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toolKitPeter Bregman (“Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail,” Forbes, 7/11/2013) wrote, “I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. … What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. … There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders.

The goal of any leadership development program is to change behavior. After a successful program, participants should show up differently, saying and doing things in new ways that produce better results.

What Peter Bregman wrote about the goal of leadership development applies to all training and development, and it’s the major weakness of non-technical training and development programs. That is, how does an organization ensure that the training and development is applied and whether it makes a difference in the organization? Not merely whether the participant has gained the skill or knowledge, has the participant applied it and is the skill or knowledge appropriate for the organization? The lack of post-training and -development  assessment particularly irks me because the typical response to program failures is – they need more training. But, I digress.

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote that there is no such thing as a generic leadership development program or plan since each person brings unique experience, skills, and knowledge to the position. In addition, each leadership position, within core competencies, has unique requirements. For example, the organization’s structure, culture, and current situation may contribute to making certain developmental priorities over others.

A first step in creating an individual leadership development plan is an assessment of the leader based on core competencies. [I provided a composite of leadership core competencies in my prior blog post.] It’s important to begin with a 360° assessment: feedback from self-assessment, subordinates, peers, and higher management. Which competencies produce positive results, which are weak, which result in negative effects? It’s important that the assessment address each vector; for example, communication with subordinates and higher management may be weak while communication with peers is not.

An individual leadership development plan would be prepared based on the results of the 360° competency evaluation. Developmental activities to improve a competency may be based on factors such as preferred learning styles, availability, cost, and priority.

In addition, it may be worth considering complementary developmental activities for subordinates, peers, and higher level management. For example, if the the leader needs further development in planning and organizing, it might be beneficial to address complementary planning and coordination development for all levels of the organization.

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MC900065030Is a leader who shows emotion a poor leader?  Many seem to think so.  A common belief is that a leader needs to be able to make logical decisions and not be blinded by emotion.

In my experience, one of the mistakes that organizations make in selecting people for supervisory positions is that they tend to select people with greatest technical skills.  However, the critical duties of supervision require working with people.  These skills require the supervisor to address subordinates’ emotions as well as his/her own.

[Y]ou need to motivate your people to getthings done. Do you have that kind of bond? Or have you been taught to manage by objectives and metrics to monitor performance, and that bonding with your team members will be seen as a distraction at best or weakness at worst? Many have. Perhaps that’s why a recent survey found that more workers would trust a total stranger more than their own boss[.] (Eisenberger and Kohlrieser)

Naomi Eisenberger and George Kohlrieser in their HBR Network Blog article,  Lead with Your Heart, Not Just Your Head on November 16, 2012, cite reasons that impersonal leadership fails.

Eisenberger, a neuroscientist, has found that a lack of feeling connected with others creates pain.  “In the workplace, leaders who show concern and interest in their employees’ lives and a predictable set of rules, create a healthy attachment that empowers others to embrace the risk of pursuing success.”

Naomi’s research shows another positive side to developing secure attachments at work. Having support figures present during experiences of stress helps us stay more relaxed and reduces threat responses; strong bonds can help teams survive and thrive in crisis situations.

Scott Edinger in Three Ways Leaders Make Emotional Connections on HBR Network Blog, October 2, 2012 provides suggestions on how to forge emotional connections with subordinates.

1.  Give people your undivided attention

2.  Be aware that emotions are contagious

3.  Develop your sense of extraversion

Understanding that communication is an emotional interaction, Charalmbos Vlachoutsicos explains How Smart Managers Build Bridges on the HBR Network Blog, November 2, 2012.

What do you do when the other person simply won’t budge from an entrenched position in which they have a great deal of personal and professional commitment? How do you bridge the gap between your position and his? Most people try to win the other person over to their point of view by argument.

The key to avoiding this dynamic is to stop trying to get the person to change and instead get them to open up. The information you get may well encourage you to moderate your own position and thus open the way for a mutually advantageous cooperation.

In addition, Eisenberger and Kohlreiser point out that,

When it comes to employees making change, they don’t resist change itself. They resist the pain of change and fear of the unknown that comes with it. This leads many employees to think more defensively, to hold back, and resist pursuing success and playing to win. In the workplace, leaders who show concern and interest in their employees’ lives and a predictable set of rules, create a healthy attachment that empowers others to embrace the risk of pursuing success.

Vlachoutsicos points out that differences in positions may be in values or cultures.  Connecting with the other person and understanding the other person helps you to further understand the situation and another point of view. It may help you to reframe your reasons for the change or to reframe your position.

The bottom line is a supervisor, manager, or leader must be comfortable with his/her own emotions as well as dealing with the emotions of his/her followers.

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I’ve written several posts about leadership and two specifically about women leaders, a topic that I’m passionate about. Consequently, a recent article on FastCompany caught my eye,  How Women Lead Differently, And Why It Matters by Alyse Nelson. Alyse Nelson is the author of the new book Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World published by Jossey-Bass as well as CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

Nelson asserts that women yield power in a distinct way.

The particular qualities of women’s leadership take on a new significance and new power in today’s world. I believe that the strengths women possess and the behaviors that set them apart will lead us forward in the coming years: collaboration, conviction, inclusiveness, creativity, and mentorship.

Nelson claims that women have a different impact on the community.

Research shows that women direct up to 90 percent of their income to community infrastructure and improvement, whereas men reinvest 30 to 40 percent of their income. The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report finds that women with decision-making power accelerate positive development outcomes, and studies from the World Economic Forum confirm a strong correlation between an increase in gender equality and an increase in gross domestic product per capita.

Yet, why are women still under-represented in positions of political and economic decision making?  Women hold only 17 percent of the seats in today’s U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.  There are only 19 women (3.8%) serving as CEOs in the Forbes 500 companies.

What can we do to change that?

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