It is that time year again! We are working on several proposals to assist clients with creating, updating, or executing their strategic plans. Looking back over the last year, I've written a number of posts that include information or perspectives that may be of use to readers who are also starting the new year off with planning and goal setting. Click on the links below to learn more.
Our Approach and Philosophy
At Bonner Consulting, our planning philosophy, techniques, and the tools we use are based on years of experience working with nonprofits, small businesses, and as organizational leaders. Although every organization has unique objectives in planning, our approach can be successfully adapted to many different organization’s needs and situations. (read more and see a graphic of our planning process)
Seduction of Opportunity versus Clarity of Purpose
In our strategic planning work with organizations, we often find ourselves reminding the participants that Planning is not necessarily a synonym for growth. Scaling down activities (or eliminating them) may often be the most appropriate planning decision. Thus having the discipline to “do less”will lead to greater success. (read the blog post)
Creating an EXECUTABLE Strategic Plan
Creating the plan is often the easy part. Executing on the plan is where the hardest work begins. In this article we provide advice for ensuring your plan is executable.
Additionally, our experience has taught us that in order for a plan to be effectively executed this step is key: Once those high level corporate goals are in place and clear, they must be communicated to everyone as the basis for their own goals. The most common way for this to happen is through the process known as “cascading” goals. This cascade ensures that the high level strategy of the organization is translated into and reflected in the specific goals of each department, team, manager and individual employee.
How to Cascade Strategic Goals to all Employees
So how do you cascade goals? Well most of our clients first establish 3 year top level organizational goals (the strategic or operational plan), and then they break these down into a subset of goals for the first year. Next comes action plans for these first year goals where departments or indviduals are identifed to carry out some of the specific tactics.
Most organizations use their performance management systems to help establish the "line of site" from their strategic planning goals to each individual. Read more about how to establish individual goals here: Setting
Performance Goals for Yourself or Your Team
Hope this helps as you start on your strategic planning activities. Let us know if we can help in the planning process, organizational assessments, environmental scans, or with facilitating your internal discussions.
In this last post of the year we gather up some great resources to help you and your organization forge goals and plans for the new year. We wish you all a peaceful and warm holiday season and we look forward to working with you in 2013.
Growing New Types of Teams
In this article, and new book, on Teaming in the 21st Century, the author makes several interesting points about teams and accountability. The nature of teams and teamwork in changing and requires a more fluid approach. “"We've seen fewer stable, well-designed, well-composed teams, simply because of the nature of the work, which is more uncertain and dynamic than before. As a means for getting the work done, we've got to focus on the interpersonal processes and dynamics that occur among people working together for shorter durations.". Because of this, “people have to get good at teaming"—reaching out, getting up to speed, establishing quickly who they are and what they bring, and trying to make progress without a blueprint. The skill set involves interpersonal awareness, skillful inquiry, and an ability to teach others what you know.”
Leaders of team must make sure that people involved in collaboration understand the importance of interdependency and communication. Leaders must also be careful not to penalize the well-intentioned failure of the group. However, accountability must be present for the team to perform, “But not coming down hard doesn't mean coming down soft. "Psychological safety is not about being nice; it's not about letting people off easy and being comfortable. It's about the courage to be direct and holding high expectations of each other, understanding that uncertainty and risk are part of the work, as is the occasional failure. A leader's challenge is to set a climate where psychological safety, accountability, and pressure to do the best possible work exist together.”
Growing Leaders and Managers
Today’s mailbox brought this great summation from the American Management Association of how we move through the roles of Doer, Manager, and Leader in our Career (and sometimes by the hour). I think not recognizing these changing roles gets us in the most trouble. I’d suggest you read the article, but here are a few highlights:
Doers are the PRODUCERS of work. Managers create a positive ENVIRONMENT. Managers exist in a political, competitive universe that is concerned with relationships as much as the work. Leaders invent the FUTURE. Leaders often find themselves alone, going out ahead of the crowd to see what’s coming, to greet the new. Doers coordinate. Managers collaborate. Leaders originate. Once you get the distinction between the three roles it is important to understand what’s required from each role.
“One: You need to know which cycle you’re in, for you can experience them all throughout your career. Two: All day long, in any one position, you may need to follow, then manage people and projects, and, more rarely, lead. One moment we dig in and work . . . the follower. The next, we direct and motivate .. . the manager. Sometimes we initiate and persuade . . . the leader. Three: No one is a leader all the time. Trying to spend all your time in the leader mode is not much better than missing it altogether. Leadership is not a full-time role for anyone—not even CEOs or presidents. A leader initiates and then propels change forward. Change has an expiration date. No one wants to live in such flux, and no one wants the burden of leading all the time; leaders are happy to revert to managing when they can. Though there are always overlapping duties, each cycle determines what others expect of you and how they rate you.”
While we are on the topic of Management, check out this article Lessons from a Reluctant Manager from Fortune. Where a 20-something provides some excellent lessons she’s learned, the hard way, about being a manager
A new study from the Center for Creative leadership, Emerging Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations: Myths, Meaning and Motivations, tackles a topic near and dear to me. “The demands of the nonprofit sector have not been matched by investment in leadership talent. Equipping people to lead through change and challenge has been largely overlooked. Nonprofits rarely have the structures or funding for providing development opportunities for employees. Long-established leaders often hold tightly to their roles, and most funders don't place a high priority on building a leadership pipeline.” Because of this, "The sector is beginning to see the implications of this neglect," says Karen Dyer, director of CCL's Education and Nonprofit sector. "We have a capacity gap that will require significant investments and new approaches to attract, keep and grow effective, creative nonprofit leaders." The study provides suggestions for leaders and funders on how to close the gap.
And from the Nonprofit Quarterly we get this article: Beyond Financial Oversight: Expanding the Board’s Role in the Pursuit of Sustainability. The article includes some key questions to help your board move from the role of oversight to dealing with your financial sustainability. This is a must read for Executive Directors, Board Chairs and all Board members.
Faith In Humanity
So much heartbreaking news in the last few weeks has left me sad and helpless; fearful that there is so little I can do to tackle such huge issues as gun control, mental illness, poverty, and social justice. And then I viewed this (warning get out your tissue box): 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year.
Peace to all of you.
I am excited to announce the next phase of Bonner Consulting’s growth with a renewed focus on serving the nonprofit community. Read more below about our formula for Nonprofit Sustainability, join me in welcoming Kate Sphar to the team, and learn about how together we plan to fill the void in the Nonprofit Consulting market left by the closing of Dewey & Kaye.
Leslie Bonner & Kate Sphar Collaborate to Provide Nonprofit Consulting Services
The landscape of consulting for nonprofits in our region is changing. As you may be aware, Dewey & Kaye (now ParenteBeard) will no longer be providing
consulting services as of the end of the year. We extend congratulations to Kate Dewey on her new role as President of the Forbes Funds.
We are pleased to announce that as veteran consultants, and DK alumni, we are joining forces to provide our Nonprofit Community with customer-centered services that grow and sustain individual organizations and the sector as whole.
We share skills in nonprofit planning and assessment and an understanding of the challenges faced by nonprofits of all sizes and in all sectors. Leslie’s experience in Nonprofit Organizational, Leadership and Board development is complemented by Kate’s strong knowledge of Nonprofit Sustainability (financial health, business planning and management, collaborations and alliances). Together we will bring a strategic perspective, an interdisciplinary approach, and a combined 40 years of experience working with over 300 nonprofit organizations. And, as needed, we will identify other highly qualified individuals with complementary expertise to add to our Nonprofit Consulting Team.
Nonprofit Sustainability and the Iron Triangle
We believe that in order for a nonprofit to be sustainable a balance must be struck between the organization's mission/programs, the human capacity or talent, and the financial assets that are available. As one aspect grows, or shrinks, so should the others. The graphic below illustrates this concept. Note the triangle is made of iron, not rubber. This would prevent what many nonprofits try to do – stretch their limited people and financial assets to meet expanding mission or programs. To do this stretching thing over the long term is not sustainable. It can produce the same result as overstretching rubber band – a complete and sometimes painful break.
* The Iron Triangle is adapted from the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Linking Mission and Money
Our Consulting Services to Grow and Sustain Nonprofits
Just as the Sustainability Triangle illustrates, our nonprofit services fall into three similar groupings. Our strategic plans and assessments also focus in these three areas.
Click here to learn more about the services we provide, our individual backgrounds, and here to view resources and tools. If you have an interest in learning more about our services, please contact us today. We appreciate your referrals as well as your feedback, suggestions, and support.
Leslie Bonner Kate Sphar
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?
My latest quarterly newsletter can be found here: http://conta.cc/VxmFV0 and contains a new article on Succession Planning: 5 Steps to Identify and Develop Leadership Talent.
Last Chance to Register for the Succession Planning Seminar
The Forbes Funds Invites Nonprofit Staff and Board Members to Attend
NOVEMBER 1, 8:00 - 10:45 AM
Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
RSVP to Benjamin Hemmings at firstname.lastname@example.org
Facilitated by Leslie Bonner and Gay Fogarty, this workshop will focus on strategic leader development, emergency succession, and ensuring executive transitions in key positions throughout the organization.
Cohort Opportunity An application for participation in a Succession Planning cohort will be released at the seminar. Approximately ten executive directors will be identified to participate in the learning cohort designed specifically for Executive Directors preparing to transition out of the organization within the next three years and will entail a diagnostic, coaching plan, peer learning sessions and ongoing follow-up
On November 1 I will be facilitating the Forbes Funds Seminar on Nonprofit Succession Planning. My co-facilitator will be my good friend, Executive Coach, Gay Fogarty. An application for participation in a Succession Planning cohort/peer group will be released at the seminar. To learn more or to register visit the Forbes Funds website.
As I prepare for the presentation, it occurs to me how much of what is accepted best practice for nonprofits applies equally to small and mid-sized businesses. But first lets clarify what succession planning is and isn’t.
Succession Planning does not mean that the current CEO is stepping down immediately or in the short term. Effective, sustainable organizations are always looking to develop their future leaders and understand the importance of having a contingency plan in case the current leader is hit by the proverbial bus.
There are three types of commonly defined succession planning activities.
a. The first is the creation of an Emergency Succession Plan (for the “hit by the bus” scenario) that outlines who will do what to ensure stability in a situation where the organizational leader is suddenly not at the helm. This scenario often includes the hiring of an interim leader while a search is conducted.
b. The second activity is described as “defined departure” succession planning. In this scenario, the leader has announced that at some point in the future, she/he will be leaving and a longer- term plan is created to conduct a search – internally or externally – for a successor and develop a transition plan.
c. The third activity overlaps, underpins, and reinforces the first two. This “strategic leadership development” is the conscious development of identified potential leaders in the organization to ensure future sustainability and continuity of the organization.
In a previous career as a Corporate Executive Recruiter, I learned the phrase “Borrow, Buy, or Build” as applied to leadership development and succession planning. In the sudden absence of a leader you can “borrow” talent through the hiring of an interim (or temporary executive). Hiring a consultant or outsourcing part of the job is also a way to ‘borrow” talent. “Buying” talent usually means going outside the organization to hire experienced talent at the going market rate. While there are times when this strategy makes sense (new ideas and strategies may be needed), it is often the most expensive choice because of the failure rate of a good match between talent, expectations, and culture. Building your talent internally is the most effective way to ensure continuity of the organization as knowledge is passed down, and identified future leaders help to set strategy. It has the added benefit of helping to retain and engage high potentials who seek development, training, and new challenges.
So if succession planning and leadership development is a good strategy for building sustainability, effectiveness, engagement , etc., why don’t most organizations (nonprofit/business) have one? First is the reluctance to think about “replacing” the current leader. If this person has no plans to leave, the idea of starting this discussion seems emotional or painful. It is often up to the leader at the top to instigate and then support succession planning and leadership development activities. Next are excuses such as, it costs too much, we are too busy for this now, we don’t have an obvious successor on board, or, “I don’t want to upset everyone else by singling out 1 or 2 people”. In my opinion, all of these fall under short term comfort at the expense of long term gains.
Bridgespan Group, in recent research, says that nonprofits “tend to frame the issue very narrowly as “succession planning,” a term it says suggests search to replace an Executive. “That search may be frantic or it may be well planned and executed,” Bridgespan says.“But in any case, it is an intermittent, isolated activity.” In comparison, the most successful succession planning “is not a periodic event triggered by an executive’s departure,” it says. “Instead, it is a proactive and systematic investment in building a pipeline of leaders within an organization, so that when transitions are necessary, leaders at all levels are ready to act.”
One last thought for nonprofit and business leaders – especially those that are founders or who have been in their jobs for a long time. Think you’re not ready to hand over the reins or developing your successor? Ask yourself these questions (derived from Compass Point’s Am I Still the Leader This Organization Needs?):
a. In what ways will this organization/business be changing over the next 5 years? What skills will it take to lead those changes? Do I have them?
b. What level of excitement do I feel most mornings on my way to the office?
c. What new skills have I developed over the past couple of years? Am I still eager and open to learning new things and developing my skills?
d. Do I continue to be effective in building the leadership and management skills of my direct reports? What new duties or responsibilities have I handed over to them in the past two years (and let them do without interference or constantly second-guessing)?
e. Can I conceive of a career move that would potentially excite and re-energize me? Or will I be bored and without meaning to my life?
For my nonprofit readers, hope to see you at the seminar on November 1st where we will provide a roadmap for succession planning. For business leaders who have an interest in learning more, contact me to continue the conversation.
7 out of 10 managers I work with admit that they don’t like managing other people. Like much in life (e.g. losing weight, managing your time, etc.) it sounds easy, and you can “learn” how to do it by reading a book, or taking a class, or getting a coach. However once you start to apply the learning, you discover that all of the daily decisions and unique situations involved in managing others drains your energy and can be very frustrating. Learning is abandoned; coping and instinct take over with mixed results.
Struggle to Manage? Here is the most useful tool I've found.
This article from Fast Company, How To Manage When You Hate Being A
Manager, suggests a premise that I start with in every manager training and coaching session that I do. First, you need to understand your personal management, communication, and decision-making style and behaviors. Then you need to understand the styles of your employees, what they need from you to be motivated and effective. And then you need to adapt and customize your style to each of your employees. The author mentions the Myers Briggs personality instrument, but I tend to use another, the DISC Management Profile, to help managers identify and adapt their styles. Here is an example of this simple but robust tool to help you understand your style and how to adapt it to better direct, delegate, develop and motivate your employees.
Changing Employee Behaviors is Even Harder. Here are 10 tools.
Managing others is often about getting them to change their behaviors or adapting to changing requirements. This is extremely hard, very situational, takes a long time, and requires that you have a varied toolbox. In this EXCELLENT summary of change techniques, Ten Ways to Get People to Change, Morten Hansen makes the point that you can’t use just one or two of these tools to leverage change, but rather you must use them all at the same time:
“These ten principles for changing behaviors are rooted in different
theories that are rarely put together:Sharpen the destination (1-3),
activate social processes (4 and 5), tweak the situation (6 and 7), and
revamp traditional HR levers (8-10). Why don't we see more successful
change in organizations? Because managers use only a few of these
levers. Use them all.”
I especially appreciate his 10th change lever - which many managers/leaders fail to consider because it is often the hardest:
“Hire and fire based on behaviors. The list so far is about changing
the person. But there is also selection: Change the composition of the
team. Get people who embody the desired behaviors and get rid of those
that clearly do not. This is based on theories of role fit: Match strengths
(including your current behaviors) to what the job requires. This also goes
for you: Fire yourself and find a better job if need be.”
While on the subject of getting your people to change, it is important to understand why they are resisting the change in the first place in order to strategize ways around the resistance. Check out this article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ten Reasons People Resist Change.
I am currently working with 3 different clients on some aspect of setting employee performance or personal development goals and how these will be used to measure and reward employees. While all 3 organizations have slightly different issues they, as well as many of the organizations I have worked with in the past, struggle with setting the right employee performance goals, determining how to measure them, and getting employees to partcipate in setting goals.
It often surprises me how strongly employees at all levels resist setting their goals and resent when goals are set for them. It seems to me that by suggesting and/or participating in your own goal setting you have the opportunity to manage expectations and focus your work or personal development goals on something that is important, relevant, and realistic. If you have one ambitious, career-oriented, bone in your body you do what I describe below already and often unconsciously. Ask yourself: “What is the one really big thing I can do, learn, and show that will get me ____ (a promotion, more money, visibility, or responsibility). Who will I involve in helping me to set or reach this goal? Whose ‘buy-in” do I need? How will I measure the goal and know if I am making progress? How will I make sure my progress and focus is visible to my boss?
Earlier in the year I wrote an article on How to Create an Executable Strategic Plan that described principles from Stephen Covey’s Book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Many of the points I made in the article are just as relevant to personal goal setting, such as:
Recently several articles have described the role of confidence in leadership. The articles, excerpted below, detail how too much confidence/assertiveness result in the perception of a leader as an egotistical jerk (men) or aggressive bitch (women) who does not play well with others. Definite career derailers in most organizations! A lack of confidence or aggressiveness, if perceived as shy, fearful, indecisiveness, or overly accommodating, is equally harmful to a leader’s presence and effectiveness.
Discovering the right level of confidence for you requires getting objective feedback and developing your self-awareness. As one of the authors writes, the key to learning how to be more appropriately confident and assertive is to understand the organizational context, assess your behavior, and then make the appropriate adjustments.
De-Constructing Executive Presence
Author John Beeson in this HBR article says, “executive presence is ... boils down to your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.”
Beeson asserts that executive presence can be developed — if you have “a baseline of self-confidence and a willingness to deal with the unpredictable situations that go with the territory at the executive level.” He suggests that you, “start by addressing the basics. Find a couple of trusted people who will give you unvarnished feedback…”
“Most important, find your voice as an executive: that is, identify your assets and leverage them to the hilt. Some people are naturally gregarious and can fill a room with their personality. Others…rely on their listening ability, sense of timing, and ability to maintain their composure when others get emotional.“
How to Be Assertive (Without Losing Yourself)
In another HBR article, author Amy Gallo declares, “Managers need some degree of self-confidence to be effective.” "The right amount of assertiveness, respect for others, and intelligence is what makes a great leader," says Lauren Zander, co-founder and chairman of the Handel Group.
"There's a sweet spot for assertiveness. If you're below the range, you're not going to get your way. If you're above it, you're not getting along with others," says Daniel Ames, a professor of management at Columbia Business School. “Assertiveness is not universally understood to be a positive trait. Before you make changes to your behavior, know the context you are working in. Does the culture — national, regional, or organizational — truly value forcefulness? Or do you work in a situation where a persuasive, quiet approach is sometimes more esteemed?”
Echoing a theme from my recent posts on Women and Negotiation, the article points out that whether your assertiveness will be rewarded also depends on your gender. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, author of How Women Mean Business warns that women who ask for what they want are often described as "bitchy and aggressive." Ames agrees: "The range of latitude for women is smaller for what they can get away with," he says. Consider the implications of your behavior before you alter it.
Why Every CEO Needs a Coach
Cited in this Psychology Today article, a study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision, concluded one characteristic of powerful and successful leaders is high levels of self-confidence. “Unfortunately, the researchers say, the higher the self-confidence, the less likely these leaders are open to advice and feedback. They also make the point that powerful leaders seldom get useful feedback in their organizations. Subordinates are loath to give bad news or critical feedback.”
The article’s main point is that lonely and stressed out CEO’s often benefit from a coach that can provide them with objective feedback and perspective. This is especially true because among all of the reasons why CEOs fail, most have to do with hubris, ego, and a lack of emotional intelligence. “Call it overconfidence or ego, but powerful and successful leaders often distrust or feel they don’t need advice from anyone.”
“Good leaders make people around them successful. They are passionate and committed, authentic, courageous, honest and reliable. But in today's high-pressure environment, leaders need a confidante, a mentor, or someone they can trust to tell the truth about their behavior. They rarely get that from employees and infrequently from board members.”