The Year Has Changed: Leaders, are you ready to do the same?
Around this time of year many of us crave a sense of newness and possibility. Others may feel that whatever their vision for change, it is just too late or too hard to make the effort. Those who struggle with the desire to be a more impactful leader in 2018 may ask, “Where do I start?” Those who ask this question, at least know there is a need to increase leadership capacity -- their own and those who report to them.
I get to work with leaders on a regular basis who have successfully improved their capacity to lead, so I know it can be done. However, those who successfully achieve their leadership development and business goals are not going it alone. Self-improvement or self-help is a myth. Reading books on leadership usually leads to frustration and disengagement.
A while back, I was working with a group of 30 managers who worked for a rapidly growing family-owned company. The managers had received little to no leadership development. My assignment was to help them embrace new leadership roles because their business and the market environment was changing. I started by asking them what they had read about leadership. Much to my surprise, all of them provided an extensive list of their favorite authors on leadership. All of them described what they liked about the authors and books. They were intrigued by the possibilities of implementing what they read, but didn’t know where to start!
Let’s look at what the leaders who improve leadership capacity and sustain it know and see how they knew where to begin.
WHAT: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management
Leaders who positively impact the workplace understand their own emotions and the effect their emotions have on performance. They keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check to maintain their effectiveness under stressful conditions. Impactful leaders adopt the roles of coach and mentor to achieve long-term learning and development in others.
Leaders who achieve success at developing these four skills can go on to become more successful at building highly cohesive teams. They inspire their direct reports to embrace productive conflict in a transparent, open manner designed to find solutions all can endorse. Most importantly, impactful leaders inspire and engage their direct reports because they sincerely care about the well-being of their employees and focus on creating a culture that allows everyone to do their best work.
Does all this sound overwhelming? Don’t be discouraged. We see leaders transform and adopt these skills every day and you can too! Does it happen quickly? Never! Usually transformation starts immediately, but in the form of “baby steps”. Take heart. Incremental behavior change can be observed and sustained over time. While working with a very successful and highly respected non-profit organization, I witnessed executives who really bought into focusing on self-awareness after I facilitated a workshop on Emotional Intelligence. While they understood the importance of others becoming more self-aware, they didn’t apply the same concept to themselves until after they took an assessment and started working with a coach. Soon after, each of the executives included improved self-awareness in their action plans. The real success story is hearing how others saw a change in the leaders’ individual behaviors and how they improved their interaction with others.
HOW: Don’t go it alone!
You may not agree with the political perspective of the author who says, “It takes a village,” but it does. As mentioned at the beginning, leadership development doesn’t evolve from a bubble. You need to be transparent about your desire to improve leadership capacity and bring your direct reports along with you on this development journey. Start to equip everyone’s leadership development “tool box” by doing the following:
Guided facilitation – Engage a third party to facilitate a leadership retreat/discussion with you and your team about purpose and leadership goals. The facilitator is trained to asked the tough questions that invite everyone on the team to voice their concerns and desire to achieve. Simon Sinek’s advice from his best-selling book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action suggests starting an initiative by asking “Why?” in a way that provides clarity of vision. Why is leadership development important you? Why is it important your team? Why is it important to the organization? This discussion is the critical starting point.
Assessments – “Leader, know thyself.” Not unlike other business initiatives, you need to know the current state to craft a strategy to get to the future state. We recommend a variety of assessments developed and tested over the years. An inventory of assessments will give you options and may include:
· 360 for Leaders
· Work of Leaders
· 8 Dimensions of Leadership
· Group culture assessment
· 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team profile
· Productive Conflict assessment
· DiSC Everything at Work profiles
· Emotional Intelligence assessment
Executive Coaching - Engaging an executive coach/coaches to support you and your team will jumpstart a leadership development initiative. As the leader of your organization, working with an executive coach models the commitment you have for leadership development. When members of a team experience executive coaching individually and collectively, the immediate results become apparent to all, especially in the areas of emotional intelligence, productivity and conflict management. The executive coach becomes your “accountability partner” and can position you to discover innovative ways to achieve targeted goals for your organization. They can help you identify and utilize the strength of individual team members. They may even help you discover your blind spots.
Action Plans – Robust individual leadership development plans driven by SMART goals will help you and your team set and track performance and development goals over 60 to 120 days. Like any journey without a roadmap, leadership development without individual leadership development plans will lead to a dead end.
Mindfulness – The power of mindfulness as a leadership practice can no longer be denied. The primary task of leadership is to direct attention. To do so, leaders must learn to focus their own attention. Aetna, Intel, Keurig, Green Mountain, Google, Target, Amazon and hundreds of other companies are embracing mindfulness as a leadership practice. These companies made similar discoveries after implementing mindfulness programs and found that ROI can be tracked for these initiatives. Bringing mindfulness to your workplace can decrease stress levels while improving focus and clarity. Mindfulness improves listening and decision-making skills and overall well-being. Most importantly, mindfulness gives employees permission to think. However, not unlike other change initiatives, the practice starts with you. Plan on incorporating this leadership practice in your individual leadership development plan.
Put yourself in “time out” -- not for the parental reasons of correcting bad behavior but to give yourself the gift of reflection. This is private time (no devices allowed) set aside to ask yourself thought-provoking questions. For example:
· What are my strengths and weaknesses?
· What initiatives didn’t go as planned in 2017?
· What could I have done differently?
· What do my direct reports need to improve leadership capacity?
Start a leadership development journal to capture these questions and your thoughts. Journaling is another method for tracking leadership development progress and a terrific way to hold yourself accountable for awakening your inner leadership genius!
This article is the first in a series. Future topics include:
Building Cohesive Teams: Does your team require first aid or major surgery?
Leadership Mindfulness: It’s not what you think it is.
Productive Conflict: Is there such a thing?
Emotional Intelligence: The competitive edge
As the Director of Talent Management & Culture, Midge Streeter leads three interrelated areas of professional focus: Culture Alignment and Employee Engagement, Leadership Development and Building Cohesive Teams. Through executive coaching, organizational and individual assessments, workshops and leadership retreats, Midge uses her years of experience in manufacturing, financial services, telecommunication and professional services, addition to a long list of certifications, to customize all organizational effectiveness solutions designed to help companies achieve their business goals.