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