This post is a roundup of some recent articles that didn’t fit into any of my other themes. Hopefully there is a little something here for all of my diverse readers. I am grateful to you all for your readership and support this last year. Have a great Thanksgiving and stay tuned after the Holiday for some exciting news for Bonner Consulting.
Planning allows you to focus on strategic priorities but is the victim of...lack of planning
From Stop Procrastinating & Plan for 2013:“Sadly, as the executives of these companies try to navigate uncertain times, they will wonder the following: Why aren't we hitting our goals? Why aren't we all on the same page? Why can't our people execute without having to ask questions at every turn? Why aren't we more prepared? The answer is simple...procrastination…. It's very difficult to make the transition from working IN the business to working ON the business. But one thing is for sure. If you don't start prioritizing strategic planning you will forever be letting the business run you. The sooner you make your strategy and alignment a priority, the sooner you'll achieve goals effectively and create efficiencies that will free up time and resources in your company… Here are the first three steps. 1. Set a date for a 2-day planning retreat before the end of the year. 2. Hire a facilitator or a coach. 3. Engage your team.
Personal Success Depends on Your Ability to Sell
As someone who consistently claims to not be a great salesperson, I have to admit that no matter what your job or level is, the ability to sell your ideas is a on the top 5 list of personal success competencies. Thankfully, if using the definition of selling below – I’m not as bad as I say! From 8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do: “I once asked a number of business owners and CEOs to name the one skill they felt contributed the most to their success. Each said the ability to sell. Keep in mind selling isn't manipulating, pressuring, or cajoling. Selling is explaining the logic and benefits of a decision or position. Selling is convincing other people to work with you. Selling is overcoming objections and roadblocks. Selling is the foundation of business and personal success: knowing how to negotiate, to deal with "no," to maintain confidence and self-esteem in the face of rejection, to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, to build long-term relationships...”
Importance (and great example) of Nonprofit Storytelling
This weekend I was privileged to hear two very thoughtful Program Officers from a large local Foundation talk about how nonprofits can most effectively make a pitch and receive funding. They began by stating that nonprofits must clearly understand the foundations funding priorities, which is easily done with a visit to the foundation’s website. If the funding proposal is “clearly” within the funding priority then a compelling story is needed. (Big no-no is to make your mission or program "stretch" to fit). The Program Officers acknowledged that for many foundations the trend is to look at outcomes, impacts and measures first and story second. However, for the decision makers at this foundation the emphasis is first on a compelling story – which then must include some sense of current or anticipated outcomes. Similarly for most individual donors research suggests the compelling story is the key to increased donations.
We’ve heard before the importance of a good story. The story doesn’t have to be complex or highly produced but does require a good storyteller (another often overlooked personal success skill) and a clear narrative or storyline. Here is an amazing Nonprofit You Tube Video with a compelling “before and after”storyline: 100kHomesYear2.
One of my clients has asked me to create a potential set of training and development activities for a group of mid-level managers. This is a healthcare organization and most of these folks are skilled in their professions (nurse, social worker, etc…) but have had no formal management or leadership training. The organization has needs – and goals – to improve managerial competence, increase feedback & accountability, and create a stronger collaboration and team culture at all levels. As with all such training activities, there are limits and constraints that involve time and resources. For example, there is a limited amount of time that people can be pulled off their jobs for classroom training or peer group discussions. Individual coaching for 25-30 managers is too costly. Therefore, the challenge that we are facing is to determine what 6-8 topics should/can be addressed in short bursts (1-2 hours of training/peer group discussion) to build a foundation for leadership.
So if you were faced with such a leadership development challenge, what topics would you include in the training plan? Use the comment box below or email me your thoughts. Here are several recent articles about core leadership competencies that have helped me to create a far too long draft list of topics.
BALANCING HARD AND SOFT (BEHAVIORAL) SKILLS
The Skills Most Leaders Don't Have (Inc. Nov. 2012) makes the common distinction between hard skills (occupational skills such as Finance or Nursing) and soft skills or competencies which are defined as “the behavioral ways in which people go about their occupational tasks” (collaboration is a good example). The author suggests that Leadership requires its own set of hard skills (i.e. the clarity to make timely and informed decisions; the capability to define priorities and goals). It also suggests that behavioral skills such as holding others accountable to their commitments or working with and for others are equally important.
While I don’t see the need to break out Leadership Competencies into hard/soft skills I do agree wholeheartedly with the author that:
“Unfortunately, many leaders fail to embrace leadership responsibilities
and instead busy themselves with non-leadership tasks - the work their
teams should be doing…The more your role involves leadership, the more
your job must focus on blending the occupational and the behavioral, the
technical and the interpersonal, the hard and the soft.If you cannot
achieve this internal balance, your organization will suffer a similar lack of
equilibrium...This balance can be exceeding difficult, because many people
define themselves by their ability to be experts in their occupational skills
while viewing behavioral skills as secondary or incidental. In this way,
especially for leaders, traditional “soft” skills are harder to get right.”
LACK OF MANAGERIAL COURAGE & CHEATING FREE-RIDERS
One of the topics I know will definitely be included in my training recommendations is Accountability. Few organizations/leaders I have worked with get this right at first. Most avoid holding people accountable to performance expectations or goals because they feel that it will involve conflict or confrontation. Some go to the other extreme and create micro-managing cultures, looking for and punishing every mistake. In One Out of Every Two Managers Is Terrible at Accountability (HBR Blogs) Authors Overfield and Kaiser say, “by far and away the single-most shirked responsibility of executives is holding people accountable. No matter how tough a game they may talk about performance, when it comes to holding people's feet to the fire, leaders step back from the heat.”
The article provides possible reasons for this lack of managerial courage including my favorite, “at a time when talent retention and engaging employees is de rigueur we get silly advice to management such as, "don't give employees a hard time about their weaknesses; celebrate their strengths." The article goes on to describe research about “cooperative contributors”(high performers) versus “cheating free-riders” (you guessed it) and points out...
“Groups of cooperative contributors outperform groups of cheating free-riders. Thus, it is no surprise that groups in which free-riders are punished for their loafing outperform groups in which they are not. The interesting finding in all of this is that the person who does the punishing actually pays a personal price in terms of lost social support. In a nutshell, group performance requires that someone plays the role of sheriff, but it is a thankless job.”
Even if the job of holding poor performers accountable is thankless, as the authors point out, it is key to organizational health. “The unfortunate consequence, however, is that no matter what short-term costs an upwardly ambitious manager avoids by not playing the sheriff, they are overshadowed in the long run by the creation of a culture of mediocrity and lackluster organizational performance. Add this up over time and across departments and business units and the aggregate costs of neglecting accountability can be staggering for everyone.”
Delegation…Accountability…Collaboration - what other core topics you would include in a leadership training and development plan?