Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category
We are confusing ourselves and those employees who hold authority positions in our organizations with a plethora of role labels, each of which is valid and viable, but poorly defined and almost impossible to fulfill at the same time. I give you the examples of Manager, Coach, Leader, and (most recently) SuperBoss.
I have recently discovered Tanmay Vora (qaspire.com)and his wonderful pictorial depictions, often of literature he has read and wishes to summarize. Here is one that captures “Leadership” that he himself created in all its complexity.
No wonder our “leaders” are overwhelmed! This is a great list but really are nine different roles with lots of room for discussion, debate and overlap. In the process of having that discussion, we should carve out sub roles and point out that no one can be good at all these things and certainly not do them all at the same time. Even “SuperBosses” are not good at everything, despite the “super” part.
Let’s begin with “SuperBoss” because it also contains the label “boss,” another label that we can apply to people in positions of authority (formal and informal). I had the privilege to hear Dr. Sydney Finkelstein speak recently on the topic of “SuperBosses,” coinciding with the recent publication of his book of the same name. Examples of people he uses to describe the profile of Superboss (along with a 360 Feedback behavioral inventory) is quite diverse: Jazz legend Miles Davis, restaurateur Alice Waters, fashion iconoclast Ralph Lauren, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, producer George Lucas, SNL creator Lorne Michaels, NFL coach Bill Walsh, and hedge fund manager Julian Robertson. Dr. Finkelstein asserts that a “SuperBoss” can be created (i.e., developed), though I am not sure how many a given business could tolerate.
I had the temerity to inquire during the Q&A as to why he chose to build on the label of “boss” when it has many negative connotations, including associations with the Mafia (think of The Godfather). Was Vito Corleone a good Superboss? Or Michael, for that matter? Dr. Finkelstein shared that his first working title was indeed “Godfathers” but was dissuaded from that course due to multiple problems, not the least of which was gender-related.
Speaking of boss, this graphic has recently resurfaced on LinkedIn and is incredibly revealing. We obviously were not in the head of whomever created it, but it has some useful messages to reflect upon. On one hand, the Boss is in a position can’t help but generate negative feelings. But note that a) the team is trying to get over a ditch, and b) the Boss is pointing (not whipping), probably talking or shouting, and c) the platform says “MISSION” to infer that everyone knows what is trying to be accomplished (and evidently of some magnitude).
Despite the negative emotions you may have towards this “Boss,” I propose that the Boss is probably of more use than the Leader below, and should be called “Manager.” In the movie “Gettysburg,” neither Lee nor Grant are out there leading the charge. Each sets the “mission” and assigns others to carry it out, with many “others” required to do so, literally sitting at the rear of the attack.
The time for being the Leader is also important, and sometimes does require both setting the lead by getting on the ground at the front of the line (think “Steward”) , and getting one’s “hands dirty” in the process. What isn’t shown here is the role of the Leader in interfacing with the rest of the organization on behalf of the group, both vertically (upward) and horizontally (both internal and, if applicable, externally).
No wonder our “leaders” (maybe “boss” is better?) are confused and overwhelmed!
And then there’s the Coach. Being a “coach” while leading a team is a totally different set of skills and behaviors from those of Manager and Leader, let alone SuperBoss. Here’s another great Tanmay Vora graphic from reading the work of Lisa Haneberg.
There is a time and place for a Boss to be a Coach as well, and, as shown here, not an easy set of skills and behaviors to acquire and hone. These capabilities should be set aside from those of being Manager, Leader and SuperBoss so that they can be communicated, developed, measured and tracked (i.e., create accountability) in a clear message.
One thing all four roles (Manager, Coach, Leader, Superboss) have in common is that they each should “inspire action,” (though that “role” surprisingly is not included in the “Roles for Great Leadership” above). Each role does it in a different manner and, in general, with different emphasis on the individual versus the group.
The Forum Corporation published this study on LinkedIn (4/28/16) regarding competencies for first-level leaders. I would contend that this list further reinforces the need for differentiation of roles and their associated competencies in support of development and assessment:
Finally, I was pointed to this video (https://goo.gl/XfFQnR) of Joel Trammel who makes the distinction between Manager and Leader (and, for CEO’s, Commander). He goes on to say that he would prefer an organization full of Managers over having a bunch of Leaders. Clearly his mental model of “leader” is very specific and has little overlap with that of Manager.
In addition to inspiring action, there are clearly two other common denominators that create the foundation for any kind of positive relationship between Boss and his/her direct reports: Trusted and Trusts. Being Trusted springs from having integrity, being honest and being consistent. Being Trusting (or Trusts) happens as the boss shows respect and dignity, including empowering the direct reports to demonstrate their own talents.
In a nutshell, we might envision the Manager role as being depicted like this. Here I use the label “manager” deliberately to differentiate it from “leader,” though it does show the overlap with the “coach” aspect of the position. Most importantly, each of the 4 activities and the Trust/Trusted foundation must be described in behavioral terms in order to help all stakeholders understand what they require and how to develop them. “Culture” and “Goals” represent the organizational (contextual) environment that creates alignment for those behaviors.
Here are some basic role definitions:
|Manager||Ensures that day-to-day work requirements are achieved in alignment with organizational goals and values.|
|Coach||Partners with an employee to define and implement effective solutions for problems and/or ongoing work processes.|
|Developer||Partners with an employee to identify needs for short term and long term (career) development, and implements plans accordingly.|
|Leader||Coordinates across team members, represents the team vertically (upward) and horizontally (work groups, customer) to ensure alignment and motivation.|
Both the supporters and attackers of our Performance Management systems know that supervisors universally need to be better at providing feedback and developing their direct reports, all while accomplishing organizationally-driven performance requirements. This is a complex set of skills and behaviors that are best taught and developed on the job. That is done most effectively when sub roles are clearly defined, both for the benefit of the supervisors and the DR’s. We need to choose our labels carefully and ensure consensus when we describe a “boss.”
©2016 David W. Bracken
I am designing 360 Feedback workshops and got to reflecting on how we have historically positioned the value of feedback from the perspectives of both the giver and the receiver. One phrase that has become a cliché is that “feedback is a gift.” Clearly this message is primarily used to manage the reactions of feedback recipients, especially when the message is negative. And, as in the gift giving tradition, the leader is supposed to thank the givers for their thoughtfulness and then do whatever he/she wants with the “gift,” including nothing. While some leaders might take actions, the connotation of “gift” is that the recipient has no obligation to do so.
Of course, there are multiple things wrong with this scenario, including:
- The leader is left to his/her own design
- The quality of the “gift” is assumed to be constructive and valuable, even when it isn’t
- The raters are excused from their role as partnering with the leader in his/her development
When coworkers provide feedback in a 360 Feedback process, they should be encouraged to view the exercise as one where they have a vested interest in the leader’s development and improved effectiveness. This message includes the viewpoint that the feedback needs to be honest and constructive, and their responsibility (accountability) for the development of the leader doesn’t end when they submit their feedback.
We can create that vested interest through the language we use in training raters, even if it is primarily through instructions and emails. One concept is to describe the feedback as an “investment” in the leader, i.e., the raters will also benefit if the leader becomes more effective.
What are some of the ways the raters can maximize the value of their investment? They can:
- Ensure they participate in the 360 Feedback process
- Provide honest, constructive feedback, including constructive write in comments
- Encourage the leader to discuss his/her results with them
- Act to ensure that the leader clearly understands the messages
- Help the leader in crafting an impactful, actionable development plan
- Give the leader ongoing informal feedback if/when the leader exhibits progress
Let’s put the “gift” language to rest. Let’s encourage coworkers to see 360 Feedback as a sound investment in their future, but an investment that needs to be nurtured and supplemented.
©2015 David W. Bracken
A colleague recently asked me, “Exactly what is ‘Strategic 360 Feedback’?” Heck, it’s only the name of this blog and in the name the consortium I have helped form, The Strategic 360 Forum (that is meeting for its 5th time in April). The concepts are also laid out pretty well in the article Dale Rose and I published in 2011 in the Journal of Business in Psychology (“When Does 360-degree Feedback Create Behavior Change? And How Would We Know It When It Does?”).
In as succinct way as I can muster, here are the four core requirements for “strategic” 360 feedback systems:
- The content must be derived from the organization’s strategy and values, which are unique to that organization. Often derived from the organization’s values, they can be explicit (the ones that hang on the wall) or implicit (which some people call “culture”). To me, “strategic” and “off-the-shelf” is an oxymoron and the two words cannot be used in the same sentence (though I just did).
- Participation must be inclusive, i.e., a census of the leaders/managers in the organizational unit (e.g., total company, division, location, function, level). I say “leaders/managers” because a true 360 requires that subordinates are a rater group. One reason for this requirement is that I (and many others) believe 360’s, under the right circumstances, can be used to make personnel decisions and that usually requires comparing individuals, which, in turn, requires that everyone have available the same data. This requirement also enables us to use Strategic 360’s to create organizational change, as in “large scale change occurs when a lot of people change just a little.”
- The process must be designed and implemented in such a way that the results are sufficiently reliable (we have already established content validity in requirement #1) that we can use them to make decisions about the leaders (as in #4). This is not an easy goal to achieve, even though benchmark studies continue to indicate that 360’s are the most commonly used form of assessment in both public and private sectors.
- The results of Strategic 360’s are integrated with important talent management and development processes, such as leadership development and training, performance management, staffing (internal movement), succession planning, and high potential processes. Research indicates that properly implemented 360 results can not only more reliable (in a statistical meaning) than single-source ratings, but are also more fair to minorities, women, and older workers. Integration into HR systems also brings with it accountability, whether driven by the process or internally (self) driven because the leader knows that the results matter.
Let me hasten to say that a) all 360’s, strategic or not, should have a development focus, and b) none of this minimizes the value of 360 processes that are used in support of the development of leaders, one at a time. There is no question that innumerable leaders have benefitted from the awareness created by feedback, though often also supported by a coach who not only helps manage the use of the feedback, but also should be creating accountability for the constructive use of the feedback.
Strategic 360 processes and “development only” processes can successfully coexist in a single organization. But they have different purposes, and purpose should be the primary driver of all design and implementation decisions.
I saw a commercial (Progressive?) recently where the theme is that some companies (their competitors) prevent their customer service personnel from providing optimal service, presumably by placing restrictions on what they can do. They use some great visual metaphors to communicate the message, including a receptionist in a glass box, a man in a large bird cage (suspended in midair), and this one:
This picture of an employee in chains (who, evidently, can’t even get a cup of coffee, let alone serve his customers) also made me think of this cartoon that has a similar but nuanced message that just telling employees what they are supposed to be doing (i.e., alignment) isn’t enough if they are constrained.
(I am finding that some unknown percentage of viewers of this cartoon don’t “get” it, and I am wondering if it is, at least in part, due to lack of exposure to the slave rower (in the galley) in chains concept. It makes me think of the movie, Ben Hur, one of the greatest movies of all time, but one that many younger people (and most people are younger than me) have not seen. Am I right?)
The photo and the cartoon lead me to refer to the ALAMO© model that I use to help individuals, teams and organizations to diagnose why performance is sub-optimal:
Performance = ALignment X (Ability X Motivation X Opportunity)
I believe that the Opportunity part of this “equation” is one of the features that makes it somewhat unique, i.e., acknowledging that there are contextual factors that absolutely can constrain performance. The factors are also multiplicative so that the lack of any one feature drives the equation to zero (though Alignment can have a negative value).
Opportunity (or lack thereof) comes in many forms, both tangible and intangible. Hopefully employees aren’t physically chained or hung in bird cages, but the feeling can be as salient by policies and practices. Those can, in turn, come for organizationally communicated policies (e.g., policy manuals) as well as local (leader-determined) that may or may not be consistent with company strategies. Employees are also constrained tangibly by lack of resources, like the widget maker whose widget machine doesn’t work. Resources also include time, budget, information and support.
Opportunity constraints can also be psychological. They come in the form of norms, both company and local, regarding “how we do it around here.” They also can be internal, self-limiting thoughts or beliefs such as, “I don’t think they want me to do that,” and/or “I don’t think I can do that,” and/or not exploring sufficient options about how to get past barriers (which also may be perceived or real).
I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Bill Treasurer earlier this year. His message focuses on another “O” leadership factor, namely to create opportunities by “opening doors” for others. His book is Leaders Open Doors, and he tells this little story in there and in his presentation:
When my five-year-old son, Ian, returned home from school, the youngster said his teacher had chosen him as that day’s class leader.
“What did you do as class leader?” I asked.
“I got to open doors for people,” said Ian.
This other “O” is a proactive form of leadership, which is creating opportunities for others. Let your mind wrestle with this metaphor. How do leaders open doors? A “door” might be an obstructive policy. It could be the door to access another person, maybe to get information, build relationships, or be a mentor. It could just be opening their own door. It may be creating options for a subordinate’s career development that require resources that the leader can control.
Whether the “O” is “opening doors” or ensuring “opportunity” to perform, the manager has the “keys to the kingdom,” which include access to resources and overcoming barriers. The best managers I had in my career were ones who helped me spread my wings by breaking down the cages.
This is such an important role for a manager that it is ludicrous to have 360 Feedback processes that do not involve the immediate supervisor and prevent their access to the report. Asking the participant to provide a “summary” instead of the report is fraught with significant perils, including real and perceived inconsistency (insert “unfairness” here).
Lack of “opportunity” can occur at all levels: organization, team, manager, and self. Here are some thoughts about how to improve it using various assessment tools:
- Use employee surveys with a dimension relating to Opportunity to Perform
- I have the resources to do my job well (equipment, budget, work environment)
- I get the information I need to do my job well
- The Policies and Practices here allow me to provide optimal customer service
- Use 360 Feedback/Upward Feedback to assess/improve manager performance in this area, and hold them accountable for improvement
- My manager regularly asks me if I have the resources I need to perform my job
- My manager helps our team to identify barriers to successful performance
- My manager discusses my short and long term career plans, and helps me progress with my development plan
- Define, train and assess to create coaching skills in all managers.
In my last blog, I asked the question, “Where is Theory Y?” (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/where-is-theory-y/) in response to an article that proposes that all that matters for effective leadership is achieving the goal, not how he/she got there. That led me to a reference to McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, and the leader effectiveness factors of task and relationship. Today I propose a “Theory O” that is equally important to effectiveness as a leader (to deliver it as a manager), and as a job performer by staying aware of the real, perceived and imagined barriers to your own effectiveness.
©2014 David W. Bracken
I wrote on the subject of trust not too long ago (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/a-matter-of-trust/), and, trust me, the subject isn’t going away. Since then, I have been accumulating a few more treatments of the topic of “trust;” it is another of those “know it when I see it” type of subjects, which makes it even more important that we compare our mental models to ensure we are thinking (and therefore acting) in the same way when we propose actions to address it.
One that caught my eye was posted in TD (http://goo.gl/8KXx5) (the ASTD, now ATD, magazine) by Doug Conant, who I recognize from his days at CEO of Campbell Soup Company and now Chair of Avon . In there he notes:
I think leaders have to have three traits. They have to be a person of great character, and in that spirit they have to do what they say they’re going to do… it’s a combination of character and competence. If the organization doesn’t trust you, you’re toast.
Erika Garms just posted a blog (that was referenced on LinkedIn) on the interaction of Accountability and Trust (http://goo.gl/eEmwWZ). Her main point is that a focus on Accountability is not going to be effective if it is not preceded (or grounded in) the establishment of Trust. This is an extremely important piece of advice (or warning) that speaks to the potential power of Trust to be a barrier to successful leadership when it is absent.
Marshall Goldsmith (see marshallgoldsmith.com) lists 20 behaviors that leaders need to fix; call them bad habits or derailers if you want, and they form the basis for his fantastic book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” I have referenced this list before in the context of listening (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/just-shut-up-and-listen/), but let’s looks at it through this lens of a subset of those behaviors (in this case negative) that can damage trust:
Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.
Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound witty.
Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we aren’t asked.
Withholding information: The refusal to share information to gain or maintain an advantage over others.
Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect.
Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocents who are only trying to help us.
Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
Trust is an elusive construct. My earlier Trust blog took a lead from the ATD study that honed in on integrity and honesty. Mr. Conant throws in competence and character. Goldsmith’s list has a core message that it is created by the respect shown to others.
I would add to this list “Being Inconsistent”, i.e., arbitrarily changing your basis for decisions and actions both across time and across individuals to the point where it creates uncertainty and perceived unfairness. Of course, the other end of this continuum is rigidity, which is also bad. In this context, “inconsistency” equates to unpredictability and capriciousness when the leader does not sufficiently explain the basis for his/her actions.
The good news is that it can be defined by behaviors (also see my earlier blog referenced above on this topic) and that behaviors can be changed. As I noted, behaviors begin as a choice. Many are not difficult to do, and, once accepted as needing change, can be honed to be even more impactful.
Based on this review, a Trust dimension on an upward (manager) feedback instrument might include:
- My manager has the skills and abilities to perform his/her job well.
- My manager is honest at all times.
- My manager treats all people with respect.
- My manager follows through on promises and commitments.
- My manager treats others with consistency and fairness.
- My manager listens to and acknowledges the viewpoints of others.
- My manager takes responsibility for his/her actions and decisions.
- My manager is willing to share his/her shortcomings and development needs.
Trust may well be the “sine qua non” of leadership effectiveness, whether at the organizational level or the individual leader (manager) level. If you’re not acknowledging and measuring Trust in yourself and your leaders, you are probably setting a ceiling on leadership and followership effectiveness.
©2014 David W. Bracken
“Apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value the relationship more than your ego.”
I saw that anonymous quote on LinkedIn recently and it drew me back to a small note in Traning & Development magazine dated February 24 on this topic. (http://goo.gl/8X6yRe) The text follows:
A recent survey of 954 global professionals by the Forum Corporation found that although 87 percent of managers say that they either always or often apologize for their mistakes at work, only 19 percent of employees say that their managers apologize most or all of the time.
Naturally, managers not owning up to their errors has a direct impact on employee trust levels. Another interesting insight from the survey is that while 91 percent of employees say it’s “extremely important” to have a manager they can trust, only 48 percent of managers agree that it’s extremely important for employees to trust their managers.
So we can only assume that it’s those managers who do not place a premium on trust who are committing the following worst management sins, as identified by survey participants:
- taking credit for others’ ideas or blaming
- poor communication
- lack of clarity.
Managers may condone their mistakes because they are afraid of tarnishing their image. According to the survey, 51 percent of managers believe apologizing makes them appear incompetent, 18 percent believe it makes them look weak, and 18 percent shrug it off, saying that apologizing is unnecessary.
Unfortunately, the study also shows that a low regard for employees’ trust may result in low engagement levels.
This note caught my attention for a few reasons. First, this concept of trust is one that is central to the “manager as coach” work we have been doing in defining the foundation of a productive relationship that is required (in our opinion) if a manager is to be a successful coach for his/her team members.
Trust is also manifested in the perceptions of senior management, whether that group is perceived as individuals or in their aggregate actions. Either way, time after time we see that employee surveys indicate that “trust in senior leadership” is usually the primary driver of employee engagement, confirming the last sentence of the article.
Secondly, the basis for trust (or lack thereof), as listed in the bullets, is determined by behaviors. Behaviors are a choice; a person can choose to do them or not. That choice can be influenced by consequences. Evidently, a majority of managers see more value in behaving badly. We can change that behavior by making them aware that they are behaving badly, and then having negative consequences for doing so. From top to bottom.
Thirdly was the discrepancy between the importance of trust to employees versus their managers. It is hard to believe that organizations do not preach honesty, integrity and so on, whether through Values statements that hang on the walls, or by lip service. It does suggest that there is inadequate accountability.
This T+D blurb is another in a series of articles and blogs I have seen recently that bemoan bad leader behavior and the effect on an organization’s climate (see my recent blog https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/nimble-and-sustainable/), but with no specific recommendation as to a solution.
I really hate whining without a proposed solution. I have suggested that a 360 process with accountability (i.e., consequences, good or bad) is a viable solution. I recently heard of a major organization that has introduced a new leadership behavior (competency) model, and, when I asked how leaders are to be measured against the model, the response what to fall back on single-source supervisor evaluation because “360’s haven’t worked here.” I felt like I was in a backward time warp to 20 years when we started talking seriously about the shortcomings of single-source (manager) performance evaluations (see Edwards and Ewen’s first 360 degree feedback book).
Behaviors can be shaped, starting with creating awareness that change is needed, aligning to the desired behavior, and usually requiring consequences (i.e., accountability). A few leaders will change without the carrot & stick, but those are usually the ones who are not the ones who need fixing.
If you have leaders who are undermining trust, you have a problem. I think there is a solution.