Great Workplaces Arise From Great Leaders

 
 Author Erika Andersen, a contributor to forbes magazine

 

I’ve been working with a number of clients lately on how to improve their working environments.  It’s exciting to see that many senior executives are starting to realize that a having a positive, supportive, honest workplace is key to productivity.  It seems obvious when you say it out loud – but it so often gets lost in translation; organizations where leaders may be well-intended, but the environment is characterized by confusion, fear, selfishness, dishonesty or lack of appreciation.

And I’ve noticed that the quality of the workplace mostly comes back to leaders.  I’ve seen a really strong correlation between ‘followable’ leaders and good environments.  That is, when most of the key leaders in an organization are far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy, they create organizations that are good to work in.  It makes sense; those are the attributes people look for in a leader before they’ll fully commit to that person’s leadership, because those attributes say to us: “this person will be safe to follow; he or she has a higher likelihood of leading us to succeed as a group.” In other words, we believe that leaders with those attributes will establish the conditions required to succeed…and we’re right.

My nephew Spencer shared a great article from Inc.com on our Leading So People Will Follow LinkedIn group the other day, 6 Roadblocks to an Exceptional Workplace.  As I read, I realized that the six obstacles that the author, Nancy Mobley, noted all arose from failures in these core leadership attributes. Her first two, “no strategic hiring plan,” and “small thinking” happen when leaders aren’t far-sighted, when they’re focused only on the day-to-day and aren’t thinking about the kind of organization they want to create.  Three of the roadblocks she mentioned, “undervaluing employees,” “lack of communication”and “worklife imbalance” arise from a lack ofgenerosity: leaders not understanding the power of sharing information, credit, power, and consideration.  Her final roadblock “no accountability,” is a failure of courage – leaders who shy away from the hard work of making sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them and gets honest feedback about whether or not they’re doing it.

Ten reasons talents leave

The article is authored by Mike Myatt

Mike is a leadership advisor to fortune 500 CEO’s and Boards. He is the author of “Leadership Matters” and a contributor on the Forbes Magazine

Have you ever noticed leaders spend a lot of time talking about talent, only to make the same mistakes over and over again? Few things in business are as costly and disruptive as unexpected talent departures. With all the emphasis on leadership development, I always find it interesting so many companies seem to struggle with being able to retain their top talent. In today’s column, I’ll share some research, observations, and insights on how to stop the talent door from revolving.

Ask any CEO if they have a process for retaining and developing talent and they’ll quickly answer in the affirmative. They immediately launch into a series of soundbites about the quality of their talent initiatives, the number of high-potentials in the nine box, blah, blah, blah. As with most things in the corporate world, there is too much process built upon theory and not nearly enough practice built on experience.

When examining the talent at any organization look at the culture, not the rhetoric – look at the results, not the commentary about potential. Despite some of the delusional perspective in the corner office, when we interview their employees, here’s what they tell us:

  • More than 30% believe they’ll be working someplace else inside of 12 months.
  • More than 40% don’t respect the person they report to.
  • More than 50% say they have different values than their employer.
  • More than 60% don’t feel their career goals are aligned with the plans their employers have for them.
  • More than 70% don’t feel appreciated or valued by their employer.

So, for all those employers who have everything under control, you better start re-evaluating. There is an old saying that goes; “Employees don’t quit working for companies, they quit working for their bosses.” Regardless of tenure, position, title, etc., employees who voluntarily leave, generally do so out of some type of perceived disconnect with leadership.

Here’s the thing – employees who are challenged, engaged, valued, and rewarded (emotionally, intellectually & financially) rarely leave, and more importantly, they perform at very high levels. However if you miss any of these critical areas, it’s only a matter of time until they head for the elevator. Following are 10 reasons your talent will leave you – smart leaders don’t make these mistakes:

1. You Failed To Unleash Their Passions: Smart companies align employee passions with corporate pursuits. Human nature makes it very difficult to walk away from areas of passion. Fail to understand this and you’ll unknowingly be encouraging employees to seek their passions elsewhere.

2. You Failed To Challenge Their Intellect: Smart people don’t like to live in a dimly lit world of boredom. If you don’t challenge people’s minds, they’ll leave you for someone/someplace that will.

3. You Failed To Engage Their Creativity: Great talent is wired to improve, enhance, and add value. They are built to change and innovate. TheyNEED to contribute by putting their fingerprints on design. Smart leaders don’t place people in boxes – they free them from boxes. What’s the use in having a racehorse if you don’t let them run?

4. You Failed To Develop Their Skills:Leadership isn’t a destination – it’s a continuum. No matter how smart or talented a person is, there’s always room for growth, development, and continued maturation. If you place restrictions on a person’s ability to grow, they’ll leave you for someone who won’t.

5. You Failed To Give Them A Voice: Talented people have good thoughts, ideas, insights, and observations. If you don’t listen to them, I can guarantee you someone else will.

6. You Failed To Care: Sure, people come to work for a paycheck, but that’s not the only reason. In fact, many studies show it’s not even the most important reason. If you fail to care about people at a human level, at an emotional level, they’ll eventually leave you regardless of how much you pay them.

7. You Failed to Lead: Businesses don’t fail, products don’t fail, projects don’t fail, and teams don’t fail – leaders fail. The best testament to the value of leadership is what happens in its absence – very little. If you fail to lead, your talent will seek leadership elsewhere.

8. You Failed To Recognize Their Contributions: The best leaders don’t take credit – they give it. Failing to recognize the contributions of others is not only arrogant and disingenuous, but it’s as also just as good as asking them to leave.

9. You Failed To Increase Their Responsibility: You cannot confine talent – try to do so and you’ll either devolve into mediocrity, or force your talent seek more fertile ground. People will gladly accept a huge workload as long as an increase in responsibility comes along with the performance and execution of said workload.

10. You Failed To Keep Your Commitments: Promises made are worthless, but promises kept are invaluable. If you break trust with those you lead you will pay a very steep price. Leaders not accountable to their people, will eventually be held accountable by their people.

If leaders spent less time trying to retain people, and more time trying to understand them, care for them, invest in them, and lead them well, the retention thing would take care of itself. Thoughts

Bass’ leadership theory

Bass’ Theory of Leadership

I find this information useful and would like to share it with you. The author is

Donald Clark

A consultant and a US Army Veteran

Bass’ theory of leadership notes there are three basic ways to explain how people become leaders (Bass, Bass, 2008; Stogdill, 1989; Bass, 1990):

  • A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person. This is the Great Event or Great Man Theory.
  • Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles. This is the Trait Theory.
  • People can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills. This is the Transformational or Process Leadership Theory. It is the most widely accepted theory today and the premise on which this guide is based.

The first theory, The Great Man, was one of the first theories of leadership development and perhaps might explain leadership for a small number of people. A big event occurs and an individual takes charge and moves the direction of a country, movement, war, etc. For example Martin Luther King Jr. moves the Civil Rights moment to the edge of change and President Lincoln directs the course of the Civil War.

The Great Man Theory drew attention to the specific qualities of these leaders and attempted to explain leadership in terms of personality and character, thus the Trait Theory was born. Two questions were generally asked:

  • What traits distinguish leaders from other people?
  • What is the extent of the difference?

This was the primary theory of leadership until the 1940s. While traits remain an important part of leadership theory today, it has moved beyond this original concept—Transformational Theory.

Transformational can best be compared to Transactional. A transactional leader works within the framework whereas a transformational leaders works to change the framework. For example, President Buchanan was content to stand-by and allow the union to fall apart, while President Lincoln stepped in and held it together. Thus President Buchanan has a consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst Presidents, while Lincoln is just the opposite.

Buchanan worked within the framework of his time while Lincoln strived to change that framework. Change normally takes skills and knowledge, which can be taught, thus while the Transformational Leaders have good traits, they also strive to learn and grow.

Six habits of today’s effective leaders

2/29/2012 @ 9:45AM |37,832 views

The Six Surprising Habits of Today’s Highly Effective Leaders

 About the speaker

#1. Invention – All of the leaders we studied are inventors to some degree. They generate ideas or they strongly direct an invention process that is more than just innovation.

Steve Jobs was a great example of that but so too are people like John Donahue at eBay who has set about reinventing the company. And take a lookat what’s happening at Mastercard. Today’s leaders invent rather than innovate.

Leaders need to have the scientist’s and technologist’s habit of tinkering with systems and knowing something new can come of it. They have to be driven by novelty.

# 2. Reframing – The new leader has an ability to “reframe”. That is new leaders habitually create new perspectives on the challenges the enterprise faces.   They have the capacity to reframe the vision, mission or values of the enterprise. Most important they can bring people along with them; they enable everyone in their orbit to reframe.

Take Jobs and Apple – a computer company becoming a phone company and a music vendor. These radical adjacency moves normally cause a company to stall. The obvious reason is because they play against the existing corporate culture.Leaders with the right communications habits can make them seem a natural out growth of company culture. They can reframe the corporate culture substantially to take on new opportunities. But they not only have to convince employees – analysts, partners, developer ecosystems. They need persuading too, effortlessly.

Leaders need a consummate ability to see things differently and to keep people around them open to mind-changing ways of thinking.

#3. Attraction and orchestration – A leader in an elastic enterprise has to attract and orchestrate a huge range of assets outside the firm through its business ecosystems. The biggest change in economics in two centuries is taking place around us. Companies scale through their ecosystem rather through investing in owned resources.

Leaders must have the powers of persuasion to attract those resources.

And they need the status to orchestrate activity among peer groups in their resource pool.

They need to cultivate a habit of welcoming the little guy, and indeed all comers, even though they enjoy success themselves.

And the best way to attract free agents seems to be through a movement. Leaders need to lead something more than their own company. It looks effective when it is a movement that stretches across peer groups and moves people to join in.

Leaders need the habit of speaking to a bigger picture, one that draws out human aspirations and changes behaviour.

#4. Influence – While the tools of the elastic enterprise enable leaders to orchestrate huge ecosystems, they also need to influence, cajole, encourage and incentivize the members of those ecosystems. Influence is an appropriate medium for leading in an ecosystem full of independent businesses. Influence can expand without limit whereas other forms of power are limited by control systems that people want to escape.

In ecosystems influence is won in highly public spaces like the online world.

But this “influence” is not about a social media strategy. Look at Reed Hasting’s demise last year to get a sense of how quickly even an adept CEO can be roasted in public, if he or she loses the capacity to influence a debate.

Leaders need to master the ecosystem’s information architecture, part own it and definitely influence it comprehensively. That means cultivating a habit of appearing both sage and flexible, being vocal and attentive.

#5. Drawing the lines – Leaders typically need to define new barriers are their companies ferret out opportunity in converged markets. They are doing radical things, and they are showing a new degree of openness. Knowing when to draw the line, though, is the difference between success and failure.

They need to draw these line between consultaton and instruction, not just for themselves but also on behalf of an ecosystem that is following them, in the expectation of success.

Sapience lies in knowing where to draw the line between what an open community wants and shouts for and what might work best for the peer community and the cornerstone company. Jobs did it with Flash for mobile.

Leaders need to cultivate a strong sense of boundary setting and not be too susceptible to, for example, the open management fad, while also being accountable to peers. These are subtle differences to grasp.

# 6. De-risking – The emerging economy requires a new approach to risk, not least because greet companies are now executing radical adjacency moves, at will.

This economy is global, hyper-competitive and replete with opportunity that leaders are seizing with radical adjacency moves – that is by making moves into market where they have no core competency.

The new leader knows how to prepare for those opportunities by creating a very high standard of strategic options portfolio management. The strategic options portfolio is a constant search for new options, new alternatives, and new markets, which plays out through M&A, big data, real time know-how, which in turn means leaders have to be very good at the new knowledge environment.

Leaders need to develop a habit of knowledgeability and they need to inculcate it into their peers, and while being able to give strong direction they also need to multiply the options available to them. They need the habit of learning everyday.

15 great leadership questions

 

15 great leadership questions

February 23, 2010, 11:13 AM PST

Takeaway: In this article, Executive and leadership coach John M McKee shares questions any leader can use to improve results and morale.

 1.”What can I do to make you more effective?”

That is one of the first questions I ask new clients. It gets a dialog going. It encourages a thoughtful reply. For those reasons alone, it’s a question that I recommend to any leader who’s looking for a candid and insightful communication with his or her team members.

I started using this particular one as my key “starter question” years ago when I was a leader in large corporations like DIRECTV and Hudson Bay Company. I always found it valuable in those environments, but it worked for me in start-ups just as well. Good leadership questions aren’t just for those who work in large organizations or businesses. They’ll work equally well for someone with a small team. That’s because everyone has opinions, and when given a chance, in a safe environment, they’ll share them. Great questions can bring great insight. They can help you make important changes and facilitate progress.

Here’s a list of the best questions I’ve frequently heard being asked by great leaders. Test them out and see which ones “feel” most natural. Find out which ones provide you with the most meaningful responses. Then make them a continual part of your leadership approach:

2. What’s keeping you from falling asleep at night?

3. What one thing should I do more? (or one thing I should do less?)

4. What roadblocks are holding you back? (or preventing your projects from moving ahead?)

5. What’s the most important issue you are dealing with right now?

6. What do our competitors do better than us?

7. If you were in my job, what’s the first thing you would you do?

8. What do we do better than anyone else?

9. How can I improve your team’s productivity?

10. What are the two key behaviors of our leadership team?

11. What one thing can we do to make our weekly meeting more effective?

12. What are your top three goals for next month?

13. What’s waking you up at 3:00 in the morning?

14. When you think about our goals, what are we forgetting?

15. If I could do just one thing for you as a result of this discussion, what would it be

Inspirational leadership

Leadership Inspiration

By , About.com Guide

Coaching isn’t a great mystery. It’s just hard work, determination, and inspiration at the right moment.” –Bob Zuppke in The Book of Football Wisdom edited by Criswell Freeman, 1996.

“Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” –Vince Lombbardi

What makes a leader inspirational? The ability to inspire people to reach great heights of performance and success is a skill that leaders need. Passion, purpose, listening and meaning help make a leader inspirational. The ability to communicate that passion, purpose and meaning to others helps establish the inspirational culture of your organization. These points will tell you how to enable inspiration and motivation in the people you lead.

How Leaders Instill Inspiration in the People They Lead

    • The inspirational leader feels passionately about the vision and mission of the organization. He or she is also able to share that passion in a way that enables others to feel passionate, too. The nature of the vision and mission is critical for enabling others to feel as if their work has purpose and meaning beyond the tasks they perform each day. Sometimes leaders have to help their staff connect the dots by explaining this big picture to all. Communicating the big picture regularly will help reinforce the reason your organization exists.
    • The inspirational leader listens to the people in her organization. Talking to people about your passion is not enough. To “share meaning” – my definition for communication – you must allow the ideas and thoughts of your staff to help form the vision and mission, or minimally, the goals and action plan. No one is ever one hundred percent supportive of a direction they had no part in formulating. People need to see their ideas incorporated – or understand why they were not.
    • To experience inspiration, people also need to feel included. Inclusion goes beyond the listening and feedback; for real inclusion, people need to feel intimately connected to the actions and process that are leading to the accomplishment of the goals or the decision.

At a client company, we cancelled an annual employee event because of customer orders for product. Many people did not like the decision, but we involved the whole management group, the Activity Committee members and many other employees in the discussion about whether to cancel or re-schedule the event. The inclusion led to a compromise that, while not perfect, still enables a celebration and a positive motivation boost, yet allows the company to meet customer needs.

    • Important to inspiration is the integrity of the person leading. Yes, vision and passion are important, but employees must trust you to feel inspired. They must believe in you. Your “person” is as important as the direction you provide. Employees look up to a person who tells the truth, tries to do the right things, lives a “good” life and does their best. Trust me. Your actions play out on the stage of your organization. And, your staff does boo and cheer and vote with their feet and their actions.
  • Finally, an inspirational leader gives people what they want within his capabilities. (You can’t provide a raise in pay without company profitability, as an example, but you absolutely must share the rewards if the organization is doing well.) The inspirational leader also understands that, while money is a motivator, so are praise, recognition, rewards, a thank you and noticing an individual’s contribution to a successful endeavor.