Our Thoughts

Stretch don’t snap

StretchHigh performers like to be stretched. Indeed they will push themselves, if you as their leader are not providing sufficient opportunity for them to learn, aim high and ultimately hit it out of the ball-park. There are several areas to be mindful of with these driven types however and it is to those ‘Red Flags’ that this post will now turn.

Coasting

If, as a leader, you fail to provide frequent chances for high performers to engage deeply in their work and to be challenged by it on an almost daily basis, they will get bored. That’s not a possibility, it’s a given. Where we are asked to work within our comfort-zone all the time, disengagement will naturally follow as sure as Q2 follows Q1. High performers live to learn and contribute in a way that has meaning for them. Sure, some may do it for reasons of ego or the accompanying reward but in my experience of working with hundreds of these high performers, most seem to do it for the reward that comes from the achievement itself, rather than just some extraneous recognition.

Burn-out

As a senior leader, when you look around your team and know that there is someone whom you trust deeply to deliver excellent work under often quite tight deadlines, the likelihood is that they become your ‘go-to’ person. Often. Usually, too often. Due to the fact that these high performers want the stretch and love the challenge, they are often not the best at saying ‘no’ to the extra workload you put their way. Before they (and you) know it, they can be overly relied upon and in deep danger of burn-out. That is the worst of outcomes for them and for you.

Lead differently
  1. Challenges for leaders when leading this kind of high performer are several, including your own ego and self-confidence, which may lead to you squashing the opportunities for this person in fear of the fact that they might out-shine you. My advice? Make your aim to be out-shone by members of your team. Regularly. Your ability to develop such key people is an important indicator of what a great leader you are, not the opposite.
  2. Rather than over-use the superstars, provide a greater stretch for those in your team who are not at that level yet. Ensure that these ‘nearly-theres’ are pushed and challenged, so that they can add more value to the work of your team. There is more capacity and potential in these people that is being left on the table, than there is from you and your current high performer, both of who (Hint! Hint!) are working very close to their maximum most of the time.
  3. Recognise that you and those in your team, work best under conditions of stretch. Whilst you or the context, may mean you mis-judge that from time to time, remember that moderate challenge helps focus the effort and makes sustainable high performance a much likelier outcome.

Dr Glenn P Wallis runs a boutique leadership consultancy, where he and his team help organisations perform better through developing higher quality senior leaders. If you want to discuss how you can raise the strength of your leadership bench then you can contact Glenn here.

How organisations can produce more with less (and avoid burnout!)

abracadabra-484969_1920As organisations continue to get leaner, there is an oft-heard call to ‘do more with less.’ Such an objective is possible to achieve through increasingly efficient systems and processes; investing in the latest hardware and will soon include hiring your first robot employee that can work 24-7-365 (No! I’m not kidding.)

Human-centred

This post acknowledges that whilst many of the changes listed above are important in the drive for greater efficiency it is also clear that all of these changes, and organisation performance more generally, rely centrally on the performance of human beings. Encouraging people to do even more can be a recipe for increased absence due to stress, high turnover rates as people exit your organisation in the search for a better ‘work-life balance’ and a general sense of employee dis-engagement: Not great outcomes for increased productivity.

So, how can you encourage higher employee engagement and output, as you continue to slim down the workforce, whilst also protecting the health and well-being of those same treasured assets?

Simple. But not easy.

3 Steps

Here are three key steps to ensuring you can ‘do more with less’ whilst simultaneously avoiding burning out your employees.

Ensure people work at the right level

Far too many organisations that I visit, seem to have a challenge with people working at the right level for their role. This is especially true of those in leadership positions. Still keen on rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in, too many leaders are spending insufficient time leading and too much time doing. This is not a new phenomenon and yet, still far too common.

The system that measures your leadership population (you have one of those, right?) should recognise and reward leaders for leading well and seek to develop those leaders who are not doing so sufficiently.

Recognise your leaders for:

  1. Leading the development of team talent
  2. Reinforcing values and behaviours of the organisation
  3. Innovating in ways that move the organisation/function forward and serve customers better
  4. Whole function/team results
  5. Adhere to/strengthen governance in an observable way
Don’t give ownership

You can’t give ownership, so don’t even try. What I mean is that you can’t give ownership to someone who doesn’t want to take it. Therefore, the best you can to hope for is to set an environment where the levels of accountability for performance are:

  1. Clear
  2. Clearly and regularly communicated
  3. Measured, reviewed and discussed regularly

Leaders who can create an atmosphere where employees know and understand with crystal clarity the deliverables of their role (the ‘what’) tend to produce much higher levels of performance, especially when there is a culture of accountability for said results. A product of such an approach is that employees start to discover the ‘how’ of achievement for themselves: Now that starts to look much more like a team where levels of ownership are high.

How can leaders start to make the transition to increased ownership? Adopt a performance coaching style to your leadership skill set.

Prepare employees for the change

If your employees have been working at a certain level – i.e. well below where they should be – it will be a significant shift when leaders start actually to lead effectively and not getting stuck-in to BAU. Employees can feel really unsettled when organisations make such a change of style leadership. The result can be that employees become somewhat frozen as they try to work out the change of expectation. Productivity can decrease rather that start to fly. So, it is really important to share and prepare staff for changes.

One thing to be careful of at this stage is how you manage the communication to staff. Get this wrong and you’ll be met with rolling eyes and much long sighing, as employees perceive the changes as a way of squeezing even more out of an already exhausted workforce (by their current standards.) Focus on the nature of work i.e. more stretching, that will tap into people’s strengths and interests. Ensure people are also aware that their performance will be more carefully measured and should they need it, more develop will be available for supporting improvements. Then ensure that as a leader, leading at the right level, you follow-through on these commitments through regular one-to-one meetings, mentoring and performance coaching. Simple but not easy.

Dr Glenn Wallis is a leadership consultant that helps organisations develop outstanding leadership in order to improve organisational performance. When you want to develop the effectiveness of leaders and leadership in your organisation, Glenn would love to discuss your needs with you, just contact him here.

This is what great companies do to ensure strong governance

GovernanceIt is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness …     (to paraphrase Charles Dickens.)

With the opening of trade opportunities globally through the touch of a button, the potential of cost reduction through the increasing role of AI, the long-term restructure of pension requirements and a wider workforce that are as well-educated as any in our history, it could be said that in many ways business has never had it so good. On the flip-side, the pace, complexity and ambiguous nature of the environment within which businesses have to work is as challenging as almost any in the history of organised work. Add in the uncertainty over Brexit, the US and terrorism and it is clear we face real challenges.

Wisdom and Foolishness

But let’s focus here on the wisdom and foolishness parts of Dickens’ opening lines. A litany of organisational disasters, capped off with the economic meltdown of 2008, should have provoked some wisdom around how organisations might want to consider their role in society more fully. “Should have” being the operative phrase there. I’m not referring to initiatives such as CSR. No, I want you to consider objectively your response to the idea of thoroughly planned and robustly executed governance. How do you, as a senior leader, ensure that the team or organisation you lead, remains acutely aware of its responsibility to guard against itself?

Notice that last sentence: I took some time to craft it.

You see for me and many of the outstanding leaders I have the pleasure of working with, governance is not the preserve of you local sector regulators such as the FCA, PRA, CQC or OFGEM. That focuses more on compliance. Compliance is a really  important part of your governance considerations of course but it isn’t the whole. Regulatory compliance is ‘done unto you’. Governance is the standards of accountability that you set for yourselves as an organisation. Get it right and you can sleep easy at night assured that, at some point further down the line, skeletons will not come tumbling out of the cupboard. Get it wrong, or worse still, pretend it will look after itself and you can look forward to less sleep than you need to function effectively.

Culture change

Building a sustainable approach to high quality governance requires a clarity that is achieved through systemic and behavioural changes. Great organisations ensure that they have  developed systems to monitor, reward and discourage certain behaviours. Checks and balances need to be in place to raise red flags early. Staff need to understand why governance is so important and how they are expected to support it as a key strategic strand. Leaders ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear for everyone in their team and that each person understands their accountabilities in terms to the outputs they produce and the level of performance expected of them consistently. All of these moving parts aggregate up to an organisational culture that respects the importance of governance.

One counter-intuitive benefit of a highly structured, highly visible, sustained approach to governance is that it is incredibly liberating. Knowing where you stand, helps individuals feel less uncertain. It reduces the fire-fighting required by leaders, to resolve issues that often should never have arisen in the first place. Having clarity about what is ok and what is not ok (not in some dictatorial way) offers everyone the opportunity to flex and innovate within clearly understood boundaries. Robust governance is the foundation for high performance over the long-term. 

Glenn Wallis is a leadership and organisational culture expert who helps organisations blend the hard stuff of systems with the harder stuff of people, to create highly successful teams and organisations that succeed both here and now and in the long-term. If you would like to chat about your requirements, please contact Glenn here.

No one owns the definition of leadership

leedership

When you arrive at that point in your career when you get a dawning realisation that you are a “senior leader” an odd thing can happen. There is a moment that many leaders reach and share with me, where they find they are struggling to define leadership for themselves. They are surrounded by Executive peers and Board members who are already well-established and who are leading in a way that at least appears comfortable and confident. These ‘new’ senior leaders find themselves further away from their comfort zones and wrestling to find a way of operating where they can feel comfortable and satisfy what is required from them in their new elevated position.

The result is that many such leaders, in an attempt to avoid some degree of imposter syndrome, take one or more of the following approaches:
1. Engage a leadership mentor
2. Try to copy those already in senior positions
3. Sign up for an Executive education programme at a Business School
4. Read lots of books on leadership

Thing is, these aren’t the best place to start the process of defining leadership for yourself. Let’s look at each briefly before exploring where you’ll definitely want to start the journey of becoming an outstanding senior leader.

Mentors

What a great resource leadership mentors can be. Insightful in providing new leaders with both short-cuts and red-flags that help save time (vital) and avoid major screw-ups (even more vital!). Providing a “this is how I did it” approach, can be a life-saver for new Executive leaders. Mentors can also offer a sense of not being alone and having a critical friend in moments of real need.

Copy-cat leadership

I have written often that leaders are never not role modelling. Your team members, Boss and peers are always watching you, even sub-consciously. So, leaders are always being observed and judged, but by definition, they are also often being the observer of other leaders. This can result in the very common “I’d never do it like that” awareness, when leaders see something that they would not condone doing if the roles were reversed. Whilst this deficit approach to learning-by-watching is common, leaders watching other leaders in order to learn some positives seems less prevalent but is still a good way for new leaders to learn how to lead.

Executive Education

Exec education can work incredibly well when there is evidence-based input that is highly applicable to the real world in which Executives work. Learning that is designed to ensure that leadership development happens through undertaking real work, ensures that leaders can see how to apply what they have learned, back in the work-place. Rolling out keynote speakers with a view/experience to share can also be useful. Another great advantage of attending such Exec development is the networking with other professionals that may prove helpful over a life-time of leadership.

Reading Leadership Material

I love to read the latest leadership book. I absorb key thoughts from a wide range of books over the course of a year. Assimilating diverse ideas and cherry-picking concepts that resonate for me, helps me keep developing my own leadership approach in an ongoing way. The challenge with many leaders in relation to reading leadership ideas, is they’ll pursue one idea until the next shiny idea comes along. The sound-track goes a bit like this: “Oooh Authentic Leadership … I love that … What’s this? Integrated Leadership … Very cool and soooo me!! … YES! … Values-based leadership … I’m on it!” etc etc etc. Well-intentioned learning can end up looking a bit desperate and feel, for those you lead, to be pretty inconsistent. That inconsistency prompts uncertainty and that uncertaintly negatively impacts your effectiveness as a leader.

So where to start?

Start by acknowledging that only you will do leadership the way you are going to do it. Your version of senior leadership will never have been witnessed before and will never be seen again, in exactly the way you are going to do it. Recognise that learning from others – be they mentors, peers, instructors or authors – is helpful but never the answer on its own.

“No-one owns the definition of senior leadership but what is critical for you is that you have a definition of it for you.”

Working on developing your version of leadership is always time well spent.

Define:
– What sort of leader you want to be
– Your view of how and where you can add most value
– What values you hold dear and won’t compromise

These are all activities that will guide how you behave as a senior leader. You will have some areas of flexibility and others where you will stand fast. You will understand the current context and how your leadership will work here but also have deep roots that will guide how you want to lead, irrespective of context.

Working this out for yourself does several things, including speeds up decision-making, reduces anxiety and increases self-confidence. Not bad results for a relatively little bit of proactive thinking!

If you need help defining your version of senior or executive leadership for yourself, Glenn Wallis has a proven track-record of working with successfully with leaders just like you. You can contact him here when you are sure you are ready to get serious about leadership.

Are males or females better executive leaders? (2)

chalk

In the first part of this mini-series we posed at a philosophical question: are men or women better Executive Leaders? We established that it is possible to measure the effectiveness of leaders using a number of approaches and that whilst there were similarities in how the genders would perform there were also some key differences. This post looks more closely at how leaders lead in practice and where we might see differences that could be significant in theoretical battle of the leadership sexes.

To draw some conclusions here I’m going to share my reflections of nearly 20years of working with senior male and female leaders.

Leading People

Having identified that females (generally) have higher scores in measures of empathy, you might consider that they would lead other people better. I think empathy is a key skill and potentially a significant difference between the genders but its not enough on its own. There is so much to leading other human beings effectively that, in my experience, both genders are capable of doing so really well. Indeed male executives who possess high empathy and EQ are some of the very best leaders I have met.

I think a really interesting dynamic for you to reflect on, if you are a senior leader, is do you lead the different genders differently?  I have seen many men who are great at leading other men but not so good at leading women and vice versa. One might suggest that higher EQ would enable you to lead both genders equally well and in theory it should. The unknown factor here is the willingness of those you lead to be led by you. Again higher EQ would enable you, with patience, to find different ways to skin that particular cat. If you lack either patience or the inter-personal skills to tackle that situation you are less likely to succeed. Male senior leaders can often get dismissive in such situations quite quickly. Female leaders can- sometimes to their/their teams detriment –  stick in there too long, in the belief that they can ‘turn’ someone around.

Leading An Organisation

What is an organisation if not a collection of people? Well, there is also the critical element of organisational culture. This is partly shaped by the people but it is also the result of the systems and processes that have been built in to produce the outcomes, behaviours and working environment that we might describe as the organisation’s culture.

Let me at this point ask you a question: What do the following have in common: Enron, BP, Barings Bank, RBS, Lehman Brothers and Volkswagen?

At the time of the associated scandals and disasters of these companies, they had a male CEO. A flawed argument maybe – there are not that many female CEOs – but it is interesting to note that the organisational cultures and leadership flaws, happened on the watch of male leaders.

Easy to throw stones, so let’s move on to a supplementary question: Would a female CEO have allowed such toxic cultures to grow on her watch? Possibly – think HP, Patricia Dunn and the spying scandal. Possibly not.

Whilst it is clear that both genders are able to create positive or negative organisational cultures, in my experience I have witnessed that the best female senior leaders are particularly aware of their role as a corporate citizen. They understand and make manifest very obviously, their role as standard bearers of the culture. Male senior leaders do too of course – but I have witnessed several who operate as if the rules don’t apply to them. They expect everyone else to toe the line but fail to reinforce the culture themselves on anything like a consistent basis. At least, not as consistently as their female counterparts. A case of female compliance? Maybe. But perhaps it takes being willing to flex on your own views and wants, to be an excellent role model of organisational culture.

Sore Made (Judo term for end of contest)

So in conclusion who would make a more effective executive if we were able to find our hypothetically evenly matched leaders?

The answer of course is that it is a draw.

There are brilliant male and female leaders like you. There are also terrible leaders of both genders. The secret here is that you will benefit from observing other leaders – regardless of gender – who do things well, that you are not so strong at and learn from them. Get yourself some objective help to measure where you are starting from and track the progress you are making.

Organisations would do well to create more space to facilitate the recognition and promotion of more female executives, as they offer so much that can help balance environments that are still largely male dominated. Diversity in your leadership cohort, in its many guises, is vital to ensure representation of a range of views and to nuance the organisation’s culture more subtly.

It’s not a contest; it’s certainly not a fight. The objective of great leadership is to help others perform at their very best, drawing on the strengths that they bring to the table. Go lead brilliantly.

Glenn Wallis helps senior leaders in organisations get even better at what they do. If you want to be a leader of character and to lead outstandingly, then you can contact Glenn here. 

Photo: Thanks to Ozzy Delany

Are males or females better executive leaders? (1)

martial-arts-picWhen I was a Judo International, representing GB, in a time long before my grey hair appeared and the lower back pain kicked in, I would often join my peers discussing a philosophical question. Now, if you had been privy to the cohort of judoka that I rubbed along with back in the mid-1980s, you really wouldn’t have expected any of us to engage in philosophical discussion but the same scenario was presented and discussed ad nauseum. 

The question we argued over was this: If you had a highly experienced and skilled (in throws/holds) Judoka and put them in a contest against an equally experienced and skilled (in punches/kicks) Karateka, which of these would win in a contest with rules that allowed both styles to be used?

There are far too many errors in the question, let alone the underlying assumptions, to start to unpick it here, nevertheless, it was a working topic of much debate.

And that got me to thinking …

If you had a highly experienced and skilled male executive leader and you found a way to compare them to an equally experienced and skilled female executive leader counterpart, which of these would be considered more effective in their leadership role?

I have a view. But more of that later.

Let’s for starters accept that there are lots of flaws to the question – some philosophical (e.g. What is leadership? … YAWN! What is experience? … MORE interesting!) and some are practical (e.g. How would you ever find two leaders with exactly the same experience? Surely they would be doing the same job in the same organisation … SMILE-inducing!). But if we can put those things aside, what would we need in order to make such a comparison and who would win? (Oh!! Indulge me for a minute, I get that you can’t win in this context – it’s just a bit of thought-provoking fun!)

The first part of this post will look at how you would benchmark these two mythical leaders – important as a starting point; vital if we are going to be able to decide ultimately who might be the more effective leader.

Point scoring on Revenue

Deciding who wins a judo contest is relatively simple: Fighters are awarded differentiated points for throws and holds against their opponent or they can be penalised for foul play. The most points or the least penalties (or a combination) produces our winner. So, measuring, albeit relatively subjective, is possible.

Measuring executive leaders is a fascinating task. When measuring the effectiveness of senior leadership, many will draw the line quite simply at the bottom – because that is where shareholders and key stakeholders will be looking first. Profit, after all, is king (or queen). The simplicity of such a measure is helpful and clear. Are there any reasons why achieving a healthy bottom line would be different between our fictitious male and female leaders? All things being equal, I think not (But things in the Executive Leadership space are not quite equal, as I’m sure you’ll recognise.)

The weakness of using only the financial measures to see how effective leaders are, is that their apparent success, can be helped hugely by the vagaries of the market place. We all know CEOs who head highly profitable organisations, thanks in large part to economic fluctuations. It’s not that economic success isn’t really important – of course it is – but leader effectiveness is not wholly represented by this measure. Points gained here by leaders, need to be put in the context of the wider business cycles.

Point Scoring for Style

Some Executive Leaders will have been ‘measured’ within an inch of their life with various forms of psychometric tests such as MBTI(r) Insights (r) and other such tools over their careers. My own bias and my own philosophical view of human beings, is wholly opposed to the use of such tools in my own practice, whilst simultaneously acknowledging their usefulness for some leaders. There are also other measurement tools, such as 360 profiling,  that ask the leader and others, to reflect on the leader’s strengths and capabilities, as they are displayed at a given point in time. This is usually done against a leadership framework. These tools work well, as they help identify that the leader is not in a fixed state but a starting point from which further development is possible. These tools usually provide pointers to where development efforts should be directed.

Some of these profiling tools throw up statistically significant differences between the genders. One such difference that springs to mind is the higher percentage of Empathy that females tend to possess. They are often really good at putting themselves in other people’s shoes. This difference could be important in relation to leadership effectiveness. Similarly, an important factor that positively impacts male leaders is that they tend to have a stronger view about their abilities as transformational leaders than comparable women leaders. The good news is that (generalisations aside for a moment) male leaders are able to develop their empathic abilities and female leaders can positively develop their views of their transformational leadership self-efficacy. I know. I’ve seen leaders in both scenarios make incredible and lasting changes.

Similar but different

So, in our mythical leadership contest, it is possible to measure both the starting point and a given end point of a leaders’ effectiveness. The skills they possess and the impact that they make can be measured both directly and indirectly. Whilst every leader is an individual regardless of gender, for our purposes, both male and female leaders are clearly capable of scoring well in both direct and indirect measures – just differently. Organisations would do well to create cultures and environments where both our leaders could maximise the strengths they have and also have space to develop the areas within which they are not so strong.

In the next part of this mini-series, we’ll look at how leaders operate and practise the art of leadership. We’ll get to see if we can discover any key differences that might help us find a winner in our own leadership contest of the genders.

Glenn Wallis develops outstanding leaders who help contribute to the long-term success of organisations. If you would like to discuss how he can do that for your organisation, please contact him here.

 

 

Why Execs shouldn’t buy coaching (& how coaches can sell more)

Don't buy coachingCoaching is really well established in many parts of the business world as a method of helping leaders develop highly desirable skill sets, positive changes to mindset and achievement of goals. I know, I’ve helped many senior Executives achieve these positive results and many more.

The thing is, so many coaches, in my experience, are often too wrapped up in the world of coaching. Usually for really positive reasons e.g. they want to understand and develop their craft, which bearing in mind the responsibilities they have in their role, most of us would agree to be a wholly laudable aspiration.

The thing is, most Execs don’t care about coaching per se. What they do care about is results, which bearing in mind the responsibilities they have in their role, most of us would agree to be a wholly laudable aspiration (see what I did there?)

For those really senior leaders who engage with their own development most of them would engage in yogic flying if you could prove it would positively impact the bottom line. The outcome is their focus not the methodology. How a coach does what they do is only of real concern once an approach has been made and even then I find many senior leaders willing to engage in a wide range of approaches if they have confidence that it will help them deliver what they need.

Leaders don’t care

For many busy, under pressure, highly accountable and highly regulated senior executives of large organisations the key point is this, the delivery mechanism of change and performance improvement is much less important than the results themselves. Due to the very subjective nature of individual Executive Development, leaders will firstly engage coaches (and mentors) that have been recommended to them and secondly, those coaches who have a great track record of helping other senior leaders achieve demonstrably great results.

Caveat emptor

Buyers of coaching should not look for coaches, they should look at the results and the areas of focus that those selling coaching and mentoring can demonstrate that they have been able to help bring about. Therein lies a challenge because of the confidential nature of much of what goes on in coaching sessions but there are ways to get at that information.

Coaches could make things a lot easier for buyers by focusing less on their approaches to coaching, their accreditation etc (all important, of course!) and spend much more space helping those purchasing their services to understand what observable differences their work will bring about. For professionals who spend a lot of time being empathic in our practice of coaching it is too easy not to be similarly empathic towards buyers who want to help leaders develop. Think results and outcomes first, approach, methodology etc second.

Glenn P Wallis works with senior executives and teams to bring about significant, positive performance level changes, quickly and sustainably. His focus is on leaders leading in a way that blends strength and clarity with humility and a deep connection with those they lead. If you would like to engage Glenn to work with you or your senior leaders, please contact him here.

 

Me? Exec. development? Of course: Because I’m worth it

Exec developmetn

What tends to happen to your own development the more senior you become as a leader?

Yep. It tends to be put on the back burner and you – often for very laudable reasons – support everyone else’s opportunity to grab some L&D, before or in the place of you engaging in development for yourself.

The reasons executives tend to do this are many and varied, including:

  • Selflessness
  • Cost consciousness
  • Sense of being skilled enough
  • Not a priority
  • Insufficient time

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail in order to help you make a case (to you) for keeping up some development for yourself:

Selflessness

When the reason for senior execs not engaging in development is genuinely that they want to give others the time and the space to do so, it can be a very generous gesture and one that others appreciate deeply. As a strategy it is fine to adopt in the short or medium-term, just make sure it doesn’t become a long-term approach as the pace of change in the business world requires that your own skills as a leader need sharpening often,

Cost Consciousness

Nah, Not having it. I appreciate the sentiment for quoting cost awareness as a reason for senior execs not engaging in their own development but in my experience it is usually an excuse for not actually wanting to undertake development at all. Cost consciousness also misses the key point for me: As the most senior leaders in the organisation you have the greatest reach and influence. As a result you have the opportunity to add the greatest value to the greatest number. Therefore, the better you are able to lead, the greater the positive influence you are able to exercise.

It maybe that you are unable to afford any development as a company – fine. But when things improve, ensure senior leader development is back on the agenda early.

Skilled enough

This is a regular mistake. You may be skilled enough as the Lawyer, Finance Director or Human Resource Director but what about as a person and as a leader? Are you the finished article in these areas and disciplines? I know you are not arrogant enough to suggest you are, so please don’t stop developing your leadership skills and evolving as a human being just because you have a seat at the top table – it’s short-sighted and will limit your career and effectiveness.

Not a priority

Wrong. In order for you to meet the ever changing situations and contexts in which you lead, development should always be a priority. Getting better at what you do is not just a result of attending a Business School programme or engaging a mentor. It might be that you prioritise reading a respected trade or leadership journal every month; it might be as simple as creating an hour a week to review your own performance as an Executive in order to inform how you might do even better next week. Whatever routes you pursue to access your development, ensure that it remains a priority.

Insufficient time

Of all the reasons Executives give for not engaging in their own development this (closely related to several other reasons) is the most oft quoted. I don’t buy it. If you prioritise development sufficiently then you can and will find the time for it. I find it ironic that people often talk to me about their time pressures during a two hour coaching session … ? The other option is to engage in your development outside of work hours, especially where that work is much more strategic in nature, such as developmental coaching. Stop watching the latest season of Game of Thrones or The Crown and use an hour or two of your own time to invest in yourself. Indeed some senior Execs I have worked with see development as part of their own reward strategy for a job well done. Is that an approach you could adopt?

At the nub of much of the obstacle to executive development is understanding its significance to the organisation. If the most senior leaders are well developed human beings, who can lead effectively even when under the often extreme pressure that goes with the role, then the organisation is much more likely to thrive. Yes, those in more junior roles also need development opportunities too but if you can begin to lead effectively from the top, your impact on the success of the business is multiplied simply by dint of the reach that you have. Engage in your development today because “you’re worth it”.

Glenn Wallis provides executive development for senior leaders. He also speaks and writes on leadership. If you want to discuss your own development needs, contact Glenn here.

First among equals: The main reason you have a leaky leadership pipeline

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 – A 5 minute read –

There are many reasons why your organisation may not have a high quality leadership pipeline upon which to call when a current leader moves on, or a new position is created that requires someone to head it up. However, one reason above all others is the most significant contributing factor to the lack of leadership talent patiently waiting in the wings. It is the reason why reports such as Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Report regularly suggest leadership development is so high on the list of concerns for Executives.

Get a handle on these

If you are experiencing a dearth of people who are ready or willing to step up into the role of your most senior leaders, it could well be because:

  • Your current cadre of senior leaders provide a really poor role model for aspirants
  • More junior leaders don’t get an insight into senior leadership roles and so make assumptions about what it must be like to be in such a role
  • Talent programmes alienate both those inside them and those excluded from them
  • Regulatory pressures, such as the Senior Manager Regime, are debilitating and putting a lot of talented people off making the leap into the most senior leadership positions
  • The culture in your organisation fails to support and promote female leaders in the right kind of numbers into the most senior roles.

Whilst these reasons are all important and you will do well to explore them, they are not the largest single reason for your currently empty (or leaky) leadership pipeline. The largest single reason for the very real challenges that exist around leadership succession is that the current in-house leadership population do not typically do an effective job of developing the next round of leaders.

Skills shortage

Senior people tell me they are under such pressure to deliver that they don’t have the time to dedicate to mentoring and coaching their successors. I get it but it’s not the whole story. Time pressures exist, certainly. So do ego, insecurity and self-centredness. Yet even these negative traits, in my experience, are nowhere near as prevalent as some would have you believe.

No, it’s much simpler than that: Developing very senior leaders requires a skillset that many current leaders just don’t possess, even where they are willing to try and where they could prioritise sufficient time to do so. Whilst there are doubtless technical skills required to lead at the highest level, so much of the role requires a highly developed personal psyche and social-cognitive profile. All of which allows for nuanced, responses and complex personal and interpersonal responses to the challenges faced when in the ultimate leadership positions.

A range of solutions

For the technical areas a ‘wannabe leader’ can turn to an external mentor or their current boss, either of whom may have excelled in the role and can share really important insights. Yet, those same people rarely possess the abilities to develop a human being, in order that that person is able to step into a senior leadership role with confidence, able to hold their own in the highly charged environment, from Day 1.

Acknowledging such difficulties in developing pretty deep elements of a person’s make-up, prompts many large organisations to look to experienced leadership development providers, who can provide the highest quality one-to-one support for would-be leaders. It is only through such an approach that many potential seniors leaders will be able to succeed in the long term, as the Executives and CEOs of tomorrow.

Dr Glenn P Wallis provides leadership consultancy and executive coaching to senior leaders in organisations. He also provides keynote presentations and writes extensively from his experience of nearly 20 years in the field. If you would like to find out more, please contact us here.

 

Evolving leaders require evolved coaching

Leaders pass through several development phases as they progress through their career. As they advance, they often seem to require a different type of executive coaching: The need moves from tactical coping through personal issues and thinking, especially confidence related (See this popular LinkedIn blog post I wrote on women leaders). Finally, leaders can face existential and philosophical questions that require exploration of deeper issues such as purpose, contribution and legacy.

Not getting what you need

The issue that arises for Executive leaders is that they often want/need high quality coaching but are provided with support that is not always fit for purpose. Sometimes CEOs and other C-Suite execs receive little more than mentoring from highly qualified and experienced former executives. This can be an excellent intervention in and of itself but is often not the support that the executive actually needs. As suggested, very senior leaders frequently need support that includes an element of ‘Self’ development – a depth that very few NEDs or former execs who are playing the role of mentor, are trained to work at.

Couple this issue of not matching provision and need, with the fact that the coaching industry itself is still a bit of a lottery and perhaps it is not surprising that leadership standards have not improved as much as the $2bn p.a. spent on executive coaching should have produced. Coaches, almost universally well-meaning are not always able, comfortable or confident of working with the most senior leaders yet find themselves in the hot-seat doing their very best but struggling. I know coaches often struggle because many have discussed this very challenge with me. Indeed, I recognise it from my early days of coaching: Feelings of being out of your depth are exacerbated because you so want to help your client.

Internal not external development

Executive leaders, in my experience do want mentoring at times. They want to be able to turn to someone who has been there, done that, got the T-Shirt and in some cases literally written the book about it. When you find a great mentor it can be a life-line for overwhelmed senior leaders. In addition to such an intervention, those charged with steering, driving and supporting the growth and success of their organisation often require high quality, developmental leader coaching. When experienced, developmental coaching does not provide an external life-line via the mentor but more frequently, prompts a wholesale shift of perspective and thinking that provides an inner, highly personal strength, wisdom and clarity.

Dr Glenn P Wallis provides executive leaders with the challenge and support needed to succeed at whatever level of leadership they are operating. When you need such support contact Glenn here.