The Next Wave in Leadership Development: Habits

The Next Wave in Leadership Development: Habits

As a leader, what role do you take in your own leadership development? If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of seeing the big picture without losing sight of the small details. This requires a tremendous skill in balancing priorities, energy, and focus. And while most great leaders can take pride in their ability to multi-task under stress, this year has really tested their abilities. Leaders are called on again and again to shift their attention from one priority to another. They must consistently and consciously choose (and judge) that which is deserving of their attention. They must ignore impertinent distractions. Developing the right leadership skills and habits is critical to personal and organizational success. The Importance of Habits Consider this: 80% of our results stems from only 20% of our efforts, according to Joseph M. Juran. In the context of our productivity and efficiency, this means that only about 20% of our activities actually provide the results we are looking for, professionally and personally.                       To devote more time and energy to our most important activities we need to be able to recognize and say “no” to the people, places, and things that distract us from achieving our goals. This isn’t always easy, especially when we really like our distractions, or worse, our distractions become bad habits. Disrupting the habits that are counter-productive is important, but it doesn’t eliminate them. Unless a new routine takes its place, the pattern will continue automatically. Fortunately, we’ve come to a new level of understanding about habits, and we’re learning and practicing new techniques to improve them. The Importance of Focus...
Expectation Management

Expectation Management

What are your plans to bring in the new year? Will you celebrate? Maybe this is the year to try a new custom from a different culture. For example, in many Latin cultures it is customary to eat 12 grapes at midnight for good luck in the coming 12 months. Some carry an empty suitcase around the block in hopes of a travel-filled new year. Others hang an onion on the door as a symbol of rebirth; a chance to start anew. Of course, hope, optimism, and positivity are important. They help us set and achieve goals, another common tradition for the new year. However, optimism can be dangerous when planning and forecasting. Realism is key when making decisions, committing large sums of money, and setting certain expectations. Research has found that almost everyone who has a propensity to be optimistic in their world view tends to have greater success, better health, and longer life. However, beliefs and expectations must be based on achievable reality. You see, expectations have a profound effect on our energy, drive, and happiness. In the recent Harvard Business Review article, “How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted,” Dr. Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg writes: “It feels like the whole world is tired. Even though the vaccine shines a light at the end of the tunnel, the home stretch will be long and perhaps take a greater toll on our professional and personal lives than we expect it to.” This is an ominous warning, and an opportunity for expectation management. Expectation Variables There are two variables to consider in the management of our expectations: our expectations of...
The Need for Kind Leaders

The Need for Kind Leaders

Is your organization led by kind leaders? This year has been like no other. Most leaders and managers are eager to put it behind them. Yet, we’re not out of the woods. A culture of kindness will make it easier. Researchers have found that kindness is associated with better and stronger physical and mental health; relationships, teams, and communities; life satisfaction, and even economics. According to researcher and psychologist Dacher Keltner, PhD, “The science of human emotion, kindness and goodness are not to be taken lightly, they are actually good for our bodies and minds.” Unfortunately, uncertainty, increased stress, and frustration have challenged and tested many organizational cultures: the way we collectively perceive, think, and feel at work. Add to that tribalism, polarity, and over exposure to vitriol, and incivility is easily sparked. Organizational culture is damaged, and left unchecked over prolonged periods, altered. The Importance of Kind Leaders Over the past two decades, thousands of employees have been polled about their treatment at work. According to research referenced in the recent Harvard Business Review article, 98% report experiencing uncivil behavior, often prompted by thoughtlessness, rather than malice. Common forms include: Interrupting others Discussing other employees Acting in a condescending manner; belittling someone and/or their contributions Arriving late; responding late (or not at all) Ignoring others Negative eye contact—giving the side eye, dirty looks, rolling eyes, or staring Yelling, shouting, and/or verbally assaulting others (insults, harassment) While subtle forms (and microaggressions) are often easier to overlook, they erode engagement, morale, and ultimately, organizational culture. Managers, and leaders, must intervene, not in kind, but in kindness. Being kind can boost...
Strengthen Your Workplace Teams

Strengthen Your Workplace Teams

As a leader, what is your strategy to strengthen your workplace teams? The way we live and work has changed tremendously over the past nine months. In many organizations, this shift occurred in a matter of weeks, if not days. As leaders offered greater flexibility, employees quickly adapted to new demands and learned and improved their skills. Organizations that have proven to be most resilient moved to or expanded their online capacities and reconfigured their supply chain and delivery options. Simultaneously, they improved their diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes. Their ability to respond quickly has ensured continuity, and in some cases, increased productivity. But we’re not out of the woods. All leaders and employees will need to continue to strengthen their organization. As McKinsey & Company reported in October 2020, “corporate stress is now at the same point as it was in the 2009 trough, arriving in only months versus two years.” Employees will look to their leaders to help them adapt, and while some are well-prepared with knowledge, experience, and a leadership style that inspires others to achieve real solutions, many lack what it takes to overcome the challenges ahead. Why? Sustainability In Times of Crisis Traditionally, in times of crisis organizations have relied on a conservative, by-the-book leadership style, and as McKinsey writes, three specific attributes of resilience: margin improvement, revenue growth, and optionality (retained additional optional investment opportunities). But the divisions and polarization that exist today require a vision, strategy, and the social/emotional intelligence to engage all employees and improve workers’ job satisfaction. According to a September 2020 report by McKinsey, “Because of the connection between...
A Legacy that Endures

A Legacy that Endures

As a leader, how will your legacy measure up? Your leadership legacy matters. It motivates people in the way they think and behave, today, and in the future. A lasting legacy sets a course: it adds value, creates positive meaning, and empowers others to carry on—with or without you. Thousands of entrepreneurs have taken early retirement over the last year, many without a clear succession plan. Some of the vacancies have been temporarily filled by former employees or next-generation relatives, while others remain open. History reveals it is not uncommon for crisis to create or accelerate significant changes at the top. During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, more than 2,000 CEOs of publicly-traded companies were replaced, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Legacies at Risk Based on the succession planning research of Yo-Jud Cheng , Boris Groysberg and Paul Healy, Harvard Business Review (May 2020): 63% of private companies do not have a CEO succession contingency plan in place 69% of companies with less than $50 million in annual revenues lack a plan The need for a succession plan is often more acute in small firms, especially start-ups According to the researchers, 45% of all the U.S. companies they surveyed do not have a contingency plan for CEO succession, and 46% do not have an effective plan process for CEO succession. The industries most at risk include Health care (61% without a CEO succession contingency plan), Media (61%) IT and telecom (59%), and Consumer staples (53%). Creating a lasting legacy is no easy feat. Those who succeed develop other executives: they understand what it takes for a successful leader to...
Leading Through Mistakes

Leading Through Mistakes

Business leaders today are not exempt from making mistakes. While we like to believe their judgment is getting better, certain behaviors make them vulnerable to err, such as mindset failures,  delusions, mismanagement, and patterns of unsuccessful (or poor) behavior. Our wishful thinking, denial, and other forms of avoidance often prevent us from seeing their errors—or the mistakes we make. We live in a celebrity culture where leaders, and especially CEOs, are expected to be perfect examples. They are held up as icons. We don’t like to admit they have flaws, or that the traits that make them special can also lead to failure. To be sure, we crave heroic leaders who we can look up to and derive a sense of safety and security. We can’t do this when we see their flaws, so we contribute to the heroic myth and enable the leader to plunge full steam ahead, right or wrong. We must abandon this hero-worship. There is a fine line between right and wrong, and like all humans, leaders are capable of swinging back and forth. They can be great leaders and fallible human beings. When great leaders make a mistake, when they realize they were wrong, they take appropriate action. So why don’t some leaders admit when they have made a mistake? Fear of Mistakes Fear of mistakes remains a common challenge for leaders today. This fear fuels our drive to avoid losing face, at all costs. But the truth is, admission of error does less to harm our credibility than ongoing denial. According to social psychologist Adam Fetterman, “When we do see someone admit that...