The High Professional Cost of Your Inability to Trust

Graphic image with the words, It's Your Career and other related professional development wordsThe “It’s Your Career” series at Management Excellence is dedicated to offering ideas, guidance and inspiration for strengthening your performance and supporting your development as a professional. Use the ideas in great career health!

“Trust involves the juxtaposition of people’s loftiest hopes and aspirations with their deepest worries and fears.” –Jeffrey A. Simpson

Trust is one of those terms that is casually tossed around in business conversations and management literature, yet for each and every one of us, the decision to trust someone is a deep and difficult personal decision. It grows even more complicated when we are challenged to operate as a team or develop a team.

I remember resenting the accusation leveled by our Chairman when he suggested the reason we weren’t executing our strategy effectively was because the senior management team members didn’t trust each other. He was right.

There are two possible outcomes when we choose to trust someone. We’ll either find our trust vindicated by the actions of the other party, or, we’ll be disappointed and hurt when our trust is abused. The fear of the latter for many of us overwhelms the potential for reward from the former. Roughly said, the cost of having our trust abused exceeds the potential gain from it being treated with care and respect.

While the root causes of our propensity to trust or distrust may be found in our childhood experiences with friends and family members (issues beyond my pay grade or the scope of this blog), the issue has potentially profound implications on our success as professionals. Recognizing the cost of your inability to trust may very well be the first step to adapting this limiting and potentially destructive behavior.

4 Key Areas Where Our Inability to Trust Others Hurts Us:

1. On teams. Our inability to trust others will impact our effectiveness on teams. Everyone senses when one of the team members has trust issues, and this lack of trust raises the acidity of the team environment. Others will adopt a similar stance towards the non-trusting individual, and the honest, robust communication necessary for navigating tough topics disappears.

2. With co-workers. Colleagues recognize when someone withholds trust and frankly, they resent it. While some will expend a bit of energy striving to bridge this trust gap, most will quickly recognize the futility of the effort and write off the benefits of cultivating a relationship with the trust-withholder. In a world where connections count…for knowledge, specialized information, political insights and access to resources, the person who fails to trust others loses access to these essential currencies.

3. Developing others. The need for others to constantly be in search of our never-quite-achievable trust limits our ability to do our best in support of the development of our own team members. By making them earn your trust, you risk making them tentative in their pursuit of their work…unwilling to take risks and worried about stepping over an invisible line. Your lack of trust in your team members keeps them from opening up to you on challenges and obstacles…it skews the dialog, and this defeats the intent to help people learn and grow.

4. With ourselves.  A fundamental inability to trust others reflects our own self-trust issues. We don’t have confidence in our judgment of others…thus we remain cautious and tentative…and perhaps even micro-managing. This impacts our hiring decisions and it impacts all of our interactions and our effectiveness in the workplace. Lacking the confidence to recover from an episode of trust betrayed, we hunker down in a defensive posture, leaving tremendous opportunities to strengthen, grow and support others on the table.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The cure for an inability to trust likely lies deep within the individual and I have no doubt altering this behavior is very difficult. Seek the right professional help. Don’t let this serve as your limiting factor. There’s too much good work to be done to spend your career not trusting others. And while someone will inevitably betray your trust, the cost of this is significantly less than the benefits you will accrue from extending your trust.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

Leadership Caffeine™—The Alchemy of Great Leadership

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe Leadership Caffeine™ series is intended to make you think and act.

Alchemy, according to Malouin in the Encyclopedia of Diderot, is the chemistry of the subtlest kind which allows one to observe extraordinary chemical operations at a more rapid pace-ones that require a long time for nature to produce.

Newsflash, there are no shortcuts to great leadership. Much like the failure to change nature’s principles in search of longevity or turning lead into gold, one’s ability lead develops slowly over time and with much strain.

10 Lessons Learned in Search of Success as a Leader:

 1. You’re always an apprentice. If you think you’ve mastered this, you’re failing. Approach each day eager to learn another lesson, and you will. Approach each day assuming you’ve got this role licked, and you’ll get clobbered when you least expect it.

2. Great leaders require great missions. It’s the humdrum of the mundane of the status quo that squashes the spirits of leaders and the people around them. If you’re not on a mission, create one. If you’re leading others, know that your job is to define the mission. Not the mission statement…the mission.

 3. The only job harder than leading is likely being a mother. Scratch that…mothers are the original leaders.

 4. What you did yesterday doesn’t count. What you’ll do tomorrow doesn’t count. Lead today…it’s the only day that counts.

5. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable. That’s the job. Get over it. Get used to it. Revel in it. Or, get another job.

6. No one does anything for you…they do it for themselves.

7. Sometimes you have to push the ones with the greatest potential out of the nest. Your instinct says to do everything possible to retain them. The right thing to do is to help them find the best opportunities to grow. Even if that means shoving them on their way.

 8. Enjoy the burn. It’s the tough days and tough issues, especially your failures that mold you into a better leader.

9. Hire people who’ve struggled and persevered. I’ll take the person who held down three jobs to pay for college while caring for the sick relative any day of the week.

10. Pedigree is interesting, but character counts. When hiring, hire for character first and the rest will follow.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

There are no shortcuts when it comes to learning to lead effectively. Get on with it, you’ve got some mistakes to make…just make them faster to succeed sooner.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Leadership Ideas to Help You Finish Strong for June 26, 2015

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster!

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster!

Every week I share a few ideas to help you finish strong. A great ending sets the stage for success next week.

1. Reboot professional development discussions with your team members.

Too many of us leave the topic of professional development for our team members to annual review timing. That’s a mistake. Motivated employees are interested in identifying opportunities to gain new experiences and further their careers all of the time, not once per year. You owe it to them to bring this discussion to the table at least quarterly.

For today, reach out to your team members individually and let them know that their professional development is on your mind. Schedule some one on one time in the next two weeks to catch-up on the plans for the year established during the annual review, or make a commitment to work together to identify a series of on-going developmental experiences. While training might be a part of the program, don’t default to this catch-all category. Your team member may well benefit more from a new assignment or opportunity to lead a project team rather than sitting behind a table in a classroom.

If you need a little incentive, know that supporting a team member’s professional development by investing time and defining and supporting them in learning opportunities and new challenges is a tremendous way to show that you respect them and to build loyalty.

Schedule the discussions and commit to making this a regular part of your management routine.

2. Stimulate discussion on topics that count.

Interested in stimulating ideas on ways to strengthen your team, your leadership or your activities with your customers?  Take time with your team to watch a Ted Talk. And then discuss it. I’ve long been a fan of any activity that exposes people to the ideas of others. The gravitational pull of the urgent in our jobs keeps most of us staring out at the same view to the parking lot day after day. Change the view and leverage books, articles, or in a group setting, one of the great Ted Talks available on demand and at no charge.

A quick search on the topic, “Top Ted Talks for Leaders” serves up a variety of lists of some remarkable presentations certain to stimulate discussion and idea generation. As an alternative, go crazy and expand your search beyond business or leadership and challenge your team members to connect how the ideas in the video might be meaningful to your firm or your customers.

One manager I know does this weekly, complete with popcorn and beverages and it’s become a much anticipated ritual on Friday afternoons. Of course, remember, the goal is to find ideas that can be put into action, so some gentle facilitation of the post viewing discussion will support linking it back to improving something in your workplace. The simplest of all facilitation questions are often the most valuable. Try, “what does this mean for us?” and see what the group has to say.

OK, that’s it for this week. Congratulations on finishing strong! Enjoy the weekend and come back on Monday ready to conquer the world. -Art

Leadership Caffeine™—The Inner Game of Leading

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe Leadership Caffeine™ series is intended to make you think and act.

“This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, self-doubt and self condemnation.”

–Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

Other than the missing obstacle of hubris, Gallwey might as well have been writing about the challenges in the mind of the leader in this mid-70’s and now classic coaching book.

Leadership is played on an open court in the workplace for all to see, yet, I submit that the game is won or lost in the mind of the individual as he/she pushes self-doubt and hubris back into their respective corners.

It’s in her mind where a great battle rages filled with conflicting demands over right, wrong, who, next, when and how. The noise from decision-choices on direction, talent, strategy, goals and targets can be deafening, and the daily drill resembles for many in leadership roles, a pell-mell race through obstacles seen and unseen. It takes remarkable mental strength and agility to filter the noise and concentrate on the right issue at the right time.

Some leaders cover the court with grace and speed, yet fail to win the game. Their firms struggle to escape from the shackles of past greatness or, they play somewhere in the middle of the pack with competitors, surviving on almost respectable outcomes…always with the promise of better, bigger, faster, stronger in sight, but never quite reaching those levels. These are often the poseurs as leaders who like the outward facing game…who revel in the roar of the crowd and the momentary accolades of adoring fans surrounding the court.

The ones who master the inner game move deliberately through their days leaving a wake of clarity in their trail. They give others confidence that the way path forward is the right one and that the journey will be difficult but achievable. Strategies are selected and the goals and actions embedded in the minds (and actions) of the broader organizational population. Critical decisions are vetted and made, with emphasis on the most difficult and painful of the decisions…talent choices…always tackled first. The noise of the crowd isn’t the objective and the leader who masters the inner game gives no concern for accolades. The emphasis is on helping others win the key points and games in what is a marathon, not a sprint.

These leaders who master the inner game fight their own demons…particularly self-doubt and hubris. Every successful leader I know has no qualms indicating there are moments where doubt about self…Am I up to this? and It’s possible we and I might fail, rent space in their minds. They recognize the sobering truth…they are no better, smarter or different than many others, yet they are charged with getting it right. Sometimes the self-doubt is so strong it is nearly crippling. Nearly, but not completely.

Leaders who master the inner game fight this demon of self-doubt at night, staring at the ceiling in lieu of sleeping. They fight it, and then they push it into a box and move forward. While painful and difficult to deal with, the presence of self-doubt underscores how much the individual cares. After all, more than the next quarter’s results are at stake. It’s about the lives, careers and well-being of the families of the people who trust them to lead.

Hubris is another distraction…a very distant cousin of self-doubt. Success opens the mind to momentarily letting down its defenses. It tells you, it’s working…you figured it out and you deserve to let it play out and let others do the heavy lifting. It’s wrong. 

Once hubris sneaks through the crack in the leader’s defenses, the outer game suffers…succumbing to the toxic temptations of this false inner voice that suggests he/she can do no wrong. Soon, the entire game is a mess. Athletes might call the outcome a slump. For a leader, the consequences are amplified by the impact on the constituents.

Effective leaders build strong defenses against hubris. They learn to take satisfaction in the success and joy of others, not their own accomplishments. And they learn to recognize and blunt the incessant machinations and manipulations of hubris as it attempts to gain entrance to the host.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Mastering the inner game of leading is a never-ending task to know oneself and to cultivate the discipline necessary to cut through the noise and to focus on what counts for everyone else and for the group at large. It’s the hardest work most of us will ever do. It starts with staring in the mirror and acknowledging the truth about yourself. Many are afraid to do just this. They shouldn’t lead.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

Ideas for Professional Growth—Week of June 21, 2015

best practice on blackboardNote from Art: Every week, I provide a few simple (but not simplistic) ideas for you to Do/Experiment/Explore in support of your professional development. Use them in great professional health and personal gain.

Do:

Identify the one tough discussion you’ve been avoiding and find a slot in your schedule this week (earlier is better) and make it happen. Unresolved issues…a tough feedback discussion, an apology owed to a colleague and all of the other difficult discussions we attempt to avoid, rent space in our minds and add to our background stress. It’s time to clear this issue out and move forward.

To ease your pre-discussion anxiety, take the time to sketch out key elements of your discussion.

  • Define the core issue in clear terms. If this is a feedback discussion, you have to isolate on the behavior and the business implication of the behavior.
  • Know your desired outcome.
  • Plan your opening sentence. Yes, script this one out. The opener sets the tone for the entire discussion.
  • Prepare your attitude. If you expect the issue to result in an emotional response, you need to plan your vocal tone and facial expression.
  • Find neutral ground to conduct the discussion.

Much like speaking in public, the thought of it is more stressful than the reality of delivering a speech. Get this locked on your calendar and don’t let this week wind to a close without moving forward on this lingering difficult discussion.

Experiment:

Add some life to your regular team meetings. Too many managers squander precious contact team with team members by defaulting to what I describe as the Around-the-Table Update March of Death. You know this meeting. The leader kicks off, shares a few updates on his/her activities and then one by one, everyone in the room does the same. At the end of this in a large group setting, people are drooling from the mind-numbing boredom and irrelevance of most of the updates.

Instead of defaulting to the Around-the-Table approach, mix things up from meeting to meeting. Assign a key, highly relevant topic and have everyone share their ideas or insights.

Examples include:

  • What are we doing great that we should be doing more of?
  • What are the most disturbing things our competitors are doing that we need to respond to?
  • Everyone talk with a salesperson or customer service representative before the next meeting and ask them one of: what they are hearing about how we’re doing/how our competitors are doing/what’s changing in their business, and come prepared to share.

If those don’t suit you, identify your own topics and question. Just vow to take advantage of the gray matter in the room and do something different than the default march of the updates.

Explore:

OK, this one is literally about exploring. Given the challenges, risks and complexity of the world we live and work in, it’s helpful to find inspiration in unusual places, and the age of polar exploration offered many incredible examples.

Read my post, 5 Priceless Lessons from Amundsen and Scott (and/or dig in and research the topic at a deeper level) and consider the challenges they navigated, the approaches of the two great explorers and ultimately what worked and what failed. How can you apply the lessons to your own world of team development, innovation and exploration?

OK, I’ve done my part. The rest is up to you. Have a great week as you Do/Experiment/Explore! -Art

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

Friday Leadership Ideas—2 to Help You Finish Strong for June 19, 2015

Sign indicating "Brand New and Fresh"Every week, I share a few ideas to help you finish strong. A great ending to your work week helps set the stage for success next Monday.

1. Assess What Worked, Not What You Failed to Complete

I love wrapping up on a high note, and let’s face it, not every week is a rousing success in knocking out our priorities. Sometimes the universe works against us with the urgent and important flaring up to overwhelm our attention.

Nonetheless, there were victories. Even surviving the running of the gauntlet of crises and extinguishing major flare-ups count as victories. What was it that you and/or your team members did that allowed you to succeed with those sudden initiatives? What repeatable behaviors can you draw upon in subsequent challenging situations?

We’re quick to identify what we did wrong and/or focus in on the constructive criticism. That’s fine and necessary, however, reinforcing great behaviors is equally important and worthy of contemplating as you head into the end of your work week.

2. Discuss with Your Team: Why will driverless cars lead to a demand for artificial hearts?

OK, the two items…driverless cars and artificial hearts aren’t related to your business, but that’s not the point. Or, actually, it is. The issue is for you to get better at assessing developments in our rapidly shape shifting external environment and then connecting them to downstream implications for us, our customers or, your entire industry. Ideally, you want to do this faster and more effectively than your competitors.

Plan a meeting with your team and spend 30 minutes once per week just talking about changes that all of you are observing in technologies, social trends and anything else that jumps out from our noisy world. Close out each development with a free form discussion around, “What this might mean for us/our customers is… .” Keep a log of these topics and their potential connections to your world. And if someone seizes upon a thread that merits exploration for potential innovation, go long.

Strengthening the ability of your team to connect noise in the environment to implications for your firm, your customers and your industry…and then doing something about it, offers a host of potential positive organizational health benefits.

Oh, and one of the leading sources of hearts for life-saving transplant operations comes from fatalities due to car crashes at intersections. In theory, there will be no more crashes at intersections if and once driverless cars become universal. The implication for a number of industries, including the demand for replacement hearts will be significant.

OK, that’s it for this week. Use the ideas in great health, finish strong, have an invigorating weekend and come back recharged and ready to change the world next week! -Art

 

Manage How You are Perceived or Someone Else Will

Graphic image with the words, It's Your Career and other related professional development wordsThe “It’s Your Career” series at Management Excellence is dedicated to offering ideas, guidance and inspiration for strengthening your performance and supporting your development as a professional. Use the ideas in great career health!

Bob is one of those technical professionals born with an incredible ability to translate external noise…marketplace developments, customer needs and competitor moves into hit products and business ideas. He was in a role leading a small team and his team had produced a series of new hits for his firm.

Bob believed he could help his firm if he was given the opportunity to lead a larger group. However, for several years, Bob had fallen victim to the infamous open-faced “but” sandwich comments of another senior leader. He had been passed over for promotion on several occasions.  (The open-faced “but” sandwich is analogous to the feedback sandwich…positive, negative, positive. In this case, someone makes a positive statement followed by a lingering, negative but, but no positive statement to top things off.)

I know Bob has done a good job with his team, but…do we really think he’s ready to lead a bigger group?

That statement created enough doubt with the senior leaders to derail any discussion of promotion. The subtle assassin in this case was a senior manager who had his own designs on who should lead this expanding team. It wasn’t Bob.

While this very real situation might sound like sheer dirty politics, it was a situation that Bob actively fueled. Bob had presence issues.

He was one of those people who would walk down the hallway deep in contemplation with whatever was on the top of his shoes. He never met a day where smiling seemed to be worth the effort. And if you happened to call him on the telephone and he answered, you weren’t certain whether to run over and hand him a tissue or look around for sharp objects.

After commiserating with a trusted member of his team that he had been passed over for promotion again, related that he had reeived the lame comment of, “Bob, senior management thinks you need more time to develop as a leader,” and the equally lame suggestion of, “Let’s find a training course for you to attend,” his team member offered him a stark insight.

“Bob, this has happened several times. This has nothing to do with whether you are ready for leadership. Everyone on your team believes in you. People higher up don’t have faith in your ability to lead a team because you don’t carry yourself like a leader. Around here, that’s a problem.”

It hit Bob like a ton of bricks. He had spent his entire career assuming that good work always is rewarded and the fact that his physical presence might be a factor was upsetting. After thinking about it for awhile. Bob decided to seek help. He asked for coaching instead of training and through the feedback the coach collected, Bob learned that his presence problem was much larger than he had ever imagined.

He began the work of behavior change…and worked at it relentlessly. He continued to push out hit ideas from his team and the combination of his visible presence change and the continued great work earned him his long awaited promotion just six months later. He neutralized his competitor’s objections and today he is a senior technology executive with one of the world’s largest firms. His leadership and his natural gifts now help his firm on a much larger scale.

5 Lessons from Bob:

1. Don’t assume you understand how others perceive you. Our self-perception is often very different than the view others have of us. Get help from trusted contacts and ask how you are perceived.

2. Don’t forget to ask for help finding your superpower. It’s not just the weaknesses we struggle to see. In what is potentially more limiting, we don’t always see what it is that we do that leverages our skills at our best. When you are focused on work that ignores your true gifts, you know instinctively and this dissonance creates stress. Find and follow your superpower and you’ll be happier and I will wager a future paycheck, more successful.

3. If you don’t think someone will use your weaknesses against you, you are naïve. This is the way of the world. We all have competitors…for resources, for budget, for position and for compensation. Don’t give them ammunition.

4. People close to you typically appreciate you and accept you for the person you are…and that’s nice. However, it isn’t helpful. Some will open up and share honest perceptions and feedback, but you have to ask and to be genuine in your need for the real story.

5. Get a coach. Identifying poor behaviors isn’t so difficult Changing them is brutally hard. Most people fail most of the time at this. How’s that diet or fitness program going? But remember, the coach won’t do the work for you. Commitment comes from you.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

It’s a sharp-elbowed world out there where rules of fair play are subjective. Don’t limit your own advancement and growth by believing that your great work will take care of itself. It won’t. Manage the perceptions about you or someone else will.

Leadership Caffeine™—Is Leadership Changing?

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe Leadership Caffeine™ series is intended to make you think and act.

There’s an interesting interview at McKinsey, with Heidreck & Struggles CEO, Tracy Wolstencroft, that explores what they describe as the changing nature of leadership in this era of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The interview prompted my own consideration of some of the changing leadership behaviors I’m observing in firms who are succeeding in navigating the fog of these times.

Warren Bennis once suggested that “leaders manage the context,” and for those firms I’ve observed and have worked with, who are effectively reinventing themselves in this era of complexity, there are a number of emerging new themes in how leadership is practiced and deployed. They are indeed managing the context.

Command and control is giving way to a style that reflects more serve and support and form and frame. The serve component reflects an increased focus by those in leadership roles on answering the question for teams of, “What can I do to best help you succeed?” The form and frame perspective emphasizes the leader’s role in creating an environment where individuals and groups are both challenged and enabled to excel.

And while I use the word “serve” in the description, serve and support, don’t construe that to mean “soft.” The leaders  who have shifted their focus to helping find the answers versus dictating the approaches are anything but soft. They set expectations high and demand a great deal not only of their teams, but of themselves. They are fierce in pursuit of results through groups…and fierce in their support and defense of the work of their groups. There’s a mutual accountability and transparency between leaders and teams that is…refreshing and even invigorating.

Position in the hierarchy is less relevant, with emphasis placed on the ability of these leaders to span functional boundaries in pursuit of solving problems through temporary teams. The strongest, most effective leaders…people leading groups to get things done, are in my opinion, the emerging “integrator” leaders who span boundaries and operate without authority but with huge accountability for delivery. And thank goodness, because the work of navigating structural uncertainties in the marketplace isn’t the work of any one function, it is the work of people with diverse skills coming together to solve problems. (Might this mean that silo walls are finally coming down?)

Supporting the development of high performance teams is more of today’s focal point for leaders, as we begin to recognize the potential for groups to lead innovation and strategy execution. Most of the work that propels organizations into new markets with new strategies and technologies comes about via teams and today’s leaders are tired of the results described in headline grabbing studies on  how miserable we are at succeeding with these groups. They are committed to realizing the true potential from teams.

Leadership is much more of a temporary mantle, with individuals moving from a leadership role one day to a team member role on another initiative the next day. I like this…it reinforces the need to understand what it takes to be a great team member…critical context for learning to be a great team leader. Leader selection is more about who has the right skills for the situation and much less about title or seniority.

For those of us who grew up in a world where command and control was the style, much of how leadership is being deployed in some organizations looks and feels different. Yet, underlying the behavior and style differences are the foundations of effective leadership, which remain unchanged over the millennia. From setting direction to selecting talent to both earning and giving respect to motivating and inspiring and standing up and fighting for the group and the right issues, these attributes of leadership thankfully remain and are perhaps more important then ever.

And while I’ll stop short of suggesting a causal relationship between an organization embracing new styles of leadership and gaining financial and market success in today’s world, the differences are at least part of the answer. Conversely, firms I’m observing that struggle to navigate our world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, tend to be tethered to the hierarchical, command and control style of a bygone era, with the employees waiting to be told where to go.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

It makes sense that the skills necessary to lead in today’s environment are different than those that were emphasized in quieter times. Leaders aren’t defined by title, they are defined by behavior, and the behaviors necessary for success in today’s world suggest that we best be supporting the development of emerging leaders at all levels and in all roles of our organizations.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

Ideas for Professional Growth—Week of June 14, 2015

One Inch at a TimeNote from Art: Every week, I provide a few simple (but not simplistic) ideas for you to Do/Experiment/Explore in support of your professional development. Use them in great professional health and personal gain.

Do:

Make the effort to align with your direct manager on her goals. One of the questions I ask coaching clients is, “What are your boss’s goals?” The most common answers include: “I don’t know,” or, “I haven’t asked,” or, “She hasn’t shared them with me.

While not every manager is forthcoming about their own goals…and in essence, how they are being evaluated, it is worth inquiring. Armed with insight and context for your manager’s priorities, you are better able to support her efforts, and ideally, align your own goals with hers.

Great team members understand the importance of helping their boss succeed and they intuitively get that reciprocity is a powerful tool for gaining support, particularly in the manager-employee relationship. Today’s boss is tomorrow’s sponsor for your next promotion and a future peer. Forge a great relationship from the beginning by understanding and seeking out opportunities to help your manager succeed.

Experiment:

De-personalize brainstorming. Brainstorming is something that almost every group engages in at some time and while the intent is noble, there are more than a few issues that detract from the effectiveness of this technique in practice. One idea is to use what researchers describe as nominal group techniques to minimize socialization challenges in groups. That’s a $5 label for something that simply means finding a way to draw out input by keeping the source of the ideas anonymous. From loudmouths who dominate discussion to the boss participating and everyone agreeing with him, to the reality that the best ideas may be lurking in the gray matter of the quietest attendees, it makes sense to change things up in search of more value.

Try sending out the brainstorming question a day or two before the event and asking people to generate a list of ideas and then returning them anonymously before the session. (You’ll have to create the means for anonymity, but it is worth the effort.) On the day of the meeting, pre-draft flip-charts or fill a whiteboard with the ideas. Mix them up. Don’t provide any attribution. In the live session, encourage people to read and build and jump on existing ideas as well as to add new ones.

Explore:

Edward DeBono’s “Six Thinking Hats” approach to strengthening group discussion quality. Most of our group discussions are messy swirls of opinions, facts, questionable facts, biases and even political agendas. DeBono helps us quit arguing our way forward through meetings by teaching us a simple but not simplistic approach to conducting group discussions and gaining the benefit of everyone thinking and talking in the same direction.

I reference this topic in workshops, keynotes and my writing. I’ve quit counting how many people have looped back and described their success with the technique. Buy and read the book and practice with the approach. It’s currently under $10 at Amazon, and you’ve got the world’s best laboratory to put this to the test in your workplace. I’ll wager your favorite coffee drink you’ll find this an improvement over current practices.

That’s it for this week’s idea prompters around Do/Experiment/Explore. Use them in good health, great productivity and in support of your own professional development. -Art

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

Friday Leadership Ideas—3 to Help You Finish Strong for June 12, 2015

View of person walking or running on a trailBefore you move into a well-earned weekend of whatever it is you enjoy doing, take time today to address a few key leadership items on your agenda. The benefits of finishing strong will carry through into a great weekend and positive re-start on Monday.

1. Catch-Up on This Week’s Positive Feedback. Every day is a good day for well-earned, positive feedback, but Friday is a great day to catch-up and not let the good event fade. Too often we miss the opportunity during the week to commend someone for a great performance. Don’t let the positive praise age much longer or it will lose impact. Take time today to find that person and share the input. Send them off on their weekend with acknowledgement of something they did particularly well this week.

And remember, positive praise discussions are just like the constructive kind…they must be behavioral, business-focused and specific. Great job on that presentation to the committee, isn’t very specific or behavioral. Drill down into what impressed you…what specifically the individual did during this presentation that made it effective. Remember, you want to reinforce this positive behavior.

2. Create Fly-By Opportunities to Connect. I know managers who go out of their way to either stop by or phone and chat with team members for the express purpose of simply checking-in and seeing how they were doing. Often there’s no agenda…this is simply a chance to connect.

Don’t interrogate or add to the “to-do” list, just say “hello.” Use a simple prompter to stimulate friendly, idea-oriented discussion. What are we doing right that we should do more of? What’s your view on (insert idea or issue)? End on a lighter note. Fun plans for the weekend? Remember to share a bit about yourself (but don’t make yourself the focal point). Repeat the process weekly. I still smile thinking about the note I would get from a valued team member if I missed making my Friday rounds to check-in. The activity had become part of the communication routine and rhythm of the team. And remember, paying attention to people is a high form of paying respect.

3. Invite Someone from a Different Function to Lunch or Coffee. Great managers network relentlessly and work hard to cultivate an understanding of the picture beyond their silo walls. Use lunch or coffee time on Friday to connect. Strive to understand the priorities and challenges of his/her group. Share yours. Bonus if you find an opportunity to help or collaborate. And remember, if you invite, you buy.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Every week as a leader or a manager is a gift to positively impact your firm, your team and the individuals you depend upon to keep things moving. While the behaviors above are appropriate any day, often the urgent gets in the way of the important. Take a few minutes to connect, engage and finish strong. And then, have a great weekend!

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.