It’s a Mistake to Make Succession a Horse Race

Who’s next?

That is the question that those involved in succession planning focus upon when considering candidates for senior positions. And while the answer produces a candidate, such a question is too narrow.

A better question would be: who’s best?

While succession planning needs focus on identifying candidates for senior positions, too often the focus is on the horse race — who’s ahead — rather than the organization — who’s best prepared to lead. In a horse race, the focus is on metrics: what an executive has accomplished. In the organizational perspective, the focus is more broad-based — how the executive has achieved what he or she has accomplished.

As much as organizations devote to success planning issues, there are shortcomings. According to a 2012 study by the Institute for Executive Development (IED) survey participants noted three major problems:

  • Lack of a coherent strategy for executive development
  • Lack of a formal process for developing successor candidates; and
  • Lack of candidates ready to take the CEO job.

IED’s suggestions for improvement include clarifying roles and objectives for those involved in succession planning and developing relevant analytics to determine a candidate’s true effectiveness. These two focus on what a candidate has accomplished; a third recommendation — improve the development process — gets to the how the candidate works.

Click here to read more:

First posted on HBR.org 2.07.13

 

VIDEO: How to Manage Change the Right Way

No reorganization is ever easy. Especially when you are hired from the outside.

When this occurs, the newly appointed leaders must do what Alan Mulally of Ford and Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler did when they transformed their organizations. Their example works also works for leaders who have been in their jobs for a while.

  • One, respect tradition.
  • Two, make change urgent.
  • Three, treat employees with respect.
  • Four, insist upon personal accountability.

Managing change is never easy, but when you respect the work and the people who do it you have the opportunity to make change work for the organization.

First posted on Smart Brief on 6/12/2015

Challenge Your Assumptions Before Working with a Coach

Working with an executive coach can be a large investment of time and money; it seems a shame to waste either. If you’re considering coaching (or have, ahem, been asked to consider it), make sure you get the most out of the experience.

People sign up for coaching for all sorts of reasons — perhaps it was their own idea, and they genuinely want to improve. But often, coaching is not something an individual chooses willingly; someone senior to them, maybe even on the board of directors, has suggested it.

Someone in a position of authority may make it known that if the executive wants to be promoted, win a bonus, or even keep his job, he must change behaviors that hinder his performance, turn others way, or do not instill confidence in his abilities.

And so the coach arrives — the outsider, hired to speak truth to power — and can’t make any headway, because the person being coached doesn’t really want to be there. Or the person being coached doesn’t have a specific goal in mind, and so coach and coachee meet a bunch of times before parting ways, neither really knowing what they tried to accomplish.

As I was talking the other day with a colleague — Mark Goulston, M.D., author of Real Influence, which he co-authored with John Ullmen — it occurred to us that there were some things we wished executives knew about coaching before signing up for it.

Effective coaching is often a matter of challenging assumptions, and the biggest assumptions often reside in the mind of the person being coached. Challenge your own assumptions about what you need to improve so that you can lead your people in ways the organization demands and they expect.

Click here to read more:

First posted on HBR.org 3/15/13

VIDEO: Visit Employees Where They Work

The best executives with whom I have worked make a point of hitting the road.

Executives who get out of their offices and make treks to the front lines, as well as to customer locations, get firsthand impressions of what is happening, as well as what is not happening. And it’s not enough to show up.

You need to engage. Have real conversations about how the work is going, and especially listen to how people respond.

Ask questions. And, most important, listen to what you hear.

Hitting the road to discover what’s going on is time-consuming and wearying, but it is necessary for any executive who expects to lead with a clear head, and an even more clear vision of the future.

First posted on Smart Brief 6/26/2015

Your Least Engaged Employees May Be Your Best

Some of the most engaged employees in your organization are your worst performers. And some of the least engaged are your highest performers.

This conclusion comes from new research by the consulting firm, Leadership IQ. The study “matched engagement survey and performance appraisal data for 207 organizations.” According to CEO Mark Murphy (who I interviewed via email), “We had long suspected that high performers might not be as engaged as has traditionally been assumed. But seeing that, in 42% of cases, high performers were even less engaged than low performers was a bit of a shock.”

This conclusion runs contrary to conventional wisdom as well as many studies (including this one from Gallup) that show high engagement — that is, how much employees are committed to their work — correlates with better bottom line results, including productivity and profitability.

You could think of these low performers as hamsters on a wheel, spinning fast but actually going nowhere. Conversely, high performers may be coasting like swans on a pond, just gliding by. You don’t see their effort because it’s below the water. As Murphy says, “in our study, high performers gave very low marks when asked if employees all live up to the same standards.”

Click here to read more:

First posted on HBR.org 4/08/2013

VIDEO: Put Your Personality into Your Communications

When you are presenting your ideas, you don’t have to sublimate your personality. It may be your most important asset.

Effective leaders know how to inject their personality into their ideas. How?

  • One, think about what you want to say. Make a well-reasoned argument.
  • Two, reflect on what your words really mean. Whom do they affect? What the benefits of your ideas?
  • Three, add an anecdote from your own life — or lives of people you know — to make your message more memorable and compelling.

Effective presenters connect with their audience on two levels: intellect and emotion. As a leader, you need to keep a balance between the two in order reach people’s hearts as well as their minds.

First posted on Smart Briefs on 7/10/2015

Women Do Better Than Men When It Comes to Self-Awareness

So is the best man for the job a woman?

Research by Hay Group, culled from its 17,000-person behavioral competency database in 2012, finds that when it comes to empathy, influence, and the ability to manage conflicts in the executive level, women show more skill than men. Specifically, women are more likely to show empathy as a strength, demonstrate strong ability in conflict management, show skills in influence, and have a sense of self-awareness.

“Women often face barriers throughout their careers that require them to develop these skills to excel and advance in their organizations,” says Ruth Malloy, global managing director for leadership and talent at Hay Group. Malloy adds that the shift from hierarchy where individual achievement matters to matrix organizations where teamwork counts put a premium on the skills that women have mastered.

Click here to read more:

First posted on HBR.org 5.13.2013

VIDEO: How Much Time Is Too Much Time with the Boss?

Are you spending too much time with your boss?

If you are, you may suffer a drop off in engagement, innovation and productivity. At the same time if you don’t spend enough time with the boss, the same can occur.

So what’s the optimal time spent with a boss? Well, according to a study by Leadership IQ, a leadership and training firm, six hours per week is optimum. More hours can hinder an employee’s productivity and engagement just as too few hours can.

By contrast if you spend too much time with an employee, then you likely have not hired the right person.

Or you don’t trust them. It’s OK to keep a new hire close, but if you never let go that person will not develop his or her skills. And if that individual does have talent, he or she will migrate somewhere else. No one likes to be micromanaged.

Spending six hours per week with the boss is a good idea, sure, but more important is time invested by the leader — together with employees — in building an enterprise where people can work with intention and purpose that deliver results that are mutually beneficial.

First posted on Smart Brief 8/07/2016

Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity

Improving employee engagement is not simply about improving productivity — although organizations with a high level of engagement do report 22% higher productivity, according to a new meta-analysis of 1.4 million employees conducted by the Gallup Organization.

In addition, strong employee engagement promotes a variety of outcomes that are good for employees and customers. For instance, highly engaged organizations have double the rate of success of lower engaged organizations. Comparing top-quartile companies to bottom-quartile companies, the engagement factor becomes very noticeable. For example, top-quartile firms have lower absenteeism and turnover. Specifically, high-turnover organizations report 25% lower turnover, and low-turnover organizations report 65% lower turnover. Engagement also improves quality of work and health. For example, higher scoring business units report 48% fewer safety incidents; 41% fewer patient safety incidents; and41% fewer quality incidents (defects).

While people define engagement in various ways, I prefer a plain and simple definition: People want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization.

Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”

Click here to read more:

First posted on HBR.org 7/04/2103

VIDEO: Working with Your Opposite

Finding a good working relationship with people different from you is good advice.

It’s not always easy finding opposites to work with. Here are three attributes to look for when seeking opposite types for your team:

  • Curiosity. Curiosity is the stimulus that drives people to ask questions that begin with the word “Why?” These are types who question assumptions.
  • Capacity. People who are hungry for challenges are those that have a capacity to work hard. You want people who will put themselves into their work.
  • Cooperation. All of us have different likes and dislikes. That’s what makes us uniquely the people we are. That’s good. What is not so good is the feeling that we must do things our way all of the time.

By putting mission first, the savvy executive ensures that individual differences are channeled to improve probabilities of success.

First published at Smart Briefs on 9/18/15