There are many insightful books on the market today that identify various characteristics and approaches to leadership. Each one has important things to say about the nature of leadership and the characteristics that great leaders possess.
Our work with hundreds of leaders over the past 10 years has led us in a new direction, one that identifies a set of behaviors that can grow over time and can lead to the kind of leadership that organizations need.
We have learned that leadership functions on identifiable levels. Each level is important to the effective operation of a section of the organization. But each has a fundamentally different focus and intent, based upon two separate uses of time:
1. How a leader spends his/her mental time.
2. How a leader spends his/her physical time.
What does he do during the workday?
What kinds of tasks is she involved in?
What types of actions does he take?
Since leaders can be focused on a wide range of thoughts and behaviors, understanding this range helps us recognize what level of leadership is in use. What follows, then, is a picture of leadership that looks like this:
When AFPD begins working with a client, we always want to understand how the organizational or corporate culture is contributing to employee and customer retention. An office that is welcoming and helpful makes customers feel wanted and valued. Employees who go out of their way to help each other and their customers provide an atmosphere that customers can sense and that the employee team enjoys.
Why worry about turnover?
When an organization's culture is not attentive to employees and customers, turnover generally goes up. A number of research studies have calculated the cost of employee turnover, and it is expensive. We all know that.
But so is the cost of customer turnover. How do we calculate the amount of lost revenue if a customer chooses to go elsewhere? What does this cost the company over the next year? 2 Years? 5 years? Hard to calculate, but very costly!
The best companies spend tremendous amounts of time, energy, and resources on retaining both employees and customers. There are arguably no better dollars spent than these, because the return on these investments goes directly to the bottom line.
World-class companies in any industry generally have cultures that put their customers and their employees at the top of the value list. This is no accident. They intentionally commit to this because they have discovered that there is no better value available. Spending the time and energy to honestly understand your company’s culture and to focus it on the retention of both employees AND customers can transform your business and contribute significantly to an increase in your bottom line.
When we think of team leadership, most of us think of an assigned position. Committee chair, facilitator, team leader, whatever name we give to the person in charge, well ... they are the boss.
But in high performing teams, leadership is shared. It is more of a role or temporary assignment than a particular person. High performing team members share responsibility for leadership, and whoever is most uniquely qualified to lead a particular assignment or activity, steps up and assumes the role.
For instance, if a team is planning an event, they may decide to produce a brochure to market it. In a high performing team, a member who is talented in that area will volunteer (or "be volunteerered") to lead that task. There is no regard for title or tenure, just ability to function well to accomplish the goal. Leadership is assigned and then when the work is completed, so does that particular role.
In other cases, a team has an ongoing need for a particular expertise, and there will be one or two members who typically step up and provide that knowledge to the team. My business partner, Tom and I function that way sometimes. His undergraduate degree is in English. He is always our final editor on our blogs or any written report for that matter. On the other hand, when there is a project to manage, I usually lead. He can certainly lead a project, it is just that I have a natural talent and proclivity toward that kind of organizing. Our unspoken (mostly) arrangement gives us an advantage, we know who shines in which area, and we lean on one another's leadership.
Teams that share leadership are responsive, flexible and can move at lightening speed. That is why they are high performing teams.
Continually developing your career is a critical part of being a successful professional in the 21st century. To advance, you must continuously grow or risk settling and stagnating.
A few key strategies will help you keep improving and moving up the professional ladder. As with most sound ideas, these strategies seem deceptively simple, but can actually be difficult to implement. Doing so, however, will be your best bet for progress.
Simply put, helping others makes them more likely to help you. Reciprocity is a primary motivating force, and is the basis for "free" promotions and samples in the business world. It can be painful to receive help but provide nothing in return. Helping others before they've done anything for you not only feels morally right, but should prove professionally smart too, as it instills an obligation in others to return the favor and creates a network of people favorably disposed to you and more likely to try to help you with advancing your career.
Become A Resource
In practice, your actual workplace roles are not exactly as prescribed on an organizational chart. You can become a go-to person and resource for others, regardless of what your role is limited to on paper. This includes not only being an expert in your role but also helping out others with their jobs and taking on undesirable duties as they occur -- for instance, by helping with training or organizing meetings and events. By expanding beyond the limits of your role in being a resource for others, you appear more dynamic and become essential, making your absence more noticeable.
Nothing will help you become an expert in your field better than learning the tips and firsthand experience of those who have been there longer than you. Seeking the help of other professionals, for a mentorship or just general advice, will not only help you learn things you might not have thought of otherwise, but will also demonstrate your dedication to your job and desire to improve, all of which should help you advance.
Set Your Sights Several Steps Ahead
In general, you will get nowhere unless you have an intended destination. Your overall goal will not be immediately achievable, but you must have a clear goal so you can create a path to get there. The job you want may, and probably should, be several promotions away, but once you know where you are trying to go, you can use that as a guide for every difficult decision you make. Ask yourself, "Will choosing this option help me reach my goal?" If the answer is yes, you do it, and if not, you don't.
Play to Your Strengths
No one has an infinite amount of time to become expert in all aspects of the business world or their profession. Some things you will never be particularly good at, no matter how much time and effort you devote to them. Rather than focus your efforts on becoming OK at things you do poorly, try to focus as much as possible on what you do well and pursue opportunities that will enable you to play to your strengths. The most successful business people are rarely brilliant at all aspects of their business; they focus on the few things they do particularly well. Being even better at what you do well is far more important for advancing your career than becoming mediocre at other things.
One of the most important characteristics of high performing teams is Constructive Conflict Resolution. After being appointed to a committee recently, I realized that I was the "newbie". Everyone else on the team had worked together pretty consistently for years. As we worked through the task at hand, I was amazed at this team's ability to deal with dissenting opinions, and it became clear that there were 3 key elements to our positive process.
We genuinely respected one another and wanted to understand each member's point, so we listened carefully to each other. (Including the "newbie").
Our individual egos weren't invested in the outcome--we wanted the best decision for the organization.
We stayed focused on the job we came to do.
Remembering these three points will help any team resolve its disagreements or differing opinions. In fact, if you think about it, these three elements may be the most essential elements of working on a team. Even though it was hard work, we completed our task and we enjoyed ourselves as we did it. In the process we experienced the very best of working together as a high performance team.
Try it. Let me know if it works for you, too.
In the business world, team coaching is designed to help each 'player' on the team perform at a top level and to bring these individuals together as a cohesive, finely-tuned unit. In sports, the goal is to win the game, have a winning season. In business, the goal is to increase productivity and profitability.
In today's competitive climate, innovation is key to the success. While creativity includes the generation of new, valuable ideas, innovation is what turns those ideas into profitable activities. Every product or service ever brought to market began with an idea in someone's mind of how something could be changed for the better.
Many potentially profitable ideas, however, have died on the vine through a lack of innovation, or a process for bringing substance to that idea. Effective team coaching fosters a culture of empowerment and helps team members perform in unison to translate the vision of the organization into reality. Team coaching can help produce a heightened sense ofawareness of key issues and can speed up the problem-solving process.
Innovation often stalls or breaks down as a result of certain dysfunctions common to work teams. These may include:
- Lack of trust between members
- Lack of commitment toward the mission of the organization
- Fear or avoidance of conflict
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to the results of daily activities
Effective team coaching addresses these dysfunctions by motivating members to honestly confront them and to transform them into team strengths. When done well, team coaching can also improve morale and help increase productivity and profitability and leadership.
Carefully study the executive management of any successful business and you will find a cohesive and comprehensive senior leadership team. The strength of this team is structured around the individual strengths of the team members, and how well those strengths blend and complement each other. It is not necessary that each member be well rounded, but it is an essential characteristic for developing a successful senior leadership team.
Results from a recent survey based on the work of Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., the creator of the Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment, identified four general categories of leadership strengths. Following are the categories and some of their characteristic traits.
- Strategic Thinking:
- Relationship Building:
A highly effective senior leadership team must have members who represent each of these four categories. A more successful team will not have one dominant person who tries to do everything alone, or a group of individuals with similar strengths. Instead, there will be a broad representation of these four general classifications.
The next obstacle in creating the best senior leadership team possible is to evaluate the strengths of the team members. It is important to realize each member will very likely have strengths that fall into different categories. Then it is necessary to determine how to best utilize these strengths and how to blend them all together into a cohesive team.
How will you develop these strengths to the best advantage of the team and the company? How will the team work together to strengthen each other? Is there an important component missing from your team?
Team coaching can take the individual strengths of your team members and multiply them, creating one single powerful and extremely effective leadership team.
With team coaching you will learn to recognize the true potential of your team members and your team as a whole. That potential will then strengthen your entire business.
Some advantages of team coaching for your senior leadership team:
- The individual strengths of your team members will be identified and developed. People will discover they have strengths they were unaware they possessed.
- Self-esteem among your team will increase, and this will be carried from the meeting rooms to the rest of the business.
- An outside team coach has no pro-conceived ideas of where any individual team member fits into a category or area of responsibility. This opens the possibility to discover a multitude of unknown talents and skills.
- Your team will experience increased personal belief in their individual achievements and that of the company.
- Communication and feedback will be expanded, leading to new and innovative ideas.
- With the team working together and balancing each other’s strengths, productivity will increase.
The senior leadership team within any business should be the most important group in that organization. The decisions they make have serious implications for everyone within the business, and for the continued future of the business.
Albert Einstein said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created then.”
Senior leadership teams within major businesses are a relatively new concept. The idea of team coaching is even newer. Nonetheless, both ideas have proven to be very valuable. The complexities inherent in today’s global business world have made it impossible for one, or even two, senior executives to effectively operate a successful business.
Diversity in the marketplace calls for diversity in the management team. Team coaching can help you harness that diversity.
One of the more challenging experiences an executive coach has is working with powerful personalities. I found myself face-to-face with one of these experiences recently and learned a great deal about the importance of coaching experience and technique. The gentleman I was asked to coach was not just extremely confident, he was convinced that he knew the answers to practically everything. He spoke loudly and rapidly, as if he couldn’t get the words out fast enough. It was exhausting.
During the first 20 minutes of my initial coaching session, I realized what his co-workers experienced every day. They did not know how to slow him down or how to get him to listen to their suggestions or solutions. He already had them, so why should he listen to anyone else.
Listen first. I learned years ago from one of my mentors that the real work with extreme personalities is twofold:
Listen long enough to let them know that you value what they have to say.
Once you have heard them, have the courage to point out the short-term effectiveness of this behavior, but how ineffective it is in the long term. What they gain in short term solutions actually inhibits the growth of their team.
Benevolent Intent. At AFPD we believe in the concept of benevolent intent– most people in most situations are trying to do the best they can. Extreme personalities want to get problems solved and they want to demonstrate their worth to their teams, to their bosses, to their companies.
When extreme personalities see that their method of communication is self-defeating, it becomes much easier to help them move to a middle ground that works better for everyone.
Breaking old behavior patterns and implementing new ones is a task that can be greatly enhanced with a personal coach. A personal coach is at your side as you struggle with new behaviors and will encourage and support you as you develop a new approach to success.
Why Is Change So Hard?
We’ve all seen it. A particular behavior causes us problems, so we make a concerted effort to change it. And the change works, for a while. Then we gradually slide right back into the old behavior and end up with the same problems.
Why does this happen? And why is it so hard for human beings to effectively change a behavior pattern for good?
The answer isn’t because we are weak or unwilling to change. It lies in brain patterns. These are the brain pathways that develop when we repeat a behavior over and over again. Each time we perform an action we strength the neuronic pathways in the brain, making them more efficient and easier to use.
The Interstate Highway in our Brain
A familiar behavior pattern is like speeding down the interstate on cruise control. Even though we may slow down or change lanes once in a while, we are still on the highway.
Changing an ingrained behavior means getting off the interstate and getting onto a back road full of ruts and bumps. Who wants to do that? It is so much less efficient. In order to create a new behavior, we have to slow down, try something new, and be aware of how much slower it is going to be, at least for a while.
Creating New Patterns
The key to real behavioral change is creating new behavior patterns. The only way to do that is to be intentionally different, even if (or especially if) it less effective. Your personal coach encourages you and helps you as you work on these new behaviors, making it easier to create the new pathways in your brain. And the more you repeat them, the more they become second nature—your new interstate.
Executive Coaching can be an unsettling process to someone who has not had the opportunity to participate before. Sometimes the whole idea of talking with someone who will be messing around in their business can lead strong individuals to hesitate in their participation.
Reluctance to coaching can take several forms:
- Failure to set up appointments
- Missed appointments
- Not doing the work
- Avoiding difficult topics
All of these behaviors can be traced back to set of common themes. Internal, personal resistance to change. A fear of someone getting too close. Not wanting/willing to look weak. A perceived loss of control.
Powerful But Not Fatal. All of these themes are powerful, but they do not have to be fatal. Coaching is the process of facilitating change.
Openly addressing any of the above behaviors gives both the coach and the coachee the opportunity to discover things they did not know about themselves, including the ability to deal straightforwardly with very difficult issues.
Identify and Label. The most important step in dealing with reluctance is to identify it and label it in an honest, straightforward way. Calling it what it is frees both parties up to have the hard discussion around what is creating the reluctance and what they want to do to remove it.
This recognition and removal opens up opportunities to talk about where reluctance may be showing up in other areas of the individual’s professional life. This is where the real growth begins.