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 Better Management Teams

The following is a guest post by John Cotter. Building Better Management Teams first appeared in Wolf in the Workplace, the newsletter of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.

Designing work for senior management teams starts by identifying the tasks that are unique to the top level of the organization. People accustomed to managing a particular function often think that the outputs of the group that they manage are the same as their own outputs. The challenge is to help them discover what the senior management team as a whole produces. This voyage of discovery starts by developing a shared understanding of how their business fits in the ever-evolving environment. By understanding the business context and the contributions of the management team to the success of the business, expectations evolve about what work is needed and who is best suited to accomplish it. Individual roles are then developed by negotiating these expectations.

Experience suggests the steps to use in developing senior management teams are as follows:

  • Share individual understandings of the current business context and agree about important trends, potential problems and emerging opportunities.
  • Review what the senior managing team currently produces and evaluate its relevance in relation to emerging business developments.
  • Identify any new outputs required from the senior management team to assure that the company will be successful in the future.
  • Examine the processes required to create these outputs and agree about how the management team should work together to support these processes.
  • Redesign and reassign the current roles and responsibilities of senior managers as needed.
  • Define new accountabilities and negotiate new performance and recognition agreements.
  • Provide the management team with the skills, information and guidelines they need to operate successfully.

Senior managers sometimes feel a little foolish creating operating guidelines about how they should work together as a team. Surely, they think, we’re all adults and have years of experience working in groups. That, of course, is the problem. Everyone has practiced dysfunctional behavior for years. Operating guidelines should be explicit, simple, clear and concise. Here are some typical examples:

  • Speak honestly. Make clear and direct requests. Be willing to surface issues or take positions that may result in conflict.
  • Anyone can disagree about anything with anyone, but no one can disagree without stating the reasons why.
  • Listen for peoples’ contributions, rather than editing with assessments, opinions or judgments.
  • Support each other. Operate from the point of view that, “we’re all in this together.”
    It’s not OK to win at someone else’s expense or at the expense of the company.
  • Support people in fulfilling their commitments and hold them accountable for results.
  • Show appreciation by giving, receiving and requesting acknowledgment from others.

Managing at senior levels today involves four fundamental tasks: first, monitoring and influencing the environment to develop new business opportunities: second, articulating, modeling and creating ownership for a vision of what the organization aims to accomplish in the future: third, attracting business leaders, matching them with the right assignments and holding them accountable for results: and fourth, investing, distributing and balancing resources across the organization’s portfolio of businesses.

These are all collective rather than individual tasks. If they’re to be managed effectively, learning acquired from enterprise-level teams needs to be transferred into the executive suite. As AT&T board member Charlie Brown said, “You can’t run the business from memory any more.”