Identifying High-Potential New Leaders

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By Jeff Wolf

How do you identify high-potential new leaders? Leaders must be proficient in both hard and soft skills. For years, organizations looked at only hard skills or technical knowledge, such as expertise in strategy or finance. They viewed these hard skills as the most important characteristics of high-potential leaders. However, the soft skills (people or interpersonal skills) are key for the next generation of leaders.

Look for these soft skills:

  • effective communication
  • coaching ability
  • listening skills
  • teambuilding capability
  • facility for building relationships with their staffs and teams and with cross-functional areas to achieve goals and get work done
  • a sense of inquisitiveness
  • a willingness to improve
  • trustworthiness
  • a tendency to ask a lot of questions
  • an understanding of how their actions have an effect not only on themselves, but also on others

Leadership is difficult and demanding because leaders must help drive results, inspire, guide people and teams, and make tough decisions. Clearly, not everyone has the desire to lead, so the first question appears to be:

  • Does the person want to be a leader?
  • What are his goals and aspirations?
  • Does she see the big picture versus having a silo mentality?
  • Does he have the ability to strategically navigate complicated issues?
  • What types of real-life experiences does she have?
  • Is he honest and ethical?

Leaders need to be positive and have a great attitude because they can either impart or sap energy. A leader’s upbeat attitude becomes contagious, lifting the morale of those around her. You can always teach skills, but you cannot always teach people how to be positive; they either have a great attitude or they don’t.

Observe firsthand how potential leaders work with others and how other people view them. When they stand up to speak in front of a group, do they exude confidence, present articulate, clear messages, and carry themselves well? They should also have good judgment skills in three discrete areas:

  1. People. Can they make sound judgments about people, such as anticipating the need for key personnel changes and aligning people to make the right call?
  2. Strategy. Are they flexible and adaptable? Can they make changes when a current strategy isn’t working?
  3. Grace Under Pressure. When they’re in crisis situations, do they remain calm, focus on their goals, think clearly, and develop new alternative strategies? When they make a mistake, do they admit it, let others know about it, and move forward, or do they try to hide it? By admitting mistakes, they serve as role models, communicating that it’s okay to fail and make a mistake.

Lastly, employ a series of tests and assessments to further measure their hard and soft skills.

LOOKING FOR A FRESH PERSPECTIVE TO IDENTIFY AND GROW YOUR LEADERS?

Jeff Wolf is the author of the international best-seller Seven Disciplines of a Leader.
A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach, he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders for his accomplishments in leadership development and managerial effectiveness. He may be reached at 858-638-8260 or jeff@wolfmotivation.com

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Attract the Best People

By Jeff Wolf

shutterstock_369899390Top employers are facing a perfect storm in the fight for talent. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 2009 and job openings have increased by 73 percent. At the same time, Baby Boomers are rapidly retiring and new college graduates are significantly lacking the skills businesses are seeking. And if that isn’t enough, at least one third of the existing workforce is ready to quit. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Make your life easier, and make your company more successful. Smart leaders don’t recruit the best people, they attract them. Why? Because it makes their lives easier and their companies more successful. How do they do it? They have a clear purpose for existing (PFE), and they live it and tell the world about it… And the best people come to them.

The success of attraction is based on two principles. The first is a basic tenet of life: Like attracts like. In any animal or human culture, subgroups are composed of individuals with similar characteristics. A leader who defines his/her company’s PFE is saying, in essence, “We are zebras. If you, too, are a zebra, come join us.”

The second principle is that the best and the brightest people seek more than just a paycheck from a job; they seek fulfillment of their own PFE. They seek companies whose PFE supports their own. In certain industries, labor shortages will likely occur again later this year. The repercussions will be felt in lost opportunity costs as companies can’t find qualified talent to serve their customers or to fill open positions. Total costs to replace a skilled manager can exceed 150 percent of the person’s salary. With over 50 percent of salaried people planning on moving as jobs become available, this cost will be substantial for many companies. Thus, the opportunity to attract the best people, as well as keeping the right people, becomes more relevant.

Take Three Key Steps

To attract the best candidates, follow three key steps.

  • Clarify your PFE. What is your PFE? Why was the organization formed? What unique function does it serve? Make sure your PFE is deeply imbedded in the culture, codified in writing, clearly articulated, and widely distributed. An example of a PFE that is clear and impactful is that of Merck & Co., a global pharmaceutical company. Its PFE is as follows: “Our business is preserving and improving human life. All our actions must be measured by our success in achieving this goal.”
  • Tell the world your PFE. When you have a clear PFE, articulate it. Place it conspicuously in all your marketing materials, internal documents, websites, and communications with buyers, suppliers, customers, placement offices, and partners. Make sure that when people hear the name of your company, they know what your PFE is. Your PFE will have an impact on the people who interact with you. Those who have a personal PFE that is similar to yours and who can fulfill their PFE by helping you fulfill your PFE will be attracted to you.
  • Fulfill your PFE. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” To attract the best people, you must live up to your PFE. Exhibiting actions incongruent with the PFE will damage your credibility and decrease the attraction. For organizations that live the PFE they create, every action makes the attraction that much stronger for potential candidates.

By following these three steps, you approach hiring in a new way. Creating awareness about your PFE and then interviewing people attracted to the company will become the norm. Once you start taking these three steps, if you have to work hard to recruit someone, you are likely trying to get the wrong person. Make your life easier, and make your company more successful. Don’t recruit the best people….attract them.

LOOKING FOR A FRESH PERSPECTIVE?

Jeff Wolf is the author of the international best-seller Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.

A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach, he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders for his accomplishments in leadership development and managerial effectiveness.

He may be reached at 858-638-8260 or jeff@wolfmotivation.com

Using The Billboard Effect To Develop and Obtain Employee Buy-In On The Leader’s Vision

by Jeff Wolf

Time to Read: 2 minutes

Warren Bennis, acclaimed scholar, author and advisor to corporation presidents said “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Well expressed, but it’s easier said than done. What’s needed are practical steps to develop a communicable vision coupled with practical steps to achieve employee buy in.

Notice that I emphasized the word practical, because unless the leader’s vision is easy to understand, believable and clearly stated, even the most imaginative vision will become just another page in the employee manual gathering dust.

Let’s first define “billboard effect” and how it translates into developing a workable vision that achieves employee buy-in. A billboard is the visual image of the leader’s vision. In few but meaningful words it paints a picture of what the company and its people stand for and what it wants to achieve. It is future oriented and describes where the company expects to be tomorrow and from there onward.

Next, let’s examine steps in developing the vision, then steps in getting the organization’s people to buy into that vision.

Developing The Vision

  • Highly effective leaders have big ideas. Small ideas are okay, but they’re not transformative. Big ideas help companies and employees face the challenges of tomorrow. This is no better expressed than Robert Kennedy quoting George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were, and say, ‘Why not?’ “Companies with leaders who have the imagination and drive to adopt big ideas are the Apples and Googles and Ubers of tomorrow. Those big ideas are nurtured by leaders who make astute observations of their companies and their industries, and then reflect and decide what visions need to be in place to handle tomorrow’s problems and opportunities.
  • Reflection is the stimulus that leads to big ideas, but leaders know that clear and careful expression of their visions must be committed to writing. The process of writing clarifies visions such that they can be robustly expressed in words that command the organization’s attention.
  • With the visions now distinctly articulated, leaders can construct and post billboards throughout the organization and express their visions during talks with members of the organization. These billboards, reduced to clear maxims, concisely reflect those visions. For example, “Our company will take whatever measures needed to assure that product quality satisfies our customers . . . or we will return their money without question.” That is both clear and unambiguous. And it sets the stage for transformation of the organization to achieve that vision.
  • Leaders should be prepared to tweak, modify, even change vision statements when those visions aren’t producing expected When it comes to visions nothing is set in stone. The mark of a highly effective leader is the willingness to forgo ego and do what is right for the organization. The best of leaders prepare alternate plans.

Buying Into The Vision

  • I would argue that the very first prerequisite for employee buy in is to simply listen to what employees think and say about their jobs and the company’s direction. Keeping an open ear is crucial. And don’t get distracted by their complaints. Remember that engaged employees, those who really care about the company, expose many of the organization’s problems and lost opportunities through complaints. This is a great chance for leaders to make positive changes based on worthwhile employee suggestions.
  • I would become suspicious if employees don’t gripe. That means their voices are being throttled, and that is the absolute worst situation of all.
  • Employees need positive reinforcement. They won’t buy into a faulty vision, one that is not productive. That implies going beyond the stage of encouraging them to speak freely. It means measuring how successful the company’s vision is working. Take the quality example mentioned before. How are employees (or managers for that matter) going to know how successful their efforts are without measureable feedback? That means providing them with yardsticks of performance. It entails, in this example, weekly or monthly reports on rejects, scrap, customer complaints and customer returns, with as much data as possible reflecting individual employee performance.
  • Additionally, to combat what I call “vision tedium,” employees need to know how effective the company has been pursuing its vision long-term. Quarterly and annual postings will tell the tale along with periodic meetings with employee groups.
  • Leaders should put in place a follow-up procedure (possibly an annual review) because employee buy in of vision is not a one-time event. Constant follow-up is required to assure that employees remain engaged, informed and responsive to emerging problems. One of the difficulties of either a mature or growing organization is that leaders stop emphasizing company priorities and changes in priorities. They may delegate vision just as they delegate tasks, but the two are not equal. Vision remains both the prerogative and responsibility of organization leaders.

Now is the time to enhance the leadership skills of the leaders in your organization.

Contact us today for more information about our Leadership Development Program or to have Jeff Wolf coach your leaders and high potential leaders.

If you are having a meeting, conference or convention, bestselling author Jeff Wolf is available to speak about leadership and a variety of topics.

Contact Jeff directly at: jeff@wolfmotivation.com or 858-638-8260

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/JeffWolfUSA
Wolf Management Consultants
www.wolfmotivation.com

Five Fundamental Goals of Highly Effective Leaders

By Jeff Wolf

Time to read: 2 minutes

Leadership is a tough job, one that places you in difficult positions, facing vexing dilemmas. Regardless of your level – supervisor, manager, general manager, president or CEO – leadership is challenging.

Let’s examine five fundamental goals:

  1. Bring people together to work as a team. You guide your team, department, or group, and it’s not easy leading a group of diverse people. The workplace today is more diverse than at any time in history:  Each group has its ideas, values, and thoughts regarding what should be done and how to do it. Effective leaders work hard to build strong teams that accomplish great things. People who work together cohesively offer a competitive advantage.
  2. Motivate people to perform. You can’t lead without inspiring people to do great things. They must be willing to take that next step, the one that allows them to reach beyond their perceived capabilities and step out of the proverbial box. Each employee has distinct values and needs, wants and desires. Effective leaders spend coaching people one-on-one to find out what makes them tick, which challenges confront them, and which types of motivation will spur them to perform at a higher level.

    People are motivated in two ways: intrinsically and extrinsically. Extrinsic motivations involves outside factors: money, power or position. Intrinsic motivations comes from within: the desire for pride, a passion for one’s work, and the desire to do a great job.

  3. Take responsibility for bottom-line results. Regardless of your organization’s size or type (public or private), much of your behavior is driven by the bottom line. If you are in a leadership role, you’ve got to work with people to produce and achieve the results necessary to be profitable. Leaders are measured by their results, as are the people who work for them. Every organization has financial goals. If they’re unmet, the consequences may be severe.
  4. Make difficult decisions. It’s your responsibility to hire the right people, terminate the wrong people, and call people on the carpet to take corrective measures. It’s also within your purview to change the direction of your department, team or organization as the landscape changes in your business environment.

    You may also have to decide whether friends or former colleagues are doing their job. You may find yourself in the unenviable position of having to reprimand, issue warnings, and occasionally terminate staff. The people who report to you must be in the right job for their abilities. You may have the right people, but the positions they’re in may not be the correct fit, so you’ll need to make the necessary changes.

  5. Create positive energy. Team and company success depend on having highly motivated individuals who are excited about their work. Of course, no workforce operates in a vacuum. Employees need a strong leader with a positive attitude and enthusiasm. Employees work for people (leaders), not for companies. Conversely, employees don’t leave companies – they leave ineffective leaders. An employee’s relationship with a manager/supervisor largely determines the length of an employee’s stay. The main reason people quit is the manager’s behavior. A quality leader is the key factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

    There is no shortage of good employees today; however, there is a shortage of inspirational leaders and inspiring places to work. Leaders are seldom energy neutral. They either energize their employees, or they act as energy vampires, sapping workers’ motivation and enthusiasm and contributing to low morale.

Wolf Management Consultants is a premier global consulting firm specializing in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. Our expert staff is available to partner with you in key fundamental areas:

  • leadership development
  • executive coaching
  • employee engagement
  • talent assessment, selection & development
  • teambuilding
  • succession planning
  • organizational development
  • change management
  • strategic planning
  • performance management
  • sales training
  • speaker for your meetings & conferences

Contact us today to discuss how we may partner together for your continued success: Mike Adams madams@wolfmotivation.com 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com

The Disciplines of Excellence

Time to read: 2 minutes

Ted, new salesman for a travel accessory company (toiletry kits, carry-on bags, and packing organizers) expanded sales in his region by persuading travel agents to sell his line of products. It was an unusual outlet and so successful that the company included sales pitches to travel agents in all other regions of the company.

Ted did what all successful leaders do: They open their minds and consider new (even outrageous) possibilities that help them succeed on their jobs, whatever those jobs might be. This same thinking applies to every level of the organization but is especially important for organization leaders.

The outrageous part helps them think outside the box. If they’re in sales, they consider unusual outlets for their products or services. If they’re in operations, they consider new avenues for cutting costs. If they’re in customer service, they imagine new ways to satisfy customers. Their receptive approach considers all manner of possibilities.

Although leaders vary in their definitions of excellence, and how best to achieve it, most agree that excellence is a never-ending pursuit and that whatever their challenges and opportunities are today, they’ll change tomorrow. Leaders often face nine challenges:

  1. Communication. Clarity enhances achievement. People respond to leaders who unmistakably communicate organizational objectives and methods to achieve goals. Without this crucial first step, organizations falter; with it, and the steps that follow, they have the opportunity to succeed far beyond what they may have considered possible.
  2. Accountability. Operational and financial measurements and clear lines of responsibility for results are mandatory if the organization is to have the ability to keep on track with its plans. This extends from the very bottom of the organization to the top. Everybody must be held accountable for top notch performance.
  3. Engagement. People who are actively and mentally engaged with their jobs and receive the help and direction they need are convinced that their individual contributions are meaningful and they will extend their efforts to contribute to company success.
  4. Activities connected with the company’s mission and strategy assures that everybody in the organization understands the important yardsticks for company success. Alignment helps employees focus on the most important tasks at hand. Associating each employee’s job with company goals motivates each to reach just a little bit higher.
  5. Direction. Along the same line, direction is what keeps strategy, planning, and execution aligned. Without it disconnects occur, and what at first seemed a clear path becomes muddled.
  6. People feel an inherent desire to “pass the torch” successfully, but often have trouble doing it. Highly effective leaders keep all members (new and old) of the organization in touch.
  7. Measurement and control. Without management guidance events can “feel” out of sync. The elements of control, both operational and financial, assure that the organization has the ability to quickly identify departures from plan and take lasting corrective actions. A plan without measurement and control is no plan at all.
  8. Frustration. Great leaders have the ability to sniff out problems before they get out of hand. Part of that comes from measurement and control; but that leaves out the adverse reaction employees experience when they do not have the means to handle their own work. Inadequate instructions are a leading cause as is the inability of managers to clear roadblocks for the people working for them.
  9. Risk Management. There’s a need, often unaddressed, for determining profit variability versus the projected growth rate. In most organizations, 80 percent of the problems (costs and headaches) are associated with 20 percent of the products and services offered. Left unattended, that 20 percent can severely restrict company growth.

An excellence program is an organized approach to grow the ability of leaders to deal with an ever-changing and challenging environment. The program needs to grow with the business and enable leaders and their employees to align plans and activities to support the strategies and achieve stated goals. An excellence program will address the nine issues mentioned above.

Excellence means this: Innovate, measure, learn.

Innovate purposefully. Innovation is problem-solving, and everyone has the ability to solve problems. This discipline provides principles and measurement tools that are used to help leaders set clear goals and align daily activities to meet them. These goals should align with company priorities. Then employees will be able to use their innate creativity to meet or exceed goals.

Learning. First, step back and gain perspective on the factors that affect performance. It is achieved through a series of discovery exercises, exploring externals (competitors, industry, economics) and internals such as goal performance, stakeholder feedback, corrective measures, SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).

Measure and learn means: 1) deriving a repeatable methodology to drive leadership, 2) assigning external coaching for accountability, 3) providing a system to align the activities of team members, and 4) establishing a community of like-minded people to accelerate learning. When these elements come together, leaders will see enduring change.

Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach, he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders by the prestigious Leadership Excellence Magazine.