If you monitored the United States’ presidential election process or the corporate woes of Nokia and Research in Motion as they try to recover what were formerly massive stakes in the cellular phone market, then you realize that worthwhile change, even when planned, is neither simple nor easy; it is complex and difficult. Organizations struggling most with change, therefore, seem to be the ones that also struggle most with innovative thinking. Successful organizational changes are possible – just not as clear-cut and idealistic as some management books and journal articles would lead you to believe. Many readers can likely recall an encounter with an Organizational Development (OD) consultant ending with a forgotten, polished report. Separated by time and distance from the change implementation process, the projects appeared clean and clear recipes for new life. But, just as recipes are ineffective if the proper ingredients are not gathered in the correct measurements, at the right time, and combined by the proper tools, so change-management plans are also ineffective if misdirected and misapplied.
Organizational leaders, with or without the aid of consultants, are responsible for these spectacular changes or disasters. C-suite leaders are routinely hired and fired with the understanding that they will bring the “magic” that makes change work, resulting in innovation, efficiency, increased brand value and earnings, reduced turnover, and improved talent acquisition. Surely, useful methods for successful change exist and are routinely highlighted by change-management experts. Still, there are also obstacles that hinder change management – some errors of commission, others of omission, and they primarily affect individuals on the receiving end of leaders’ visions for change. Among these obstacles, any which makes or breaks follower buy-in is nonnegotiable. It must be addressed well. When unaccounted for, these organizational booby-traps trip up unaware interventionists and halt progress – to the often repeated rate of 70% failure.
Two coalescing perspectives of the change process have dominated OD: Kurt Lewin’s (1890-1947) three-step approach and, more recently, Chris Argyris’ (1923-) theory of intervention and double-loop learning. For Lewin, change processes consisted of:
1) unfreezing the present condition,
2) changing to a new condition as favorable affections replace affections for the old condition, and
3) refreezing the process by which the new condition becomes established.
Essentially, the need for change is realized, desired, and then consistently pursued after a semblance of acceptance for the change is obtained. Argyris’ theory built upon Lewin’s model by introducing discussion about persistent evaluation. In short, he promoted what is called systems thinking, which examines the foundational issues for why problems arise, promoting change at that level. For instance, in collecting performance data, this would mean not only examining the collected data, but it would also entail critiquing the data collection process i.e. Were the correct data collected and the means of collection proper? The point is that alleviating symptoms is not a long-term strategy for successful OD. Leaders need to address root causes – the metaphorical infection causing the sore throat. Effective leaders manage these change efforts like skirmishes comprising a war campaign. For each, they rally their troops’ morale, negotiate resources and leverage competencies, study the benefits and drawbacks of the environment, and assess costs. Such accounting is needed every step of the way because, if not recognized as an opportunity to be well-prepared, each aspect may become a potential obstacle for followers’ change readiness.
The approach most leaders take, resulting in that dismal 30% success rate, is one of firefighting. They see change as inviting resistance, and so they prepare for resistance and learn to “put out fires” along the way. Their fact-pattern is:
Followers naturally react to change, or the idea of change. It is often a matter of perceived control. Some feel they lose while others feel they can only benefit from the change. Successfully timing change events, therefore, requires leaders to monitor followers’ motivations and evidence of growing dissatisfaction with the present situation and greater affinity for the proposed change (willingness to complete additional work, spend extra time onsite, work jointly in cross-functional teams, etc.). These signs indicate readiness for change. Unilateral action should replace politicking when the coalition in favor of change is strong and vocal.
Leaders do not have to settle for such adversarial change-management scenarios. Those projects will exhaust all factions and exacerbate organizational tensions. Instead, leaders ought to seek improvement in organizational relationships throughout the change-management process. These events bring leader-follower tensions and underlying assumptions to the surface, and so they are prime opportunities to address misalignments and strengthen understanding of the organization’s unifying mission while improving operations. The following list of ingredients for effective change management will increase the likelihood of change “sticking” and the organization improving.
1. Organization assessment
Even novice organizations have endured change efforts, and so leaders can look to history for the strengths and weaknesses evidenced in past events, considering: Are the parties to change the same? What cultural barriers remain or have arisen since? Is this change bigger or smaller in scope than past changes? Is this change necessary? How likely will we survive this change? Are there alternatives?
2. Developed vision
Without guidance, change efforts fail. Leaders are responsible for developing the vision for what change will bring – incorporating the needs and expectations of followers and answering and overcoming their concerns. Visions need to clearly describe the organization’s problem as well as inspire followers in counting the cost of change, concluding what is to come is better and more desirable that what is at hand. Fear is another strong motivator; and, when used honorably, powerful visions of negative consequences for failing to change provide additional motivation.
3. Severed ties
In his seminal work, Reflections on the Revolution in France, British statesman Edmund Burke (1791) wrote, “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” His point was that the reform process recognizes institutions’ need for innovation, but such innovations improve institutions only if they uphold the institutions’ purposes. Strong ties to the past are good when anchoring policy decisions, but they must serve the organizational mission. When they do not do that, leaders must help followers disconnect from former ways of operating. As confusion can overtake and divide followers who may wonder whether leaders are hijacking the organization, leaders must be careful. Consider the strife caused by differences in American churches undergoing changes in worship styles. Research shows that shared resolve to change across diverse groups is yoked to successful change implementation. Thus, the more readily the status quo can be questioned by followers, the sooner the organization can adapt to present circumstances.
In 1949, the infamous Mann Gulch fire took the lives of thirteen smokejumpers. The wildfire was unassuming, until drastic changes in the environment caused it to erupt into an inferno of death. Because of their quick-thinking, three men survived. Organizational leaders must recognize the level of immediacy required not only to motivate change, but also understand and effectively communicate the threshold after which change will no longer be possible without grave consequences (cost-prohibitive, lost market share, lost talent, agreement deadlines, etc.).
5. Strong leadership
Strong leaders effectively motivate followers to change given the particulars of a situation. Such leaders often have know-how related to the change event and are respected by the followers involved in it. They are crucial for gaining followers’ support and preference, meaning that followers give such leaders the benefit of the doubt when judging whether the leaders actually considered followers’ good before recommending and guiding change.
6. Key follower sponsorship
Depending on the size of your organization, the primary leader may need to secure the support of and then charge certain followers to become secondary leaders. The further removed the primary leader is from those immediately involved in the required changes, the more important it becomes to have leaders in closer proximity also actively supporting change. Distance creates uncertainty, which dissolves trust – a key resource leveraged by successful leaders. Leaders closer to the action should be better equipped to secure the necessary commitment. But, such leaders must have strong rapport with their followers, or their involvement will be counterproductive.
7. Clear implementation plan
If followers are persuaded but provided with no details of who is responsible for what tasks and outcomes, when such will take place, and how the effort should proceed, along with clearly defined lines of communication for decision-making and mechanisms for follower-feedback and readjustments midcourse, then they will likely become anxious, disengaged, and frustrated. The best plans generate follower ownership and elicit immediate action, having been co-developed with followers’ input from the beginning.
8. Enabled followers
Smooth change occurs when followers have power commensurate with their responsibility. Have you ever been tasked with a responsibility for which you were not equipped? Such inadequate empowerment results in follower stress. In the United States, stress leads to losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Leaders, therefore, need to support and champion their followers, providing them with the resources and organizational support to achieve reasonable outcomes. It is an unfair – and likely to be opposed – change effort which expects from followers what they are incapable of providing (not having access to reasonable resources, required authorizations, vital information, key contacts, etc.). Early adopters, properly empowered, can prove decisive as to whether change sticks or slips.
9. Communication, collaboration, and credibility
Socrates’ statement, “Speak, that I may know thee,” illustrates the important role of communication in manifesting intent. Followers look to leaders for direction and encouragement. Leaders must honor this relationship where they are yielded influence by providing reliability and demonstrating integrity in how they manage the change process – telling the truth even when it means conveying uncertainty as well as less-than-flattering news about the change process proceedings. Collaborating with key followers in communication efforts will help the truth permeate follower constituencies so that rumors are ineffective. Additionally, it will improve trust between followers and top leaders, as followers will hear confirming information from the secondary leaders. Leaders should embrace dialogue, especially when it permits them the opportunity to strengthen followers’ clarity about the organization’s mission.
By highlighting successes along the way in the change process, leaders can help cement positive attitudes about the change in followers’ minds. Some followers may be skeptical, but they will eventually support the change if they continually see their peers and leaders rewarded (financially, socially, emotionally, etc.) for positive engagement. Since development entails the idea of continuousness, reinforcement should not focus on the change specifics; rather, it should promote the culture recognizing the need for change and proactively engaging to strengthen the organization given environmental particulars.
Ultimately, leaders must think through their organization’s situation with humility, being open to correction and advice. In doing so, they will earn their followers’ trust and mitigate many concerns about what change means for their futures.
The change-management approach described above is akin to culture-management. The ability to successfully change an organization for greater effectiveness depends on the organization’s ethos – the thinking patterns of its people. Consider this: research shows the failure of change leaders to address this critical concern is listed as a major reason why 80% of corporate mergers and acquisitions fail. The unasked questions driving success or failure in change efforts are: Can we adapt, improve, innovate, and lead? If not, can we become an organization that does? The ten ingredients provided acknowledge this organizational need for leaders and followers who yoke themselves to the future, understanding the times and honoring the past by properly addressing present and future circumstances. In so doing, they create more collaborative environments where change processes produce fruit rather than thorns.
Aiken, C., & Keller, S. (2008, May). The inconvenient truth about change management: Why it isn’t working and what to do about it. In McKinsey & Company. Retrieved October 19, 2012, from http://www.mckinsey.com/App_Media/Reports/Financial_Services/The_Inco nvenient_Truth_About_Change_Management.pdf
Beck, E. M. (1974). Intervention theory and method. Contemporary Sociology, 3(3), 242-244.
Block, P. (2000). Flawless consulting: A guide to getting your expertise used (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.
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Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. E. J. Payne, ed. 1990. Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.econlib.org/library/LFBooks/Burke/brkSWv2c1.html
Burnes, B. (2004, September). Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change: A re-appraisal. Journal of Management Studies, 41(6), 977-1002. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6486.2004.00463.x
Daft, R. L. (2013). Understanding the theory and design of organizations (11th ed.). N.p.: South-Western, Cengage Learning.
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About the author:
David Stehlik is an independent strategy consultant and in Regent University’s doctoral program in strategic leadership. He received his B.A. from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, MI and MBA from the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, IN.
Removing the Bitter Taste of Change-10 Ingredients for Organizational Transformation You Can Stomach
If you monitored the United States’ presidential election process or the corporate woes of Nokia and Research in Motion as they try to recover what were formerly massive stakes in the cellular phone market, then you realize that worthwhile change, even when planned, is neither simple nor easy; it is complex and difficult. Organizations struggling most with change, therefore, seemDavid Stehlik Articles
Are rules and red tape really necessary? Some companies have rules for everything from holidays to bathroom breaks. Does your company have a policy for when it’s appropriate to create a rule? Most companies don’t; instead they create one whenever an issue comes up that affects operations. This is an ad-hoc approach based on the fear that things can and will go wrong.
Too many rules and you end up spending all your time enforcing them. This creates a lot of work. Some people argue that rules add structure. A certain amount of structure creates freedom because guidelines liberate people and make them more productive. However, most companies place too much emphasis on structure and not enough on their people.
The Pitfalls of Rules
1) Applying the same rules to everyone can cause resentment. Different people have special circumstances. If these are ignored, people feel ignored;
2) too many rules create an atmosphere of prohibition. Employees learn not to rely on their own judgment. Instead of thinking on their feet and taking risks, they use the rules as their fall back position;
3) if it’s not in the rulebook, they may not do it;
4) relying on stale rules deprives employees of their creativity;
5) rules create more rules, which create a lot of administration and, in the long run, are very costly;
6) usually rules spill over onto customers. Soon, if someone wants to buy from your company they must first study and abide by the rules. They could just go somewhere else;
7) too many rules communicate a lack of trust in employees;
8) rules create an attitude. Employees mimic this attitude and it affects how they deal with suppliers and customers. For example, the company has strict policy about payment terms. So employees continually bang customers over the head with payment terms. They are just doing their job;
9) rules affect the atmosphere employees work in and customers buy from. Everyone has had the experience of walking into a store to be greeted with signs like, “Do not touch!” or “You break it you pay”. Imagine being invited into someone’s’ home and seeing signs like these. Would you be eager to come back?
10) managers become parole officers enforcing rules. They get so caught up in who did what wrong, they forget to lead and end up babysitting.
How Rules are Set
How are rules set? Usually an employee does something undesirable, so management creates a policy and punishes everyone. Actually rules are set this way in every facet of the company. Consider this example: a few customer cheques bounce, so the company sets a policy of accepting no personal cheques. It’s hard to estimate how much lost business is directly related to this new policy.
Rules are also set strategically. A company has a certain objective so they create rules to make sure it happens. Instead, why not empower employees to achieve goals, versus punishing them with more rules?
Power Comes from People
Effective managers know power comes from people. The manager’s role is not to have power over people by enforcing rules, but to support and coordinate employees’ efforts. This may be a complete attitude shift for some managers who are used to being in charge.
In most companies, the manager is also expected to be the leader. They can most effectively lead by empowering employees to use their own judgment and skills to benefit the company. Can you trust people to do their job without all the rules and controls? Yes. Most people do the right thing when left to their own judgment. If you tell employees what to do, they will automatically do it your way without calling on their own creativity and judgment. After awhile this creates a stale work environment. Instead of being alive with creative ideas flowing, people dutifully do their jobs.
Stop Relying on Rules
How to stop relying on rules? Empower employees to solve problems on their own, making them a part of the solution. Get them asking, “What is the best way to handle this?” Then, provide them with the resources and support to do it. For example, let’s say it was taking employees too long to go through their email every day. Instead of creating a policy that limits the time spent picking up email, ask employees, “How can we use our email system more effectively?” Let them come up with the solution. Being a part of the solution makes employees more accountable, creating much less paperwork and formality.
For larger organizations it’s more difficult to put the power in people. It takes a tremendous amount of trust. So start slowly. Let employees you know you can trust rely on their own judgment and solve problems on their own.. Go through different work scenarios and ask, “ Can we substitute the rules in this situation for individual judgment? “ Even if employees can’t be involved in setting rules, let them be a part of their implementation. For example, a new policy may be that we want all “accounts receivables” collected within 30 days. Who is going to make this happen? Employees of course. So involve employees in the implementation (how can we collect our accounts quicker?) Employees will be the best judge of this information. Some of their clients have special circumstances that will require a unique approach.
Finally, always make sure that employees know WHY a rule is created. Not only for their own good but because often rules get in the way of helping a customer and employees need to be able to explain why.
The level of accountability appropriate for your organization depends on how much control you feel comfortable giving employees. There is a right mix and balance for every organization
Decide how and when you will set rules. Instead of setting them ad hoc whenever it seems necessary, decide in advance when and where it is appropriate. For example, rules are often necessary for routine things where, otherwise, everyone would do it differently every time, causing chaos. If something comes up that you think requires rules to be developed, ask, “How many people does this directly affect? Will this rule help us deal with future situations or is it just creating more paperwork? Is this something that we can empower employees to deal with themselves and use their own judgment? How can I involve all people who are affected by this policy?”
Be careful where you set rules, they may come back and haunt you.
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About the author:
Jody Urquhart, a popular speaker and writer, is recognized in Canada, the United States and Europe, She has presented her signature topic, Joy of Work, to 65 organizations last year alone. Her monthly column on the same subject appears in over fifty trade journals. Jody is also an associate speaker for the Individual Development Organization in Vancouver where she works with Bill Clennan, the Dean of Canadian Speakers.
Jody holds diplomas in Professional Speaking and Writing from Mount Royal College and in Management and Marketing from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. She studied Management for three years at the University of Calgary. Her business experience includes management positions in both the banking and retail industries. Jody is a proud member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and holds the distinction of being one of its founding board members. Jody is the author of the book “ALL WORK & NO SAY TAKES THE PASSION AWAY”. To order your copy, or to discuss having Jody speak at your next meeting, feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are rules and red tape really necessary? Some companies have rules for everything from holidays to bathroom breaks. Does your company have a policy for when it’s appropriate to create a rule? Most companies don’t; instead they create one whenever an issue comes up that affects operations. This is an ad-hoc approach based on the fear that things can and will go wrong. &nbsJody Urquhart Articles
To produce healthy plants it takes the right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer, and care. Too much water or too little sunlight may hurt your plants. The best gardeners learn through experience and reflection what flowers need to grow and develop. In a similar way, seasoned leaders know what it takes to help people and organizations achieve their potential. They provide the right amount of direction, discussion, coaching and feedback to help people succeed. They have a balanced approach in areas like the following:
1. Task and People
The seasoned leader focuses on both the task and the people. Some leaders are too task-focused. For example, Ralph led a group of seven people. With him it was all business. No small talk or reaching out to people as people. For him the only thing that mattered was results. On the other hand some leaders are too focused on pleasing people at the expense of solving problems and getting the work done.
2. Talk and Listen
What’s your ratio? We have all met leaders who are ineffective because they don’t listen. Remember the God given ratio—two ears, one mouth. On the other side of the equation I met one leader who was a great listener but his employees didn’t know where he stood on key issues. The seasoned leader engages in the appropriate amount of both talking—stating their views and listening to ideas of others.
3. Plan and Do
Planning is important, but so is execution. Some leaders over plan and under execute. Of course some leaders do just the opposite. They’re busy having meetings, doing power point presentations but making no improvements in the operation. Is there a “right” balance? It depends. In some situations an hour spent planning makes the implementation go more smoothly. In a crisis situation you may have only 60 seconds to plan—quick action is required.
4. Results and Process
Some leaders only focus on results. In meeting after meeting they ask, “What’s the bottom line?” Results are important but so is process—how things are done. However, putting all your attention on process is also wrong. Results count! The seasoned leader focuses on both what is being accomplished and how it’s being accomplished.
5. Firm and Flexible
There are times to be firm and there are times to be flexible. The overly flexible leader is unwilling to take a firm stand. They are wishy-washy and often flip flop on their position. On the other hand, the overly firm leader is rigid and sees every issue as black and white. Seasoned leaders have the wisdom to know when to hold the line and when to be flexible.
6. Coaching and Letting Go
An important part of a leader’s job is to coach people on how to be more effective and efficient. However, there is an important difference between too little and too much coaching. Too much can frustrate initiative. On the other hand, too little coaching and guidance can cause failure. Sometimes failure can be the best thing, life lessons often come out of failure. Other times it can be catastrophic – in the case of accident, injury, or other severe loss. Seasoned leaders know the difference between providing too much and too little coaching.
7. Facts and Feelings
Getting the facts is important. But tuning into your feelings is also important before making important decisions. Some executives fail to identify the danger signals because they repress their feelings as if feelings are something to be avoided. I like the way author and blogger Mary Jo Asmus stated it in a recent blog— “Connect with your heart when your head wants to rule. Connect with your head when your emotions are threatening to take over.”
8. Work Life and Family Life
Some leaders get totally consumed by their job and neglect their family. In his book, Better Under Pressure, Justin Menkes, interviewed Ralph Larsen, retired CEO of Johnson and Johnson. In the interview Larsen stated, “…you’ve got to make sure that you have the right balance between your work life and your family life, that you take care of your family and kids so you don’t have chaos at work and at home.”
What would you add to this list?
Seasoned leaders know the importance of balance. But finding the right balance doesn’t mean moderation in all things. Rather it means being versatile and flexible. It means using the appropriate mix of various ingredients to help people grow and blossom. Great leaders have the wisdom to know what actions are needed and necessary to achieve success.
Kaplan, R.E. and Kaiser, R.B. “Developing Versatile Leaders.” MIT Sloan Management Review
Menkes,J. Better Under Pressure. Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.
About the author:
Paul B. Thornton is the author of numerous articles and 13 books on management and leadership. His latest book, Leadership—Off the Wall, highlights the guiding principles some well-known business and political leaders keep on their desks or post on their office walls.
In addition to being a speaker and management/leadership trainer, he is a business professor at Springfield Technical Community College. In the last 20 years, he has trained over 10,000 people to be more effective managers and leaders. You can find out more about Paul at www.PBThornton.com and contact him at PThornton@stcc.edu
*image courtesy of Simon Howden/freedigitalphotos.net
To produce healthy plants it takes the right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer, and care. Too much water or too little sunlight may hurt your plants. The best gardeners learn through experience and reflection what flowers need to grow and develop. In a similar way, seasoned leaders know what it takes to help people and organizations achieve their potential. They provide the rightPaul B. Thornton Articles
Turmoil, stress and uncertainty would all describe the working experience of many of us over the past three or four years and even today as we are beginning to look forward to an improving economy, many millions of Americans remain out of work. Many millions more remain marginally employed and stuck in a world that does not give them the luxury of choice. A job, any job, remains a blessing and upward mobility remains a distant memory to many among us. Confidence remains tenuous in the American work place. As leaders, not only are we tasked with hitting our benchmarks and goals, we are also responsible for looking out for the welfare of our people. The current economy gives us the chance to do both.
There is no doubt that the fight and drive of the American worker took a hit several years back, when we went from, what on the surface, looked like a strong healthy economy, to one where nothing was for certain and one where we did not immediately know where the bottom was. It took agonizing months to understand just how low it could go and suddenly jobs were at a premium, companies were disappearing and millions of Americans whom had never seen or experienced a true economic down turn, were out on the street and unemployed, unemployed and with no immediate prospects of finding another job. Talk about frightening!
I would have to admit to loving the spirit of the American worker. Irascible to the core but damn they can surprise you with their ingenuity and willingness to put their head down and get the job done. The chances are very good that they will whine about something after the crisis has passed but there is not a more productive worker in the world. Part of what makes them such an incredible and productive asset is that ingenuity and the great initiative they show in getting the job done. Needless to say, the trauma suffered by the US economy in 2008 and well into 2009, was way more than enough to dampen that spirit and way more than enough to take away that incredible initiative.
Though I am very cautious in saying this, and though the signs and measures remain very mixed, it would seem that the American economy is in recovery. There remain any number of challenges and obstacles to our getting back to something resembling the powerful economic engine we had known and pretty much took for granted but consumer spending and confidence are steadily improving, the unemployment rates are inching downward and the real estate market has regained a pulse, though it remains in very grave condition. This is a critical moment in time and one in which strong and effective leadership can and should play a big role.
Certainly it would be hoped that leadership has sustained us through all that has gone on but now it has gone from being a fight just to survive, for both the business and our staffs, to one where we need to stand up and move forward, to compete, to attack, to overcome and to win. A great many of our staff members are scared and very reluctant to move and we as leaders need to show them the way. Leaders have to lead, that is what we do and why we are here. In taking these initial steps, we have every opportunity in the world of getting shot down or shouted down but our determination to stand up and move forward will give our people great reasons and the inspiration to do the same. I can promise you that there will be many wanting and hoping we will fail, not many willing or able to face their fears and do much more than keep their heads down. Our willingness allows them to have hope, to believe that something can get better and it will inspire others to follow suit. More than anything else, leaders are purveyors of hope and hope can lead to action and action well directed (leadership) can lead to success.
Of course there is that chance that our timing will be off or that our actions and message will be misunderstood and we end up standing out there by ourselves looking the fool but that is why we do this right? I can promise that the alternative and our failing to stand and make the attempt to move our people will not move us any further toward success.
In the aftermath of this long and very deep recession there are not many among us who are looking forward to doing anything other than keeping their heads down and remaining a part of the anonymous masses. There are not many among us who are that confident in our status and willing to stick out their necks. The immediate and most obvious impact of this fear driven environment is a complete lack of initiative. People who are scared do not take chances and do not stick their necks out. Our job as leaders is to give our people the confidence to step forward to have the willingness to take chances, to make mistakes and to have the courage to succeed. Leadership and only leadership can inspire that change.
Why does any of this matter? Isn’t blind compliance a good thing in the work place? What does it matter if our staff members have initiative or not, as long as they do their job? As leaders we are not so much the ones doing and touching everything, as we are the ones assigning who does what, to what standard, as well as assuring that tasks are getting completed and assuring that those standards are being met. There is no doubt that our lives are simplified if our people are doing what they are told and shutting up in the process but without an attachment and sense of ownership to the tasks our staff members would take on, there is no sense of accomplishment, no sense of ownership and no sense of pride. Beyond that there is no interest in finding better or more effective methods and little or no desire to improve. It is nice to think of ourselves in our various leadership roles as being all knowing and omnipotent but that is just not reality and beyond benefitting from the collective knowledge of those we lead, a huge side benefit to listening and giving voice to their suggestions or concerns is letting them know they are valued and that their opinions matter. Even if we ultimately choose a different path, that we listened and considered their suggestions is extraordinarily important and encourages that initiative and extra effort we need as leaders. Beyond simply accomplishing tasks, there has to be something in it all for our people and a big part of leadership is providing that insight, that vision of something better. If they can see it, they are much more likely to accomplish it.
For his actions on 16 February 1967 in the Republic of Viet Nam, Platoon Sergeant Elmelindo R. Smith of Honolulu Hawaii was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was 32 years old. The chances are very good you never heard of him. I wonder why that is?
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty: During a reconnaissance patrol, his platoon was suddenly engaged by intense machinegun fire hemming in the platoon on 3 sides. A defensive perimeter was hastily established, but the enemy added mortar and rocket fire to the deadly fusillade and assaulted the position from several directions. With complete disregard for his safety, P/Sgt. Smith moved through the deadly fire along the defensive line, positioning soldiers, distributing ammunition and encouraging his men to repel the enemy attack. Struck to the ground by enemy fire which caused a severe shoulder wound, he regained his feet, killed the enemy soldier and continued to move about the perimeter. He was again wounded in the shoulder and stomach but continued moving on his knees to assist in the defense. Noting the enemy massing at a weakened point on the perimeter, he crawled into the open and poured deadly fire into the enemy ranks. As he crawled on, he was struck by a rocket. Moments later, he regained consciousness, and drawing on his fast dwindling strength, continued to crawl from man to man. When he could move no farther, he chose to remain in the open where he could alert the perimeter to the approaching enemy. P/Sgt. Smith perished, never relenting in his determined effort against the enemy. The valorous acts and heroic leadership of this outstanding soldier inspired those remaining members of his platoon to beat back the enemy assaults. P/Sgt. Smith's gallant actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and they reflect great credit upon him and the Armed Forces of his country.”
Leadership, no matter how much we would try to make it into an academic exercise, is our looking our people in the eye and asking them for something better and our being willing to, not only stand with them, but to stand out in front of them, in the effort. If we are not willing to take risks and sacrifice toward accomplishing an end, why should they?
Leadership is about inspiring others in accomplishing our goals, even if we are wounded and have to crawl or perish in the attempt.
Who have you inspired today?
About the author:
Brian Canning is a regular contributor to weLEAD and a business analyst working in the federal sector. For the past thirty years he has worked in the automotive repair industry, most recently as a leadership and management coach with the Automotive Training Institute in Savage, Maryland. After serving as a tank commander with the 1st Armored Division in Europe, he started his career as a Goodyear service manager in suburban Washington D.C., moving on to oversee several stores and later a sales region. He also has been a retail sales manager for a large auto parts distributor, run a large fleet operation and headed a large multi-state sales territory for an independent manufacturer of auto parts. His passions are history, leadership and writing.
Turmoil, stress and uncertainty would all describe the working experience of many of us over the past three or four years and even today as we are beginning to look forward to an improving economy, many millions of Americans remain out of work. Many millions more remain marginally employed and stuck in a world that does not give them the luxury of choice. A job, any job, remains a blessing andBrian Canning Articles
Strategic thinking is a knowledge acquisition process that connects and involves every component and department of an organization by defining the direction of the organization, how it construes its strategy into execution, how it reassesses the organization’s direction, and then fine tuning its path.[i] Organizational leaders who seek to develop successful organizations and ultimately work towards long-term success and sustainability would benefit from adopting strategic thinking and planning skills.
Traditionally, strategic thinking and planning is allied with high level and top leadership teams with an organization.[ii] When a leader applies new thoughts, procedures, and processes to guide the persuasion of organizational members and its components towards the advancement of the organization, the leader is said to be practicing strategic thinking.[iii] Strategic thinking therefore considers the ‘now’ to be able to obtain imminent insight into the future.[iv] When a leader(s) employs activities that direct the organization towards an innovative and competitive arena in today’s internationally aggressive marketplace this includes strategic thinking. Thus, leaders who work towards finding unconventional ways to compete and provide client value are said to be practicing strategic thinking. Such leaders are able to indentify exceptional approaches to provide value to their clients. Strategic thinking is more of an indefinable, methodical, and future oriented activity for leaders.[v] Leaders who are looking for ways to formulate winning strategies for their organizations must consider using strategic thinking as a vehicle.[vi]
Traditional strategic planning relies on systematic processes to ascertain who the organization is in terms of its mission, what the organization does in terms of its believes, where the organization is headed in terms of its vision, and how the organization intends to get there in terms of planning[vii] while strategic thinking centers on mental processes essential for use of information and ideas which form an organization’s prospective direction.[viii] Strategic thinking makes available input for the strategic planning process through ground-breaking opportunities[ix] to enhance the organization’s performance and accomplishments. Strategic planning searches for means to create a new outline of the organization’s direction by adopting a novel and enhanced prospect.[x]
Questions Arose From the Strategic Thinking and Planning Literature
The following questions arose from the literature review based on strategic thinking and planning:
*What do you consider to be your strongest leadership qualities?
*Would you say you possess strategic leadership qualities? If so, mention a few?
*What is the vision of your organization?
*Are your staff/followers familiar with this vision?
*In what ways would you say your staff/followers are supportive of the vision?
*Have you taken part in a strategic planning process as a leader?
*If so, what time frame is adopted for the strategic planning and implementation process of your organization (monthly, quarterly, annually)?
*In your opinion, what is strategic thinking?
*Which strategic thinking and planning skills are necessary for a successful process?
*Which strategic thinking and planning tools do you use for your planning and implementation process?
*What obstacles do you consider as a hindrance to the practice and implementation of strategic thinking and planning within your organization?
*What systems do you have in place to assist you as a leader in identifying strategic thinkers within your organization?
*As a leader, do you use a strategic team? If so, how do you choose your team members?
*What would you consider as your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
*What strategies do you rely on to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to/within your organization?
*What specific tools do you rely on to determine the progress and growth of your organization?
*Please mention and explain 5 trends you perceive as having the potential to impact the long-term performance and success of your organization?
The first leader I chose to meet with was Matthew S. Essieh. Matthew is the president and chief executive officer of an information technology firm called EAI Information Systems located in Beaverton, Oregon. As a visionary leader,[xi] Matthew began his company from scratch 20 years ago. The company develops and modifies software solutions to assist financial service firms in controlling their retail investment programs for superior effectiveness and productivity.
Karen Howells was the second leader I chose to interview. Karen is the president and founder of the Howell’s Group, Inc.; a consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. Karen and her business focus on bringing ‘business to life’ through an exclusive and extremely tailored approach. Karen is a great communicator, a coach and a visionary.[xii]
The third leader interviewed was John T. Goldrick, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Life at the University of Portland. John oversees all student services including admissions, financial aid, student activities, judicial affairs, international student issues, career services, the Moreau Center for Service and Leadership, residential life, campus, ministry, health services, and public safety. John is a great strategist, a visionary and a great communicator.[xiii]
Responses from Leaders
What do you consider to be your strongest leadership qualities?
According to Matthew Essieh, his strongest leadership qualities include initiative and drive. Matthew reported he is driven internally; action oriented, allows other to follow, develops creative solutions to solve problems, and does not allow perceived problems to stand in his way. Karen Howells mentioned she connects quickly and authentically with clients, has the ability to motivate and influence others to get things done, is able to articulate a vision and inspires others to perform. John Goldrick loves to lead change, manages his employees well, has good intuition when hiring, has experience, works to keep his followers in the spotlight, and considers himself to be allocentric; more follower-centered than leader-centered. John stated he does not look for conflict, but at the same time, does not shy away from it.
Would you say you possess strategic leadership qualities? If so, mention a few?
Each leader I interviewed believes they possess strategic leadership qualities. According to Matthew Essieh, the fact that he founded his company 20 years ago is a sign of possessing strategic leadership qualities. He stated he focuses on broader decision-making without being ‘bogged’ down by details or initiatives. Therefore, he focuses on the broader positive implications of what has to be done. According Matthew, he has always had the vision to own businesses in the United States and he has achieved that vision. Karen Howells’ feels she is able to scan the social and economic environment in order to be in touch with her clients, is pragmatic in her operations, intentionally keeps her business small, and has the ability to listen to client’s and team members’ needs and concerns. John approached the issue of possessing strategic leadership qualities quite differently. According to John, he considers the ‘what, why and when’ with regards to a planning point of view. John also mentioned he relies on assessment tools prior to the implementation of any plan. Therefore, the assessment process assists him in determining whether the move is strategic or not.
What is the vision of your organization?
Regarding the vision of the organization, Matthew Essieh stated his vision is, “To be the leader in providing financial services technology and responsive services to clients.” Karen Howells envisions her organization to be one of the strongest regional players. She also believes it takes leaders and organizations to the next level of success, does not work with failing organizations, and remains a ‘boutique firm’ that customizes its services to meet the needs of clients. According to John Goldrick, University of Portland’s vision is to be the best Catholic teaching university in the western United States focusing on faculty who are abreast in research and publication.
Are your staff/followers familiar with this vision?
Each of the leaders I interviewed stated their followers were familiar with the vision of the organization. According to Matthew, his staff believes in the vision because they live by it every day. “My followers understand that everything is client centered and has to be approached as a strategic partnership with clients,” said Karen Howells. Karen stated she knows her followers have bought into the vision because they often refer her to other clients. John Goldrick strongly believes his followers are familiar with the vision because he seldom discusses issues without relating it to the vision of the university. He also added it is an expectation he has of his followers and is incorporated into how they execute their work on a daily basis.
In what ways would you say your staff/followers are supportive of the vision?
According to Matthew, he reported his follower’s exhibit support for the vision of the organization through the work they do each day by providing innovative technology and responsive services to their customers. He mentioned the vision drives his employees to develop quality products for their clients. Karen Howells stated an emphatic “yes” as evidence of the fact her staff are supportive of the vision of the organization. John Goldrick stated his follower’s support of the vision of the organization and this is reinforced through annual retreats and full day discussions. According to him, his followers also provide regular feedback on the administration by highlighting the positives and negatives.
Have you taken part in a strategic planning process as a leader?
Matthew stated he and the organization has taken part in a strategic planning process and will participate in the process again this year. “Absolutely”, Karen Howells stated when asked whether she has ever taken part in a strategic planning process. According to Karen, she leads a lot of strategic planning session with her clients, as well as, with the staff in her business. John Goldrick stated he has taken part of numerous strategic planning sessions for the university during of fourteen years that he has been there. However, John stated the university does not typically put it into practice and this often results in frustration on the part of the followers. He mentioned the university put together a strategic plan, but it was not used because the goals and objectives were too many. John feels there are many problems associated with strategic plans. First, he thinks strategic plans are not fluent with the total needs of an existing organization. Second, strategic plans are usually not structured to operate as a living document and third, he believes the tasks provided in the strategic plan are usually in conflict with strategic thinking. Thus, he recommends fewer goals, objectives, and tasks should be incorporated into a strategic plan in order to make it more applicable to the specific departments at the university.
If so, what time frame is adopted for the strategic planning and implementation process of your organization (monthly, quarterly, annually)?
According to Matthew, his organization adopts the annual approach to the strategic planning process. He stated his organization revisits the plan annually. Karen Howells reported her firm adopts the semi-annual approach for the strategic planning process. According to Karen, she holds annual meetings with her followers to review the past year as part of their strategic planning process. According to John Goldrick, the University of Portland used to develop a strategic plan every 10 years, but now the school utilizes a five-year approach. He stated this is driven by the academic accreditation board regulations.
In your opinion, what is strategic thinking?
When asked to give his opinion on what he considered as strategic thinking, Matthew stated that he considers “strategic thinking to be the day-to-day operational type of thinking.” He also mentioned it is the process of stepping back and looking at the broader purpose and direction of the organization. Furthermore, he stated strategic thinking includes deliverables and the implementation of a strategic plan to achieve goals, objectives and the purpose of the organization. Matthew gave an example of opening up a new office in Accra, Ghana with a vision to reach out to the West African Sub-region as a form of strategic thinking. According to Karen Howells, a leader’s ability to walk onto a balcony to gain a better view of things in terms of social, economic and political issues determines whether he or she is a strategic thinker. Karen gave an example of a client who is using the current health bill to his advantage, and at the same time, helping others. Karen stated a strategic thinker considers how things fit both inside and outside of the organization to determine what actions need to be taken. “Such leaders strive to be ahead of the game,” Karen remarked. For John Goldrick strategic thinking comes into perspective when a leader considers the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’. Thus, the leader considers why the organization is doing what it has set out to do and asks if it is taking the appropriate path.
Which strategic thinking and planning skills are necessary for a successful process?
With regards to strategic thinking and planning skills necessary for a successful process, Matthew stated as the CEO of the organization, he considers the direction of a proposed product, what competitors are offering and whether the product will be successful within the next three years. He also mentioned he works in collaboration with his project manager who skills assist in product development. The project manager assists in determining the sustainability and success of the product and the costs involved. Karen Howells mentioned the following skills as necessary for a successful strategic thinking and planning process. For strategic thinking, the leader must be able to look ahead and envision the organization by utilizing different approaches. She also mentioned a strategic leader must know the market in which he or she operates in. For strategic planning to take place, Karen mentioned the leaders must seek to engage the entire organization in the process. According to Karen, she believes funneling, environmental scan, and annual planning sessions can facilitate a successful process. John Goldrick stated no planning process works if it originates from the top. Therefore, he listens to his followers and adopts an all inclusive process of planning. Trust, honesty, and openness are key to a strategic thinking and planning process. He stated leaders who are not open and do not listen develop ineffective plans.
Which strategic thinking and planning tools do you use for your planning and implementation process?
Matthew stated he uses individual people as tools for the planning and implementation process. He reported he relies on key players and stakeholders within his organization such as board members, staff members, and clients. He also reported he creates a culture of strategic thinking and planning to be used as a tool for the implementation process. According to Karen, she uses the ‘sticky wall’ idea as a tool during the strategic thinking and planning process. During this process, participants are encouraged to write their personal vision, mission, goals, objectives, and ideas, as well as, that of the organization. Karen then uses the data collected for the planning and implementation process. Karen also mentioned brainstorming and funneling as effective tools for the strategic thinking and planning process. John Goldrick stressed the use of communication as a dynamic tool for the strategic thinking and planning process. He suggested leaders adopt a discussion and explanation strategy when thinking and planning with their followers. Promulgation of information is key for a successful planning and thinking process, John Goldrick said.
What obstacles do you consider as a hindrance to the practice and implementation of strategic thinking and planning within your organization?
When the organizational culture is not open and receptive to strategic thinking and planning processes, its practice and implementation becomes an issue for leadership and followers, Matthew remarked. According to him, when followers are not invested in the overall success of the organization it becomes difficult for leadership to implement strategic thinking within the organization. Followers not just interest in their paycheck can be a huge success for this process. Karen stated the size of her organization is often a hindrance to strategic thinking and planning. She also mentioned a lack of energy because of other life circumstances have been a barrier to strategically thinking and planning for the organization’s progress and growth. John Goldrick mentioned a lack of creativity, a fear of change, apprehension towards taking risks, a fear of making mistakes, the inability to lack failure and a refusal to undertake true assessment of the situation can be huge hindrances to the strategic thinking and planning process.
What systems do you have in place to assist you as a leader in identifying strategic thinkers within your organization?
According to Matthew, he identifies strategic thinkers by providing followers with the opportunity to lead a software development project. He also creates small and ad hoc teams for individual followers to be given the opportunity to solve problems and develop new ideas. Karen relies on team members to assist in the strategic thinking process and therefore identifies who excels in such an area. She also works towards identifying potential employees and places them on short-term projects to allow her to observe and confirm they possess strategic thinking skills. John Goldrick, on the other hand, does not consider this process as a system. According to him, it is more of an appraisal process which he undertakes once a year with his followers to identify strengths and weaknesses. After this process, “I am able to identify strategic thinkers,” John said. However, he stated it is a difficult process to undertake with university administrators.
As a leader, do you use a strategic team? If so, how do you choose your team members?
Matthew reported he uses strategic leadership teams within specific departments. Karen Howells uses a team of consultants as her strategic leadership team. According to Karen, when the need arises she utilizes other individuals from other organizations who possess the skills needed. According to John Goldrick, his strategic leadership team comprises of his staff which is made up of fourteen departmental heads. He reported the team meets for two hours every two weeks to deliberate on issues concerning the university. He stated, “I could not function without the team,” John said. He reported such collaboration allows us to work towards a common goal he concluded.
What would you consider as your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Matthew mentioned his organization possesses the following strengths. It is responsive to clients’ needs, flexible to solve client needs, relies on client needs to define its problems and adapts to client needs. He felt the organization had the following weaknesses: unrealistic client expectations and the lack of stability of a product. Matthew stated his organization is flexible and responsive and therefore this can be seen as an opportunity. The inability to meet customer expectations, a threat to credibility and the potential to lose customers are seen as threats, according the Matthew.
According to Karen, the individual clients the organization works with and the reputation of her team members are seen as strengths. As a leader, Karen stated her inability to clearly see the future is a weakness. Karen reported she has not been in good health over the past year and therefore does not have a committed direction for the organization and as a result has not marketed her services as readily as in recent years.
John Goldrick stated the strengths of the University of Portland is that it is a Catholic University and University of Portland is aware of what it wants. The University of Portland lacks self-confidence and therefore this is seen as a weakness. However, he sees opportunities in the horizon as individuals are beginning to recognize the identity of the institution. He foresees secularization and narcissism of the American society, the growing need for instant gratification, and the delayed enjoyment in higher education as threats to the welfare of the institution.
What strategies do you rely on to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to/within your organization?
Clear communication of customers’ expectations; internally enforcing flexibility, responsiveness to customer needs, and communication among leaders and followers; and ongoing training and accountability are strategies that Matthew utilizes to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to his organization. Karen uses change initiatives and time-lines to combat weaknesses and threats within her organization. John employs open communication; a collective approach to leadership; and endless conversation around the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the institution to combat weaknesses and threats.
What specific tools do you rely on to determine the progress and growth of your organization?
In determining the progress and growth of the his organization, Matthew keeps close accounts of sales figures, the measurement of profitability, client retention, cost management and the measurement of growth and retention of staff. According to Karen, she considers ‘how full the pipeline is,’ how may referrals the firm receives, and the level revenue for the firm. John presented a different approach to determining the progress and growth of his organization. According to John, he uses assessment tools and performance appraisals and reviews on a regular basis.
Please mention and explain 5 trends you perceive as having the potential to impact the long-term performance and success of your organization?
According to Matthew, the contraction and expansion of the financial services industry, mergers and acquisitions within the industry and the changing pace of technology and staying abreast of such changes are potential trends that may affect his organization. He also mentioned the workforce in the United States over the most recent years has not seen enough individuals being trained within the information technology industry. Therefore there is a limited workforce to tap into. He also stated the cost of labor and current privacy laws and regulations regarding sensitive data may also have an adverse affect on his organization in the near future. Karen believes the following trends will impact her organization’s performance and success over the course of time: clients’ desire for instant gratification, organizational fatigue and overload, and competition from competitors. Karen also mentioned the emergence and growth of small businesses can have a huge impact on her organization. Karen believes the current generation of young people, will have a significant impact on her company. John had similar views with Karen. John perceives secularization, narcissism, instant gratification and federal government regulations will impact the performance and success of the University of Portland.
The leaders in this interview were carefully selected as a result of my interests and practice in consulting and higher education. The questions were carefully crafted to elicit the needed information from the selected leaders regarding what they considered as their strengths as leaders and in the area of strategic thinking and planning. Interestingly the three leaders had similar views though operate in different industries. Their views regarding trends that will impact the future of their organization are proof of their ability to think and plan strategically in order to run successful organizations. All three leaders provided great examples of visionary leadership and they brought strategic thinking and planning to life. It is therefore in the good interest of organizational leaders to research and practice strategic thinking and planning principles. Leaders who lack the ability to think and plan strategically must rely on internal and external consultants[xiv] who will facilitate the process of imparting the needed knowledge, skills and expertise for a successful operation. Such leaders can take steps to build a resource base of materials centered on strategic thinking and planning for their organizations for the use of their followers in order to develop a culture of strategic thinking and planning in their organizations.
[i] Hughes, R. & Beatty, K.C (2005). Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success. Jossey- Boss, San- Francisco, CA.
[ii] Fairholm, M. & Card, M. (2009). Perspectives of Strategic Thinking: From Controlling Chaos to Embracing it. Journal of Management. 15(1), 17-30.
[iii] Hughes, R. & Beatty,K.C (2005). Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success. Jossey- Boss, San- Francisco, CA.
[iv] Sanders, I. (1998). Strategic Thinking. Strategy & Leadership. 33(5), 5-12
[v] Goldman, E.F. (2007). Strategic Thinking at the Top. MITSloan Management Review. 48 (4). 75-80
[vi] Abraham, S. (2005). Stretching Strategic Thinking. Strategy & Leadership. 33(5) 5-12.
[vii] Strong, B. (2005) Strategic Planning: What’s So Strategic About It? Educase Quarterly.
[viii] Sanders. (1998).
[ix] Briefing Notes: What is Strategic Thinking? (Philadelphia, PA: Center for Applied Research, 200), 1.
[x] Fairholm & Card. (2009).
[xi]Jones, T. (2010). What is Your Vision? Leadership Excellence. 27(3), 6.
[xii] Robert N. Lussier, R.N. & Achua, C.F. (2007). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development: Thompson Higher Education. Mason, Ohio.
[xiii]Richardson, D. (2009). The Urgency Factor…Leadership Communication In Chaotic Times. Of Counsel. 28(8), 10-13.
[xiv] Block, P. (2000), Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA. 5.
Strategic thinking is a knowledge acquisition process that connects and involves every component and department of an organization by defining the direction of the organization, how it construes its strategy into execution, how it reassesses the organization’s direction, and then fine tuning its path.Peter Carlos Okantey Articles
The job market is rebounding. Are you ready? Not everyone is…. If we were to take a hypothetical conversation between a hiring manager, whom we’ll call Dave, and his boss, we can imagine the conversation might go something like this: “Don’t worry. The candidate will wait for us to make our decision. We are the ones with the job and the job market is still tough” Three weeks later however, Dave would probably come back with something like “I really thought we had this hire – I mean, the position is a great opportunity and they wouldn’t have to relocate. Look, I’m sorry. I just didn’t think they would take the other job. I know it’s a loss – and to our competitor. I promise this will not happen again.”
One thing that is for certain is the tide is changing, or may have already changed. Talk with recruiters in the software arena to be specific and you can be sure, hiring is heating back up. And, because of these current hiring shifts now is the time to evaluate and tighten up your recruiting processes, if you haven’t already done so. A number of companies who may have had solid recruiting processes in the past have abandoned their practices over the last several years. The reasons are varied – a cut back of the recruiting team and HR, massive restructurings, and perhaps most significantly, companies simply losing their recruiting mentality. Organizations, just like the people in them, lose skills when not exercised.
So let’s take another look at Dave. The first mistake he made was that he thought he had plenty of time. Really good people, especially those candidates who are passive and not currently in the market for a new position, do not have to wait around for an opportunity. They are valuable in any market and will therefore have the opportunities that reflect this. His second and third mistakes go hand in hand: not having a solid interview process in place and not investing the time it takes to produce a quality result – a great hire. More than likely his interview tactic, resume review process, and communications with the candidates were not crisp, disciplined and thoughtful, as they should have been when making a significant investment for the company.
Let’s take this example one step further and think of it in this manner: if you were given $110,000 to buy a resource for your company, you would invest the due diligence required. You would be very clear on the requirements, specifications and needs that this new resource must fulfill and you would probably check references through other buyers. You would also understand that the price and availability of this specific resource may change if too much time passes. Bringing on a new professional should be thought of in these same terms and requires the same discipline.
Some objectives to keep in mind the next time you are in need of bringing on a new team member are: paint a picture; be very clear on the requirements and specifications of the position; assign a team of staff that consists of a few people who know the position and can be trained in effectively interviewing the candidates; and finally, develop a timeline for hiring and a communication plan both internally and externally for candidate review, acceptance and rejections.
Above, I list one of the helpful interview objectives as being “Paint the Picture.” I would like to take a moment to expand on this. Painting the picture for any position simply means establishing a context for the position you are about to hire. Painting the picture can be especially important for management positions that tend to be complex, fluid and placed within a matrix-ed organization. If you are hiring a high performer, they will be much more effective if you have articulated the vision. They need to understand the importance of their role, the key stakeholders involved and a definition of success for the position.
Years ago I was working with a company that had a revolving door of front desk receptionists. As a first step towards solving the situation, I asked the manager to define for me what he thought the job entailed. He replied the phone had to be answered within 3 rings, and that whoever came through the door was to be ‘dealt with’ by being pointed to the appropriate department. Sounds simple enough, yet the manager had never been satisfied with the performance of any of the previous hires. So in a step further, I asked him what was really important – what was the actual end result he desired from this position? He said he wanted the customers to feel they were calling into a professional organization that cared about them and their issues; a company that would go the extra mile to help solve problems and would really partner with them. He wanted that ‘high touch’ that would differentiate them from other software companies.
As we proceeded with the interview process (made with appropriate objectives and a disciplined process), the receptionist hired ended up being the epitome of his desired result. The effects were immediately noticeable and fulfilled the real reason the position had been created in the first place. The following example describes the effects of a successful hire crafted around clear objectives. It was a Friday afternoon. The company’s major client called in – experiencing some serious problems with the new software. The lead project manager had left for the day and could not be reached. The receptionist left her desk, tracked down another project manager who could help and assured the customer that the company would not leave them hanging. The issue was resolved quickly and efficiently that evening. On the following Monday the client called back to the company’s CEO and said, “I just want you to know that the reason I am still a loyal client with you is because of your receptionist. She really represents what you say in your brochure.”
My point with these above stories is that none of this would have occurred if in his last hire, the boss had not painted the picture of his desired results. Articulating how and what this position entails really matters. Match your expectations to your vision.
Although painting the picture is a vital part of successfully filling a position within your company, we are not done here. It is indeed important for the details and expectations of the role to be specified but, moving past this, providing your candidate with specific ‘course approaches’ is also essential for their success or, in other words ‘Charting the course’ for them.
Imagine one of your clients has left your company. Their complaint is “You just are not delivering what they need. The response in your head to their complaint is “You never stopped long enough to tell us what you really needed. We are not mind readers.” In getting what you want, it is important that you clearly and effectively communicate it. People are lousy at mind reading, just ask your spouse or partner. You want to have an immediate, positive impact on a new employee’s success –right? You can assist this through effective communication. Providing objectives supports your context; think of it as giving color to the picture you have already painted.
Here is quick activity to help you ‘Chart the Course’ for success:
Begin by listing out the top 10 objectives for the next 12 months for this specific position. Under each objective, list 4 or 5 Actions Steps, which, if accomplished, will greatly help your new hire in achieving the above objectives. In this manner, you are helping to chart a course towards success for them. You have the knowledge because you have been on these waters before – but they have not. Fortunately through these action steps and your painted picture, you have set them up with successful means to accomplish the objectives.
I am reminded of a company I worked with that was tied into the financial industry – they had offices in over 20 locations, multiple divisions – and were in a very fast paced competitive environment. The CEO was on the road more often than not. In the process of hiring a new SVP (Senior Vice President), the company took the time to develop their top ten objectives and came up with the action steps. Guess what? When their new SVP started, he hit the ground running. He did not need the handholding or redirection that the previous SVP had required and he created no chaos within their own division or the divisions of others. Further, initiatives that had been stalled or shelved came back to life. They went from treading water to winning the race; and all this because their CEO took the time up front to chart the course.
Once you have your picture painted and the course for success has been charted, you are on a pretty solid path towards a successful hire. However, I believe there is one more area we should explore. Creating a culture of accountability is one more aspect that will further support your company culture and its success. It is important to hold ourselves and the people we work with accountable, and we are more capable to do so when the vision and expectations are clear. Clarity about purpose goes far beyond a detailed list; it provides the framework in which individuals and teams can excel without constant direction. Our world is rapidly transforming, therefore how companies go about achieving their goals and objectives is also changing. Yet even with all these adjustments in technologies, environments, and markets we still need to achieve our targets.
In our world today, it seems we are surrounded by a lack of accountability – in our government, our schools, places we shop, our neighborhoods and in our homes. I would make the argument, however, that it starts with us. Each of us needs to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask the question, do I live up to my commitments? Do I hold myself accountable – especially when it’s tough? Open communication between ourselves and others about our levels and expectations of accountability is where it all starts. I believe an effective tool in developing a culture of individual and team accountability is this:
*Hold an Accountability Check-In once a month.
*Have a conversation between you and your staff related to accountability.
*Complete and share responses to these two statements:
*Here’s what you’re doing that’s helping me meet my commitments.
*Here’s what you’re doing that’s hampering me from meeting my commitments.
These two questions can also be important questions to ask yourself. What am I doing that is helping me meet my commitments and what am I doing that’s hampering me from meeting my commitments?
There are two books I would strongly recommend reading on the topic of accountability. The first is by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. His book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, provides wonderful insight into the thought of accountability. The second book is The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. This is also an outstanding book that beautifully describes the complexities of our world and the tools needed to support individual and team accountability. I would wager that you will not be able to put either book down until you have read the last page.
So, what is the take-away? Does any of this really matter? The only way to build companies that have sustainable, economic value is to start with a team of smart, dedicated staff, driven by a clear purpose and held accountable for their results. The one factor that our competitors cannot duplicate is the depth and quality of contributions that our employees make – led by supervisors, managers, owners and boards of directors who view the attainment and retention of staff as an asset and not an expense. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts on what I believe are critical factors in the talent acquisition world. I hope you have enjoyed reading this piece and have gleaned some helpful ideas.
About the author:
Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management. She has held the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company, midsize companies and software start-ups. Much of her experience has been in the software, financial and insurance industries, representing significant merger, acquisition and divestiture activities. In addition, Julia has extensive experience with large, nonprofit organizations. You can find out more about Julia and her work at http://leaderscove.com/about.html
*image courtesy of SOMMAI/freedigitalphotos.net
The job market is rebounding. Are you ready? Not everyone is…. If we were to take a hypothetical conversation between a hiring manager, whom we’ll call Dave, and his boss, we can imagine the conversation might go something like this: “Don’t worry. The candidate will wait for us to make our decision. We are the ones with the job and the job market is still tough” Three weeks later howeJulia Hill-Nichols Articles
The hiring retention success rate is disheartening with some studies reporting a rate lower than 50%. Through more than 50 years of combined experience 50+ in helping organizations improve their business performance, we (Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest) have uncovered three reasons why most companies and organizations fail to hire and retain top talent.
The First Reason Why Most Companies Hiring Retention Rate is Less Than 50%!
In the movie “Field of Dreams”, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) hears a voice as he walks through his cornfield—"if you build it, he will come". Over the years it has since become part of our lexicon of misused quotes. It has even seeped into the talent integration and talent management world.
Many CEOs, executives, managers and HR directors believe if you hire them (or promote your employees) they will contribute. Well, to use another well-known phrase—"not exactly".
Why would you believe that hiring or promoting employees into a new job or position will result in immediate success?
The Second Reason Why Most Companies Retention Rate is Less Than 50%!
Many executives, managers and HR managers fail to plan out completely:
*The job requirements
*What needs to be done
*What skills, behaviors and attitudes are required for success now
*What role adaptation is anticipated for the future
If you fail to map out exactly what you are looking for as well as the position you are hiring for - you might as well spend your money on a trip to Las Vegas to roll the dice! The chance of winning is about the same - or maybe slightly better in Vegas (and likely you will have more fun).
The Third Reason Why Most Companies Retention Rate is Less Than 50%!
Most companies are still hiring and promoting candidates using the standard elements:
a) An application
b) A resume
c) An interview (or two, potentially including a panel)
d) Perhaps a background check,
e) And references.
However, these really only tell you only what the candidate wants you to know. Meaning, good creative writing and strong impression management skills do not necessarily equal the most suitable candidate for your organization. Just because candidates can report experience and expertise on a resume does not mean they have the personality and character attributes to do the job and it doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for your company.
For example, we saw one of our clients hire a department director who was charged with turning around an under-performing department. He appeared to be well-qualified, coming from a department that recently had undergone a very successful turnaround. He was the assistant director.
But, he floundered in the new job. One of the reasons is that he was too empathetic and had a very high-interpersonal sensitivity toward others. Simply, he could not make the tough people decisions. Nowhere on the resume, during the interview, nor with the hand-picked references did this come out.
To Integrate Your New or Promoted Talent Effectively, You Need to Start Considering the “Talent Integration Potential”
This means, you need to look specifically to how a candidate fits the prospective role and how suitable the candidate is to your organization. Just as you cannot fit a square peg in a round hole (without damage), you cannot make successful a person who does not have the basic ingredients for success in the job you need done.
This does not mean the person cannot be successful. It just means they cannot likely be as successful in a particular job or perhaps even in your organization.
So, how can you know?
4 Ways to Uncover If a Candidate is Perfect For the New Role & For Your Organization
1) Use behaviorally-based interview questions that probe their history of actions and outcomes respectively.
2) Include some culture-based questions to help you determine values and motivators as compared to company values and attributes.
3) Include/give them time for a scenario based problem to work and resolve and report back on.
4) Have top candidates complete personality-based and job performance indicators that measure a candidate's potential for success in different business environments and roles. (Though such an assessment should never be used as the sole criteria for selection. As part of a selection set, it can be an invaluable tool to avoid hiring the wrong candidate for the job.) It can also be used as a tool to support and coach the new employee in areas that need to be addressed to ensure a fast and effective integration into a new job and organization.
Now, are you ready to start increasing your top employee retention rate? Great! Then, change your thinking from “if you hire them or promote them – they will contribute” to “if I hire the right talent, they will contribute.” And, start following my advice by taking action on the items listed in this article.
About the authors:
Sara LaForest and Tony Kubica are management consultants with more than 50+ years of combined experience in helping organizations improve their business performance simply by improving the leadership effectiveness of top management. You can find out more about their work at http://www.kubicalaforestconsulting.com
The hiring retention success rate is disheartening with some studies reporting a rate lower than 50%. Through more than 50 years of combined experience 50+ in helping organizations improve their business performance, we (Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest) have uncovered three reasons why most companies and organizations fail to hire and retain top talent. TSara LaForest & Tony Kubica Articles
Mastering the Art of Asking Questions is essential if you want to succeed. It's not simply a matter of getting in the habit of utilizing questions in your interactions with people. It's really about learning how to ask the right questions at the right time.
Whether you're having sales conversations, coaching conversations, or working to develop others, learning how to ask good questions can be the difference between success and failure. What does asking the right questions at the right time mean? It means asking questions in such a way as to better understand the other person, their needs, and their motivations.
Since the questions asked and the flow of an effective conversation varies from person to person and from situation to situation, the best way to illustrate the Art of Asking Questions is by way of example.
Here is a sample sales conversation, conducted by someone not skilled at the Art of Asking Questions:
Hi Bob, I'm calling about the great widgets my company sells. Do you have a few minutes to speak?
Great! Are you familiar with our brand?
"No, not really."
We offer widgets that solve a number of problems and have some great features. The new V210 - our mid-grade model - consumes 20% less energy than our competition and is 10% smaller. It comes in three different colors - red, black and white. Can I schedule a time with you to come by and show it to you?
"What's the price?"
It normally sells for $199, but I can offer it to you at a 25% discount - only $149.
"Do you have something you can send me?"
Sure... what address should I send it to?
"123 Main St."
Great! I'll give you a follow-up call in about a week. OK?
"Yes, that would be fine."
If you've been in sales, you already know the outcome of that conversation. The likelihood of closing a sale is slim and the salesperson will no doubt continue to try to reach the prospect again until they get discouraged and give up.
The next example is the same conversation conducted by someone who is better skilled at the Art of Asking Questions, but is not quite there yet:
Hi Bob, my company helps companies like yours solve their widget problems. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
Do you currently use widgets in your business?
"Yes, we do."
Have you been pleased with the ones you have?
"Well, for the most part we are, but nothing's perfect."
The newer design of widgets have a number of improvements over older models. Would you like to hear more about some of the improvements?
Well, feature 1... , feature 2..., feature 3... We have a number of different models available. Do you have a budget in mind?
"Well, we haven't been actively looking up until now. Can you send me some information?"
I'd rather come by and show you first-hand so you can really see what I'm talking about. Which would be better for you, Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon?
"How about Tuesday morning."
Great! I'll see you Tuesday morning then!
While it is possible that this salesperson may make a sale, it's far from a sure thing. Even though the prospect set the appointment, the salesperson really doesn't know anything about the prospect or the prospect's motivations.
The conversation would unfold very differently if the salesperson was skilled in the Art of Asking Questions:
Hi Bob, my name is Paul and I help companies like yours solve any widget problems they have. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
Do you currently use widgets in your business?
"Yes, we do."
How often do you use your widgets?
"Pretty much every day."
To what extent? How much?
"About 3-4 hours every day."
It sounds like you rely on them pretty heavily.
What aspects of your widgets work best for you?
"Well, for one thing they've been really reliable. We've had them for over 4 years. Also, we need the automated feed feature and that's been a life-saver. And the supplies are easy to find and affordable."
Sounds like they've served you well. Have you had any problems with them?
"Well, the only problem we've had is that they sometimes misfeed."
When you say they sometimes misfeed, specifically how often does that happen?
"Only once or twice a day."
Are there any features or functions you wish they had?
"It would be nice if they had a bigger bin so we didn't haveto re-stock them so often."
Anything else? Would it help if they could automatically stack the finished product?
"Can they do that?"
Ours can. I think it would make sense for us to get together. I can show you a widget I have that has a 99% reliability record, high-speed automatic feeding without jamming, a large bin, and automated stacking. Do you have about 25 minutes on Tuesday morning or would something like Wednesday afternoon work better for you?
"Let's do next Tuesday morning."
As you can see, the last sales conversation unfolded very differently than the prior two. In the last conversation, the salesperson asked good questions - questions which uncovered what mattered to the other person, along with some motivations for making a change. (We didn't have time in this article to uncover all the motivations.)
Having a conversation like this helps the prospect to clarify what features he needed and highlighted problems and desires. Both parties knew exactly why they were getting together and the likelihood of closing a sale was extremely high.
When you master the Art of Asking Questions, you learn to ask questions which uncover motivations and you'll do a better job of selling, coaching, and developing others.
About the author:
Michael Beck is a Business Strategist and Executive Coach. For more articles on leadership, personal effectiveness and personal productivity, please visit www.michaeljbeck.com.
*image courtesy of photostock/freedigitalphotos.net
Mastering the Art of Asking Questions is essential if you want to succeed. It's not simply a matter of getting in the habit of utilizing questions in your interactions with people. It's really about learning how to ask the right questions at the right time. Whether you're having sales conversations, coaching conversations, or working to develop others, learMichael Beck Articles
In an interview, comedian Joan Rivers was asked how she stayed so thin and trim and the interviewer said, “Do you do a lot of exercising?” “Oh, my Lord no,” said Rivers. “If God had intended me to bend over, He would have put diamonds on the ground.”
When actress and screen writer, Mae West, was asked about dieting she said, “I never worry about diets. The only carrots I’m interested in are the carats in a diamond.”
Hungarian born American film and stage actress, Zsa Zsa Gabor said that she never hated a man enough to give him back his diamonds. And she received diamonds from 9 husbands.
Diamonds have been considered precious for centuries. Geologists say diamonds were formed billions of years ago deep inside the earth by tremendous heat and pressure. They have literally been around since the beginning of time and they will last through eternity. As the title to a popular James Bond movie states, Diamonds Are Forever, literally.
Even though they have been around forever, diamonds are rare and they are hard to find. They come to the surface of the earth during volcanic eruptions in a bluish substance called kimberlite.
To find these rough diamonds, you can search in the marshes, ponds, streams and lakes near volcanos that have erupted, or you can dig deep mines to find rough diamonds still inside the earth. However, you have to process about 22 to 100 tons of kimberlite to find one diamond. This makes a diamond very precious.
Each stone is unique and it takes a skilled technician to cut and polish the rough stone into the beautiful diamond that sells for thousands, even millions of dollars.
Application for the Charismatic Leader
Charismatic and savvy business leaders are rare. They are hard to find. Charismatic leaders are unique, each having their own facets of strength. They are precious because of the value they add to organizations. They become skilled technicians as they form, develop, and polish people into productive teams.
The four qualities of diamond you can put into your life to become a more charismatic leader are:
1) Diamond Hardness: Diamond is the hardest natural substance in nature. It is four times harder than the next hardest substance. It can cut through any other natural substance so it is used extensively in industry for drilling and polishing.
As a charismatic leader: When I ask you to emulate the hardness of diamonds, I DO NOT want you to be hard to get along with, I DO NOT want you to be hard on people; I DO NOT want you to be hard on yourself.
I do want you to equate the hardness of a diamond with being HARDY – self-determining and self-reliant. And TOUGH – tough enough not to fracture and break from the economic pressures faced in organizations today; tough enough to tell the truth; tough enough to cut through problems to solutions.
2) Diamond Clarity: Diamond has greater clarity or transparency than any other solid or liquid substance. The greater clarity in a diamond, the greater the value.
As a charismatic leader: We are going to translate this into clarity of purpose. The clearer you are on the goals of your organization, your own department or team, the greater impact you’ll have on daily productivity because work will be tied directly to results. Daily efforts bring you and your employees closer to successfully executing your organizational stewardship.
Clarity for your organization, department, unit or team comes from goals setting and time management processes. Do not feel this work is insignificant but give it the time it deserves.
3) Diamond Melting Point: Diamond has the highest melting point of any natural substance: 6422 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a charismatic leader: When it comes to relationships, have a high melting point and give others the benefit of a doubt. Work to raise the melting point of discussions and disagreements. Model for your employees the ability to Pause, Think, and then ACT. Not the reverse order: Act (often inappropriately), then pause and think. Your goal is to replace meltdowns with dialog.
4) Diamond Conductivity: Diamond conducts heat better than anything – five times better than the second best element that conducts heat, silver.
As a charismatic leader: The “heat” you need to conduct is positive energy and a belief in the future. On a daily basis I encourage you to be the conductor of optimism and hope. If you can be a positive leader, you will be as a beacon of light in the darkness.
These four qualities of the element diamond are fundamental for you to emulate in your leadership career. Master them, and your employees will WANT to follow you as they give you discretionary effort, a prize to be cherished by any leader.
About the author:
Karla Brandau is CEO of Workplace Power Institute. The Workplace Power Institute helps organizations be more competitive in the global marketplace by removing blocks to organizational productivity and improving collaboration. For more program information visit the web site: www.WorkplacePowerInstitute.com
In an interview, comedian Joan Rivers was asked how she stayed so thin and trim and the interviewer said, “Do you do a lot of exercising?” “Oh, my Lord no,” said Rivers. “If God had intended me to bend over, He would have put diamonds on the ground.” When actress and screen writer, Mae West, was asked about dieting she said, “I never worry about dKarla Brandau Articles
Effective leadership necessary to drive an organization to success is a hot topic in the business world today. What is effective leadership? Is leadership an intrinsic quality or learned behavior? What are the essential components of effective leadership? These questions and a variety of leadership theories have fueled a library of books on leadership and spurred the development of leadership certification programs around the world.
Though there may be some discrepancy on the definition and components of leadership, it is a widely accepted philosophy that the success of the organization hinges on the presence of effective leadership. Fortune 500 companies and even small businesses focus heavily on the quality of leadership and how it impacts success. They spend countless hours in search and interview and devote significant funding to securing maintaining effective leadership. But, what is effective leadership? Assemble any group of professionals, and no doubt they could come up with a variety of definitions and numerous components of effective leadership.
It is developing the ability to read people, convey respect and value, secure buy into the group goal, and to inspire people who have facilitated my success as a leader. Through my experience, I have isolated three components that must be consistently present in a leader’s skill set for him or her to demonstrate effective leadership. Note that though important and having the potential to provide significant insights, possessing a leadership credential is not included in these three components.
Three Necessary Components for Effective Leadership
- Convey value and respect
- Inspire through empowerment
- Lead by example and radiate integrity
Convey value and respect. A leader’s ability to secure buy-in and drive change is contingent upon his/her ability to convey value and respect. When a leader convinces his charges that they are valued on an individual level and that they have the leader’s professional and personal respect, the strength of the leader grows, as does his potential. Individuals who feel valued and respected are free to openly contribute and provide alternative insights without fear of condemnation or ridicule. Value and respect tend to make individuals feel empowered and collaborative. They see themselves as contributing team members.
As a high school principal, I had a teacher once who was anything but a contributor. He was an outstanding math teacher but certainly was not collaborative in any sense. After watching for a few months, it dawned on me that he appeared to be intimidated by his colleagues for whatever reason. He did not speak up at department meetings, did not participate in faculty meetings, and certainly did not volunteer or accept a school initiative assignment. He was punctual, met all deadlines, and conducted his class above and beyond expectations, but something vital was missing. I knew that Mr. Greene could be a real contributor since I could see the out-of-the-box thinking and gregarious personality evident in his teaching.
At the start of the next school year, I decided that I would change the out-of-the-classroom MO that characterized Mr. Greene. Sometimes the direct approach is the best when tackling a problem, but then, other times, an indirect approach is most effective. The faculty assignment for that year was to serve as a model teacher for one week, wherein teachers randomly came into the selected teacher’s classroom to observe. After the observation, teachers who visited were asked to write reflections of the observation. I selected teachers whom I knew to be masters of instruction and in particular, student-centered instruction. Mr. Greene was among the 12 teachers selected for the year.
As I expected, the reflections on Mr. Greene’s instruction were insightful and full of commendations. Apparently, he was a well-kept secret to his colleagues. At the close of the week when all of the reflections were viewed and discussed by the faculty, Mr. Greene became quite a celebrity. It was amazing to see not just the pride that bloomed from a non-contributor but also the igniting of a spark that within the next 18 months developed into a raging inferno.
Faculty members begin to stop Mr. Greene in the hall or lounge to discuss what they should or should not do in class. He was asked by some teachers to observe them and make suggestions. He even volunteered to co-lead an instructional strategy seminar at the system education conference. It was obvious that he was greatly impacted by feeling valued and respected by his colleagues. During the second term, I asked him if he’d take a part-time instructional coach position, and he gladly accepted. That was just the beginning. Later, he chaired or co-chaired the school improvement and school inspection committees and became a regular contributor in nearly every campus initiative.
Though I orchestrated the assignment out of necessity for growth for the entire faculty, Mr. Greene was secretly my project target. The success of my project was quite simply because he felt valued and respected. I saw the same result to lesser effects on others that year. I was overjoyed to see the transformation. Simply put, I isolated Mr. Greene’s strong suit and drew attention to it. Mr. Greene had been a diamond covered in dirt. We just washed off all the dirt and what a prize showed through. The impact on Mr. Greene and the organization was amazing.
Inspire through Empowerment. Effective leaders build confidence and inspire a desire to make a personal contribution to the common goal, ultimately impacting organizational success. After all, the ability to inspire others defines true leadership; however, inspiration is difficult, if not impossible, unless those who are led feel empowered, competent, and valued. Leaders who overlook the significance of empowerment will struggle. Sure, they may lead a qualified team, but leadership that develops leadership goes further, as it increases organization and individual productivity and potential.
Empowerment works to develop potential and facilitates the growth of a collaborative network of professionals, each contributing by their unique skill set as it blossoms. Empowerment provides an avenue for individuals to develop confidence, take chances, and feel valued. Successful leaders embrace the opportunity to build collective potential by building individual confidence. They build success within the organization by inspiring individuals to personal and professional growth. An individual who is competent and will take risks and make mistakes, but in doing so will increase the strength of his skill set.
Without empowerment, leaders simply convey direction. Leadership without empowerment is akin to simple management in which individuals work within the bounds of a prescriptive arrangement and complete assigned tasks. In this arrangement, individuals are responsible for output, not input. The ability to inspire through empowerment people propels individual and organizations to great heights. By empowering employees, leaders develop contributors, take advantage of a diversity of skill sets, and develop ways of thinking and problem solving—thus, strengthening the organization.
Empowerment is achieved through ACT.
- Accept that they may make mistakes
- Convey trust
- Target the known skill set of your employees
Allowing employees to make mistakes without fear of termination or terminal condemnation provides them with a freedom to fail. In theory, failure over time will diminish as skill sets and experience increase. If employees know that they have the leader’s trust to freely make decisions, undertake initiatives, problem solve, and direct activities within their purview, they will do so and will grow professionally. This builds confidence, builds the individual skill sets, and creates a working environment that can function in the periodic absence of the organizational leader. Keep in mind that targeting employees who have potential and a skill set that matches their assignment is vital in achieving the intended outcomes of empowerment.
Lead by example and radiate integrity. Exhibiting a high level of integrity garners respect from others. Leading without the respect of others is like going to battle without a plan. Employees constantly critique the integrity of their leader. You can bet they are watching to see consistency in dealing with employees and honesty in all actions—and casting a critical eye for favoritism or other deviation from organizational policy. They are watching to see if organizational policies apply to all, even the leader. They pick up on even small dents in the honor of the leader. Employees watch actions, interactions, and reactions of the leader.
Leaders have many responsibilities, but among the most important is establishing and maintaining a mutual trust and respect with those he or she leads. Employees who respect the leader will be far more likely to take direction and embrace the leader’s vision. Displaying only behaviors that are aligned with the highest level of integrity, and acting, interacting, and reacting in a professional and honorable manner will allow the leader to set the groundwork for effective leadership.
Loss of or lack of integrity destroys respect for the leader. Employees may show respect, but showing respect does little for building the organization. Leaders must strive to BE respected if they are to be effective leaders. Possessing a high level of integrity is the only way to ensure respect. If the leader operates in such a manner as to treat all employees fairly and by the organizational policies, an atmosphere of predictability is created. Employees find comfort in predictability.
The survival and potential productivity of an organization rests heavily on effective leadership. Possessing a clear understanding of the components of effective leadership can enable a leader to develop leaders within the organization and increase organizational productivity. The development of an effective leadership style takes time, experience, and dedication to incorporating these three vital leadership components into a leader’s skill set. Without even one of these vital components, a leader cannot achieve the coveted status of a truly effective leader.
Author Note: Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Katherine Bradley, Ph.D., 950 E. Main Street, Suite 607, Cartersville, GA 30120.
Dr. Katherine Bradley earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Mercer University in 2009. Dr. Bradley’s experience includes 30 years in the education arena, working in private, public, parochial, single-gender, coeducational, domestic, and international environments. She has served in school leadership positions for 10 years and is currently serving as an educational consultant and co-founder of Leadership Leaders LLC, a leadership consulting firm in Georgia.
Effective leadership necessary to drive an organization to success is a hot topic in the business world today. What is effective leadership? Is leadership an intrinsic quality or learned behavior? What are the essential components of effective leadership? These questions and a variety of leadership theories have fueled a library of books on leadeDr. Katherine Bradley, Ph.D. Articles
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