goals.
I’ll begin with Winston Churchill. Churchill was a world leader at a very difficult time in history. He was far from perfect and had quite a few leadership wins and losses during World War II. But historians have said that part of the reason Great Britain (and its allies) ultimately prevailed was that Churchill always sought and listened to the advice of his generals. How often do you ask for honest feedback from those who work with you? Have you ever?
Too many leaders/managers in business today still think they must have all the answers. The reality is you can’t. The people in the field, doing the work, are the ones who really know whether a strategic move is likely to work on a practical, doable level. Great leaders/managers have the courage to ask their opinions and use their expertise.
My company has been developing leaders since 2003. Our program is over 12 to 13 months and includes 360-degree feedback surveys at the beginning and end of their “LEAP Year.” When we sit down to coach them using this feedback for the first time, I always ask whether they have ever participated in a 360-degree survey before. Virtually all of them say no; this is the first time in their entire management careers that they have received any real feedback from not only their bosses, but also peers, direct reports and others such as key customers, board members or colleagues in other business units.
I can usually see the trepidation on a leader’s face, wondering what people will say, how survey respondents will rate them and whether they are doing OK. I always tell them that they are among a relatively few courageous leaders simply because they have asked for this type of feedback, and I promise it will be beneficial.
One woman remarked that it opened her eyes to a couple of blind spots that never would have surfaced otherwise and to a few strengths that she had no idea were so helpful to those she worked with and managed. She told me recently that she’s still using that feedback 10-plus years later and has achieved her greatest career desires.
So, what makes issuing a 360-degree survey, and acting on the feedback gathered, an act of courage? Well, some might say that undertaking such an initiative is an invitation to chaos. No longer are you adhering to the simple model of “supervisor reviews employee.” The process now involves many voices from a variety of perspectives. And it’s not hard to imagine a cacophony of feedback rather than a simple conversation.
What’s more, no one in leadership — or at any organizational level, for that matter — can say that they unconditionally welcome feedback on their performance without any worry. Everyone cringes at the notion of receiving criticism from those around us, even if it’s constructive. And it’s especially hard for long-time leaders who have never experienced 360-degree reviews before in their careers.
But, at the end of the day, a 360-degree feedback survey can be a powerful tool because it creates better leaders, improves organizational culture, and more accurately reflects the performances of individuals and teams. Employees have more clarity and feel empowered and confident. Meanwhile, the C-level executives guiding their people along the leadership journey report major increases in innovation, better problem solving and more effective overall management.
POST WRITTEN BY
Founder, Alliance for Leadership Acceleration and the LEAP Leadership Acceleration Program
Speaking with a colleague recently on the content for our Executive Briefing "Real Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs" we were brainstorming how to simplify the 14 lessons presented in the original HBR content to make them simpler to "get on the field", aka make them actionable for everyone.
A common thread throughout the lessons? Jobs was high on agility and high on consistency. This is what made him such a strategic leader. It takes skill to be balanced in focus and consistency, but also be agile and responsive. But the misconception is that it takes a natural leader. That's really not the case. This is a skill that can be taught. Some leaders, like Steve Jobs, act this out naturally, but most of us need guidance to understand how to be agile without being unfocused, and how to be consistent without being rigid.
I learned early on as a CEO that engaged employees help to drive delighted clients, and delighted clients help to drive financial / stakeholder results and growth. We use the leading tool for measuring employee engagement - the Gallup Q12* employee engagement survey, to track our performance and find areas to celebrate and improve.
The big challenge today that I am hearing frequently from many peer CEO’s is that they are under assault from recruiters trying to poach away their key talent.
How do you “Poach Proof” your team, or at least make them “Poach Resistant?”
According to Gallup (and my own years of direct experience) engaged employees largely equal retained employees. According to the research, one of the top drivers of employee engagement (and thus retention) is the opportunity to learn and grow.
According to Gallup, 87% of Millennials said that the opportunity to learn and grow is a top factor in job selection and tenure.
Compensation, healthcare, and other benefits are also important tools for retention, but their impact on real engagement (and performance) is muted.
Here are a few suggestions to “Poach Proof” your staff with powerful opportunities to learn and grow:
Would you like to schedule a few minutes to use me as a sounding board for your ideas or situation? I am always available. Tim@ceomastersforum.com or 206.779.2021.
Being a CEO is a tough job and am happy to be a resource.
CEO Masters Forum
Why is employee engagement important? Top quartile business units in employee engagement deliver:
However, 65%+ of U.S. workers are not engaged at work (source Gallup, February 2017).
All too often we're taking a one-size-fits-all approach to management and as the numbers suggest, we're losing out on a lot of potential productivity, customer loyalty, and PROFIT.
It's not hard to drive up employee engagement, but it requires being thoughtful and, initially, it feels like more effort. But the effort produces far greater results. Read the article from Harvard Business Review on "What Great Managers Do" and if you're interested in having a facilitated discussion around what your managers can do to be great leaders, hire one of our Certified LEAP Coaches to present the full content and help you Accelerate Your Leadership.
Just want the slides? Let us know who you are and then download the slides.
Congratulations to our LEAP Certified Affiliate, and founding member of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration, Performance Dimensions Group (PDG) for winning the prestigious designation of a Top Leadership Partner from HR.com's 2017 LEAD Awards. Since 2002, PDG has worked with 69 companies in Western Washington to transform more than 302 managers into confident and competent leaders with LEAP® the Leadership Acceleration Program.
For the past 34 years, the LEAD Awards, formerly known as Leadership Excellence Awards, have identified and recognized the top leadership programs and organizations and their strategies and solutions in their yearly ranking. This year's award winners have been published in the February edition of the Leadership Excellence Essentials e-publication. Future issues of the Leadership Excellence publication will also feature interviews from select top award winners in each category. These interviews will outline each program's unique qualities that made them a LEAD Awards winner.
About HR.com and the LEAD Awards
HR.com, the largest global social networking and resource site for HR Professionals is committed to providing a deeper understanding of the HR function for over 290,000+ members by offering an annual global leadership annual event - LEAD, the LEAD Awards, HR Certification Exam Prep Courses, certification programs, a personal development app, monthly themed HR epublications, 4,500+ webcasts, 1,200+ eLearning credits, 230+ virtual conferences, blogs, community networks, industry news and advisory boards. See www.hr.com for more information.
Join us in Las Vegas and help your business THRIVE!
Lynda Silsbee will be presenting at THRIVE 2017 for the second year in a row. Join her workshop at the conference and learn how to Crack the Code on Employee Disengagement.
May 11, 2017
10:40 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
High levels of employee engagement translate into increased customer satisfaction and bring other competitive advantages.
During this workshop, you'll receive actionable and innovative instruction on:
* The #1 reason for disengagement
* The downward spiral of disengagement and reduced productivity and morale
* How to develop your leadership skills to encourage an engaged culture change
* 4 steps to take right away to re-engage a languishing workforce
* And much more.
SAVE $100 off registration
Use Lynda's exclusive discount code: SILSBEE
During our 1/2 Day Team Alignment Workshop, teams to step out of their day-to-day together, get to know each other, identify similarities and differences and explore tough conversations, and then learn how they can work together to be more effective -- ultimately driving to higher performance.
Here are the top three measured changes that participants collectively report after the workshop:
Do you see how these changes lead a team to higher performance?
What makes a high performing team?
A high performance team is a self-managing, multifunctional group of people organized around a whole process and empowered with full authority for their success. Characteristics include:
All teams do not fit the same mold.
Although all high performing teams share certain characteristics in common, there are also some important distinctions between them. Organizations need to recognize these distinctions. If you take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to teams, you very likely will experience some problems such as:
For example, these are four very different types of teams. Each type is differentiated by their need for specialization and coordination.
Key Points for each Type:
Type 1 – Swim Team: high specialization and low coordination. Work is divided between various specialties. Each specialty consists of a distinctive set of skills. There is little coordination needed between specialties. Examples: Geriatrics team providing care for elderly, High School Teachers.
Type 2 – Football Team: Made up of people from different disciplines. Requires a high degree of coordination. Examples: Product Development Teams, Hospital E.R., Executive Leadership Team.
Type 3 – Bowling Team: Low in both specialization and coordination. Team members share same skill set but have little need to coordinate or communicate. Examples: Telephone operators, Bill Collectors, Bank Tellers.
Type 4 – Volleyball Team: Members share common skills. High need for coordination. Generally organized around completing a “whole task” and cross-trained to do one another’s jobs.
What type of team do you belong to?
What about the other teams that you interact with? Are they the same, or different? How might the way you approach each differ?
Are you part of a team that needs alignment? Ask us about our 1/2 Day Team Alignment Workshop.
It’s a new year! We love the feeling of getting a fresh start and look forward to the year ahead. How about you?
As we reflected on the past year, we realized a distressing trend: people are stressed out, frustrated, and going home exhausted and depressed after work. Great organizations are losing top talent due to the frustrations of individuals who feel like their work-life is chaotic and people aren’t working as a team.
Every organization tends to put people in the “sandbox” together and expects them to “play” well and create great sandcastles. We know that doesn’t work because we work with larger teams and companies every day to resolve these issues and create high-performing teams. The problem is that smaller teams and companies often don’t get this kind of help – so with a strong desire to help smaller teams, we have created a half-day workshop on creating team alignment (best for teams of 3-7 people) by:
· Improving communication so frustrations are reduced and people enjoy working together.
· Clarifying who, what, why and how the team works which leads to greater productivity.
· Allowing people to have more fun individually and collectively as a team.
· Making work-life easier and more satisfying.
· Producing better, more consistent results.
What could you accomplish in 2017 if your team was in total alignment?
This workshop is structured as a half-day “team retreat” and will be guided by expert facilitators and consultants giving your team personal attention. Your team will walk away with clarity, alignment, and esprit de corps!
Interested in our next half-day team alignment workshop?
Note: registration fee is for your entire team to attend together (max. 7 people) and includes all materials as well as full breakfast and lunch with your team.
$2,800 per team ($2,500 for LEAP Alumni and Sponsor Companies)
“A culture is made—or destroyed—by its articulate voices.” ~ Ayn Rand
As an organizational leader, you can consider yourself to be a “cultural architect.” It is your job to create and sustain culture in an organization. Yet shaping the culture can, at times, be a heavy burden to carry.
Your organization’s culture is the foundation upon which your results sit. A weak, dysfunctional or misaligned culture will usually yield poor results. A strong, high-functioning, well-aligned culture, on the other hand, will typically bind people together to produce amazing results.
Organizational culture is generally defined as the values, beliefs, symbols and norms people follow in the execution of an organization’s day-to-day business transactions. It shows up in behaviors that are considered acceptable and unacceptable — behaviors that begin and end with the attitudes and actions of leadership.
6 Phases of Construction for Building Culture
So, as leaders, you can choose to either build a high-performance culture or allow a variety of destructive forces to tear down your culture. If we look at the raising up of an effective culture as a construction project, here are six phases of the job that you’ll need to complete:
1. Goal setting: The building plans. Every construction project begins with a plan, right? In the same vein, leaders must set specific goals to drive success and point people in the right direction. Goals can be thought of as the overall plan for what needs to be accomplished during a given period in order to achieve key organizational objectives.
To ensure buy-in and line-of-sight, be sure to allow employees plenty of input in establishing their own short- and long-term goals. In addition, ensure objectives are put in writing using the “SMART” criteria (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound), prioritized and regularly evaluated.
2. Expectation setting: The pre-project meeting. Before most construction projects, the contractor sits down with his project manager and workers and goes over the building plans. Why? Because putting something down on paper isn’t enough — expectations must be established. Clarify items such as:
Clear expectations are as important as the goals you set. In fact, research has shown that a lack of clear expectations is often the root cause of poor performance. Expectations can be thought of as the “means” or how one achieves his or her goals. Expectations set the boundaries of behavior so people can “play big” and “play fair” as they work to achieve their goals.
3. Continuous feedback and coaching: “The barking foreman.” When many of us think of a construction project in progress, we might think of workers clambering about a half-built structure, pounding hammers and carrying different building elements. But we may also picture a foreman or project manager walking around, barking orders to the hardworking crew.
Now the barking part isn’t advisable in most work environments. But your busy workers do need effective systems in place for determining whether they’re making progress and meeting stated goals and expectations. A few ideas might be:
Other key factors are verbal feedback and an open, two-way dialogue.
Leaders must create a feedback-rich environment where employees know where they stand. Course-correction feedback (when an employee has drifted too far from the goal) and acknowledgment and praise (for progress and momentum in achieving the goal) are equally important. In fact, studies have shown that a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions/feedback to negative promotes the most effective self-development and performance.
In short, communication is critical to creating and maintaining a high-performance culture. Leaders are visible, caring individuals who provide “state of the organization” information regularly and don’t shield employees from bad news. They share expectations, provide feedback and acknowledge strengths. High-performing cultures manage to strike a balance of both quality and quantity of information communicated.
4. Development: Raising the roof. As a construction project nears its finish, the roof — either literally or figuratively — is raised. The property is being developed into something new, useful and exciting.
So should it be with employees. Leaders need to create and execute an ongoing process to develop staff members in their areas of strength and interest. The best managers/leaders find ways to make every day a “development day” for their people. Specific ideas include:
Leaders have these and many other methods at their disposal to grow, shape and engage employees while improving organizational performance.
5. Performance appraisals: The punch list. At the very end of a project, most contractors must complete a “punch list.” This is an itemized document reflecting precisely what needs to be finished to truly complete the project. Similarly, performance appraisals provide a summary at the end of a given term that lets employees know how well they’re meeting expectations and progressing toward their goals.
In terms of driving performance, however, an annual appraisal is your least effective tool. People want to know how they’re doing in the here and now, yet such appraisals focus largely on the past.
Performance comprises both results (what) and behavior (how). So, to do an appraisal right, you need to address both the “what” and the “how.” Set up appraisals on regular cycles and, of course, follow the golden rule: There should be no surprises! Always step in immediately when problems arise — don’t wait until the next appraisal.
6. Recognition and reward: Celebrating completion. The successful end of a construction project is generally referred to as “completion.” It’s something that contractors strive to reach efficiently and profitably. And, at least for large projects, they often celebrate when they get there successfully.
Encouragement and celebration in every organization are critical. Leaders must recognize progress as well as accomplishment of a goal, so employees know they’re on the right track and will keep striving for success. Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, what distinguishes recognition from rewards is the use of “I” words that create “intrinsic” rewards, which tend to last longer and be more meaningful to employees than monetary or “extrinsic” rewards. Intrinsic rewards include things such as:
Another good approach might be to share success stories during staff meetings or events or in company e-mails or a newsletter (if you have one). Oral or written praise delivered in this manner can serve as a real morale booster to recipients.
Whereas recognition tends to be intangible, rewards are generally tangible. They include statues, company merchandise or plaques. Of course, rewards may also be financial — such as spot bonuses, merit raises or other monetary incentives. Remember, the more timely the recognition/reward is given, the stronger the connection to performance.
The Demolition Crew
e’ve listed above the six phases of building a positive culture. But what about the behaviors that can tear one down? These are just as important to identify when trying to make productive changes to your organization. As you endeavor to raise up your organization’s culture, watch out for the demolition crew:
Flawed character. Dishonesty, intentionally poor communication and blame can sabotage any culture.
Fear. Organizations that refuse to take any risks and that avoid problems and tough decisions typically don’t get far.
Unchecked power. If leaders have or need complete control over others, a culture won’t thrive. Employees will feel that collaboration is pointless.
Arrogance. Anyone with too much pride, who is unable to admit mistakes, ask for help or recognize the value of others, is more than likely a liability. These individuals can poison even the best-intentioned culture.
Ineffective coaches. At the end of every season, no matter what the sport, a number of coaches (or, in baseball, managers) are usually fired. Most of these individuals may not have been bad employees, per se. But, in their employers’ opinions, they failed to develop a winning environment for their players. This dilemma can apply to any type of organization — which doesn’t necessarily mean you should fire a bad coach, but he or she may need additional training or, in worst cases, reassignment.
YOU Are the Architect
Leaders play a key role in the process of creating a positive, high-performing culture. You are, in fact, the architect. Your behavior, attitude, language or jargon, style of dress, decision-making process, everyday work practices and strategic direction create the cultural blueprint for not only your employees, but also clients, suppliers and anyone else who comes in contact with your organization.
Thus, as a leader and architect, you’ve got to recognize the boundary lines of your existing culture, align your strategies accordingly and always be on the lookout for ways to improve it. For help assessing your culture, determining whether your leadership style/habits are aligned with your organization’s strategic objectives, and targeting effective improvements for the future, please contact us.
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.