Executive Improvement

Senior leaders come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some leaders are charismatic, others are commanding and stern. But there are very few executives with skills, knowledge and expertise who haven’t worked hard to build themselves into who they are today. The truth is, leadership expertise—particularly senior leadership—takes work, personal work. And at a time when we need incredibly competent, fast-adapting leadership, our resources are unseasonably strained. So what can we do to change those trends and help shape powerful leaders? Here are a few thoughts that help explain the “how” behind leadership expertise.

Professional Evolution Is Critical

Here’s where the work comes in, because as leaders, we need to understand that what got us here can’t get us there (with a nod to Goldsmith). In other words, to become or even remain successful, executives must be in a mode of constant learning and professional evolution. Besides, rising to the top doesn’t always mean you were best qualified, even with well-designed and executed succession planning.

Development, Development, Development

Today’s executives are uniquely exposed to constituents and flaws that were nearly unnoticeable yesterday but are flagrant today. It’s through constant coaching and development that leaders are able to stay at the top of their game. Top-performing athletes, musicians, military, etc. train incessantly, even if already recognized as top in their fields. What makes us think that executives with way more moving parts and impact don’t need that same level of development?

Coaching Works

Studies by both Forbes and Harvard Business show that a strong majority of high-performing executives today have a coach—a professional outsider who can coach, counsel, advise, and act as a sounding board and sometimes a steam vent. When surveyed, well over 90% of those executives without a coach stated clearly they wish they had one.

We call our process “Executive Consulting,” since it morphs traditional behavioral coaching with solid advice when necessary. None of that therapeutic “find yourself” stuff with unicorns and butterflies, our consultants have decades of senior executive experience, and can really assist with an executive’s rapid growth.

At Triangle Performance, we understand senior leadership, and the demands placed on executives today. We can discuss both team-based approaches for the leadership team, or individual executive coaching for those executives looking to become better at what they do.

Triangle Performance works with its clients to bring about the transformation and results necessary to compete and win in today’s economy. To learn how we can help you, call 281.257.4442 or click here.

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On Executive Improvement...

The Magic of a Conversation

If you’re not coaching your employees who is? Chances are it won’t be your best performer! Not coaching your employees is akin to a football coach choosing to watch the scoreboard as his primary strategy for winning the game. Unfortunately, that is what many managers do, they use the scoreboard to tell them there are problems (or successes), rather than being in the game itself.

The Power in Asking Questions to Identify Value

Measuring value for clients with clear, tangible results is important. But before measuring anything, we have to be very clear about what we’re trying to solve for. Without asking the right questions, it’s impossible to uncover any value, and measuring? Well, without a clear purpose, that’s simply a waste of time. Identify the core issue correctly, then measure- there’s real value in that. The Power of Asking Questions The most powerful thing I do for any organization is to ask questions. The advantage of having a reasonably intelligent, well-intentioned third party come in is that I get to ask stupid questions and my career is not limited because of it. In other words, I can sit across the table from an executive and ask what he thinks is a dumb question. “Why do we ship those to China?” Well, okay, roll your eyes, get disgusted- then answer my question. I can assure you that I am going to push back on some of the responses. Asking questions is how I find where things are. Where’s Your Evidence of That? My favorite question is always “Where’s your evidence of that?” It’s the easiest way to cut through the noise and identify what the true issues are in any organization. I met with a client who thought they needed help with communications between a few departments. But when I asked them for the evidence, we quickly discovered it wasn’t communications at all, but information flow or more accurately, performance management. In this case, I didn’t have to fix communications; My client simply needed to tell people, “Stop doing that or I’m going to fire you.”...

CEO Leadership Style When Private Equity Comes In?

When a business brings on a private equity group, whether it is to help them out of turmoil, cash out some owners, allow an exit from an earlier PE group or to continue to grow the company, one of the most important elements that often requires rethinking is the difference in leadership styles between the CEO and the private equity group. It can be a bit rough in discerning these differences and that’s expected. Not sure you understand the nuance? Here’s a quick tutorial. Take notes… The CEO The successful CEO’s job in a normal operating company is almost all about managing relationships. It’s also about watching the numbers; but there are lots of people watching the numbers. So managing relationships is where a CEO should be spending the most time. Making sure people are engaged to do their job, that they know the direction, the vision, and they’re following the leadership vision are crucial elements of business and the CEO is put in place to manage them. It’s about making sure they trust him/her, and they’re willing to  give that discretionary effort. An operating CEO’s job is more relationship management than anything else. Private Equity When these private equity guys come in, they are quantitative monsters. What happens when private equity enters the mix is that everything gets measured—even (especially?) leadership competence. Where we may be tolerant of people who lack the confidence for a role they’re in because of some other intangible benefit they bring the organization, private equity folks may be… well, not so much. They’re seldom the slash and burn stereotypes of Gordon Gekko style;...

CEO Challenge: When Private Equity Comes In

So the big guns are coming in– the private equity group, the new guys. Okay, what now? The process isn’t rocket science, but the devil is in the details for sure. As the CEO and fearless leader of your company, you have genuine concerns–there are two main areas to focus on: 1. Understand Humility is Not an Overrated Concept As a CEO, you really don’t have to win the world if you’re looking for success. In fact, if someone can help you succeed it makes sense to let them. Why wouldn’t you embrace that which makes your life easier? Having these types of conversations can be challenging, but check your ego long enough to get through it and you’ll be better off in the end. 2. You Don’t Have to Win Every War…Nor Should You Try Every conflict, challenge or interaction that gets you riled up with private equity folks doesn’t need to end in a battle. You don’t have to win every situation when the ultimate goal is simply to get that brass ring. You’re looking for that merger, that deal with a strategic partner, that ultimate exit where everyone wins; these are the goals. The arguments, conflicts, or imposing of your will is not a strategy for success; and besides, there’s nowhere to go with your fight. Private equity guys are smart, savvy and know what they’re doing with their business model. They’ll keep a CEO forever if he’s on the same page and doing what needs to be done. But that same level of loyalty can be felt when it comes to cleaning house and they’ll...

Check Your Ego At the Door…It Might Be You

Our world today tends to be a selfish one and that doesn’t differ when it comes to business either. When you meet with a consultant, everyone wants to know: “What’s in it for me?” In a nutshell, that’s actually the cornerstone of what I do for an organization. I help someone mitigate their pain. Even if my client is just the one person experiencing some sort of pain or challenge, my end goal is to satisfy them– to help them understand what can be done to relieve that suffering. If I do that first, help them understand how to relieve pain, then the understanding keeps giving, often linking to other, unexpected areas. The gift that keeps on giving… It’s Not Me, It’s You It’s pretty common for senior-most executives to identify a problem they’re having with team members or issues they’d like help resolving…within the hierarchy beneath them. They’re sure it’s due to something in particular, but as it turns out, it’s as likely to be them as anything else. I once had a client ask me for help because he was frustrated with his team of managers. He wanted me to train them because they were forever asking a million questions and he’d had enough. As I looked into the situation and started investigating, I realized it wasn’t because he had idiots working for him, but because the guy was never available. He gave shaky information, he was all over the charts in conversation, he rambled and his objectives were a joke. He presented really dumb objectives like “We need to grow,” “We need to get better and...

The Goal is Success…NOT Perfection

Technical people, the quantitative business people, engineers, developers, programmers etc. are forever looking for perfection. One of the things I’m always working on with them is realizing that the goal is success not perfection. Perfection is an unattainable standard; it’s not realistic. What we should be looking for is success, and we can get it without perfection. Sure, this concept drives some OCD people nuts, but that’s where we need to be- at a place where success is the standard.  So how do we get there? By defining success using very clear expectations, making some really good decisions and then being able to recognize when our objectives have been met. Setting Reasonable and Clear Expectations  There’s actually another standard that leaders need to refine, and that’s making sure the expectations are clear. There’s no way around it, we have to set reasonable and clear expectations and if we do, it’s easier to determine what success is. If the objective isn’t known or isn’t crystal clear, it’s easy to keep pounding away on something minor, looking for that one percent of extra perfection. Dumb, and wasteful, but easy. Leadership Judgment and Decision-Making It would be nice to have every piece of available information about an issue before making a decision. It’s just not going to happen. We’re decision-making leaders because we don’t have complete information. In fact, in most cases, we’re lucky to have 60, 70, maybe 80 percent of the information we need and that’s when leadership judgment comes into play. Recognizing Success Before You Pass It:  Having Clear Objectives It becomes pretty obvious when we pass success and...

3 Key Strategies for Effective Training

Training is essential for success—always has been, always will be. But like everything else, not all training is created equally. Nor is there a one-size fits all when it comes to teaching employees. And that’s true for leadership – technical, interpersonal or whatever it may be. But there are tried and true strategies for success that can lead to more effective employees, a happier workforce and a better organization. Here are 3 key strategies for training employees that can make the process more endearing for all those involved. Don’t Skimp When It Comes To Trainers In the short term, an employee will only rise as high as his or her trainer. Put a less than competent coach in charge of training, and don’t be surprised when you get intellectually challenged drones rolling off the assembly-line. The fact of the matter is you get what you put in with training, and it pays to think long and hard about who it is you want to be this role. Personality aside, sharing information and having the ability to transfer knowledge to another requires a particular skill. Make certain you choose wisely and don’t skimp. Segment or Modularize Training It’s true that “the brain can only absorb what the butt can endure.” Thinking you can sit a trainee in a classroom setting (or technical training scenario) for five straight days and have them actually learn anything is just a crock. Create useable, absorbable chunks of homogeneous learning. Send them out and let them try it on for size. Bring them back and try some more. There’s a golden opportunity inside every organization...

Talent Management Strategy Must Match Business Goals

Talent management came into focus in the late 1990’s, but only in the past decade has it become highly formalized. If you’re seeking high performance, it just makes sense to plan for and create strategies for developing talent. There’s an obvious link between leadership and organizational effectiveness. So if you really believe you’ll succeed, why aren’t you planning?  Business As Usual May Not Be Enough Your organization puts the time in, you spend effort and money on charting a viable SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Flip charts and laptops are everywhere and you have determined  you have a great grasp on reality in your company and industry. A few of your best minds have put their heads together and created a future that Orson Welles would be proud of – one that is actually visionary, and takes real data and information into account. You trend financials and benchmark with other, equally astute and successful companies and industries. In the end, you bless it, print it, bind it, and distribute it. If you are in the top 5 percent of firms, you’re most likely even comfortable creating a mission that supports it and an execution plan that appears to match that incredible vision. Finally, you work your plan. What Went Wrong? Despite your efforts, something isn’t quite right. Six months later, sitting around the same conference table in those same, familiar chairs, you lament to a group of like-minded, equally talented executives: “We’re doing it guys, we’re kicking butt. Now, if only we had the management talent, we could really make this work”. Did you not believe your research, SWOT, or strategy? Did...

When the Candidate Pool Is Too Shallow To Swim

Evaluating potential key talent for client companies is always interesting. And unfortunately, in many cases, you simply “can’t fix stupid.” But if a candidate lacks some required skills, can you hire them anyway? Sure, it’s your company. However, you should be advised to make certain the following three conditions exist. The Candidate Really Is Who They Say They Are It’s not uncommon for people to apply for a position they know little about and  for which they are completely unqualified. They’ll try to convince you they can do the job, and in some cases, they’re even believable.  Be careful you don’t allow people to get “too” convincing or get a little too loose with the truth regarding their qualifications and past performance.  Protect yourself and your business by ensuring you check, re-check and check again all their qualifications. Behavioral-style interviewing comes in handy here.  It’s a smart strategy and there’s no excuse for not being thorough. Performance Is Stellar Remember, you’re already taking a chance on qualifications; don’t compound that effort by stretching on ability as well. Only candidates who are at the top of their field in their known responsibilities should be considered for stretch roles. Mediocre applicants do not fill the bill and it’s best to wish them well in their job search. You Simply Can’t Fix Stupid…Or Lazy No one likes the idea of hiring less than adequate employees. After all, isn’t the whole idea behind hiring new talent to improve upon current conditions? Make sure the candidate you’re evaluating is smart enough to learn new skills, particularly the challenging kind you’ve been unable to fill....

C-Level Leadership, By Definition, is STRATEGIC; Get Outta The Weeds…

Too many C-Levels spend too much time with block-and-tackling tasks and not enough time with real strategic leadership efforts. The differences are huge. And frankly, we need more leaders not do-ers. Senior-most leadership is not for the faint at heart, nor is it a logical progression, really, from any position. There’s little specific preparation for that CEO role, only the hope that we’ve picked up some of the specific needs by observation. So, why don’t more step up to that true-leadership challenge? The answers may surprise you… for instance:Leadership has risks. It’s one thing to be able to say, “I’ve done all I could.” It’s another thing altogether to say “We’ve done all we can,” and recognize you are taking someone else’s word for that fact. And now you’re responsible for its veracity. Lots of risk – risk that you no longer personally control. Leadership is situational. Always. There’s no 12-page guide for leadership telling you the answer is on page 4, section 2, paragraph 4. Each and every situation is unique; each requires specific, yet individual thinking and subsequent decision-making. Frankly, it isn’t all that easy. If we are accustomed to – and like – specific, defined situations, CEO leadership is a significant departure. It’s lonely at the top. It’s much more personable a couple of levels down… Your employees, however, need a leader; they don’t need a shoulder, a buddy, a simpatico, or a commiserator. If you want a friend, buy a dog. Regardless of camaraderie, the role of the CEO is lonely. You have no peer group within the organization. All of this is not to say there are not rewards;...

Succession Done Stupidly: Negligent Planning at the Highest Level

Headline (edited for brevity): Swiss bank UBS named Axel Weber as its next chairman in a surprise move that robbed rival Deutsche Bank of its top candidate to succeed its chief Josef Ackermann in 2013. Make no mistake, this is Board negligence on the part of Deutsche Bank, pure and simple. They should vote out the entire lot. This sort of crap really ticks me off. They call it “succession planning,” and the key movement in their entire plan is based on someone with which they have zero relationship, and zero knowledge of hiring success. In fact, they were merely hoping that this über-CEO would be available whenever they beck and called. Apparently, Weber saw it differently. Succession planning and replacement planning are not necessarily the same thing. It’s fairly common that one or two of your key positions will require a look outside the organization, so that, and and of itself, is not catastrophic. This colossal blunder should teach us two things (three, if you count the revelation of the sheer stupidity of Deutsche Bank’s board): 1. When your senior-most operations position must be filled from outside — as part of a defined plan — your succession plan is kaput (I’m liking this whole German theme), and you are making the conscious decision to not develop those who could assume the responsibilities. Why would you do something so idiotic? 2. Anytime — anytime — your defined succession plan requires you to go outside the organization for necessary talent, make certain that either (a) your anointed wunderkinder is both aware and agreeableto your advances, and (b) that, should Herr Von Bundespräsidentdevelop wanderlust and decide to align with another power, you have options. Read my lips: If your succession plan, any plan, relies solely on the hiring of one specific...

Stars – Leadership and the Key Employee

News Flash! Key Employees Don’t Grow on Trees!! Ya think?? It’s amazing to me that companies will spend more than 30% of an annual salary on recruitment, but then never clearly spell out exactly how to identify and hire a “star.” Luck is a lousy management strategy, and it applies even more to hiring. Two things are necessary for an employee or candidate to become a “Star.” First, he has to have the requisite behavior and characteristics of a star; second, and equally important, the organization has to recognize and enable that employee or candidate to become a star. You know you are dealing with a “potential” star when you observe the following: 1. Strong work ethic. They come to work and actually “work,” then they go home. They may or may not “hang-out,” or be everyone’s pal. Give them a task or responsibility and walk away. You know it will be completed. 2. Intelligence. More practical “smarts” than I.Q.; good, solid common sense. And they know how – and aren’t afraid to – use it. These people think outside the norms, and may come up with crazy ideas. Listen to them. 3. Unbound by job descriptions. A potential star is unlikely to utter “it’s not my job.” Conversely, he’s also not likely to realize that not everyone thinks that way. He may occasionally bulldoze through non-star employees. Decide in advance if you can support a Star – if so, do it. Don’t ask him to throttle back or let others catch up; blaze a trail for him to go forward. 4. Success-driven. A star wants results. Period. They...

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