Strengthening Your Leadership Culture While Delivering Feedback For Improvement

As a leader, one will occasionally have the need to deliver feedback that is critical of a team member or even the entire team. In doing so, two outcomes are most likely. One outcome has the capacity to hurt morale for the entire team. The other actually builds on the message and strengthens both the team member’s contribution to the entire team as well as the overall result from the team itself. Although criticism is negative, conveying its message properly should become a positive experience in an effective leadership culture.

As the leader, you are also the team’s coach. Ultimately leaders and coaches want to build up their teams. They do not want to browbeat them and create an angry, finger-pointing environment. Their hope is to change behavior in a positive way that enhances how the individual contributes to the success of the team in the future. When a weak link gets stronger, it strengthens the entire team.

For best results, it is of paramount importance to understand how an associate or team will hear your feedback. Look at it through their eyes. Therefore, what language and tone might you use to turn this into a positive coaching experience. Recognize that the person in question most probably feels as if they are trying as hard as they can, even though they are less effective than they should be. They may even feel, rightly or wrongly so, that other factors have contributed to the experience.

Here are some valuable tips for delivering feedback:

– Be unemotional when you deliver negative feedback. If you are emotional, take time to collect yourself and then deliver

the message.

– If possible, confront the person in private where it’s just one-on-one. Never cast blame publicly.

– Keep the feedback focused on the specific act in question. Rarely use terms like “you never do this” or “you always do that”

which tend to generalize or trivialize your message.

– If the entire team needs to hear the feedback, cast the blame publicly but in a way that is broader so everyone shares in the negative message, as well as the positive solution. Together, discuss how to improve and get everyone ultimately to own the solution.

– Before criticizing, try to gather as much information as possible from the person in question. In other words, get them talking about what happened and why they made the decision they did. They may have made the wrong decision, but they might also have been right (and you might learn something!), under the circumstances.

– Without casting blame publicly, turn the experience into a training exercise so that everyone can learn from the feedback.

True, there are times when negative feedback must be personal, especially when there is the need to coach individual improvement – anything from poor listening skills, a lapse in manners, speaking loudly and more.  But most of the time, one person’s error or misjudgment can actually serve as an opportunity for a positive, teachable moment that can help everyone feel good about themselves and their contribution towards helping the team move forward.

Achieving The Leadership Vision: 4 Levels Of Organizational Responsiveness

A leader leads. Armed with a vision and a strategy, a leader must then get his or her people to follow, to make that vision into reality. To accomplish this, the leader must first recognize the level of responsiveness one can expect from the organization in order to best craft the tone of message, together with the level of detail of direction required to get the organization engaged. We have identified four levels of organizational responsiveness. Success at any level is predicated on having the leader communicate his/her vision to the organization in terms it understands.

Level 1 – Intuitive
The team is solidly behind the leader and thinks of ways to move in the vision direction individually on their own, without additional coaching or directives.

Level 2 – Motivated
The team is solidly behind the leader but needs some detailed guidance and direction. However once received, team members are highly motivated to work towards achieving it or solving issues on their own.

Level 3 – Willing
The team respects the leader and is motivated to work for him or her, but requires significant detail and direction in order to know what specifically to do.

Level 4 – Compelled
The team is committed to their jobs, but less so about the leader and/or his/her vision. Direct specifics or, even “orders” are required but once issued, the work will be completed.

Of course, Level 1 is ideal, yet it’s frequently not possible or even realistic to expect to have an organization of mind readers. Also, relying on

Level 1-type management can be risky because “gut” feelings will more frequently go in the wrong direction. Therefore, positioning communications and direction to a place between Levels 2 and 3 is most realistic and likely to achieve the most effective results and has the best chance to get members of the team on board to take ownership of the vision.

It’s Not About You: Great Leadership Is About Moving Everyone Forward

Great leaders typically have careers and resumes that feature a long and impressive list of successful personal accomplishments. However, simply focusing on the goal of growing this list and enhancing one’s own career should never be the top priority of a good leader. In fact, if you are the type of leader who places personal advancement and self-aggrandizement as your main focus, those you lead will quickly sniff out this self-centered motivation and be less inclined to work hardest for you, for the team or for the organization.

In a healthy leadership culture, the leader creates an environment that supports and encourages the advancement of the entire team. Leadership support includes empowering the team and giving them the freedom to accomplish initiatives, making resources available, giving access to skill improvement (training) programs, as well as providing overall encouragement. Encouragement includes the positive; voicing praise for individual contributions to the team’s success, as well as effectively handling the negative in a respectful and sensitive manner.

Ultimately, if a leader can make the team feel fulfilled as a team, it will sense the leader’s broader motivation and feel more inclined to contribute to and to support the leader’s vision for organizational success.

Are You Secure Enough (As A Leader) To Let Your People Make Mistakes?

Most people understand that we learn best from mistakes. However many business environments waste valuable opportunities in the manner they deal with mistakes. Frequently, organizations develop a zero mistake environment that deals harshly with those who make mistakes. We suggest that, for certain types of mistakes, the opposite reaction might be more valuable for the company, as well as for the individual as a budding leader.

We agree that there are a number of kinds of mistakes that do deserve strict policy and treatment. Mistakes due to negligence, carelessness, apathy, or ignorance should never be tolerated, especially those that put the company or its employees at risk.

However well-reasoned initiatives that turn out to be the wrong course deserve a different reaction.  People learn from mistakes. The company now has a more valuable employee, one who has just learned a lesson and now knows why and how not to make the same mistake again. To fire them, may cut free an “asset” at the very moment they have become more valuable. By aggressively reacting negatively to the mistake-maker, you will also likely curtail most if not all future innovation and initiative from that person and from the leadership culture around them. If their mistake was based on rational analysis leading to the wrong conclusion, you now have an easy tweak to get the initiative on the right path, now with greater certainty of success. The mistake could also become a teachable moment for others in the company as well.

Are you maximizing value from mistakes?

In Selecting Your Next Leaders, Here Are 4 Things More Important Than A Great Resume

Perhaps the most important thing every leader must do is to select and prepare his or her successor, or at least to create a leadership culture where budding leaders have the best opportunity to flourish.

However, even in a thriving leadership culture, sometimes it becomes necessary to look outside the organization for its next leader. When that is the case, often the board and its search firm scour resumes to find that one person with a blue chip line of experience together with a storied body of successful experience in just those areas most important to the organization. But don’t stop there. Although experience and expertise are important, we believe there are four characteristics that are even more valuable:

Honesty – a natural inclination to do the honest thing, in both positive and negative situations.

A Listener – someone who automatically listens first and even has the skill to draw out the positions of others in the organization before voicing his/her own.

Optimism – not a Pollyanna, but a person who approaches life from a positive perspective and reflects a positive outlook and environment.

Respect – for people and their ideas, no matter what their status is.

For best results, create your short list based on resumes and then make your final selection based on these 4 qualities.

As A Leader, Are You Communicating Your Expectations To Your Employees?

Years ago, as the new CEO of my company, I set out to tour our divisions once our business strategy and plan had been finalized. I wanted to present it so everyone would be on the same page. After a presentation to one division in particular, I had an opportunity to sit down with their divisional management team to chat.

After a number of their questions relating to where I saw product growth from their division together with an appeal for the allocation of capital resources to support that growth, it soon became apparent that there was a major disconnect here. This division’s product line was in a highly mature category where cash generation from them was our corporate goal and it was critical to supplying capital to other high growth areas of the company. Once I explained that to them, they actually seemed relieved – they knew what was expected of them. I pointed out the change in tenor of our conversation to which they remarked, “no one had ever taken the time to explain their place in the business plan.” “We were stressing over growth when the company just needed us to provide as much cash as possible.” Once they understood their assigned mission and the role they played, they could focus on their part in making it a success.

Don’t make your employees guess what their role is and what your expectations are of them when communicating the company’s plan. To maximize results as a leader, everyone must understand their roles. To accomplish this:

1) take time to present your big picture plan directly

2) clarify everyone’s role in achieving the plan

3) reinforce their worth and value in achieving organizational success.

This will help create a sense of ownership in your employees, and increase the probability of achieving the plan.

4 Powerful New Year’s Resolutions For Leaders

As the calendar flips to 2015, many people will be making New Year’s resolutions. Many of their goals will be personal, some will be professional, but regardless of their nature, creating goals is often an innate characteristic of an effective leader. Here are four suggestions for New Year’s resolutions to better create and maintain an effective leadership culture at your organization: Continue reading

Leadership Culture: The Power of Good Cheer

The holiday season is in full swing. Perhaps a celebratory mood is permeating through your organization—if you’ve fostered an effective leadership culture, it certainly should. After all, having an effective leadership culture is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

This time of year also serves as an annual reminder that effective leadership culture doesn’t necessarily mean being serious all the time—in fact, many of the most effective leaders know how to employ a sense of fun in the workplace without it hindering productivity. Sure, it’s important to know when to buckle down and get your hands dirty, but if that’s what your organization has to do all the time, perhaps your leadership culture needs an overhaul.

The image of a Scrooge or Grinch as the boss might be fine for Hollywood, but in the real world it does not go far towards creating a successful enterprise.  If employees at an organization are whistling while they work, so to speak, chances are it’s because they look forward to coming to work every day knowing that their leader is an approachable, capable person in that role.

The best part about being jovial is that it’s free! A positive-minded leader begets a positive-minded, productive organization. It’s meaningful for your team and always accessible, no matter your resources.

Thanksgiving and Leadership Culture

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, which kicks off the holiday season in earnest. For leaders, that means evaluating and reevaluating the past year by highlighting areas of strong leadership culture within their organization, and also noting areas that need improvement.

A large part of the holiday season is about saying thanks and giving back, and that doesn’t just go for your favorite charity—it can be applied internally to your organization as well. Here are five ways you can forge a stronger leadership culture, just in time for the holidays.

  1. Recognize even the smallest efforts. In addition to a strong leadership culture, an effective team isn’t just driven by its leaders or its stars—the role players matter too. Recognizing the hard work and efforts of each team member, no matter their title, office size or addition to the bottom line, helps leaders to inspire and motivate everyone to work harder. Show everyone that their work matters.
  1. Show appreciation for all ideas, even bad ones. Sometimes when strategizing, the best way to reach a great idea is for leaders to hear a few not-so-great ideas first. This brainstorming process has the potential to open up new and exciting avenues of thought, which may not have been opened had those other ideas not been initially brought up. Leadership culture means recognizing a great idea, but also appreciating that the path to great ideas can often be bumpy.
  1. Do the unexpected. December is generally the month for real thanks at an organization, whether it’s an office party, bonuses or other perks. As an effective leader, why not show your thanks near Thanksgiving as well? A kind gesture to your employees this time of year, no matter how small, can go a long way because an unexpected gift is almost always better received.
  1. Reward exceptional work with an exceptional thank you. Often, cordial messages and other types of thanks are sent electronically, where it’s easier and faster to communicate but perhaps less personal. Take the time to recognize exceptional work with an exceptional thank you—a handwritten note or card is much more tangible and effective in showing your employees that you’re a leader who cares about the work they’re doing.
  1. Thank the employee and their leader. This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. If a lower-level employee is doing exceptional work, it’s important to also take the time to recognize the person or persons directly between them and you—the assistant manager, the manager, the supervisor, whomever is responsible for the day-to-day work of that employee. Effective leadership culture must exist at all levels of an organization for success, and that means recognizing it at all levels, too.

3 Important Signs That You May Not Have A Leadership Culture

An effective leadership culture goes a long way towards building and growing a successful organization.

Just as effective leadership comes in many forms, so does ineffective leadership. The telltale signs of leadership issues may not be immediately apparent on the surface, but rather ones that occasionally bubble up, perhaps subside only to reappear later. The key is to recognize the pattern and implement measures against it—here are three signs you may have leadership issues at your organization. Continue reading