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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Take A Summer Vacation This Year

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by Jeff Wolf

How many times have you heard your boss tell you that? In fact, how many times have you told your employees that?

Come on, fess up. Either case is as rare as a drenching rain in the Sahara. Let’s face it. Too many bosses discourage employees from taking more than a day off or a weekend here and there. And even then they don’t discourage a barrage of phone calls from work and many will expect employees to check their email several times a day. A two-week getaway to the Far East? Not a chance.

Every year, the media reports on surveys showing that large chunks of U.S. workers don’t plan on taking all their vacation time. Why does this happen, when it’s part of a worker’s compensation package? Large percentages of workers wouldn’t pass on a company-sponsored life insurance plan, or forgo a paycheck for all of December, so why are so many people willingly (or perhaps not so willingly) giving their paid time off back to their employers?

Forbes Magazine contributor Kristi Hedges nails the explanation: “The idea of a skimpy vacation as a worthy sacrifice or badge of honor is culturally embedded. The U.S. is the only rich country to not have legally mandated paid vacation and holidays.” She goes on, “science tells us that this is a very bad idea. Increasingly, studies are showing that breaks of any kind are not only good for you; they can actually increase productivity and well-being.”

Long Vacations Benefit Both Company and Employee

To create a lasting change in their organization, and maybe even greater society at large, leaders must fully embrace the practical benefits of vacations. Good leaders will be more inclined to not only grant, but also encourage employees to take not just a couple of long weekends here and there-and maybe a week off in the summer-but longer vacation time. Employees come back from a full week (or two or three) of time off when they were able to truly disconnect from work energized and recharged, with better ideas, a fresh perspective, lower stress-levels, and genuine excitement to tackle work challenges that can become overwhelming without time to recharge. Truly effective leaders recognize the value of paid time off, and understand it’s key to a productive and engaged workforce.

Here are specific steps leaders can take to make sure this happens:

  • Issue specific company policies that encourage all employees of the organization to take all vacation days due them, and in any increments they prefer.
  • Be clear the time off must not interfere with mission critical work, but also be clear that one person’s week off shouldn’t incapacitate a well-run department, and that while every department has busier times on the calendar, it is normal and expected that departments will experience slower times periodically throughout the year.
  • Require that all managers and supervisors conduct short meetings with their employees explaining the vacation policy.
  • Ask employees for feedback regarding perceived problems with the vacation policy. Since many employees may feel constrained to speak up, use a suggestion box where they can offer suggestions or voice complaints.
  • Assure that all complaints and suggestions are answered by a third-party, such as Human Resources.
  • Follow-up yearly to make sure the new vacation policy is working.

As we head in to the height of the summer, when friends and family frequently plan reunions, couples get married, families with children have the freedom to travel, as leaders it’s our job to help facilitate these getaways. Your employees will thank you for it, and ultimately, your bottom line will thank you for it too.

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.

Contact us today to discuss how we may partner with you to develop your current and future leaders or to have Jeff Wolf speak at your next meeting, conference or convention: Michael Adams madams@wolfmotivation.com 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com

 

Building an Optimal Team – Team Health

By Jeff Wolf –  Seven Disciplines of a Leader

All the competitive advantages – strategy, technology, finance, marketing – that we’ve pursued in the past are gone. The disciplines haven’t disappeared, but they have lost their power as meaningful competitive advantages, as real differentiators that can set your company apart. Why? Virtually every organization has access to the best thinking and practices on those topics. As information has become ubiquitous, it’s almost impossible to sustain an advantage based on intellectual ideas.

However, one simple, reliable, and virtually free competitive advantage remains – team health. Healthy teams all but eliminate politics and confusion from their cultures. As a result, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave. For those leaders who are a bit skeptical, rest assured that none of this is touchy-feely or soft. It is as tangible and practical as anything else…and even more important.

Even the smartest team will eventually fail if it is unhealthy. But a healthy team will find a way to succeed. Without politics and confusion, it will become smarter and tap into all of the intelligence and talent it has.

Team health requires real work and discipline, maintained over time, and the courage to objectively confront problems hindering true team achievement. Leaders must confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their teams with honesty and persistence. Persistent leaders walk into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them.

Four Disciplines

To get healthy, leaders need to take four simple, but difficult, steps:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team. Get the leaders of the organization to behave in a functional, cohesive way. If the people responsible for running a team, department, or organization are behaving in dysfunctional ways, then that dysfunction will cascade down and prevent organizational health. And yes, there are concrete steps a leadership team can take to prevent this.
  1. Create clarity. Ensure that the members of that leadership team are intellectually aligned around simple but critical questions. Leaders need to be clear on topics such as why the organization exists and what the most important priority is for the next few months, and eliminate any gaps between them   Then people who work one, two, or three levels below have clarity about what they should do to make the organization successful.
  1. Overcommunicate clarity. After the first two steps (behavioral and intellectual alignment), leaders can take the third step: over-communicating. Leaders of healthy organizations constantly repeat themselves and reinforce what is true and important. They err on the side of saying too much, rather than too little.
  1. Reinforce clarity. Leaders use simple human systems to reinforce clarity in answering critical questions. They custom design any process that involves people from hiring and firing to performance management and decision-making to support and emphasize the uniqueness of the organization.

Healthy teams get better at meetings. Without making a few simple changes to the way meetings happen, a team will struggle to maintain its health. Healthy teams rarely fail. When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction, and confusion are reduced to a minimum, people are empowered to design products, serve customers, solve problems, and help one another. Healthy teams recover from setbacks, attract the best people, and create exciting opportunities. People are happier, the bottom line is stronger, and executives are at peace when they know they’ve fulfilled their most important responsibility: creating a culture of success.

Applying the principles of great performance is hard, but the effects of deliberate practice are cumulative. The more of a head start you get in developing people, the more difficult it will be for competitors to catch you.

–Jeff Wolf

Contact us today to discuss how we can partner together to help develop and grow your leaders and teams: jeff@wolfmotivation.com, 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com

Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffWolfUSA

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Seven Disciplines of a Leader

All proceeds go to our wounded service men and women.

 

The audiobook for Seven Disciplines of a Leader is here!

Logo for AudibleRemember a couple months ago when I told you my book, Seven Disciplines of a Leader, was coming soon as an audiobook? Well, it’s here!

Seven Disciplines of a Leader is a comprehensive manual for building better leaders. Author and executive coach Jeff Wolf is a respected authority on leadership, and his strategies and inspiration have fostered dramatic growth in some of the nation’s top companies. In this book he shares the secrets of great leadership to help listeners align professional development and exemplify these traits themselves.

Please be sure to check out Seven Disciplines of a Leader over at Audible. I’m donating all my proceeds to organizations that support wounded warriors and military families.

Fear of Failure Is Dangerous to Your Job Health

Photo of Crossroads: Success or Failure

Photo courtesy of StockMonkeys.com on Flickr

Fear of making a mistake can cripple even the most talented leader‘s efforts to succeed. It stifles creativity and discourages risk-taking, while upping the stress ante and creating a tense work environment for everyone within a department or team.

Imagine how many inventions and technological innovations would never have become realities if the people who came up with them had been afraid to fail!

Anyone who ever did anything truly great failed first. Failure is part of trying. It will happen. What matters is how you deal with it. Famous failures include Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Michael Jordan. They prove that failure can be a powerful teacher that leads to success.

Similarly, corporate trainer Ramesh Menon reminds us: “Worry can kill—no wonder the word comes from the Anglo Saxon word weirgan, which means to strangle, to choke until there is no life left.”

Worrying about making mistakes is counterproductive, zaps your energy, and leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may irrationally fear that you’ll never been good enough, and that you’ll face the disapproval of others or other negative feelings if you‘re less than perfect. This can cripple you, especially as you move up the career ladder and take on new responsibilities that are outside your comfort zone.

Hara Estroff Marano, editor-at-large for Psychology Today and author of A Nation of Wimps, describes perfectionism as “a steady source of negative emotions.” She explores how our performance should not be a measure of our self-worth. “Rather than reaching toward something positive, those in perfectionism’s grip are focused on the very thing they most want to avoid—negative evaluation,” she writes. “Perfectionism, then, is an endless report card; it keeps people completely self-absorbed, engaged in perpetual self-evaluation, reaping relentless frustration and doomed to anxiety and depression.”

I encourage managers and leaders to write down their fears. This forces them to acknowledge these anxieties and dissect the faulty logic that may paralyze them. Consider keeping a journal that tracks what’s bothering you and how you react to missteps. Does one type of error bother you more than another? Are you better able to recover from a mistake when you‘re having a good day? What, exactly, are you feeling? Humiliation? Embarrassment? Depression? A sense of even greater fear? How can you use reality checks to weaken the hold these feelings have on you?

You need to practice being unafraid. Perform at 100 percent of your capacity, and recognize that mistakes will still occur in rare circumstances, despite your best efforts to prevent them. Needless to say, if you make huge errors regularly, you may be in way over your head.

If you‘re a leader or manager who is plagued with chronic anxiety and unrealistic perfectionism, you must learn to defuse the fear time bomb so you can succeed at the work you love. You’ll need to fire your inner critic, says productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern, as well as discover whose critical voice is really living inside your head.

Avoid looking at errors as black-and-white, or all-or-nothing-at-all scenarios, she advises. A recovering perfectionist, she confessed her own fears and doubts in O, The Oprah Magazine. “When I first started speaking professionally, I knew when I had given a bull’s-eye performance. I felt that I was ‘hanging ten,’ riding the waves of the audience’s emotions. When I didn’t hit that mark, I was disappointed and mad at myself.”

Audience feedback was never as harsh as Morgenstern’s personal assessment of her performance; in fact, her scores were always high, but she thought attendees were just being nice (See how we torture ourselves?).

Jacket image, Seven Disciplines of a Leader by Jeff WolfWhen Morgenstern sought counsel from a highly experienced speaker, he told her that hitting at least a 7 out of 10 with audiences would suffice, and that no one hits the mark every time. If you continue to struggle with severe anxiety, consider seeing a psychotherapist or setting up sessions with a qualified and objective executive coach.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Seven Disciplines of A Leader by Jeff Wolf. Copyright (c) 2015 by Jeff Wolf. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.