5 Steps to Leadership Growth: #4 Performance

The fourth step of the framework I use with leaders to help them build capacity is Performance. As you grow in your leadership – honing your “Power of One,” this framework can help both you and those you are developing to stay on course:

1. Purpose
2. Perception
3. Plan
4. Performance
5. Perpetuation

What are the most important elements of Leadership Performance?
Let’s turn to some experts for their definitions of Leadership*:

Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
Or, in the words of the Afghan proverb: “If you think you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just taking a walk.” Your most important role as a leader is to make sure you have engaged your team and staff in your vision and direction. Putting time and energy into assuring your have a vision and strategy that others can follow needs to be one of your top priorities.

Warren Bennis: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
As a leadership coach, I often work with leaders who are either good at strategy and not so strong on implementation, or strong on “getting things done” and lack the big picture. When we are performing as effective leaders, we have both a clear strategy and a way to implement it – and most of the implementation is going to be done by others.

Bill Gates: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
The only way to grow a function, department, or organization is to build capacity. And the only real way to build capacity is to grow and empower others. When I tell leaders that their #1 responsibility is to grow and empower others, they often sometimes look at me like I have 3 eyes. But there it is, folks.

John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
Influence is important because others, many of whom have no direct reporting relationship to us, do so much for what we are responsible. It is incredibly important for leaders to understand how to use our personal strengths and power to collaborate with others to get the results we desire. Once you are in the role of leader, Leadership Performance and success often means taking a higher, broader view, and using your influence and knowledge and skill to affect positive change through others.

Here are some quick tips on keeping your Leadership Performance effective:

? Build interdependence with peers – Scott Eblin, in his book The Next Level, reminds leaders to remember that at the upper levels, success depends more on interdependence than independence. Get to your executive peers by asking them open-ended questions that demonstrate your interest and willingness to help. Move past arguing over positions by taking the time to understand each other’s underlying interests.

? Lead your team – Strong leadership performance is often making the transition from “doer” to leader. It is making a shift in sense of self, and reprioritizing what is most important in the job. It is moving from doing what you are so good at that it got you elevated to this role, only to realise that, as leaderhip expert Marshall Goldsmith says in the title of his seminal book: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – Build trust by conducting regular group meetings to share information and touch base.

? Collaborate and influence – More advice from Scott Eblin – Build in your influence through collaboration, not from accumulating or hoarding information or resources. Recognize when you may have to sacrifice or contribute key resources for the good of the whole. Focus on expanding the size of the pie and not just getting the biggest slice for yourself.

? Manage your emotions – Make sure to keep your emotions in check by responding rather than reacting to input or actions with which you don’t agree. You may need to learn how to count to ten, implement “active listening” skills, and use stress management techniques so you keep your cool. Be willing to choose an effective outcome with your peers over the desire to demonstrate that you’re right on a particular point.

? Use your personal presence – Remember that 75% of our communication is non-verbal, so use your “mantle of leadership” to maximize your leadership capacity. As my mother used to say, stand up straight. Walk into a room with confidence and sit in the front of the room to show enthusiasm. Keep your door open when possible to encourage open exchange of ideas, and when you need to focus, close the door and put in friendly but clear sign on the door. And remember, a smile is worth a thousand words.

*From “What is Leadership?” Kevin Kruse, contributor, Forbes, April 9, 2013

5 Steps to Leadership Growth: #3 Plan

“What exactly is your plan?” I bet you hear that all of the time – as leaders we are constantly being pushed to concretely devise and deliver a step by step description of what we are going to do next.

Why is this important?

In the framework I use with leaders in their development, it’s the third step. As you grow in your leadership – honing your “Power of One,” this framework can help both you and those you are developing to stay on course:

1. Purpose
2. Perception
3. Plan
4. Performance
5. Perpetuation

We hear a lot about the importance of goal-setting, but most of us don’t have clear and measurable goals to work towards. Even fewer of us actually have those goals written down. Lewis Carroll says, “any road will get you there, if you don’t know where you are going,” but how important are goals really and if they are vital, how can we make them most effective? There was a fascinating study conducted on the 1979 Harvard MBA program where graduate students were asked “have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”  The result, only 3% had written goals and plans, 13% had goals but they weren’t in writing and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again and the result was absolutely mind-blowing.The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined! While this study only looks at earnings to quantify success, I still find it to be an extremely motivating example of why creating clear and measurable goals and writing them down is a key to success. Feeling motivated? Here are four steps to creating clear and measurable goals that will lead you to huge success.

Create a Vision

The first step to creating a goal is to figure out what you want. If you don’t know what you want, you don’t know what you need to achieve to get there. This is actually the fun part. You get to dream. What do you really want to create for yourself? What does your ideal life look like? Don’t be afraid to think big. Take fifteen minutes and document your vision. Take note of the details. What does your day look like? Where are you living? Try to incorporate all senses in your vision to make it most effective. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and feel throughout this ideal day?

Source:  What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack

Helping Our Team Members Develop a Plan

Even if you don’t have a coach, you and your team members can get into the habit of having honest conversations about one another’s strengths and opportunities to improve. I often will suggest that leadership teams adopt the practice that Patrick Lencioni suggests in Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. On a regular basis, the members of the team go around the table and ask one another, “What is one thing I am doing really well? What is one area in which I can improve that would really help the team?” And then everyone makes a commitment to take that feedback and apply the suggestions.

Of course, performance reviews are an excellent opportunity to get and provide feedback on a 6 – 12 month basis. But my advice is, don’t wait for that. Start asking the questions now from the people who know you well, and take their input to heart. Enjoy!

Coaching in 5 Minutes – How to Have Meaningful Developmental Conversations on the Fly

An ongoing challenge of leaders that I see as an executive coach is that my clients seek opportunities to grow capacity in their team members for the ever-changing, ever-emerging challenges and opportunities ahead, often with very little time for in-depth conversations.

A technique I use with my executive coaching clients is to encourage them to take a week and pay attention to the times they can have a meaningful, albeit brief, exchange with one of their staff members – an encouraging email, a quick word as they walk past the cubicle.  I ask them to pay attention to what happens as they keep “development” at top of mind:  note the response of their team member, the progress they made, any noticeable changes.  Changes are often subtle but important.

5 Steps to Leadership Growth: #2 Perception

What do others think of you: your strengths, your impact, how you could be even more effective?

Why is this important?

In the framework I use with leaders in their development, it’s the second step. As you grow in your leadership – honing your “Power of One,” this framework can help both you and those you are developing to stay on course:

  1. Purpose
  2. Perception
  3. Plan
  4. Performance
  5. Perpetuation

The first definition of Perception by the Merriam –Webster Dictionary: [Perception is] “the way you think about or understand someone (or something).”

People perceive us all of the time. Sometimes those perceptions matter to us. Sometimes they don’t. It is up to you to decide which ones do.

As a leadership coach and consultant in organizations, I have seen many instances where it would have helped the leader to care about perceptions. Like when a valued staff member left unexpectedly. Or because turnover of the team was high. Or an expected promotion didn’t materialize.

So often, we miss the opportunity to sincerely and honestly elicit feedback and input from the people who see us working, talking, resolving conflict, interacting with customers, cranking out the work, all day, every day. In the workplace, where we work day in and day out with people, we should have a good handle on how people perceive us, particularly those that matter – our boss, our boss’s boss, our direct reports, our trusted peers. And in order to assure that we are really being effective, it is critical that we are getting that information on how others perceive us on a regular basis.

In his seminal book on executive development, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith says, “In soliciting feedback for yourself, the only question that works – the only one! – must be phrased like this: “How can I do better?” . . . Semantic variations are permitted, such as . . . “What can I do to be a better colleague at work?” or “What can I do to be a better leader of this group?” . . . Pure unadulterated issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to (a) solicit advice rather than criticism, (b) be directed towards the future rather than obsessed with the negative past, and (c) be couched in a way that suggest you will act on it; that in fact you are trying to do better.”

A 360° Feedback process with a trusted coach is an excellent (and often life-altering!) way to get great feedback from those who know us the best at work. The coach will ask superiors, peers and staff that the leader has chosen questions about the leader’s strengths and how s/he can use them more often, opportunities for increased effectiveness, how the leader reacts under stress, organizational obstacles that get in the way of the leader’s effectiveness, and suggestions on how to immediately improve.

Helping Our Team Members Get Feedback

Even if you don’t have a coach, you and your team members can get into the habit of having honest conversations about one another’s strengths and opportunities to improve. I often will suggest that leadership teams adopt the practice that Patrick Lencioni suggests in Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. On a regular basis, the members of the team go around the table and ask one another, “What is one thing I am doing really well? What is one area in which I can improve that would really help the team?” And then everyone makes a commitment to take that feedback and apply the suggestions.

Of course, performance reviews are an excellent opportunity to get and provide feedback on a 6 – 12 month basis. But my advice is, don’t wait for that. Start asking the questions now from the people who know you well, and take their input to heart. Enjoy!

5 Steps to Leadership Growth: #1 Purpose

What is your purpose? Why are you doing this job?

These are key, fundamental questions as we ponder our roles as leaders. In the framework I use with leaders in their development, it’s the first step. As you grow in your leadership – honing your “Power of One,” this framework can help both you and those you are developing to stay on course:

  1. Purpose
  2. Plan
  3. Perception
  4. Performance
  5. Perpetuation

Let’s start with Purpose. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Purpose as

  • The reason why something is done or used: the aim or intention of something
  • The feeling of being determined to do or achieve something
  • The aim or goal of a person: what a person is trying to do, become, etc.

It is so important to start with Purpose. It is the reason we do what we do. It is also what gives us determination to keep going. And it also helps define what we want to become.

My Purpose

I’d like you to think about what your purpose is, by asking yourself these key questions:

  • What do you intend to accomplish in your current role?
  • What drives you?
  • What do you want to achieve in the next 1 – 2 years?
  • How does your current role align with your purpose?
  • How is it out of alignment?
  • What in your current role is helping you prepare for your next one?
  • How could you alter your time and energy, even slightly, to align your current role with your purpose?

Here are some examples of Purpose:

  • “I want to create a department that attracts the brightest and best so that we can make a significant contribution in changing this company.”
  • “My purpose is to keep learning and this job helps me do that – I have to learn new things every day just to keep up and I love that!”
  • “My job is to keep solving problems, get to the root of the issues, and reduce risk. This is where I excel.”

Sometimes purpose is short-term and practical:

“I just want to get my son through college – then I will re-evaluate.”

Knowing our purpose, and being able to communicate it, is important in building trust and confidence for a positive outcome and future. I encourage you to spend some time reflecting upon your purpose, and encouraging your team members to do it as well.

Helping Others Find Their Purpose

We can use these same questions in our conversations with those we are developing – direct reports, staff, mentees. I suggest that you look at the list above, think of the members your management team and/or staff, and choose key questions that would help each of them clarify their purpose. Perhaps you can even schedule times during this next month when you would have opportunities to do so.

When we create the environment for people to think about what brings meaning to their work and lives, we create a culture of trust and creativity. Enjoy!