I am meeting more and more leaders all over the world who are uncomfortable with receiving positive feedback from their employees, managers, and their coach. Sometimes the discomfort is purely cultural but most often it is behavioral. Regardless of where the discomfort originates, it can be more destructive for a person not to openly accept and embrace their gifts and strengths than accept their weaknesses. The key to unleashing greatness in leaders and everyone is in making the decision to be vulnerable. Are you willing and able to accept and embrace both your gifts and weaknesses? Can you handle both positive and negative feedback from your boss, employees, coach, spouse, children? If you are not completely vulnerable, it is impossible then to create your compelling future as you must be able to create and execute a plan that leverages your gifts and addresses your weaknesses. If your greatest leadership weakness is your unwillingness to accept your gifts, you have identified a real obstacle that will prevent you from becoming the best leader and person you can be!
The Stealth Cultural Model offers a compelling, symbolic way to understand the predictive relationships that exist between your organization’s critical talent processes (the 4 D’s), critical “cultural leading indicators” (capability, commitment and alignment—more on these later), intermediate outcomes and ultimate outcomes. The 4 D’s essentially act as the 4 turbo-charged engines that propel the “Stealth” towards its’ target—your organization’s “Future Desired State” and the required leadership competencies required to execute both the current and future business strategy. By way of analogy—if the 4 engines are “well oiled” and functioning at a high level (i.e., optimized) and working together (i.e., integrated), they will propel the “Stealth” (yes, your organization) towards its’ goal.
What has been top of mind for corporate boards and CEO’s worldwide since 2004? It is not competitive threats, rising costs, innovation challenges, risk management, technology, debt, or even the regulatory environment. Corporate directors and CEO’s identify the need to create and sustain a leadership and talent culture that drives superior operating results as their #1 current and future challenge….and, this has been the case since 2004! In the past few years, I have had the privilege to speak and keynote various leadership conferences all over the world as well as work with senior leadership groups and I can’t tell you how often this challenge is cited by groups that hire me to speak to address this challenge and/or senior corporate teams seeking counsel on what to do next to solve this challenge.
- They truly believe that Talent is the key Differentiator that drives operating success.
- They understand the strategic direction of their organization and what that means in terms of the talent required to execute overall strategy.
- They recruit, select and promote talent based upon the competencies required for success (i.e., they are “in tune” with the “DNA” required to execute their strategy now and into the future and they are diligent in finding the talent with the right “DNA”).
- They benchmark “keep their fingers on the pulse” that their talentdoes in fact possess the skills, competencies and passion required for success(they are “stewards” of their talent).
- They know the strengths and “gifts” of their people and they give themopportunities to continue strengthening their strengths.
- They know the development opportunities of their people and they give them opportunities to strengthen these.
- They are a coach in the truest sense of the word; they create a powerfully, compelling work environment for individuals and their team—in which everyone feels truly “unleashed”.
- As a coach, they hold their people and team accountable…… continuously….for achieving what they set out to accomplish together in support of the mission and goals of their organization.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how lonely it is in the corner office….my #1 reason why coaching in the c-suite is so important in today’s business world. Today, I write more about my #2 reason, which is the decision to be vulnerable (which I also wrote about back in December).
Continue reading here.
Your effectiveness as a leader depends on the quality of your thoughts. Critical thinkingis that mode of thinking, about any given subject, in which you, the thinker, improve the quality of your thinking by skillfully taking charge of its very structures and imposing intellectual standards upon them. Effective critical thinking, however, involves consideration of the full range of possibilities to a problem, including emotional, cognitive, intellectual, and psychological factors.
Shallow thinking is costly, in terms of both money and quality of life. Successful leaders are able to apply what they know to the challenges of their work. All organizations today are not interested in hiring and retaining walking encyclopedias; rather, they require leaders who are independent decision makers and problem solvers and who can model this behavior to their people and teams.
Based on the pioneering work of Pearson Education, a strong critical thinker practices RED, that is, they:
- Recognize assumptions.
- Evaluate arguments.
- Draw relevant conclusions.
Two recent studies identified critical thinking as a skill of increasing importance for current and emerging leaders who are involved in businesses today. One study in particular, The Trends in Executive Development Research Study (Pearson, 2013), which I conducted with my colleagues Bonnie Hagemann of EDA and John Maketa of Pearson, was most compelling: We personally interviewed and surveyed 150 human resources executives; they estimated only from 1 to 28 percent of the current leaders in their own organization demonstrated “excellent” critical thinking skills.
Authoritative research clearly connects leaders’ and emerging leaders’ critical thinking capability with their achieving higher level performance and realizing their potential, combined with the realization that business will be more complex tomorrow than it is today. This finding makes this element perhaps the most pivotal leadership element for leaders, future leaders, and organizations as they strive to become the best they can be. Simply put, your ability to make sound decisions, problem-solve, plan, and implement, as well as to execute sound strategic thinking, is entirely based on possessing superior critical thinking (i.e., RED).
- Recognizing Assumptions: Assumptions are statements that are implied to be true in the absence of proof. Identifying assumptions helps in the discovery of information gaps and enriches views of issues. Assumptions can be unstated or directly stated. The ability to recognize assumptions in presentations, strategies, plans, and ideas is a key element in critical thinking.
- Evaluating Arguments: Arguments are assertions that are intended to persuade someone to believe or act in a certain way. Evaluating arguments is the ability to analyze such assertions objectively and accurately. Analyzing arguments helps in determining a confirmation bias, that is, the tendency to look for and agree with information that confirms prior beliefs. Emotion plays a key role in evaluating arguments because high emotion clouds objectivity.
- Draw Conclusions: This involves arriving at conclusions that logically follow from the available evidence. It involves evaluating all relevant information before drawing a conclusion, judging the plausibility of different conclusions, selecting the most appropriate conclusion, and avoiding overgeneralizing beyond the evidence.
“It’s Lonely At The Top”
Is a sentiment heard a lot when CEO’s partner with executive coaches. Effective CEO’s will often cite their appreciation of having had a partnership with their coach where they could confidentially explore their “inner- and outer-core” strengths and vulnerabilities, while staying laser-focused on “worthy achievement” leadership goals and strategies, becoming more altruistic and “other-oriented”, and building powerful relationships with their constituent groups. CEO coaching is all about removing unseen “self-imposed” barriers so the CEO becomes even more effective as a leader.
Every June, Major League Baseball drafts (selects) 1200 players from high schools and colleges across the US and Puerto Rico. It is important to understand that this player pool of 1200 is a very select group as it represents an extremely small percentage of the total population of players who play high school and college baseball. It is also important to understand that fewer than 6% of the 1200 will eventually play major league baseball. What does this mean? Yes, it is nearly impossible to make the major leagues! But it also points to major league baseball’s objective and proven talent “sifting” processes that result in: (1) the initial identification of an elite group of 1200 players who need to be developed and nurtured and (2) the later identification of the absolute most elite and talented players who are deemed “the best of the best” — major league players. Let’s examine the “sifting” processes used by major league baseball—since these processes and tools have relevance for how organizations can more accurately determine and differentiate who their high potentials and successors should be—who their future major leaguers should truly be.
First, major league scouts and talent evaluators understand the difference between skills, performanceand potential. In fact, they rate players and potential draftees on three scales: (1) present performance—actual numbers produced (for position players—batting average, home runs, errors, etc.); (2) skills (for position players—running, throwing, fielding, hitting, and power); and (3) potential—same scale that’s used in number 2 but they estimate future skill ratings based on how they see a player growing, maturing, etc. In terms of weighting—actual performance means very little—in fact, there are many players who produce great numbers in high school and college who are never drafted. Once a player begins their professional career, however, their performance becomes more important especially as they ascend up the ladder of competition—moving from the low minor leagues to Triple A baseball which is one step from the major leagues. An assessment of a players’ current skills is slightly more important than actual performance, however, when compared to estimates of potential—it pales in comparison. Early estimates of potential are often wrong. There are many 1st round draftees who never make the major leagues—and conversely there are some late round draftees who were not seen to have great potential—yet they do make the major leagues. On average, however, there is a high correlation between the round a player is drafted in and their actually making the major leagues—meaning that scouts are pretty good at calibrating and re-calibrating potential. How do they do it?
- They understand and differentiate performance, present skills, and potential.
- They have a clear concept of what a major league player looks like—skills required, body type, and mental make-up (the “DNA”).
- They isolate the micro-skills and “DNA” that predict success as a major leaguer—they assess hand-eye coordination, quickness, speed of the ball off the bat, bat speed, mental resilience, etc—the skills and traits that tend to endure—regardless of situation and level of competition.
- They obtain input from other scouts (as in multi-rater) to verify and re-verify their estimates
- They calibrate and re-calibrate by placing potential major leaguers in progressively more challenging simulations—that reveal “probabilities” of being successful as a major leaguer. A player who performs well in triple A is more likely to perform well as a major leaguer than someone who performs well in the lower minor leagues.
What’s the end result? The 650 players who play major league baseball—with few exceptions—all belong there—they are truly the “best of the best”.
This leads me to ask two important questions: (1) Are your current manager and executive teams comprised of true major leaguers? and (2) Who are your future major leaguers? If your organization is representative of the organizations we consult with—you have a large percentage of major leaguers but you probably also have too many minor leaguers—right? That will need to be dealt with as we all know you cannot compete in the major leagues with minor league players. It is also vital, however, that you begin creating and implementing well validated, compelling and accurate “sifting processes”. This will ensure your organization accurately identifies, develops and promotes your future major leaguers.
What Does Performance Mean?
Performance is often measured two ways: (1) using a performance appraisal system/review where the incumbent is assessed by their direct manager; and (2) a 360-degree process that lends greater objectivity to the assessment of actual performance because of the multi-rater aspect. The 360 should never take the place of the formal review, however, since raters will be less than honest if they perceive the 360 is to be used for this purpose. It can be a powerful process for teaching objectivity, honestly and dialogue and as such can often lead to more objective performance reviews. Performance is often evidenced and measured in certain core predictive components—capability (skills and knowledge to execute—the “can do”); commitment (passion, drive, motivation, DNA—the “will do”; and alignment (degree of connectedness to the mission and how well a leader aligns his people—the “must do” to execute). These predictive components—if present—provide the foundation for the achievement of operating success. 360’s are very good at measuring all three—but primarily in terms of performance assessment against current job requirements.
Estimates of potential—if they are to be accurate—must start with accurate profiles of success (i.e., you need to know what a major league player looks like). 360 information and performance review information need to be considered—however, much more emphasis needs to be placed on calibrating future estimates of capability, commitment and alignment. Using simulation—measures of performance potential—is a great place to start. Using an assessment center or on-line objective simulation is a great way to assess “can do” or performance potential. You need strong measures of “will do” and “must do”—DNA measures that reliably measure core values and attributes and potential de-railers—components of the personality that reveal themselves consistently and regardless of role—are critical to add to the mix. Using objective behavioral interviews where managers are asked to reveal experiences or “how they would respond” against the competencies required for success in future positions are also important. Using a measure of critical thinking—such as the Watson Glaser—is also important to add to the mix as we know that critical thinking is an accurate and reliable predictor of executive success.
What can business organizations learn from Major League Baseball as it relates to succession management processes and tools?
- The importance of differentiating performance, skills and potential. Implication: performance reviews and 360-degree assessments should be utilized to calibrate a leader’s performance and present capability.
- Potential is more elusive. However, you can mitigate risk by calibrating and re-calibrating the more enduring micro-skills, competencies and traits that tend to endure over-time regardless of the situation or challenge. Implication: predictive trait assessments that measure a leaders’ enduring values and goals, behavioral tendencies and critical thinking—are all very important measures that help accurately estimate a leaders potential. What also helps is seeing how they act and respond to the tougher situations and challenges that come with larger roles without actually being placed in the larger role (e.g., simulation assessments—assessment centers, on-line leadership simulation assessments, and behavioral interviewing are powerful tests of leadership potential—especially when combined with trait and critical thinking assessments.
- Calibrate and re-calibrate performance and potential. The disappointing reality in the corporate world, however, is once an individual is designated “high potential”—invariably they remain a “high potential”. In professional baseball, once you are drafted and deemed “high potential”, you begin an arduous journey in which talent evaluators, scouts and coaches measure and calibrate a players performance, skills and potential—every step of the way—every day. In fact, “high potentials” in professional baseball have no guarantee they will remain on the “list”. Inevitably, most do get removed as they are replaced every June by the next wave of “high potentials”. It’s “put up or shut up”! Implication: organizations need to become more passionate and diligent about measuring and re-measuring performance and potential and they should use this information to: (1) hold their “high potentials” more accountable so they strive to become the best they can be and (2) drive better succession and development decisions.