Tag Archives: Authentic Leadership

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Focusing on past corporate success to build future success

An enormous amount of time and energy gets devoted to solving problems within organizations, all under the pretence that solving those problems is the best way to achieve success, superiority, a competitive advantage and greatness. The challenge is that growing organizations are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to new and more interesting problems to solve. It’s an endless cycle of focusing on problems that means it’s impossible to solve our way to greatness.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional problem-solving approach. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Copperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in the mid ’80s. It focuses on doing more of what does work: uncovering the high moments in an organization’s history and using the commonalities of those experiences to build a plan to replicate those wins for the future. Sounds like more fun than constantly problem solving, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works and how it can be applied to your business.

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BIV Boardroom Strategy: Candid realities about business’ dirty little secret

In an effort to avoid conflict, leaders and team members often conceal their true feelings, withhold their opinions or outwardly agree and go along with the crowd while inside they are vehemently opposed.

For some, this lack of candour also extends to hoarding information or avoiding communicating with others entirely, in an effort to save face or get and stay ahead of the pack.

Strength of the strategic plan and the ability for executives to collaborate cross-silo with their teams depends considerably on trust and respect within and between teams. The willingness to come forward with authenticity and transparency is key to building up that trust and respect.

In Jack Welch’s book Winning, he describes a lack of candour as businesses’ “dirty little secret.” Continue reading

Leadership Minute: Healthy Conflict

If only everyone else was more candid, I would be too…

As a leader if you’ve waiting for everyone else to start modelling candour and authenticity, it might be a while. Our jobs as leaders is to model the behaviours we’d like to see demonstrated by our boss, our direct reports, and our peers.

Being candid and authentic means taking a risk to say what’s true for you, even though your opinion may not match up with the rest of the people in the room. This takes courage.  There’s a great line in the movie We Three Kings, that demonstrates this: George Clooney says, “courage isn’t what you need, courage is what you get as a result of taking a risk.” This applies 100% to candour.

Here’s what I’ve seen when teams try out candour as a new behaviour particularly during strategic planning experiences:

  • people respond by saying, “wow, I was thinking something similar but didn’t have the guts to say it out loud.”
  • other people respond to candour with comments like, “I’m so glad you had the courage to say that. I didn’t realize a lot of the facts you brought up and how passionate you are about them.”
  • teams finally talk about the “real stuff” that’s going on
  • the strategic plan ends up being far more engaging and the level of alignment around the plan just up
  • there’s an increase in ideological conflict as more conflicting ideas on what’s right for the company/organization/team come to light (a very good thing)
  • peoples true passions and excitement come alive around the key issues, opportunities, and challenges, your team is facing

If any of these sound like outcomes you’re looking for then the next step is to take a risk, experience your courage, and demonstrate to your team that you are willing to be authentic, candid, and say what’s true for you.

What’s your experience been around candour?

From Manager to Leadership: building your Leadership Roadmap

Here’s a question I get asked fairly often: how can I move from being a manager to truly becoming a leader? It turns out that the answer is “it’s a journey; one you can start right now.”

The journey becomes more focused as a result of having a roadmap to follow to help you understand if you’re on track and making progress. The roadmap starts with a destination in mind and that destination is not obvious “title-based approach.”

Here’s a step by step process for helping you create your own leadership roadmap:

Step 1 – One perspective on the difference between managers and leaders is that managers manage tasks and projects while leaders inspire, guide, mentor, and coach their teams. The reality is the key difference is actually in the eyes of the followers. It turns out the perception of followers plays a big role in developing as a leader: if followers aren’t willing to be led then you will have no one to lead. This understanding is the first step.

Step 2 – Once you understand the role perception management plays in leadership it’s time to consider what leadership outcome you are striving to achieve. Your Leadership Vision is the “what and where” of your leadership journey: where do you want to end up and what will you do when you get there? As Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “if you don’t know where you’re going then any road will take you there!” This vision can be a role or position within a company or organization or it can be what you will be able to accomplish as a result of your leadership journey.

Step 3 – Now that you have your Vision, your what and where, it’s time to consider the how: your Leadership Core Purpose. Your core purpose is the underlying values, attitudes, and beliefs that drive your behaviours and actions towards my leadership vision. One question to help you determine is, “if we asked your followers how they would describe your strengths as a leader, what would they say?”

Step 4 – Now that you are clear on your destination and know how you are going to get there we need to understand where you are today. Draw a line down the center of a page and on the left side write a list of your leadership strengths both behavioural and skill/role related. On the right side of the page write a list of the areas you need to get stronger at that are consistent with your vision and core purpose.

Step 5 – Next to each area that requires improvement and each strength that needs to be maximized write a direction action you can take is year to move your closer towards your leadership vision. These actions can vary from reading, to taking courses, attending webinars, joining peer-groups, getting coaching, finding a mentor, finding opportunities to take on leadership roles outside of work (in my experience chairing a volunteer board is an amazing way to grow your leadership abilities), etc.

Step 6 – Now that you have actions setup it’s time to put some accountability into place. Create due dates and first steps for each of the actions. Then select an Accountability Buddy who can support you on your Leadership Roadmap, hold you accountable, and provide feedback and shared experiences when you feel stuck or at a crossroads.

Step 7 – Each quarter setup a review, evaluate, and revise session for yourself to see what progress you’ve made, what’s working, what’s not working, what’s missing, and what you can celebrate.

After reading this you may be thinking that the journey of a leader is more than an outer, visible journey, it’s a blend of the outer and an inner journey. If you have read the autobiographies of great leaders you already know how much of their focus is becoming a great leader was on self-reflection and discovery. This is the inner journey that is woven like a ribbon through the Leadership Roadmap. Think of it as your own personal iceberg: so much of the real weight is hidden below the surface and forms the true stability and power behind the iceberg.

I’m interested to hear about your personal journey as a leader. Please add a comment to this blog post so we turn this monologue into a dialogue.

Candor

The most straightforward piece I’ve read on candor comes from Jack Welch’s book, Winning. In Chapter Two, he refers to candor as, “the biggest dirty little secret in business,” but more specifically as people not expressing themselves in a straightforward way and withholding their comments and criticism; usually in an effort to avoid conflict.

Welch summarizes the positive effects of candor on an organization as:

  1. Create better outcomes: get more people in the conversation which leads to more minds and more ideas.
  2. Speed things up using the process: surface, debate, improve, decide.
  3. Cut costs: replace boring meetings, pointless updates, and presentations with real conversations about the core issues.

Why aren’t we candid: we’re taught not to be at a young age. Sensitive or awkward issues are softened or avoided. Our parents scolded us for pointing out something that we thought was obvious but “wasn’t a nice thing to point out.” But the main reason we’re not candid is simple, it’s easier not to be.

So how do we reverse the trend and our learned childhood behaviours to create candor in our companies? Reward the behaviours you’d like to see more of and lead by example, no matter where you are in the hierarchy (although it is easier the higher up you are).

What steps do you take within your organization to promote and reward candor?

Our leadership development philosophy

Over the past year I’m consistently asked to answer the question, “what is your overall leadership development philosophy?” I thought it would be helpful to put pen to paper and blog my answer. Our experience over the past 10 years working with thousands of senior leaders in medium to large organizations has led to some core tenets that consistently hold true. Over the past year I’ve written several posts that together sum up our leadership development philosophy. I’ve consolidated those here and added a few thoughts to round things off:

  1. Why most Leadership Development initiatives fail
  2. Interactive Business Learning Experiences™:
  3. Theory versus reality: many “leadership development consultants” have academic backgrounds but little to no practical experience in the trenches working at an executive level. Their approach is based on case studies and teaching theories. The challenge with this is the Grand Canyon sized gap that exists between theory and application. Having leaders who can “talk” about leadership but cannot clearly demonstrate in a tangible way (and by tangible I mean a way in which others can easily understand what they are doing and learn for the approach), leads to great theorists who talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.
  4. Three Core Areas of Leadership: The are actually three core areas of leadership that leaders need to become students of: leading self, leading other, leading organization. Most people only consider the second one, leading other, when considering how they can develop their core leadership skills.
  5. Authentic Leadership: Bill George in his talk at Google describes Authentic Leadership in a way that resonates with what our experience at ViRTUS.  Here are the five learnings from his hour long talk: leadership is about internal development and introspection (self-awareness) not how you create a perception for the public, know your values and what’s really important to you, it’s the sweet spot at the intersection of your greatest strengths and your greatest motivation, find a support team and mentors who you can be totally honest with and who can be totally honest with you, lead an integrated life by being the same person in all areas of my life (authenticity).
  6. Emotional Intelligence: The founding father of Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) in the workplace is Daniel Goleman. He developed the four main EI constructs as: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (sometimes referred to as awareness of others), and relationship management. Our experience has shown us that by weaving these tenets into the background of the competencies we help leaders develop by showing them practical tools and techniques using everyday language, leaders can be coached much more rapidly into demonstrating changes in behaviour.
  7. Andragogy vs Pedagogy – the old school style of having a teacher stand at the front of the room and lecture to the students about a theory has been proven not only to be inefficient in helping adults learn, it’s also incredibly boring for the learner. The new style is collaborative, engaging, interactive, focused on opportunities and challenges they’re actually facing, accountability based (instead of memorizing), and open to failing as a key part of the learning process.
  8. Adult Experiential Learning Cycle
  9. Entrenching Learning
  10. Five Stages of Learning: There are five stages of learning that we grow through when absorbing a new concept literally from apathy to “this is just the way I do it”:  Unconscious incompetence – I don’t know what I don’t know, Conscious Incompetence – I know what I don’t know, Conscious Competence – I know what I know, Unconscious Competence – I don’t know what I know, Reflective or Enlightened Competence – I am aware that I don’t know what I know but I can shift back into conscious competence to teach someone else.
  11. How do you know it’s working?: The reality of transforming a business is fairly straightforward: if you can’t change a behaviour or a system within the business then everything stays the same. The easiest way to measure changes in behaviour is to witness them using the ViRTUS Video Test.

As always I welcome your comments, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m interested to hear what your personal experience has been in helping develop leaders within your organization.

PS Why post this on my blog where my competitors can see it? It was an easy decision. Even though people can cut and paste the words, they can’t match the results we provide and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.