Category Archives: Leadership Development

People are not mind readers: the most important conversation most people never have

mind readers

We’re all different, and that’s a good thing. The problem is that most of us negate this diversity when working with each other. We focus on what makes us similar so that we can build rapport but, conveniently, work around exploring what makes us different. In my opinion, this avoidance is the mother of most future misunderstandings and conflict.

If we are different, treating others like I would like to be treated doesn’t work (see my early blog post on the limitations of the Golden Rule), I need to understand how you think and behave in order to be able to create an environment where both of us can be comfortably with each other.

Even though most people are aware of this, they still think that with time, they will learn how to work with each other…and that’s true. But who’s got the luxury of time? More and more organizations are now matrixed which means that people work with each other in short term project teams. In these cases, how does time help?

There is another way. A better way. A more difficult way. It’s called setting expectations and the only way to do that is to sit down and talk. Ideally, this discussion needs to happen at the beginning of a working relationship, but it is never too late.

Asking each other what we expect from each other so that we can work together effectively. If people who work together share with each other explicitly what they expect from each other at a behavioral level, it will be a lot easier to meet each other’s expectations. The great thing is that once we’ve asked the other about his/her expectations we can then present our own.

This discussion needs to happen as early as possible in the relationship as it limits the chance for perceived bad faith in future conflicts. Whatever the reason I share with you about why I did not appreciate how you did something, often it be seen as an expectation shared to serve my interest in this given situation. On the opposite, if I share with you, at the beginning of our relationship, how I think information should flow between both if us, it is easier for you to meet that expectation and if conflict arises I can refer back to this original discussion without being perceived as acting out of bad faith.

Then why do people not engage in this conversation more often? It could be for multiple reasons: they don’t want to know what others expect from them as they expect others to adapt to them, they are afraid of hearing expectations that they don’t really want / cannot meet, they are not really aware of what they expect from others or they could just be lacking the language to articulate their own expectations. Whatever the reason(s), and some of them are absolutely legitimate, none of us are mind readers, and most of us don’t have the luxury of time. It’s a lot easier to meet someone else’s expectations once I know what they are and that will reduce the potential for unintentional disrespect and ensuing conflict.

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

The WHY of Executive Coaching

Why is it that some people are more successful than others? Is it because of their connections, or is that they are at the right place at the right time? Well, research shows that it is not about who they are; it really is about what they do.

Coaching was once viewed as an intervention aimed to better the performance of under performers; however, now it is seen as a support to top performers to sharpen their skills in meeting the ever growing business needs.

The goal for all Executive Coaching is on what the coachee needs to do, and do consistently, to achieve success. Please note – it is Executive Coaching that makes you successful, and not the Executive Coach. It is the process of coaching that will lead the coachee to deliver their results, in which the following 5 points of what the Coach brings in, are worth noting:

1.The Coach will help crystalize your goals, by helping reframe your otherwise vague goals, and perhaps even help you go for that extra stretch.

2.The Coach will hold you accountable, ensuring that you do not procrastinate.

3.The Coach will help set up agreed milestones and ensure an objective measurement of your progress.

4.The Coach will challenge you, motivate you, inspire you, based on what you may need at the different times in your journey, and help you get over negative or self-limiting thinking.

5.The Coach is in a great position to provide unbiased feedback, as he/she is not directly connected to your success or failure.

Executive Coaching does not attempt to change who you are, it only attempts to change what you do and how you do it.

It is therefore not surprising that Executive Coaching is now a growing practice to help successful performers to fast track their career progression. Further, more and more organizations are seeing the huge benefit this offers to organizations in their growth plans, and succession planning. The belief is a one-on-one coaching from a third party can provide a focus that other interventions cannot provide.

Post by Sanjay Dugar – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

3 Skills to Better Handle Difficult Conversations

difficult conversations

Difficult conversations are usually made even more difficult because of a lack of specific information/data and because they often end in a blame game. At the end of the day, no one has the legitimacy, even at work, to judge me as a person. However, managers are legitimate in assessing my performance.

1. Inquire. Ask how they see the situation, using as open ended questions as possible. This will provide you with relevant contextual information about how the other person sees whatever situation you need to discuss. Moreover, it shows that you are care enough about them to be willing to include them in solving the issue.

2. Acknowledge. Remember that the only judge as to whether you listened to someone is that someone, not you.Acknowledging shows you care about the other person point of view, makes sure you have understood it properly AND reassures them that they were listened to. There is a perfect example about the importance of acknowledging. We have all attended important one on one discussions before where the other person is typing away as we speak. What impression did this make on you? Did you feel listened to? The thing is, the other person might have listened and understood you, but because of the lack of acknowledgment, you probably left the room unsure as to whether you message really went through.

3. Advocate. Now comes the time to actually say what you have to say. In my opinion, this is the one most people struggle. People are entitle to express their opinions but they must be careful not to pass these opinions as absolute fact. Saying that “we must do this” or “You have to do that” closes the door on any differing opinion from  yours, and literally shuts the conversation down. This is what makes these conversations even difficult. One person’s or manager’s  opinion is based on his/her observation and facts that they have access to. Nobody is omniscient so nobody has an absolute answer, especially when working in highly complex environments like today’s corporate world. A more successful way to advocate is actually to acknowledge this. “In my opinion, ….” or “Based on my observation/the facts I gathered…”

The timing of advocacy is crucial. the underlying principle behind these 3 skills is that others will, usually, be more willing to listen to you once you have listened to them first. However, and that’s where mindfulness is important, if you realize that people are not ready to accept your opinion yet, go back to Inquiry to open them up and to identify potential other issues that might be impacting your conversation.

The content for this post is adapted from Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen’s books Handling Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

 

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant C2C

Leadership Development: The Rise Of The Leadership Incubators

Most organizations have accepted that when it comes to developing a leadership pipeline conventional classroom trainings might not be enough. As a result, they are now looking at creating leadership incubators to impart the required leadership and management skills to their HiPos and to help them assess their ability in applying learning and leading others. Leadership incubators, also popularly known as greenhouse programs, are based on action learning. They are organized with the idea of identifying HiPos, training them for future leadership roles, assessing the time frame in which different HiPos will be ready to take leadership responsibilities.

Different organizations have different ways of conducting these programs but there are some commonalities: Incubators are usually conducted over a few months and are a structured mix of learning modules, on-the-job coaching and action learning through group working on real life business problem statements. Usually,these modules are prepared in respect with the 70-20-10 guideline.

Incubators are designed on the basis of a company’s requirements. For example, a Fortune 100 IT company identifies project management, creative problem solving, decision-making and effective communication as critical behaviors for their future technical leads. The incubator starts off with a kick-off program led by senior technical leaders to set the context for participants. Different activities are designed to understand the expectations of all 160 participants in the incubator and integrate these into the design of the intervention.

Participants are then divided in eight batches, with each batch divided in four Action Learning Groups (ALGs). Each ALG is assigned a real life problem statement to work on during the incubator. Based on inputs from the business, HR and the participants, three learning modules are designed. Each batch goes through these modules with a month between each learning event. After four months, ALGs pitch their solutions to their senior technical leaders.

The objective of the final pitch is to assess the participant’s ability to apply essentials of project management, creative problem solving and decision-making and their ability to “sell” their solutions to others. The company then decides whether the solutions presented are implementable or not.

The advantage for organizations is clear: The selections to these programs help them identify highest potential candidates in their organization, get senior leaders to act as mentors to these high-potentials and get a clear idea about where the leadership strength of the organization lies and who is ready to take on leadership responsibility. Another not-so-direct benefit is getting cross-functional group of managers to work towards different business problems and providing solutions to them.

I believe that the introduction of action learning is probably the most important change to have happened in the leadership development training space in the last few years.

One important trend that is being seen in this regard is that some organizations are engaging their senior leaders to impart these trainings. In such cases, service providers design the learning content and process for them and engage senior leaders in the role of coach or mentors. Many organizations have also started investing in training senior management in coaching skills so that they can effectively support participants of leadership incubator programs.

Leadership incubators have a clear advantage over classic classroom trainings, which do not allow organizations to assess leadership preparedness of their HiPos. These are an effective way to assess how participants apply organizational learning to provide solutions to real business problems and to lead others. For participants, it is a more engaging way to develop critical skills that they will need as they grow in the organization but also a sign that their leadership trusts them to solve mission-critical problems.

 

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

Soft Skills: The “Hard” Skill Of Leadership

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Leaders do not compel people to follow; they inspire them to desire the same results as they do.

Corporate leaders need to know their business, their customers, and have the ability to execute a strategy effectively. In the current era of fast paced change, leaders not only need to stay current with the trends in the industry, but also have the ability to predict the future trends as well.

A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, deployed over 600 employees working at manager levels and above, were asked to pick from a list of 14 leadership competencies, and the top three that emerged were:

  1. Building relationships
  2. Good communication
  3. Creating an environment of trust and respect

Building relationships is clearly important since at the heart of all businesses is people. The ability of relating to others is what helps in executing their strategy. Good relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers, can be the differentiator between great leaders and others.

Communication skill is often taken for granted, as most people believe that they are good at making presentations or speaking in public. Communication skill is not just one way information dissemination, it really is all about the ability to listen, and plan and act such that people know that they have been heard. Leaders often need to take some tough decisions. Often such decisions would be accepted, if there is proper explanation of why it is being taken.

The context of leadership has changed dramatically in recent times. In the current situation, customers are harder to find, even harder to retain; profit margins are lesser; employees are overworked and stressed. As a result, leaders need to handle themselves in this complex and challenging environment. This means leaders have to be highly self- aware, display high empathy, and be active listeners; to be able to effectively lead. These soft skills often collectively termed “Emotional Intelligence” are very important to a growing organization. Good communication skills, thus requires one to be a good listener and being able to articulate.

Creating an environment of trust and respect really has many things tied in. It leans a lot towards values – not just stated – but practiced. Being approachable and friendly is the starting point that helps breed trust and respect. Balancing tasks vs. results based on others’ feelings becomes important. Establishing values and living them become extremely important too. It is said that a leader’s actions are always amplified, thus walking the talk becomes very critical to the success of a leader. Creating an environment of trust and respect means a leader must actively demonstrate trust and respect in every interaction with employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders.

These soft skills would enable leaders walking their talk which is so critical to great leadership, that we could term these as “core” skills or “hard” skills of a leader.

Post by Sanjay Dugar – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

5 Steps to Reinvention

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Simply put, many of us look to do some reinvention. Whether it is for New Year’s or before annual performance reviews, we reinvent in order to stay ahead and grow in our chosen professions.

Regardless of what the reasons you have may be, you do have reasons. Therefore, act like you have them. Look at the process like you would a fresh start or, if you prefer, a clean slate. It allows you to approach a scenario as if seeing it for the first time.

So, let’s start at the start –

Step 1. Where do I want to go? Right now.

Not so easy, is it? Just think about what it is that you want. In detail.

A generalized goal isn’t really a goal. Your ambition should have some precision and focus. You can and will adjust along the way, but you should aim as best as you can beforehand.

Step 2. Why do you want this? Your reasons need to be understood fully. It helps both as a motivational tool and as an actual purpose. Having a sense of purpose is a prime mover, and it often makes the difference between success and “never gonna happen.”

Step 3. Where am I right now? At this moment.

Make an honest assessment of yourself. No coulda, shoulda, woulda. After all, reinvention is about you. If you want to understand and achieve Step 1, you need a (real) start point. Do a full 360 degrees assessment. So… your mental mirror shows you as what?

Step 4. What do I need to do now?

In order to get there, you need to know what’s next. Are you going to wing it? Are you going to plot out your course and get alignment along with those around you who can help make this happen?

This can be either the easiest or the most difficult part of the reinvention. Planning comes easy for some. It is like brain surgery for others. For most of us, however, it usually comes down to asking ourselves the right questions

Start with the question of need. What needs must be satisfied (and for whom) in order for this to work? If you can address this well, you’ll know what tools you’ll need for success. The rest will follow.

Step 5. Do it. I mean now!

 

Post by Rick Zimmerman  – C2C Senior Facilitator

Too Many Leaders, Not Enough Leadership

 

Leadership

This post is adapted from an article published in People Matters

Everyone is a leader”. We have seen this statement so many times that we have all begun to believe it. For a while now HR, senior business executives, management gurus and OD Consultants have spent considerable intellectual time distinguishing the characteristics of managers and leaders and creating a list of attributes that define leadership.

In organizations, HR and OD practitioners published lists of competencies and leadership profiles for employees to be measured as part of the annual performance management process. The result is a good start – Teams, business groups and entire organizations all have plenty of leaders who check items off the competency checklist. We have begun to fundamentally change the language we use and call our upline managers – “leaders”. Even if we do call them as managers, the N+2 or N+3 are often referred to as leaders. This is a good start and definitely does create a culture and message for making a strong and developing pipeline of leaders.

We are missing one key factor though. What we are missing is leadership. As Michael Jordan once said “Earn your leadership everyday”.

We need to take a step back and remind ourselves that leaders need to be learning and earning their leadership every day. Leadership moments are recognized after an event has occurred when teams step back and say “now that was good leadership”. Every day, leading other people evolves in our life experiences in ways that we may not realize. Sometimes we may not remember our leadership of other people. We may have influenced someone and the reality is that we may forget a moment of influence completely. On the other hand, those we have helped or encouraged never forget our actions and remember our leadership moment. I would encourage all readers to watch a brilliant TEDx Talk by Drew Dudley who talks about everyday leadership in just over six minutes.

Do we not say leaders “Do the right things” while managers “do things right”? Do we spend enough time on helping employees reflect on the “right things” and reflecting on what has been done?

So here is a task for organizational HR – Help your company celebrate leadership every day.

It is critical for HR to work with business executives to create an environment where we celebrate leadership continuously. It is easy to feel discouraged when an employee feels that s/he are doing the right things, but don’t see the reward right away. Employee recognition and appreciation programs don’t do enough and usually focus on performance-metric driven recognitions; instead they should focus on the leadership moments.

This is where everyday leadership recognition comes in. Let us ensure that we do recognize the “early adopter”, “the change influencer or enabler”, “the energy creator”, “the motivator”, “the team glue”, “the brilliant workaround idea to a problem” and all other leadership moments for demonstrating leadership skills as and when that happens. We can all do a better job of helping our business executives and managers in calling out those leadership moments. We need a culture where when we see a leadership moment, we need to stop recognize, applaud, and celebrate the person who exhibited it. The power of encouraging this is not just higher engagement of employees but also the creation of true everyday leadership. This is when we see “everyone is a leader”.

Remember “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it is amazing what they can accomplish” – Sam Walton. Here is the HR imperative – let us take a leadership role in helping everyone celebrate everyday leadership.

Post by Vinay Kumar – C2C Director & Principal Consultant