Critical Competencies for Effective Coaching (And a Book) by Lisa Haneberg

Great coaching is at the heart of meaningful accomplishments. In an organizational and team context, being able to coach people means helping them overcome their own resistance, get unstuck and move forward in the direction of their goals. Great coaching catalyzes great results.

But too often, we see managers and leaders getting so busy on the treadmill of getting things done that they lose focus on how those results are achieved. A leader’s constant job is to strike a balance between getting things done and developing people. Doing one at the cost of the other can be a great disservice to organization and its people.

I recently read revised edition of my friend Lisa Haneberg’s book “Coaching Basics” published by Association for Talent Development (ATD). It is a wonderful resource for organizational leaders, HR professionals and managers if they want to understand the nuances of how to coach others for greatness. I strongly recommend this book.

I was also fortunate to be able to write a blurb in this book where I say,

Companies often tell their leaders to ‘coach’ people without giving any guidance on the ‘how.’ Lisa Haneberg fills this important gap by offering a very useful handbook that clarifies the foundation of good coaching and offers actionable insights and tools for effective coaching.

– Tanmay Vora, Director, Product Development R&D, Basware

But when I read this book, I was instantly reminded of a wonderful post that Lisa wrote in 2014 where she outlined critical competencies of a great coach.

Here are a couple of excellent quotes from Lisa’s post:

“Coaching is a service and we cannot be successful if the learner perceives that we are helping to satisfy OUR needs or wants.”

“Great coaches are able to help learners adopt a more helpful perspective of the situations about which they are struggling.”

And here is a sketch note summary of coaching competencies that Lisa’s post outlines.

Get the book at: TD.org | Amazon

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Also read at QAspire.com:

Why Organizations Don’t Learn? #Sketchnote

Organizations that don’t learn constantly, adapt continuously and execute relentlessly are more likely to be disrupted by constant change and competition.

Peter Senge, in his book defined a learning organization as:

“where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

We have to go beyond formal learning methods if we have to truly build learning organizations in a rapidly changing world. A learning organization is not possible without learning individuals and individuals learn the most with each other in a network and  and through their work in an culture that promotes informal learning.

I emphasized culture because it can be one of the biggest bottlenecks in how organizations learn and apply what they learn to create meaningful results. It doesn’t matter how much you invest in formal learning, tools and methods, if you do not have a culture where people are encouraged to share without any fear, learning may not come to the fore.

Why do companies struggle to become and remain learning organizations? In November 2015 issue of HBR, I came across an article by Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats titled “Why Organizations Don’t Learn” where they outline the cultural and individual biases that don’t allow organizations to learn. They also provide useful tips to overcome those biases.

Here is a sketch note I created to distill key biases that prevent organizations from learning. To know what you can do to overcome these biases, I recommend you read the full article at HBR. 

Related Posts at QAspire Blog:

Building a Business Culture That Works for Everyone: An Interview with Diane K. Adams

 

Diane K. Adams is Chief People Officer at Qlik (NASDAQ: QLIK), one of the fastest-growing high-tech companies worldwide with nearly 2,300 employees in 30 countries. She has spent her career leading teams in Fortune 500 Human Resources organizations. Chief executives of smaller companies and international and national organizations and leaders also regularly tap her expertise as coach, consultant, and/or lecturer to help them hone their positive cultures. More than a ‘Human Resources’ executive, Adams is a ‘Culture and Talent’ expert. She specializes in helping companies recognize what’s required to energize their people and to achieve long-term success at the bottom line.

Diane recently published her new book “It Takes More Than Casual Fridays and Free Coffee – Building a Business Culture That Works for Everyone” which I read recently. Being a student of organization excellence, I caught up with Diane on a conversation about building high performance cultures. Here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Hi Diane, Congratulations for the new book. Culture of an organization always exists – either it is designed consciously or it happens by default. How can organizations be more deliberate about their culture?

[Diane K. Adams] Thanks Tanmay. You’re so right about culture. Every organization does have its own culture. Your company, your favorite sports team, a college or university, even a church, mosque or synagogue has its own culture.

Culture, after all, is the set of clear values that drive the thinking, actions, and attitudes of an organization and its people. One of my favorite definitions: culture is what you do when no one is looking.

Culture, after all, is the set of clear values that drive the thinking, actions, and attitudes of an organization and its people.

At successful companies, the culture is positive and values-based. It’s pervasive and intentional, and is reflected in everything the organization and its people say and do, in every action and every process internally and externally. In turn, team members, along with their companies, achieve excellence personally and professionally.

Whatever the culture, though, it’s important to remember that culture comes from the top. That means that to intentionally mold a culture starts with the leadership deciding those values that are important, and then modeling them in everything that’s said and done. Too often lofty values end up simply rhetoric. If a company’s leaders decide honesty and integrity is an essential value, they must act accordingly. Everyone, every action—from hiring and firing, to decisions, discussions, and more–must reflect honesty and integrity. For example, how someone’s employment is terminated says everything about a company’s culture. This is a time when everyone is watching. Too often terminations lack respect for the individual.

When it comes to reinforcing positive behaviors, top companies may reward team members who demonstrate excellence in terms of a specific value. The “reward” often is in the form of recognition—a note of praise from the leader or a mention of job-well-done at a peer meeting.

My personal approach to deliberately creating a successful culture adheres to the 7 Points to Culture Success outlined in my book. They include:

  1. Define Your Cultural Values and Behaviors
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  3. Integrate Your Values into All Aspects of Your Company
  4. Drive Culture through Leadership
  5. Show You Care: Engage and Invest in Your Team
  6. Give Back: Make a Difference beyond the Workplace
  7. Make It Fun: Reward, Recognize, and Celebrate

[Tanmay Vora] Corporations have vision, mission and values that are propagated across the company through various programs. But culture is built around actions by people at all levels. How can organizations bridge the gap between values and behaviors?

[Diane K. Adams] That’s an excellent question. Again, it’s about modeling the behavior you expect of others—living the value and acting on it. Also keep in mind that reward and recognition drive behaviors. Therefore, the primary way to bridge the gap between values and behaviors is to reward and recognize employees who demonstrate the positive behavior.

it’s about modeling the behavior you expect of others—living the value and acting on it.

For example, consider the value social responsibility, so important to energize your teams and foster long-term loyalty internally and among your customers. As a leader, you help cement the value in your people with your behavior. You act in ways that give back to the community—volunteering your time, your efforts, your expertise in ways to help others.

At my employer, Qlik, for example, on our internal website we highlight givebacks by our team members. Recently we ran an internal campaign–How Was Your Day?–and each day highlighted how a different individual used his or her volunteer day to give back to the community.

[Tanmay Vora] The book has a chapter on building culture of innovation. What advice would you share with a CEO who is struggling to build a culture of innovation?

[Diane K. Adams] First, kudos for recognizing the importance of innovation. After all, if you’re not constantly innovating, you’re falling behind your competition.

It’s not enough to say innovation matters. Companies and their leaders must instill a mindset of innovation across the entire company, not just in the product or research and development organizations. Every leader and every employee must continually ask the question, what’s the newest and best way to accomplish a goal–whatever that goal might be.

As I mentioned above, you can encourage this innovative behavior by highlighting individuals who have creative and innovative ideas. That means a recognition program and often a rewards one, too, for the best of the best.

The additional advice I would offer a CEO is also to strive for a culture of collaboration. That’s because collaboration fosters teamwork, brainstorming, and ultimately generates the best ideas. Remember, success is a team effort. No matter your company, industry, or competition, it’s important to constantly ask each other and yourself the question, how can something be accomplished better, faster, and more efficiently.

[Tanmay Vora] How helpful are cultural assessments (based on standard models) in culture building initiatives?

[Diane K. Adams] Very. At Qlik we regularly do full-blown culture assessments with the help of metrics and organizations like the Great Place to Work® Institute. The results provide us a measure of our progress and lay the foundation for developing very thorough action plans so that we can continually be at our best.

In addition, we do interim assessments of various aspects of our culture. For example, we might use an assessment tool to measure our progress in maintaining two-way communications. We also use in-house surveys from organizations like Survey Monkey.

After all, to accomplish a goal, you first have to know where you are in order to develop the right strategies to get there.

[Tanmay Vora] What are your top 3 tips for creating a culture of learning and development?

[Diane K. Adams] 1. First, it’s important to create an environment in which every team member has an annual individual learning plan (ILP). The plan sets goals, lays out strategies for achieving those goals, and helps each individual see clearly how he or she will learn, grow, and succeed along with the company. The best companies with true learning and development cultures view ILP goals with the same importance as annual performance goals.

It’s important to create an environment in which every team member has an annual individual learning plan

To achieve the highest performance rating, for example, an individual must excel in his or her performance as well as with his or her personal learning goals.

2. Leverage your talent. Learning and development doesn’t have to cost lots of money. Everyone contributes in his or her own way, so capitalize on this broad expertise that’s already available to you. First, identify individual talents (often utilizing a StrengthsFinder assessment tool), and then be intentional about providing opportunities for your people to learn from each other.

Be intentional about providing opportunities for your people to learn from each other.

Some ways to do that include holding internal webinars on specific topics that are led by team members who excel in that area. For example, someone with outstanding presentation skills could share his or her expertise with other team members. Another example could be holding monthly “lunch and learn” meetings with your team. Everyone gets together for lunch and a team member leads the training. The “teacher” could alternate depending on the topic and the person’s area of expertise. The company could pick up the lunch tab, or it could even be a pitch-in lunch with the company providing the drinks and the facility space.

Another way to leverage your talent is with a simple mentoring plan. Again, it starts with identifying the strengths of individuals throughout the company, and then making those talents known and available to others. That way if someone needs improvement in a specific area, he or she can then reach out to the right person.

3. Conduct annual talent reviews to identify and understand the strengths of your individual team members and their career goals. In turn, leadership then can be intentional with developmental career moves for its team members.

Research indicates that 70 percent of our learning comes through experience, which is why career development job moves are so important.

[Tanmay Vora] There are a lot of assessments, theories and best practices for building a culture of excellence. How does one “make it all happen”?

[Diane K. Adams] That’s another great question, and it’s what inspired me to write this book. The answer goes back to the basic definition of culture. Remember, creating a positive values-based culture is about being intentional and pervasive about each of the 7 Points to Culture Success.

So, the secret to a successful culture lies in intentionally defining your values and integrating them into every part of your organization.

For example, are your values incorporated into your performance review process? Do you have a recognition process for individuals who excel at the core values? Are your leaders rewarded for building a positive-based culture? Those are just a few of the ways you incorporate your values into and make your positive culture happen. It all ties back to the 7 Points to Culture.

[Tanmay Vora] If there is only ONE advice from your book that you would like to share with companies and start-ups, what would that be?

[Diane K. Adams] Every person and every company has the potential to be extraordinary. Creating a positive values-based culture provides an environment to do just that.

[Tanmay Vora] Diane, thank you for writing this book and for sharing your valuable insights here. I am sure readers of this blog will find your book and ideas very helpful in their own journeys of building excellent culture within their teams and organizations.

[Diane K. Adams] Thank you Tanmay. One last thought for your readers: Creating that great culture doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive. But it does take a recognition of those positive values that matter to you and your company, and then the commitment and courage to live those values in everything the company and its people say and do.

If you would like to learn more about how you can build a positive culture in your organization, please check out the FREE online workbook that accompanies my book at my website, www.DianeKAdams.com.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

#Sketchnote: Bold #HR by Josh Bersin

For anyone working in HR, learning and leadership space, the Global Human Capital Trends Report 2015 by Deloitte University Press is a must read. It outlines the key challenges faced by businesses today and confirms that it is the soft stuff (culture, engagement, leadership and learning) that is actually hard for most businesses, large and small.

The report ends with a note,

Make 2015 a year of bold leadership in helping your organization thrive in this new world of work.

In his related post titled “The Four Keys to Bold HR: Lessons for the Year Ahead”, Josh Bersin defines what BOLD really means to leaders in HR space (and elsewhere).

Here is a sketch note version of key ideas from the post:

Also read:

The Future of HR – Evolving HR Function to create significant value for the business given current and future business trends – a research by Accenture.

Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘Thank You’. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max De Pree

Gone with the industrial age is the concept of traditional leadership where people at the top of pyramid exercise the power in a hierarchy. In a creative and connected economy, a leader’s first and foremost job is to serve to the needs of people they lead. To create an ecosystem where creative people thrive. To create trust by trusting others. To build a learning organization. To deliver meaningful results.

That is what Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes® Lousiana Kitchen, Inc says in her brand new book “Dare to Serve – How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others”.

Why dare? What kind of a leader is Cheryl Bachelder talking about?

“This is a different kind of leader with a rare combination of traits, courageous enough to take the people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey. The dynamic tension between daring and serving creates conditions for a superior performance.”

I could see the same contrast/creative tension between “dare” and “serve” that Jim Collins described as “Fierce Resolve” and “Humility” as a trait of Level 5 Leader.

What I like about this book is that it is a first hand account of a CEO who turned the business around. In 2007, Cheryl Bachelder was hired to turn around the business situation that reeled with poor customer service, dwindling sales and troubled relationships with franchise owners. In the first part, Cheryl describes the journey of transformation, challenges, setbacks and ultimately the triumphs. In the second part, she puts forward anecdotes and specific examples of how leaders can become stewards of people and organization’s mission. The book makes you think through game-changing questions that Cheryl calls as “Dare to Serve Reflections”. Exercises and quotes makes the book all the more interesting and learning oriented.

The concepts of servant leadership or the paradoxes of leadership are not new. But Cheryl Bachelder does a great job at bringing these concepts to the fore using her own transformation experience. And for that, this book is valuable.

Here are some of the other gems from the book:

Helping people who want to find meaning and purpose at work is exceptionally rewarding. It is the leader’s opportunity to leave a legacy in lives of people you lead.

For principles to matter, they have to be “in action,” not on plaques. Principles must come alive in the daily conversations, decisions, and actions of the team.

Self-centered leadership is actually a lazy path. The leader merely wields power over others to achieve results for their own benefit. This is not difficult to do. But this approach stunts performance of the people and the enterprise. It cannot deliver superior results.

If you are a leader who is at the center of transformation responsibility, this book is a must read. If you are already someone who already leads through service, this book will help you gain a diverse perspective of what stewardship looks like in real life.


Also Read: Other book reviews/author interviews at QAspire.

15 Simplest Acts of #Leadership

 

  1. Smile. It is a universal language of compassion, care and love. 
  2. Greet people by their names.
  3. Share positive feedback about the work they are doing.
  4. Ask them about their advice on a critical problem.
  5. Listen with an intent to understand.
  6. Learn about them, their work, their process and their challenges.
  7. Help them in getting rid of their roadblocks.
  8. Establish trust to create a non-threatening environment for people.
  9. Be your authentic self when dealing with people and remain integral.
  10. Act on their feedback.
  11. Show them how much you believe in them.
  12. Encourage them.
  13. Thank them for their contributions.
  14. Recognize their work and their achievements.
  15. Celebrate their accomplishments.

Bonus:

Fluid Learning


“The tools of the mind become burdens when the environment which made them necessary no longer exists.” – Henry Bergson

When solving problems, we love standard solutions and tools. What worked for us in the past becomes our tool to solve problems in the future. A psychologist named Raymond Cattell termed this as “crystallized intelligence” – ability to use learned knowledge and experience. It is much like water frozen in to pieces of ice. It cannot flow.

But, we cannot solve problems of today with techniques of yesterday. With rapid changes all around us, it is even more crucial that we pay attention to “fluid intelligence” – to analyze and solve problems in novel situation without excessively relying on past knowledge or experiences, to observe the patterns and think critically. 

When it comes to learning constantly, we need both. While driving, we need the rear view mirror to avoid accidents but we can’t drive forward only looking at the rear view mirror. Fixed learning and experiences of the past equips us better to handle uncertainty but in itself, they cannot help us navigate the uncertainty. For that, we need an ability to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly in line with the given context. We need an ability to not let past experience interfere with the possibilities. We need to learn to navigate without a map – or create a map as you go along. We need a keen observation of patterns that emerge as we apply the learning. When we do this consistently, learning flows and grows.

The tools of our mind are fixed, but the environment is constantly evolving.

Our tools and methods of learning have to evolve too!


Also Read: Specialization is a Journey, Not a Destination

Great Quotes: We Are Made of Star Stuff, Carl Sagan

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

– Carl Sagan

From – “That “we are” – The Connective Tissue of Humans Being” by Bernie Nagle which is a must read. Here’s one more:

But it all begins with acknowledgment and profound appreciation for the most rudimentary fact of human existence: “we are”. Joni Mitchell said, “we are stardust, we are golden” and in the workplace we are so much more than “Humans Doing”…we are “Humans Being”, with all the wonderful gifts of our unique person-ness right there for the sharing.

Do I need to say anything more?

Humanity in Customer Service: A Touching Tale

I recently stumbled upon a very touching story of what it means to adopt a human approach when dealing with others at work.

In 2011, Mark Dickinson was devastated to learn about the murder of his three years old grandson. Mark immediately rushed to Los Angeles airport to reach Tucson and see his grandson for one last time. At the airport, Mark saw long queues for baggage check-in and security that would keep him from making it to the flight. Mark could not hold back his tears as he kept pleading to the staff members of Southwest Airlines to expedite the process and no one seemed to care. Finally, after clearing security check a good 12 minutes after flight’s planned departure, he did not even wait to put his shoes on and literally ran towards the terminal where he found  the pilot and gate attendant waiting for him.

“Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson,” the pilot reportedly said. “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

Isn’t this amazing? How could a pilot – who is also an employee – take such a human call at the risk of delaying other passengers and violating corporate rules? Was this an individual decision OR outcome of a culture that Southwest Airlines has built?

I quickly visited their website to look for their values. Here’s what I found on their customer service page:

“We like to think of ourselves as a Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes.”

Their purpose statement on website reads,

“To connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

Most organizations have tall corporate values that are only confined to the plaque on the wall or a page on the website. They mean nothing unless they empower people to behave in line with those values.

It is an inspiring story about how corporate purpose (and culture) enabled an individual to connect a customer with his most important priority – to see the face of his departed grandson for one last time!

In an era when even brands are trying to project themselves as humans – can we, the real human beings, treat our customers and colleagues as human beings without trying to hide behind the layered corporate processes, rules and hierarchies?

This story exemplifies the importance of living the values and purpose. Of bringing your humanity at workplace. Of what it means to work in a new world.

To Communicate Effectively, Connect First!

I have seen people feeling more comfortable about a presentation or a meeting when they have all the details and facts lined up in a presentation. They massage the message and try to cover as many statistics and nice looking pictures as they can.

They feel comfortable because they focus on communication – transfer of facts, information and figures. But this alone may not be sufficient, because people look for connection first. Communication is simply a tool to connect – a means to an end and not the end in itself.

Connection is the transfer of energy and emotion. Communication starts with details whereas act of connecting with others starts with an intent to identify with people, to understand their context, find a common ground and then demonstrate passion while mapping your ideas to their context.

You can devise complex plans with lot of information to do an effective sales pitch however, the real impact depends on how much you were able to connect with the prospect. That’s because people first look for energy and intent and emotion and authenticity. Once they are connected, they pay heed to information.

Ability to connect meaningfully with others and generate influence is so crucial for leaders at all levels (parents included!) and lack of connection is also the biggest reason why leaders fail to make the mark.

Getting stuff done is, quite obviously, the reason why leaders exist in organizations at first place. But the real legacy of a leader is how well they connected with others and how did it help others in becoming better versions of themselves while still getting the stuff done.

Your ability to connect with others enables you to build that legacy – one conversation at a time!

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Double the Love: An Interview with Lisa Haneberg

 

Lisa Haneberg is an expert (and lifelong student) in the areas of organization development, management, leadership, talent management, and personal and organizational success. With over 25 years of experience she has provided departmental leadership, consulting, training and coaching solutions for manufacturing, health care, high technology, government, and nonprofit organizations. She has written 14 business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers.

Lisa recently published her new book Double the Love – 11 Secrets for Cultivating Highly Accountable and Engaged Teams and I had a privilege of previewing some of the ideas before it was released and share a blurb in the book. I read the book with great interest and it just consolidated what I wrote in my blurb,

“Double the Love is a treasure trove of transformative ideas, secrets and wisdom on how to build an engaged and accountable workforce. Wish I had this book early on when I built my first team!” – Tanmay Vora, author, blogger and improvement consultant, QAspire.com

I caught up on a conversation with Lisa recently and here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, welcome again to QAspire Blog. I often hear senior leaders who complain about lack of accountability within their teams and organizations. What is the #1 mistake that leaders make when trying to make their teams more accountable?

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I think that the #1 mistake is failing to understand how our performance systems work. As leaders, we use two performance systems – accountability and engagement. Accountability is an extrinsically motivating system, which means that it is a “push” system and thus the secret is to be consistent and have strong follow through. I have worked with leaders who proclaim a need for accountability, publish metrics, but then do little else to operate the accountability system.

[Tanmay Vora] I loved how you have differentiated and then related accountability and engagement. Please tell us a little more about that.

[Lisa Haneberg] Accountability and engagement are distinct systems, as I mention above. What this means is that the leadership actions that increase accountability are not the same as those that increase engagement. At the same time, accountability and engagement are interdependent. When you increase accountability, for example, you might see a downturn in engagement because accountability systems can make employees feel audited and unappreciated or untrusted. This is where the phrase “double the love” comes from – when you increase accountability, you need to double the love to keep accountability and engagement in balance.

[Tanmay Vora] “Love” is not a word that we use often at workplace. What has love got to do with the whole topic of accountability and engagement?

[Lisa Haneberg] Let me start with defining “love.” Managerial love is taking initiative on behalf of someone else. It’s doing the things that enable our team members to do their best work. It’s caring enough to apply individualized support. As leaders, we give love when consider and act in ways that engage and help our team members. Sometimes love is as simple as letting someone skip a long meeting so they can get out of the office at a decent hour or spending time listening deeply. Managerial love is the fuel for engagement – it’s how we create more pull and satisfaction in the workplace, so it is HUGELY important for engagement (and helps counteract morale hits from accountability measures).

[Tanmay Vora] If there was one key message from “Double the Love” that you had to share with HR, Managers and Leaders at all levels, what would that be?

[Lisa Haneberg] In the book, I share 11 “secrets” and the final one is that the secret to performance velocity is design. This idea pays homage to Dan Pink’s belief from “A Whole New Mind” that design is a critical competency for our time. And this is particularly the case when trying to cultivate accountability and engagement. Design in this context means that we have been deliberate in choosing and using leadership practices that will support our goals. Being deliberate means that your intentions show up in your actions, decisions, beliefs, and behaviors. I believe that many leaders know – intellectually – the best things to do but that few follow through with their intentions. Design is the most fascinating discipline for leaders, I think. I love the challenge and possibility of creating my leadership practice. BTW, Dan Pink endorsed the book based on this connection to his earlier work and I love what he said.

“This terrific book brings together the intentionality of good design with the science of motivation to help leaders create better workplaces. The synergy is extraordinary.” Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE and A WHOLE NEW MIND

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, thank you so much for provocation to lead better through this book. Thank you also for being so generous with your art and sharing your insights here. I am pretty sure readers of this blog will find your blog and books very useful and inspiring.

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I hope that your readers will double the love and bring out the best in others.

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Also read: Previous interview with Lisa Haneberg on her book “Never Ending New Beginnings”

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A Compelling Vision is an Anchor

Seagull Half Shot QAspire Blog Tanmay Vora

Management has a lot to do with answers. Leadership is a function of questions. And the first question for a leader always is: ‘Who do we intend to be?’ Not ‘What are we going to do?’ but ‘Who do we intend to be?’ – Max DePree

Specific, measurable and time bound goals are important to set expectations on results and drive performance in short term. Goals is like math; they address the head. Goals have an end date.

Goals however, are not sufficient. If you only try to provide direction to people through goals, they will know “what” needs to be done but may not know “why” something needs to be done.

When leading others, we need math but we need music too. Something that addresses our hearts and taps into our emotions. Something that is larger than us and gives us a powerful “why”. Yes, we are talking about vision.

I have seen companies falling into the trap of managing people through quarterly or half yearly goals without clarifying the vision. That works to keep everyone running, only without a sense of direction. Result? A disengaged workforce that just complies to goals, and that too – dispassionately. This becomes even more challenging when an organization has distributed teams across the geographies.

In a creative economy, people will give their best output and exercise their discretionary effort only when they are completely aware of the vision. In moments of handling difficult conversations, choices and ways of working, vision serves as an anchor. It provides a meaning to our day to day work. Vision is not a destination, but more like a compass that guides us through our goals and decisions.

Managing your organization’s work only through goals is like focusing your kid on simply getting good grades in the next examination. Kids need goals but they first need a vision of what kind of human being they should become.

What is true for kids is also true for organizations and teams. They are, after all, made up of human beings too!

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Insights and Lessons on Critical Thinking, HR and Leadership Development

 

In American Management Association’s critical skills survey 2012, respondents emphasized on 4 C’s (Critical thinking and problem solving, Effective Communication, Collaboration and team building and Creativity and innovation) as their key priorities for employee development, talent development and succession planning.

I have been exploring the topic of critical thinking with respect to HR, Talent Acquisition, Leadership Development, Communication and Training via series of posts at Pearson’s TalentLens Blog (@ThinKritical on Twitter). The premise is simple – if we improve how we think, we will improve how we develop people, innovate, solve problems and grow as individuals and organizations.

Here is a round up of all posts (with excerpts) written on this important topic so far.

Why Hiring Critical Thinkers is Absolutely Critical for HR

With people being at the core of an organization’s greatness, it is extremely important for HR professionals to pay attention to two things – that existing people are trained to think critically and people are hired based on their ability to think critically.

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Problem Solving in Organizations: A Diamond or a Coin?

Leaders are expected to take right decisions after considering various facets of a given problem – just like an expert jeweler looks at a diamond. Logic looks at problems as a coin with just two sides where as critical thinking is all about looking at the same problem as a diamond with multiple facets.

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10 Most Important Traits of a Leader Who Thinks Critically

Ability to think rationally and critically is one of the most important leadership skills and for the leader, thinking objectively is not just a skill, but also an obligation to the people they lead.

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Training and Development: 4 Ideas to Build a Culture of Critical Thinking

The reality is that training middle managers on critical thinking skills is much like teaching an adult to ride a bicycle. It takes patience, training and practice to be able to master the art of critical thinking which, in turn, leads to good decision making.

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3 Ways Critical Thinking Improves Emotional Quotient of Your Leaders

The fact is that a leader needs a fine balance of emotion and rationality to succeed. They need to connect with their people using emotion and decide what is best for them using rational thought. Critical Thinking is the connecting link between emotions and intelligence.

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Critical Thinking – Leaders, Know Thy Biases

Critical thinking is an antidote to cognitive biases. When we think critically, we recognize our own assumptions, evaluate arguments and draw conclusions.

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How Critical Thinking Helps in Effective Conflict Resolution

The truth is that conflicts, if managed well, are an opportunity to understand better, get to the root causes, introspect, improve and learn. A well-managed conflict often leads to improved clarity, better relationships and win-win situations.

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Creativity and Critical Thinking: Friends, Not Foes!

There is a difference between creative thinking and creativity. Creative thinking is the process of ideation (thinking). Creativity is about bringing that idea to life (execution).

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Critical Thinking: The Soul of Effective Communication

If communication is defined as a meaningful exchange of information, thoughts and feelings between two living creatures, critical thinking is the engine that provides this meaning.

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BONUS: Don’t miss the guest post “Environment is Everything” written by Mr. Gurprriet Siingh, Director and Head, YSC India, an executive coach, blogger and a social media influencer. His Twitter handle is @JoyandLife.

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Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 1

Being in a band is always a compromise. Provided that the balance is good, what you lose in compromise, you gain by collaboration. —Mike Rutherford

At the core of being an effective leader is ability to analyze the situation and then lead in the most appropriate manner which is best suited for that situation. A leader knows that there is no single optimal style to lead everything. Experts have defined this as “situational leadership.”

In that context, not all situations demand collaborative leadership. There are situations when directive leadership is required and the ones where focus is on coaching and supporting. Collaborative leadership style works best in almost all situations but in following scenarios, it becomes very essential.

  1. When there are team members/stakeholders with diverse interests.
  2. When team members/stakeholders are cross-functional and geographically distributed.
  3. When the problem at hand requires effort from diverse groups/communities to solve.
  4. When a leader does not have formal authority over the people involved in the team.
  5. When complex problems require everyone’s creativity and insights.

However, one thing is clear – pure command and control leadership where people are simply expected to follow the instructions does not work anymore. Even when other leadership styles are adopted, the collaborative elements of leadership are still a vital source of competitive advantage as a leader, as a team and as a business.

What makes a leader collaborative? What are the absolutely essential traits of a collaborative leader? Let’s dive into what I call “indispensable traits of a collaborative leader”. In a series of posts, we will cover traits that make leaders truly collaborative.

1. They are passionate about the cause: Without passion for the intended outcome, no amount of collaboration will yield desired results. Before even initiating, a collaborative leader gets absolutely convinced about the desired outcomes and value they will add to the business. This clarity is important because vision, outcomes and benefits have to be re-iterated (read sold through influence) constantly through the execution. This clarity is the glue that keeps team focused on the results.

2. They lead their own selves before leading others. Unless a leader knows the self better, understanding others is very difficult. Collaboration with others requires prompt responses, focus on objectives, relationship building, creativity and perceptive abilities. The only way to lead others is to lead self – explore the self constantly and keep learning.

3. They look at “power” differently. For a collaborative leader, definition of power is to empower others. A collaborative team is the one where power is decentralized and everyone owns the final outcome. This also requires a collaborative leader to give up on their ego and need to be “in control”. They understand that “power with people” > “power over people”

4. They listen. Really. If a leader does not know how to listen, collaboration fails. Everyone wants to express themselves and be understood. A collaborative leader fulfills this essential human need by listening – what is being said and what is left unsaid. What is said through words and what is said between those words. All that is said through the body-language and tone of language.

5. They are generous in sharing credits. This also goes back to power. This is also perhaps the most difficult part. When team achieves great feats, it is easy for a leader to fall into a temptation to take credits when they should be generously sharing them. They recognize performance, remain thankful of others contributions and let the team be proud about themselves.

6. They know how to balance tasks and relationships. The objective of leading others is to generate results and get the tasks done without adversely affecting the relationships. Relationships are important, but not at the cost of progress. Excessive focus on relationships means that a leader becomes weak and tries to avoid conflict. The key is to remain objective in communication and constantly align others to the vision, mission and values.

In the next post, we will outline 6 more traits that make a collaborative leader successful. Stay tuned!

Tell us what you think about the 6 traits outlined above. What would you like to add?

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In the series so far:

The Foundation of Collaborative Leadership

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, Seagulls

The Foundation of Collaborative Leadership

In an industrial age, people went to factories and worked together to produce the outcomes. When required, they collaborated in person. Supervisors commanded and controlled others and leadership was often equated with “taking power”. Factories depended heavily on rigid top-down hierarchies and people were viewed simply as dispensable workers.

With technological advances, our world of work changed dramatically. Today, we seldom do anything alone. With rise in knowledge oriented work, people in small and geographically distributed groups work together to create value through their expertise and creativity. There is no raw material, there are only people.

In this world of work, collaboration is not optional. In fact, effective collaboration is the backbone of how work gets done today. Most successful projects and teams I have seen have one thing in common – effective collaboration. They had one more thing in common – that one person with vision who believed in collaboration – a collaborative leader.

In this series of posts, we will look at what goes in to make collaborative leaders and their indispensable traits. Mary Parker Follett defined management as “the art of getting things done through people” and collaborative leadership embodies and extends this belief. It is about bringing diverse group of people together, have them share a common vision and provide them an eco-system where they effectively work with each other to produce desired outcomes optimally.

At the very foundation of collaborative leadership are respect for people, individual competence and engaging communication. Let us take a closer look at these.

Respect for People:

Effective collaboration starts with a simple belief that people are not “resources” or “capital” – they are not just a variable cost to your company. They are essentially humans who bring their self-esteem, emotional skills and intellectual capabilities to accomplish their work. That they want to be trusted, communicated with and inspired. Karen Martin, my friend and author of the recent book “The Outstanding Organization” says, “Organizations are not machines – they are fundamentally and irreducibly made up of people.” Respect for people imply that a leader is interested in (and enjoys) dealing with people, listening to them, help them navigate through challenges of work, solve their problems and invest time in developing their skills. Respect for people also means that a leader is able to provide the required space to people without compromising on the accountability. It means that a leader looks at conflicts as a way to improve.

Competence:

Collaboration is almost never a substitute of competence. At an individual level, a leader cannot foster collaboration and solve team’s problems without having the necessary skills and capabilities. For a leader, competence does not necessarily mean only technical skills. It also means higher visibility into work and how it fits into larger scheme of things. It means knowing how to communicate effectively and deal with problems. Competence also equates with an individual’s integrity – the extent to which thoughts, words and deeds of a leader are uniform. An integral leader quickly builds trust which is the currency of a collaborative team.

Engaging Communication:

If trust is the currency of a collaborative team, communication is the way to build it. It is only when a team frequently communicates, provides clarity, clarifies vision, shares ideas, extends their lessons and outlines problems clearly that they can really collaborate. Leaders in a collaborative environment need to be transparent and conscious about cultural aspects of communication. They need to offer a compelling view of the future (vision) to engage the energies of people. Along the way, they need to reiterate the vision, keep the team focused and resolve conflicts. They also need to be aware that communication is not just about what they speak, but also about what their actions speak.

With these fundamental elements in perspective, we will explore essential traits of collaborative leaders and related examples in the subsequent posts.

Join in the conversation: How would you define collaborative leader? What are your thoughts on how people are treated within organizations today?

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, A Family of Darters, Khijadia Bird Sanctuary

Change: The Power of Gradual

In a fast paced environment, we notice things that are urgent, immediate and abrupt in nature. We forget to notice the gradual.

One small serving of unhealthy food doesn’t seem to harm but many such servings over a long duration increase the odds of having a health problem manifold. One conversation that went wrong now doesn’t seem to have any direct impact on a relationship but with every such conversation, trust is eroded till it reaches a point where relationship ends.

In an organization, this becomes even more complex where larger system is a collection of many independent sub-systems. Decisions and conversations in each of these sub-system affects the whole. The impact of one strategic failure may not be visible in a short term but can prove fatal in a long run.

The good news is: the converse is also true. Any great success is, almost always, a result of many small things done right. Careers are built one opportunity at time. Trust is earned one deed at a time, lessons are learned one experience at a time and great teams are built one conversation at a time. It is gradual and very powerful.

Why do we fail to notice the gradual then? Because we are too obsessed in responding to the immediate. Because doing takes a precedence over thinking. Because we fail to see living systems as “systems”. We work on components without considering the impact on the system as a whole.

This reminds me of a metaphor of a boiling frog

A frog, when placed in boiling water will jump out immediately because of heat. However, if placed in cold water that is heated very slowly, the frog does not perceive the danger and enjoys the warmth. Incrementally, as warmth turns into heat, it becomes groggy unable to climb up. Eventually, it is boiled to death.

As leaders and professionals, our ability to notice the slow and subtle changes in the system is as important as our ability to respond to urgent and immediate changes. 

In the novel “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway, one of the lead characters Mike Campbell is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?”. Mike responded, “Gradually… and then suddenly.”

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Photograph Courtesy: Chaula Vora – Red Eyed Frog, Costa Rica

Developing Leaders: Why Training Interventions Fail?

Companies spend considerable amount of time and money on developing leaders through training programs and workshops. My experience so far suggests that these time-bound and finite interventions fail over a long run in developing leadership capabilities.

I have attended a number of such training programs and workshops and have observed the impact of these interventions. I could see a short-term change in people who tried applying those ‘techniques’ but the impact eventually vanished with time and people slipped back into their normal ways of working. It seemed they needed something more than just training – they needed coaching, facilitation and developmental interventions over a long period of time. They needed a change in mindset and not just techniques, process or best practices in leadership.

According to a research by MIT Sloan Management Review titled “Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail”, the key reasons identified were:

  • Executives approach leadership development efforts with a control, ownership and power-oriented mindsets rather than an understanding of shared accountability.
  • Leadership development efforts are not aligned with strategic goals and leadership development programs are oriented around commercial products that have limited relevance to actual needs or an organization.
  • Use of incorrect “make-believe” metrics to gauge effectiveness of leadership development programs.

Views from a McKinsey article titled “Why leadership-development programs fail” concur with the reasons stated above. Not mapping the leadership development effort with an organization’s specific context is a mistake lot of companies make. According to this McKinsey article,

Focusing on context inevitably means equipping leaders with a small number of competencies (two to three) that will make a significant difference to performance. Instead, what we often find is a long list of leadership standards, a complex web of dozens of competencies, and corporate-values statements.

The article also emphasizes on value of changing the mindset rather than just imparting one-size-fits-all training programs. It says,

Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioral change—one too often shirked in development programs. Promoting the virtues of delegation and empowerment, for example, is fine in theory, but successful adoption is unlikely if the program participants have a clear “controlling” mind-set (I can’t lose my grip on the business; I’m personally accountable and only I should make the decisions).

In lean terms, imparting training that does not deliver intended results is a waste. It is high time for organizations to identify this waste and look carefully at how people are developed.

Developing people is an organic process that demands contextual mapping of best practices, experiential learning (leading through real work) and change in mindsets (and hence behaviors) required to lead in a new world of work.

Join in the conversation: What are the other key reasons why leadership development and training efforts fail? Have you adopted a different approach to nurture leadership in your organization? If yes, how has it helped?

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Listening Enough is Caring Enough: 11 Gentle Reminders

We are living in a world of attention deficit where no one has the time to listen. From what I have observed, organizations suffer from a listening crisis. Everyone has the answers and everybody wants to tell their story. No one is patient enough to sit back, ask questions and then really listen.

This calls for some gentle reminders – they aren’t cool new ideas but this is what we need as leaders if we wish to be really effective in organizations and within our families.

  1. Not listening is one of the two biggest wastes. The second is not speaking up when it matters.
  2. Effective listening starts with an intention to understand. When you constantly listen with intent of answering or replying, you miss on a lot of non-verbal clues in communication process.
  3. We want others to really understand, validate and appreciate us. The act of listening starts with realization that others have the same basic need.
  4. Listening is a way to respect others. When you don’t listen effectively, don’t ask questions, don’t confirm your understanding and don’t acknowledge the messages, you are sending wrong signals.
  5. Effective listening entails putting the filters of your preconceived notions and beliefs aside. These filters will not allow you to get into their frame of reference.
  6. People think listening happens only through ears. You can also listen with your eyes and with your heart. In pursuit to be an effective listener, it is important to remember that only about 40% of communication happens through words and sounds. Rest is all non-verbal.
  7. Listening is also about receiving the feeling behind what is being said. When you listen, listen the words, the tone, the words being used and the feeling behind it. What is being said and the meaning behind may be very different.
  8. Technology can be an impediment to effective listening. That message on your phone, the popping sound of email and unending stream of social media updates are not more important than a human being in front of you who wants to express. Listening enough is caring enough.
  9. Listening is not practiced only when we are with others. You can (and you should) spend time listening to your inner self. It raises self-awareness!
  10. I remember words of that wise consultant who said, “The more you tell, the less you sell.” All great sales people and negotiators are first and foremost, great listeners.
  11. Effective listening is a leader’s primary responsibility – an obligation towards the followers. Great leadership starts with effective and empathetic listening – an important element of any conversation.

A leader needs to ENLIST others on their vision for which they need to LISTEN for which they need to be SILENT. Three words made up from the same letters.

Does that tell us something or is it a plain co-incidence?

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Consulting, Content and Context: A Fable

contentcontext

It was the first day of his job as a consultant with this large consulting house. The consultant entered the office and walked across the corridor confidently, armed with his knowledge about methodologies, tools and best practices.

In next few weeks of his induction, the challenge was to apply his knowledge on several simulated situations that consultants usually face during their real assignments. He provided solutions that were in tune with some or the other best practice but impractical to implement in a given situation.

The boss was observing this from a distance since a few weeks and his disappointment grew with each passing day.

It is said that when only thing you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Consultant was trying to nail the problems with the only hammer he had – the best practices .

Knowing that things were not heading in a right direction, boss called the consultant for a counseling session over a cup of coffee.

It was clear that the consultant was loaded with content but did not do enough to understand the context of the problem – the culture, people, business model, root causes of problems and specific situations.

The boss explained, “Unless you put your lessons in a frame of reference, those lessons mean a little. You can endlessly talk about your knowledge, but unless mapped to a context, it has no meaning.”

The consultant was curious to know more about the context.

The boss continued, “Context is a powerful thing. It is a perspective you form based on a situation. A freedom fighter of one country may be considered as a terrorist by the other. One man and two different ways to look at him based on the context he is into.”

He explained further, “Your success as a consultant (and professional) is less about knowledge of best practices and more about your ability to map them to a specific business context. Context provides meaning to content. If you think of your knowledge content as water, context is the glass that holds it, gives it a shape; an identity. Our knowledge is static and defined whereas situations are dynamic and uncertain.”

As the wisdom unfolded, consultant felt as if he was beginning a new chapter in his consulting career. He realized that context always trumps content.

The lessons he learned from this short counseling session would stay with him throughout his career!

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BONUS: I recently had an interesting Twitter conversation on Quality, Process and Culture in a Complex Business World with Tom Peters, Mark Graban, John Kordyback, Sunil Malhotra, Jatin Jhala and others. Read the storified version of the conversation here.