Great leaders are communicators who deliberately refrain from using weak, indecisive words and phrases and instead use language that injects clarity, focus, and positive expectations into their conversations. Here are some powerless words and phrases to avoid that can hinder communication and set negative expectations:
- “I’ll try…” Instead: be clear and firm. Candor and honesty will go farther to build trust with your customers and colleagues than “trying” ever will.
- “I’ll have to…” This can imply that supporting your team is a burden. Instead: replace this negative line with the hospitable phrase “I’ll be glad to…”
- “Basically…” This and other filler words take up space without adding value. Instead: Drop the filler entirely, and say what you intended to say.
- “To be honest with you…” Saying this phrase can leave your team wondering “wait… you’re not honest the rest of the time?” Instead: Remove it, and simply say what you were planning to say.
- “I should be able to…” This sounds like a weak commitment, and your team deserves better! Instead: tell them what you will do!
Your team takes cues from the words you use; consciously eliminating negative, powerless expressions and projecting a more positive, resourceful image will build your team’s confidence in you as a leader.
“Do or do not. There is no try” – Yoda
We believe that everyone has the potential to become a great leader. Developing leadership skills is hard work, and sometimes you’ll find yourself working with a leader whose skills are a work in progress. If you find yourself in a situation, here are three tips of how you can make your job more bearable:
- Own it. Focus on what you can control. What can you do to make the project, meeting or job better? If you get stuck dwelling on the problem, you risk feeding it.
- Focus on results. Concentrate on what you need to accomplish by thinking about how your role supports the organization’s success. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re delivering high quality results that align with the organization’s needs.
- Ask for feedback. Engaging in a round of healthy feedback without getting defensive can build a bridge to a healthier relationship.
While there are many factors outside of your control, you can own your part in forging a positive relationship with your leader.
“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens.”
– Wade Boggs
28 Top Books to Get Ahead in 2018
2018 is an open book of possibilities, and it’s time to start reading! Reading is known to be one of the primary habits of ultra-successful people, and can open up a world of new ideas and new possibilities.
Start off the New Year right by resolving to read! Here is a list of 28 business books to add to your tablet (or your night stand):
- Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data by Jørn Lyseggen
- Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
- Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh
- Selling Vision by Lou Schachter and Rick Cheatam
- Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.
- The Startup Hero’s Pledge by Tim Draper
- Leading Through the Turn: How a Journey Mindset Can Help Leaders Find Success and Significance by Elise Mitchell
- Surviving the Tech Storm: Strategy in Times of Technological Uncertainty by Nicklas Bergman
- Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing by Robert Glazer
- They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
- Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao
- The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone by Brian Merchant
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
- You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero
- Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
- Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker
- Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
- Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West.
- The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker.
- The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone
- Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins
- What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring
- Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser
- Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm by Christian Madsbjerg
- Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, Sean Lynch and Frederick W. Smith
- The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach
- Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson
- Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention by John Ruhlin
That should get you started for a great year of exploring new ideas and experiencing new challenges!
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” – Amelia Earhart
Your feedback was rejected. Now what?
Giving feedback is part of being a leader, but sometimes recipients don’t recognize feedback as the gift it is intended to be. What can you do to help the recipient move past resistance and into understanding?
Before responding to the individual, take a moment to consider your motivations in giving the feedback. Do you really want what’s best for the recipient, or do you have a bone to pick? If your goal is to be helpful, keep going! If you’re motivated by your own self-interest, move on.
When you come up against a wall of resistance, don’t keep hammering your point home. Instead, ask these questions and listen to their answers.
- What’s going on for you right now?
- Go through the senses. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What are you hearing? What are you seeing? Hitting their preferred way of thinking may help them open up.
- Imagine, if this feedback was true, what would you say next?
- Imagine, if this feedback was true, what would you ask?
- Explore intent vs. impact. What did you intend? What is the impact?
- When someone is resistant, what do they do?
- What’s at stake for you right now?
From: The Leadership Freak
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A Clark
Workplace conflict is inevitable. It’s tempting to avoid these uncomfortable situations altogether, but there’s a much more effective solution!
With Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict assessment profile, learners will discover how to curb destructive behaviors so that conflict can become more productive. This is not your average conflict resolution program. Everything DiSC Productive Conflict offers highly personalized content that helps learners increase self-awareness around conflict behaviors and effectively respond to conflict situations, which ultimately improves workplace results and relationships. You can take individually or as team (in tact teams or cross-company).
Your learners will:
- Explore the destructive and productive conflict behaviors of each personality DiSC® styles
- Understand how to manage your response to conflict situations
- Discover communication strategies when engaging in productive conflict with colleagues
Interested to learn more? Check out the Everything DiSC-Productive Conflict brochure!
Questions? We are happy to help! Email us at email@example.com
In today’s world of constant access and fast-paced lives, everyone struggles with finding the best way to manage their energy and time. Here are five secrets to maintain a healthy work/life balance, and get the most out of every day:
- Identify what’s not working for you: Spend a week tracking how you spend your time, and then goals for how you want your time to be spent. Compare the two, and see what changes you can make!
- Establish boundaries: Making changes means setting boundaries. If you want to spend more time on creative pursuits, then carve out time and space for creativity.
- Set goals: Some boundaries take time to get in place. Be patient, and set long term goals that you work towards. It may be a while before your new morning ritual is in place, take steps each morning that bring you closer to success.
- Get support: Everyone needs support to achieve their goals, especially goals that change how you manage your relationships and time. Support can come in the form of emotional, cognitive, political, or physical support. Individuals, groups, classes, and other resources can help you connect with the support you need.
- Track your progress: Celebrate your successes, and recognize and learn from your mistakes. As you move towards a more balanced approach to productivity you will see the impact of your changes.
“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.”– Charles Buxton
The challenge of leadership is to inspire teams to come together to accomplish a shared goal. Leaders who focus on celebrating their team over celebrating themselves can inspire teams to work together, resulting in higher performing teams, and better outcomes.
Do you have the 7 characteristics of leaders who embrace humility?
- Are you real?
Leaders who understand and share the true balance of their strengths and weaknesses do a better job of connecting with their teams. When leaders pretend to be perfect they’re often seen as inaccessible and distant.
- Do you strike a balance between influence and authority?
Egotistical leaders use shame, threats and intimidation to get the results. Humble leaders use their influence to encourage others, reserving their position of authority to set direction for team members.
- Do you support and promote others?
Humble leaders push their team members’ accomplishments to the forefront; often to the benefit of the team member’s career advancement. Their first priority is supporting the accomplishments of the individuals they lead.
- Do you build others up?
Those who do believe in their team’s ability to succeed, and they communicate that belief early and often. When something goes wrong, a humble leader coaches their team through figuring out what happened, and coming up with a plan for next time.
- Do you reframe failure as learning?
When being lead with humility, team members know that losing a battle is a learning opportunity and that the team will continue to work through the challenge together.
- Do you lead with integrity?
This integrity provides clarity of role and expectation for everyone on the team. The team understands the importance of following through on their promises.
- Are you grateful?
Grateful leaders value what each person brings to the table, and are thankful for the diversity each voice contributes to the conversation.
“Great leaders don’t need to act tough. Their confidence and humility serve to underscore their toughness” – Simon Sinek
Great leaders inspire others to be part of something bigger than themselves. One of the most powerful tools in a leader’s toolbox is effective presentations. Powerful presentations inspire audiences to do amazing things.
As a leader, you need to know how to avoid the doldrums of run-of-the-mill presentation to inspire your audience to be part of your vision. Here are three common pitfalls that lead to lackluster presentations… and how you can avoid them!
Pitfall #1: Letting the content drive. Presentations defined by content leave audiences feeling lost and confused. A presentation without a purpose is a lot like a song without a melody; things just won’t flow and the audience won’t stay tuned in for very long.
How to avoid it: Let the objective take the wheel.
Ask yourself: What do you want your audience to take away from this experience? From there, select content to present that supports the objective.
Pitfall #2: Ignoring emotions. Audiences are left unmoved and uninspired when presenters only focus on teaching them information while neglecting the audience’s emotional experience.
How to avoid it: Begin with the emotional journey you are asking your audience to take. Are you asking them to go from “this isn’t possible” to “this is possible and I should be part of it”? What will it take to get them from point A to B? How can you change their minds and their hearts?
Pitfall #3: Omitting their role: Audiences feel disinterested and disconnected when they can’t see their role in the vision you are presenting.
How to avoid it: Provide a narrative that your audience can see themselves in. Personal stories or illustrative analogies help audiences recognize their role in carrying out your vision.
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools speak because they have to say something.” – Plato
Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the commitment to overcome it. Courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid; it means you battle against your fear and confront it. Courage pushes you to resist the impulse to shy away from the things that stir up your innermost anxieties. Courage is required and must be a constant. It’s tiny pieces of fear all glued together.
Here are some helpful tips for building a culture of courage in your organization:
- Set scary standards. Your level of excellence and expectation for your product or service or experience should almost be something that is nearly unattainable. Safe goals are set by safe leaders with safe visions. Give your people a goal that scares them, and you’ll produce leaders who know what it means to overcome fear.
- Allow for failure. The road to success is many times put together through multiple failures. Allow for and even encourage your team to fail as they attempt to succeed.
- Reward innovation. Innovation requires taking risks. And bold risks create bold team members. Rewarding innovation will challenge your team to grow in their roles.
- Pursue the right opportunities. Not every risk is a good one. Be disciplined. Aggressively pursue a few things that make sense. Say no often.
- Learn to delegate. This is one of the most courageous things a leader can do. Entrusting others with important tasks requires letting go and relinquishing control. Liberally pass responsibility and authority to your team. If you want your team to be courageous, give them the chance to lead.
Source: Catalyst Leadership
“One isn’t born with courage. One develops it. And you develop it by doing small, courageous things.” – Maya Angelou
In July, we introduced you to the exceptional students at Beacon Elementary. At Beacon, 100% of the students receive free and reduced lunch based on household income. With the new school year fast approaching, the students at Beacon need your help to thrive this year!
Member’s of Beacon’s staff are teaming up with Ward Church in Northville to provide 50 backpacks before the start of the school year. Each backpack is chock full of the supplies one students needs to thrive this year. While any amount is appreciated, a gift of $25 gives one kid everything they need for the first day of school.
We are only 10 backpacks from our goal; and the staff and students at Beacon are counting on you!
Donations can be made online, and are tax deductible. Visit this link to make a donation. In “select a designation“, please choose “Outreach Backpack Drive“.
…AND for every child that one of our friends sponsor, Aha! Leadership will sponsor in in kind!
Together we can help develop future leaders!
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
Great leaders stand out for their ability to disrupt the status quo. They have the courage to make bold moves, and to innovate new solutions to old problems. Where others see impenetrable barriers, they see challenges to overcome.
This knack for seizing opportunity when things look bleak is not an innate ability that a fortunate few are born with. Instead, it represents a mental strength that is built over time and economically used. Developing mental strength takes intention, focus, and daily practice; and so does spending your mental resources wisely. Start with these 10 practices to work out your mental muscles, and to make the most out of the mental energy you have:
- Establish goals: with each goal you achieve, you’ll gain more confidence in your ability to succeed.
- Set yourself up for success: Stop wasting your energy resisting temptation or trying to find the tools you need. Want to eat better? Stock your pantry with healthy food. Want to limit distractions? Place your phone in a drawer.
- Tolerate discomfort: Don’t let yourself use short-term solutions to address long term problems. Instead, taking care of things the right way the first time, can help you maintain your mental reserves.
- Reframe your negative thoughts: Replace overly pessimistic thoughts with more realistic expectations to help you stay on track. “This is too hard to do” becomes “I am going to have to figure out a different approach”.
- Seek balance between emotions and logic: You can confidently move forward with decisions when your emotions and logic are in sync. Strive for a balance that allows you to live compassionately and rationally.
- Work towards your purpose: Write out your personal mission statement to remind yourself why it’s important you keep going, and to help you spend your mental energy where it matters most.
- Look for reasons, not excuses: Acknowledge and face your mistakes so you can learn from them and avoid repeating them in the future; without wasting energy dwelling on them.
- Say no: When you’ve reached your limit, say no with confidence. Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and allows you to successfully fulfill them.
- Overcome procrastination: Recognize that there is no magic time in the future where you will suddenly want to do the undesirable task. You are as motivated to complete the task now as you ever will be. Start now, and get it done! The more your practice this, the easier it becomes.
- Take care of yourself physically: Getting enough sleep, and eating the right foods can ensure you have the reserves you need to keep going, even as things get tough!
“I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse” – Florence Nightingale
Be a Beacon of Hope! Reach Out to Support Low Income Students this School Year
The students who attend Beacon Elementary in Harper Woods are extraordinary leaders in the making! With the new school year on the horizon, many of Beacon’s students are facing a big challenge: starting the school year off right.
100% of Beacon’s students receive free and reduced lunch. This means all of the students who attend Beacon are provided breakfast, lunch, and a snack daily based on household income. Some of Beacon’s most vulnerable families struggle to provide the basic school supplies. That’s where you come in!
Members of Beacon’s staff are teaming up with Ward Church in Northville to provide 50 backpacks. Each backpack is chock full of the supplies one student needs to thrive this year! While any amount is appreciated, a gift of $25 gives one kid everything they need for the first day of school.
… AND for every child that one of our friends sponsor, Aha! Leadership will sponsor one in kind.
- Donations can be made online and are tax deductible. Visit this link to make a donation.
- In “select a designation”, please choose “Outreach Backpack Drive”
Together we can help develop future leaders!
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” -Mother Teresa
In our last newsletter, 3 Must-Know Principles for Scaling Leadership Development we explored the principles for scaling leadership development to promote organization success. In this article we zoom in to take a closer look at the skills leaders in the middle need to be most effective in their roles.
Making the move from star performer to effective leader can be a challenging shift for new managers. Individuals who have always been successful at getting things done find that their ability to succeed on their own has reached its limit.
When this happens, it’s time for theses “managers in the middle” to to shift their focus and embrace their role as leaders. This means developing six key skills to get things done through others:
- Thinking and acting systematically
- Learning Agility
Those who are able to harness these 6 skills can “lead from the middle”. They are better able to contribute to the organization’s strategy, they are more likely to advance, less likely to experience career derailment, and better able to manage not only work obligations, but family, community, and personal demands as well.
Aha! Leadership can work with you to develop emerging leadership talent, learn more by visiting our workshops page, or by reaching out to us!
Learn more about strategies for incorporating leadership development into your organization by reading the full Click here to download the full White Paper.
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” -Henry Ford
Successful organizations know they need to work differently than they have in the past. Superstar talent that performs well in an isolated silo is critical, but not enough in a world that is constantly changing. Bringing development to all levels of leadership makes it easier for an organization to execute its strategy and achieve its goals.
When building a leadership development program, it’s important to focus on 3 principles:
- Plan: Strategy First. Organizations don’t go to market without a sales or operations strategy. Likewise, there should be hesitancy about going to market without a leadership strategy.
- Build: The Right Learning for the Right Level. Just producing a training program is not enough. The organization needs to create a framework to support learning and development goals.
- Leverage: The Right Talent – Outside and Inside. Engage external partners and internal teams to champion the initiative and develop new leaders.
Scaling leadership development is the best way to create new capabilities across an entire organization in a short amount of time. Aha! Leadership offers Growth Group Mico-to bring Leadership Development to every level of your organization. Learn more about our educational approach here.
This month’s White Paper explores the keys to devising a leadership development strategy that aligns with the organization’s strategic plan. Click here to download the full White Paper.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” -Jimmy Dean
Being a leader is about using influence to implement decisions and to gain support for ideas and vision. Especially when it comes to leadership, actions speak louder than words; and when it comes to changing behaviors, oftentimes the best way to lead is by example. You can set that example starting today by following the ten things that require zero talent:
- Be on time
- Make an effort
- Be high energy
- Have a positive attitude
- Be passionate
- Have a positive work ethic
- Have effective body language
- Be coachable
- Do extra
- Be prepared
Click here to download the full White Paper to learn about influence and power, as well as the three most effective ways to influence people.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Each person has a preference for how they would like to be influenced. Selecting the best influence tactic is important to achieve the desired outcome with a person or group. Effective leaders understand the way others want to be influenced and apply the right tactics to build alignment and commitment. To shape direction, alignment, and commitment through interactions with others, leaders must be skilled in 6 areas:
- Understanding and navigating organizational politics: Organizations have formal and informal structures. Understanding and effectively navigating through complex political situations require political insight. Leaders adjust to the reality of corporate politics and are sensitive to how the organization functions.
- Creating visibility: To create new opportunities, effective leaders stand out and get noticed by others while staying authentic. They are careful to allow their team members to shine while not over-promoting themselves.
- Building and maintaining personal trustworthiness: Leaders ask others to take risks along with them. Therefore people must believe in the leader and their leadership. Leaders must show integrity and be widely trusted.
- Leveraging networks: Forming and nurturing a network of relationships is invaluable in today’s interconnected world. Networking allows leaders to generate new experiences and to tap into the skills and vision of others.
- Clear communication: Writing and speaking clearly and briefly and applying a variety of communication styles helps leaders to get the message across and to ensure the right impact.
- Motivating others: By motivating others leaders create a climate in which people become engaged and empowered. Leaders understand the needs, styles, and motivators of others. People will like working with and for those leaders and will be more receptive to their influencing.
Influencing, Manipulation, and Power
Influencing is different from manipulation. Influencing is a process and is characterized by a positive intention in the interest of the persons influenced and of the organization. Trust is at the core of the relationship between the influencer and the people influenced. The leader or person who exercises influence builds trustful relations, is transparent about the goals, the purpose, and his or her values. There is no hidden agenda, and the leader does not abuse any psychological or other weaknesses of the person who is influenced. Positive and effective influence results in alignment and commitment.
Influencing affects, shapes, or transforms opinions, behaviors, and actions. While power often is associated with control in hierarchical organizations, leaders at all levels in the organization can leverage different bases of power to influence others.
In this White Paper, we explore the power of relationship, the power of information, and the power of expertise; and how these techniques are essential for the leader to influence others, with or without formal authority.
“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.“ – John C. Maxwell
In our last newsletter, Assumptions that can Harm Your Coaching Culture; we focused on developing a coaching culture that inspires discovery, reflection, and persistence. This kinds of cultural shifts can require big changes in the landscape of leadership.
This powerful video explores one leader’s high stakes decision to let go of control, and empowering his crew to make decisions.
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves” -David Marquet
Coaching is more than a collection of effective techniques. The qualities associated with coaching are the ones that energize us and generate creativity and commitment. Coaching culture is about having the conversations that may not usually happen to make sure we understand and can act in ways that amplify collaboration, agreement, and alignment.
The first step is understanding the myths and misconceptions surrounding coaching culture. These assumptions can prove major resource drains for organizations looking to implement a coaching culture:
- Coaching culture is achieved via lots of coaching, as if sheer quantity of programs could change a culture. True culture change is not an accessory that can be clamped onto the current system. It has to touch both formal and informal processes and be embraced because it just works better.
- Changing to a coaching culture can be the flavor of the month. The glittering possibility of an inspiring, creative, and humane workplace attracts us, but overly optimistic pictures can blind us to ineffective approaches.
It’s best to think of this kind of culture change using metaphors like farming. Farming implies starting small, planting many seeds, and being willing to nurture the process through multiple stages. Organizations that successfully implement a coaching culture approach the process in phases. This White Paper challenges you to avoid these assumptions as you cultivate a coaching culture throughout your organization.
Why a Coaching Culture?
Coaching is most well-known as a collection of techniques or a professional service, but beneath the prominent public face are key assumptions and a philosophy of human change, accomplishment, and well-being. Coaches ask questions, encourage exploration, reluctantly advise, and show well developed listening and feedback skills. These are the superficial manifestations of a view of human relations that radically embraces the competence of each person. A coaching view affirms that by inspiring discovery, reflection, and persistence in another person, that person becomes capable of significantly greater achievement, deeper and broader thinking, and more consistent expression of their values over time.
We have all experienced relationships that inspired us and suffered under others that demoralized us. Consistently, the qualities associated with coaching, such as deep self-awareness, genuine interest and caring expressed through curiosity, open questioning, and listening, are the ones that energize us and generate creativity and commitment.
Part of the power of coaching is that it gives a mechanism for leaders to balance toughness of mind with consideration for the emotional climate of those they lead. Coaching is mostly about getting to the truth, but what makes it powerful is its assumption that the recipients of uncomfortable truths can and will change. Coaching never misleads others about the consequences of their actions, choices, and relationships. Coaching is about discovering the whole truth, facing the tough issues, and creating a liberating space for improvement.
Coaching culture is not just “doing coaching.” It’s having the conversations that may not usually happen—across functions, across levels—to make sure we understand and can act in ways that amplify collaboration, agreement, and alignment.
To make this more explicit, we will first describe different kinds of situations in which coaching may be valuable. These are not programs, but illustrations of how a coaching mindset shapes many kinds of conversations needed for vibrant organizational cultures. We will call these practical expressions of coaching culture.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
In our last newsletter we focused on the 12 Challenges First-time Managers Have and ways to support new leaders encountering these challenges. Expanding on this theme, we want to look at the small warning signs that could lead to bigger trouble down the line.
Gil could fix any problem you put in front of him. Need a report by noon? They gave it to Gil. Need to find something in the data that no one else could? Gil could find it, write about it and present it in a way that made sense. His technical expertise was sought after throughout the entire organization. You didn’t need to tell Gil what to do; he would just do it, and go above and beyond what was needed. As productive as he was, he thought he was a shoe-in to be the next manager of the department. All he had to do was pass the interview.
But he didn’t. Despite all that he knew, the organization didn’t think he had the skills or the experience to make that all-important transition from stand-out producer to leader. Gil felt humiliated and, eventually, left the organization.
Does Gil sound like someone (or a lot of people) in your organization: that “golden child” or “rock star” or ever-growing list of high-potentials who are so good that you think they should be promoted from individual contributors to leaders, but whose career later derailed when you realized it was a mistake?
How do you know if you have employees like Gil? Here are five warning signs, based on decades of research, that your current or soon-to-be new leaders may be on the verge of derailing:
- Problems with interpersonal relationships: Do your new leaders have trouble developing good working relationships? Are they “lone wolves” who are often seen as cold, arrogant and insensitive?
- Difficulty building and leading a team: Do your new leaders struggle to transition from being a team member to being a team leader? Can they staff and form their teams effectively? Can they handle differences and conflicts among team members?
- Difficulty changing and adapting: Do your new leaders have difficulty changing their mindsets? Are they resistant to changing, learning from mistakes, and growing and developing as leaders? Can they adapt to people with different work styles? Can they adapt to the strategic approach necessary in their new leadership position?
- Failure to meet business objectives: Are your new leaders actually performing well? Or do they over-promise and under-deliver? Do they lack follow-through?
- Overly narrow functional orientation: In research on derailment, this warning sign is the one that tends to stick out the most for new leaders. Think of it as the classic salesperson who was so good at sales that she was promoted to lead the sales staff. In this leadership role, however, she could not stop being a salesperson and switch to being a leader, with all the added responsibility and understanding of others outside the sales function.
If a lot of your new leaders (or those who are groomed to be leaders) are showing these signs, there are ways to help—and there’s no time to waste. Based on my research on almost 300 new leaders, I encourage new leaders, and those who develop them, to concentrate on six key areas. If we can make it clear how new leaders must change (or, as I like to call it, flip) their (1) mindset, (2) skill set, (3) relationships, (4) do-it-all attitude, (5) perspective and (6) focus, we can prevent potential derailment.
We need to do it sooner rather than later. When research participants are asked, “How long does it take to know if a person promoted into his or her first leadership position failed in making that transition?”, the average response is just a little over 140 days. That means we in the training and development field have about 20 weeks to make sure our newest leaders don’t derail. That’s not a lot of time!
I will admit, in a “former life,” I was Gil. I didn’t even make it past the interview, and my career derailed. That’s probably why I’ve become so passionate in helping new leaders; I don’t want them to end up like Gil … I mean me.
Both new leaders and those who want to be leaders need—and, frankly, deserve—more of our time and attention. We should make it a priority to alleviate potential derailment by supporting people who are making one of the most difficult transitions in their careers: the one from rock-star individual contributors to superstar leaders.
William A. (Bill) Gentry, Ph.D., is director of leadership insights and analytics and a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) in Greensboro, NC. He is the author of the book “Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders.”
“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” —Warren Bennis