Category Archives: Leadership

Leading People Through Organizational Change

Change Prezi

A Prezi on Leading Organizational Change

When it comes to installing a “new” practice, system, or process and making it “the way” of producing specified results, anyone who has lead such a change initiative knows that success or failure often comes down to the conduct of leadership and the extent to which people adapt.

Click this link to learn what effective change leaders know about helping people transition from the way things are to the way they need to be.

When you’re done, come back and let us know what you think of the message and the medium!

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Filed under Business, Change, How To, Leadership

Behavior Change: A Talent Development Challenge

hMany organizations today have Talent Management functions staffed with human resource professionals diligently trying
to attract, train, and retain “talent” (the newish word for those paid to do a job. You know, employees.) An important mandate for these Talent Management groups is “talent development”; growing the skills, knowledge, and capabilities of the talent. Implicit in the term “talent development” is the notion that the “talent” will change their behavior in order to improve their performance levels ideally toward the achievement of organizational objectives. Netting it out, this means inside of organizations there’s a department of employees expected to convince other employees to make serious changes in their lives.

Have you ever tried to break an old habit or start a new one? It’s not an easy thing to do. Now, imagine trying to get someone else to break a habit, adopt a new habit, learn a new skill, use a new software program, or do a task differently than they have for the last umpteen years. That’s the challenge faced by talent developers (otherwise known as corporate learning teams, capability developers, trainers, facilitators, instructional designers, etc.).

 This brings us to two essential questions: 

1. Why is change so difficult?
2. How can we influence others to change their behavior?

The Trouble with Change
According to David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, breakthroughs in neuroscience prove out what most of us who have tried to change our behaviors already know. Change is painful. It is actually physiologically painful. In their Strategy + Business article titled “The Neuroscience of Leadership,” Rock and Schwartz explain, “Trying to change any hardwired habit requires a lot of effort, in the form of attention. This often leads to a feeling that many people find uncomfortable. So they do what they can to avoid change.”

Another reason change is difficult is a perceived difference between expectation and actuality triggers activity in the parts of the brain that cause people to react more emotionally and impulsively.

“Try to change another person’s behavior, even with the best possible justification, and he or she will experience discomfort. The brain sends out powerful messages that something is wrong, and the capacity for higher thought is decreased. Change itself thus amplifies stress and discomfort…” –Rock & Schwartz

Have you ever tried to drive on a heavily rutted dirt road? You know the kind where deep tire tracks forged in mud are solidified hard as concrete when the ground dries? Once your tires drop into the ruts; it’s almost impossible to pull them out to drive on smoother parts of the road. Our minds work the same way.

We develop schemata or patterns of thoughts and behaviors for our activities. These patterns make us efficient. When was the last time you had to think about brushing your teeth? You were taught step by step; but as time went on, you grouped those steps into a schema or routine. Now, it’s not something you think about step by step but rather as a single task accomplished almost exactly the same way each time.

Schemata are the ruts in the roads of our minds. Changing our behaviors means fighting to pull our mental wheels out of the deep grooves to which we’ve grown accustom. Even when we get the tires onto flat ground, we still feel uncomfortable and anxious. The discomfort does not abate until we’ve worn in a new set of ruts; built a new schema.

Talent Managers and other organizational leaders should recognize and never underestimate the power of the pain of change.  Employees’ perception of the required change and the physiological reactions they experience will greatly impact the outcome.

 

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Filed under Business, Change, Human Resources, Influence, Leadership, Talent Development, Talent Management, Uncategorized

How to Handle Frienemies

Sun Tzu wisely advises army generals, project managers, and leaders of any ilk to “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” But what about our “Frienemies?” Where should we keep them? I’m guessing anyone who has had an initiative derailed by a frienemy would recommend a location where the sun does not shine.

A frienemy is that confounding blend of a friend and an enemy. In business, the frienemy is best known for saying all the right things and doing all the wrong ones. Spinning meetings out of control with irrelevant questions or tangential diatribes, splintering teams and causing discord by ferrying ill will back and forth between disparate groups, smiling at you and nodding in feigned acquiescence all the while, frienemies are the hobgoblins of productivity. Sharp leaders intent on moving their organization toward a brighter future quickly recognize these black clouds looming over the path to success, patiently waiting to rain on their parade.

It is not enough to simplycategorize those surrounding and involved in an initiative as friends, enemies, or frienemies. Leaders must determine an appropriate strategy for each group. For  frienemies, step one is to objectively assess the downside risk to ignoring them in hopes that they either go away or cave in to the positive influence of the “friends.” This is not a time to get caught up in ego and insecurity. A leader does not have to be liked or supported by everyone all the time in order to be effective. Driven by a need for approval, pursuing a turn-around campaign to win the heart and mind of a frienemy could be a fruitless waste of energy.

However, given the objectives you are trying to achieve, if an honest assessment of the situation leads to the conclusion that the frienemy is a big enough risk to warrant an investment of time and attention, there are ways to press a fine wine out of sour grapes.

The frienemy to friend undertaking begins with a mile long walk in the other person’s shoes. Think about what keeps this person up at night; this gives you a better understanding of their motivation. Then, consider how they benefit from their agenda. Why are they not bought-in to the initiative? What do they stand to gain if your objectives are not met?

Now, comes the hard part. Armed with new-found insight into the mind of the frienemy, you have to find an area around which to grant this person your trust. Influential leaders know that they must trust in order to be trusted. Ralph Waldo Emerson eloquently stated, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Easy enough to accomplish with friends. Painful at best with frienemies; but necessary nonetheless. Ralph and I are not suggesting that you share your garage door code with this person. Start with small steps that move you closer to common ground and mutual respect.

Consider ways you can leverage this person’s strengths while also assuaging their concerns. As Booker T. Washington said, “Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.”

If you have other strategies for handling frienemies or a frienemy to friend success story, please share in the comments section!

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Filed under Change, Frienemy, How To, Influence, Leadership

How Leaders Can Build Up or Bring Down an Organization

The probability is high that a leader will be less effective than their boss. There are exceptions to this rule, but the trend is very clear.

In a study of 5,285 leaders from 5 different organizations, we examined the effectiveness of leaders at different levels of the organization. The measure of leadership effectiveness was derived from our research on Extraordinary Leaders. In that research we identified 16 competencies that best explained the differences between poor, good and great leaders.  49 items are used to measure the 16 competencies where assessments are completed by a leader’s manager, peers, direct reports and others.   Results from each organization were examined and the graph below shows the average difference by level.

When we look at the results, leaders at the top of an organization tend to be rated as more effective than their direct reports and their direct reports tend to be rated as more effective than their direct reports.

Leadership Impacts Outcomes

In extensive studies we have demonstrated the clear connection between the effectiveness of a leader and a variety of organizational outcomes.  Great leaders create more profit, higher customer satisfaction, high levels of engagement in their employees, lower turnover and substantially more highly committed employees.

While talking with a group of leaders recently, the question was asked, “How many great leaders do you need in order for an organization to be successful?” One of the leaders commented, “At least one!” While it’s true that one is much better than none, our data clearly shows that the influence of a leader is significantly diminished from one level of the organization to the next. In fact, the influence of a person’s direct manager will always overpower the effectiveness of another leader in the organization. The correct answer to “How many great leaders are needed,” is thatthey all need to be effective. Poor leadership at any level of the organization will have a very negative impact.

High Ceilings

In many organizations, there is an assumption that the top management group does not need much development. While it is true that senior leaders tend to be more effective, executive leaders in our study ranged from the 68th percentile (a little above average) to the 93rd percentile (extraordinary). Thus, not all top management is at the top of leadership effectiveness.

Between each tier of management, a leadership effectiveness “gap” exists. The higher tier of management usually has a higher level of leadership effectiveness. The average gap is 14.5 percentile points. Using that as an average metric, if an organization wanted leaders in the 4th tier down to be at the 50th percentile (just average) the top level of leaders would need to be at the 94thpercentile in terms of the average leadership effectiveness. Keep in mind that these leaders establish the height of the ceiling. If their average effectiveness is at the 68th percentile then the next level will be on average 14.5 percentile points lower.

Top management sets the example for the rest of the organization. In the organizations we have studied, those who have the best leaders always have top management groups fully engaged and participating in leadership development programs. Those with lower levels of leadership effectiveness assume that the top leaders are “good enough.”

Reducing the Gap

When looking at the differences between levels, not every gap was large. Some organizations only had gaps of 3 to 5 percentile points. This small gap created a dramatic shift upward in the effectiveness of leaders. It became apparent that the small gap was a function of several issues.

The first issue was selecting the right people as leaders. When filling various job positions, organizations that analyzed how, rather than what, results were achieved selected more effective leaders.  These talent management processes also emphasized a clear set of desirable leadership competencies and created a common language around those competencies.

Second, the top manager of the organization believed that a significant part of the job was the development of their direct reports. They felt it was their responsibility and not a Training or HR responsibility. Because of this belief, feedback was frequent; training was welcomed and encouraged.

Third, the direct reports of the senior leader felt the same way about their direct reports. In the organization there was a strong emphasis on development of every employee.

Fourth, the bar for effective leadership was set high. The expectation was the leaders needed to be great and not just good.

Cup Half Full or Half Empty

There are two ways to look at this research. The “half empty” view is that leaders are typically less effective than their bosses. This view focuses on the tendency of leaders to hold people back from realizing their potential. The “half full” view is that the more effective a person is as a leader the more effective their direct reports will be. There is a very positive message from this that leaders can pull up the effectiveness of others in the organization.  A good example has a very positive effect in any organization. If you desire great leadership in your organization, then be committed to set your own bar high and be willing to look for ways to improve. The quickest and easiest path to improvement comes from getting focused feedback and then looking for opportunities to build on existing strengths.

Post Written by Joe Folkman

Joe Folkman is the co-founder and President of Zenger Folkman, a leadership development firm focused on building strengths of individuals, teams, and organizations. Joe is a co-author of the recent Harvard Business Review article “Making Yourself Indispensable.” To learn more leadership tips from Joe, subscribe to his leadership blog or follow him on Twitter: @zengerfolkman.

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How to Find a Mentor

Formal learning and work experience provide the knowledge necessary for success in a given field. Finding a good mentor can further strengthen your skill set and offer valuable contacts for your future. Learning from someone who has years of experience can provide unique guidance and learning opportunities. A mentor can impart a competitive edge and lead to a more clear and efficient path of success.

When seeking a mentor, begin with research. Talk to successful people that you know and ask about their mentors or people that they’ve mentored. Ask specific questions about how the mentorship started, what made it work and other ways the mentorship influenced them. Think of what you are looking for in a mentor and make a list of potential candidates. The more informed you are about what you want, the easier it will be to find the right mentor to suit your needs.

Being active in your field will make it a lot easier for a strong mentor to find you. Remain approachable at work, in and outside of your department. The more people that you interact with at work, the better your chances are of finding a mentor there. Take time to get to know people at your company that you don’t work with each day. Take on new projects to showcase your abilities. Be sure to show how much you care about your job. If you are apathetic at work, it will be difficult for someone to want to take the time to teach you.

In addition to utilizing contacts at your present employer, online professional networking sites such as LinkedIn allow you to build networks of contacts throughout your career. Through putting the feelers out for specific mentoring needs, your contacts may be able to suggest one of his or her associates to you. Aside from immediate contacts, consider engaging in more face-to-face contact time. Going to professional conferences may be just the environment you need to find an ideal mentor in your field. Civic organizations that bring professionals together in community projects or regular meetings may also present an opportunity to meet a potential mentor. 

Once you have found a potential mentor, make sure that you are prepared before you ask for a meeting. Your mentor is most likely a very busy person, so be organized with your approach. You will want to have a current résumé available. Be sure it is up to date and accentuates your current success.  You may also want to prepare a brief report that outlines your current professional development plan so that a potential mentor can easily see the benefits of investing time in you. When meeting with the potential mentor, let your enthusiasm for your work show through. Be ready to describe how you show your commitment to your professional projects through concrete examples that illustrate your accomplishments in clear professional language. You will want to show your mentor that you bring a unique contribution to the organization and that you have a track record of putting in the time, effort, creativity and commitment it takes to be a success. 

As a protégé, your job is to actively engage your mentor in a partnership that he or she will also find meaningful. You want to show your commitment to the longevity of the mentorship. Having precise goals can assist both parties in remaining clear about expectations and time commitments. Keep an ongoing dialogue to gauge the effectiveness of the mentoring process. 

If you make yourself visible through proactive networking that, prepare your presentation with supporting documents and allow your personality to shine, then you might end up with a variety of mentors from which to choose!

University Alliance submitted this article on behalf of the online programs at Villanova University. Many people find subject matter experts (SME) as ideal mentors. Villanova University offers leadership training courses led by SME’s with years of experience. In addition to leadership courses, Villanova also offers project management certification and six sigma certification courses for professionals interested in these disciplines.

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Filed under Business, How To, Leadership, Uncategorized