5 Powerful Lessons I Share As An Executive Coach

by Jeff Wolf

Time to read: 1 minute

1. Leaders DO Make a Difference

An organization’s fate is determined by the quality of its leadership. Good leaders can take a faltering business and turn it into an innovative powerhouse. By the same token, mediocre leaders can run even world-class brands into the ground. We’ve seen enough examples of both scenarios to know they really happen yet many leaders don’t understand how to emulate the success stories and avoid the cautionary tales. 

2. It’s All About People

How do workplaces create an engaged workforce of employees who do excellent work because they want to? Leaders need to motivate their people and teams to achieve peak performances, teamwork and personal satisfaction. 

3. The Most Productive Organizations Are the Result of High-Performance Teams

Strong teams drive organizational success, and the most productive organizations are those that have strong, high performing teams of people working together to produce extraordinary results. When you combine ideas, talents, personalities and abilities together to complement one another, the outcome is an unbelievable success story.

4. It’s a VUCA World Out There…and Leaders Need 3 Specific Skills to Thrive

We are living in a VUCA world…volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In order for organizations to remain competitive, leaders have to be flexible, adaptable and agile. They have to be responsible for driving change and innovation throughout the organization for current and future success.

5. The Most Effective Leaders Are Coaches

When leaders master the art of coaching, their direct reports become highly engaged, loyal to the organization, enthusiastic for the work they do and stay with the company. Coaching is a skill to be embraced as a superior management tool. Effective coaching ultimately reduces turnover and improves productivity.

Jeff Wolf is the author of the international best-seller Seven Disciplines of a Leader.

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

Get in touch with Jeff at 858-638-8260 or jeff@wolfmotivation.com

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A Leadership Success Story

By Jeff Wolf

Time to read: 2 minutes

Alfredo, a native-born Italian, was senior vice president and general manager for a plastics extrusion company in Rimini, Italy, a division of a U.S.-owned multinational plastics company.  Alfredo had taken an operation on the verge of collapse and turned it around into a highly profitable venture, thus becoming a star performer in the eyes of the company’s leaders. He was promoted to executive vice president and brought to the States.

Alfredo faced a similar situation in his new job.  The company was going through a bad period: worldwide sales had flattened, costs had risen beyond expectations, profits had tumbled, and employee disengagement was at a peak.  The performance of company managers and workers had plummeted as everybody was afraid of what the future held.

Then suddenly, the CEO died from a heart attack, and the board appointed Alfredo as interim CEO to fill the void and prevent panic.  Alfredo rose to the challenge. Using the principles espoused in our Leadership Development Program, he took these steps:

First, Alfredo insisted on absolute integrity from himself and the employees of his company.  He set the example by telling the truth, even when it hurt (as it so often does when prior leaders concealed unpleasant truths), and he “walked the walk.”

He focused his attention on the people who worked for him, and on managers, supervisors, and workers – everyone.  Alfredo understood that great things can only be accomplished by great people, and he set an example that earned the trust of the people in his company.

He knew where he wanted to bring the company and he clearly articulated his visionand ensured that every employee in the company, from workers on the firing line right through his executive staff, understood what their roles were.

Knowing that capable employees leave the company when they lose faith in their leaders, he conducted assessments that enabled every employee to be heard. Alfredo went to great pains to listen to employees and assure that problems hindering them were corrected.

Alfredo realized that constant training and learning better ways to achieve his goals were key to not falling behind his company’s competition, and he extended that philosophy to the rest of the organization by implementing training programsfor employees, both in hard and soft skills.

Alfredo personally coachedhis direct reports to help them overcome obstacles and improve their leadership abilities.  He also assured that high potential leaders throughout the company were identified and received personal coaching. He understood that the company’s life-blood and future was invested in high potential leaders and that he could lose them if they didn’t receive the grooming they needed and deserved.

He went out of his way to ensure that employees worked in an environment that encouraged people not only to work hard but to enjoy what they were doing. Accordingly, he appointed two CFO’s, the traditional chief financial officer and a chief fun officer whose duty was to create ways for employees to have fun at work.

Within a few months of Alfredo taking the helm of the parent company, improvements were noticeable across the board in every function of the company. By the end of the year, the company’s fortunes had improved dramatically.

 

LOOKING FOR A FRESH PERSPECTIVE?

Jeff Wolfis the author of the international best-seller Seven Disciplines of a Leader.

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

Contact Jeff today for your coaching needsor to speak at your next meeting or conference.

If you want your leaders to be great coaches, his program, Be a Great Coach, is now available at your location.

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

 

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

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

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