Leadership Development

It is amazing sometimes to see strategic plans that forecast significant growth in revenue, market share, and/or general scope, but don’t show a corresponding effort to develop the leaders necessary to execute that new growth. How did you think that would happen? Or do we just not really believe our own plans?

Realizing Leadership Potential

Successful leadership is the true advantage in today’s global marketplace. Leaders have certain traits, such as a compelling vision, emotional intelligence, the ability to listen and inspire, and confidence in themselves and their ability to take risks. Cracking the “leadership code” is not easy, but it is attainable. There must be a plan in place that sets the vision and provides the steps necessary to succeed.

Through Triangle’s proven expertise and results-driven approach, leaders can truly turn their potential into demonstrable performance; this can include consulting, facilitated sessions, team alignment and coaching.

Except for a handful of charismatic leaders mentioned in every history book, leadership, for the most part, is learned skills and behaviors, and is certainly critical path to any organization’s success. This includes line supervisors, management and most significantly, the senior leadership team. Coaching, at the executive and management levels can be a rapid, personalized path to skill-building. Training and facilitated learning discussions (via local sessions or “retreat-based”) are solid foundations for all levels. Succession planning helps organizations develop real bench strength – so necessary today for continued success.

Knowledge is a cornerstone of performance

Virtually all demonstrable skills (yes, including leadership and management) are learned. Our facilitated sessions go beyond the robotron “talking head” at the front of the room, utilizing dynamic, highly-interactive facilitation techniques, delivering real results from our training efforts. Additionally, we believe training is best done in manageable bites, rather than a 2-3 day “forced march;” each program is modular, with single modules taking from 3-4 hours to complete, with built-in reinforcement mechanisms.

Trust is the currency of leadership. And it’s neither rocket science nor “soft” skill development. Trust is simply the confluence of competency, integrity, and empathy. It’s as necessary as oxygen for successful leaders.

Discretionary effort is that effort that employees give us by choice, and trust is the only reason employees will give it.

Leadership is inherently simple. Organizations complicate it for no reason. Its practices, concepts, applications… haven’t changed much in a couple thousand years. There aren’t new concepts, only new authors, trying to peddle a glossy hardback using principles and techniques that look strangely familiar to what you’ve been using for 5, 10, or 25 years.

Don’t buy the snake oil, or fall for the fads. There’s no “new” way, only better methods of encouraging and systematizing “old” ways.

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 Leadership Development...

You better develop your own leaders… because HR’s not going to do it.

I was reminded (again) this week that just because someone says it’s a priority doesn’t make it so. True across the board: politics, government, military, and from the C-suite on down. This reminder was about leadership development, of course, because that’s what we do. Do you think development is important in your organization? One quick way to tell: who’s in charge of it? I’m re-plowing old ground here, since we’ve been over this time and again, but you leaders are wasting time and money on developing your younger leaders if HR is in charge of your leadership development program(s). Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against HR. Some of my best friends are HR professionals. Okay, not really, but there are some that I like and respect a lot. It’s not that HR doesn’t have a role in your development program(s); it’s just that leaders develop leaders, not personnel, EEO or benefits specialists. I do appreciate when a senior HR leader develops others in his/her organization – if they’re not, they’re doing the organization a disservice – but you can’t develop leaders by telling them what color(s) and letter(s) they are. If the C-suite doesn’t actively participate in the development of leaders in their organization, don’t count on it happening at any level below that. There is no way to reinforce and hone leadership skills without someone above being part of the effort. How else can a developing leader (and aren’t we all one) take risks without fear of paying for failure with their jobs? How else can they try new skills and measure success without someone...

The Real Meaning of Leadership

— It’s not a title, office or salary… I originally told this story several years ago, more from a motivate-to-perform angle. As I’m sitting at my desk thinking, it actually distills leadership behavior into a single emotion. Be forewarned, this is a bit sappier than most of my writing (as I daintily blot a single tear)… How does a leader make us feel? I started playing school football in 7th grade. Mine was a small school, so most of us played “both ways;” I played right-side offensive guard and defensive linebacker. This is Texas school football, so believe me, they took it as serious then as they did through later years in high school. Our starting quarterback was a guy named Gordon Williams, the son of our football coach (I’m sure that was just a coincidence). Gordon and I (along with his brother Bryan) were friends before football came along, as we lived about 5 houses apart on the same street in a town of 4,500 people. Anyway, we were playing La Grange, Texas (yes, the home of the legendary “Chicken Ranch”), and we were trailing by a good margin. Gordon called a running play, handing the ball off to Albert Cubit (at the time, the fastest human being I’d ever seen), who headed straight for my right leg. My job was to pick up the middle linebacker who had been coming across unscathed most of the game. And pick him up I did. Nailed him in the chest, likely surprising the daylights out of him, since I’d been something of a slug the whole game until then. Ended...

The Trilogy: Responsibility, Accountability, and Leadership

I recently had a conversation with some really smart people around Dan Pink’s book, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Read the book, it’s a good one, discussing how intrinsic motivation trumps extrinsic almost all the time. If you were expecting me to now give you some detailed book review, you’re about to be disappointed. As these things often do, we ended up in an extended “bunny trail” conversation around the whole subject of individual responsibility and accountability, and what that really meant from a leadership perspective. Here’s what we discovered during our lengthy and oft-times pseudo-cerebral discussions: Responsibility–the easiest part. Responsibility is simply a list of things we do, tasks we perform, jobs we are given. Alan Weiss called this “inputs.” You can be responsible for myriad things, both that you specifically control, and some… well, not so much. In my world, I’m responsible for coaching, facilitating, consulting, providing proposals, answering emails and calls, responding promptly to clients, etc. These are all Responsibilities. Accountability–it’s not the same as “blame,” per se, though there is a certain sect of people who would ascribe such. No, it’s bigger than that, yet infinitely simpler. It’s the outcomes of our responsibilities. It’s the results expected from our inputs. For me, improved leadership behavior, demonstrably better skills, increased performance of a business, function, or enterprise (that actually follows my consulting or advice!) are all Accountabilities. It’s the results or outcomes of my Responsibilities. We often confuse these two, yet the differences are both clear and significant. Pay attention to them. Leadership–heavily influences both Responsibility and Accountability. For instance, we influence–actually determine–what...

Is your competition a terrorist?

No doubt many of you have been looking toward 2018 lately, adjusting your strategy and plans to make it a(nother) successful year. Whatever methodology you use, researching what the competition is doing is critical. What many organizations miss, however, is how the competition’s leadership is contributing to their success. I think that’s a blind spot that causes us to underestimate the opposition, brought on by our overconfidence in our own leadership acumen. The other day, I ran across an old document in my archives – a sort of leadership manual from an organization that arguably has had some success in the last several years – and I compared some of the tips to what we espouse. These aren’t exact quotes, but even in paraphrasing, you’ll get the idea. Seek consultation, hold discussions, and beware of only consulting only a person who always agrees. When leaders ignore the counsel of others, it’s a recipe for disaster. Often, the best ideas for innovation and addressing a process problem come from those who are closest to it. Make them part of the solution, and their buy-in to the solution will be more powerful than you think. Don’t let your desire to get something cause you to get it by breaking the law. Sound like familiar behavior? The news is full of leaders who think they’re above the rules. Think Enron, Volkswagen, WorldCom, and Bernie Madoff. When an organization’s leadership shows a lack of integrity, it doesn’t just affect the guilty party. It can be crippling to the entire organization. There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who’s lost touch with his followers....

Five Thing My Mentors Modeled For Me

A long time ago, in a land far, far away… Does anyone else remember when being called a mentor was something special? Back before we started using it in performance evaluations? Before we had to ask, and maybe pay someone to mentor us? Before it was a buzzword? I certainly do, and I’m thankful for the group of professionals who served as mentors to me during my occasionally tumultuous military career. They were leaders all, and as I’ve mentioned before, leaders develop leaders… that’s their job. Take, for instance, the, “Kevin, I’m not trying to change who you are, but you don’t have to be you so hard all the time.” (Thanks, Mike.) I might have used that one a time or two as I tried to pay it forward by passing the lessons I learned to those I’ve led and mentored. When it comes to developing leaders, I can honestly say I’ve never had an original thought in my life. Not out of an attempt at humility; just recognizing that – wait for it – leadership hasn’t changed much in the last couple thousand years. I’m reasonably sure a much wiser man claimed, “there is nothing new under the sun” long before we started writing books on leadership. So, having been in touch with more than a couple of those mentors (no, you don’t just stop being a mentor) this past month, it occurred to me that I might share with you of a couple leadership lessons I learned from those who came before me. Organization charts and fancy titles don’t mean squat to those who look to...

The Sun is Late…

… or, what to do when a plan doesn’t come together. I can honestly say I’ve learned more from my mistakes than my successes. I doubt I’m alone in that. What’s that old saying? “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Obviously, none of my mistakes were fatal and none ended my career… yet. Some of my biggest mistakes I considered colossal failures at the time, only to learn later that there are actually some things I can’t control. Like the time I lost $1.1B in multi-year resourcing. Or the time I started an international incident in the skies over Younameastan. Or the time I invested in a gold mine (seriously!). I was fortunate to work for a number of leaders that knew mistakes are rarely intentional, and almost all can be important learning opportunities. I always tried to pass that on to the men and women who worked for me afterwards. Yes, mistakes can be frustrating and costly, but in a corporate setting, they’re rarely life threatening. One of my favorite mistakes happened during my last fun assignment in the Air Force when I was leading a rapidly deployable group trained to respond to a wide variety of contingency operations. We were deployed to a bare base for a self-imposed training exercise to test our readiness to operate in chemical protective gear – an old-time Cold War, NATO-type exercise. By bare base, I mean a runway and a patch of dirt with zero support infrastructure. It was only for a few days, but both the days and nights were long and filled with hard physical and mental...

Free Leadership Development

— Please, don’t tell my wife I’m doing this… Yes, leadership development can cost money. Most of us believe the returns are well worth it, and I’ve had the professional pleasure of working with many of you in improving the skills and behaviors in your leadership staffs. But you know what? Most of the more significant things that leaders can do are free. That’s right. Gratis, free of charge. No sales tax, shipping and handling, or any other spurious expense. What, then, can we do to take advantage of this FREE leadership development? Nothing more than some simple effort on your part. Without going into ad nauseum detail, suffice to say that there are three very simple things that a leader can do to set him/herself apart (positively) from the pack: Ask for input. Even when you already think you know the answer. Here’s the funny thing, and those I’ve worked with have heard me say this countless time: ask frequently for others’ input.If you ask all the time, people don’t get offended when you don’t “take” their suggestions each and every time proffered. If you only ask once per year, that person will fully expect you to use their input in a meaningful way… after all, why would you finally ask if you weren’t going to take it.Besides, keep on asking, even if you don’t believe you’ll get a meaningful response. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut every now and then, and who knows? Maybe that employee will just get lucky… Say please and thank you. Face it — no employee with the brains of a rock...

It Is What It Is… But What Is It?

I looked up from my desk the other day and noticed (again) a retirement present from a good friend and co-worker that says, “It is what it is.” Too often, I hear that phrase uttered in a tone of voice that conveys resignation to an unpleasant situation or acceptance of defeat. It doesn’t have to be that way! As leaders, a key to success is in understanding the last part of the sentence: “…what it is.”  It might be something we have control over, something we can only influence, or something that affects us and our people but is out of our hands.  How quickly we ascertain which of the three It is, and how we communicate that to those who work for and with us often determines whether we (the royal WE) are going to rise above the challenge. In a past life, I commanded an organization responsible for deploying personnel to all parts of Europe and Africa. We were too short staffed in certain specialties to do what were we being asked to do, and getting additional manpower was out of our control. What was in our control was how we used the personnel we had. Instead of being resigned to playing the victim to the asymmetric workload distribution between specialties, we developed an aggressive cross-training program that enabled the willing, but underemployed, personnel to team with those who were in danger of burning out. As a result, we built a greater number of very capable, cross-functional teams that were scalable and incredibly efficient to deploy and employ… and we significantly improved morale in the process. This speaks to three core truths of leadership: leaders...

Perception trumps reality. Every time.

Okay we’ve all heard the little idioms, like “perception is reality to those who perceive,” or even just “perception is reality.” My personal favorite is “my perception is my reality.” What the hell does all that mean? Well for you, leaders, it means that how people perceive your leadership is infinitely more important than what you intend for your leadership to be. It means that what you say means little, compared to the actions that you take (or words that you write). This isn’t rocket science, right? Goodness knows we’ve heard all this before, that our actions are more important that our words. But do we really get it? In my experiences, the answer is no. And here are some examples: Actual ethics violations aren’t the problem — it’s the perception of ethics violations. Let that sink in for a bit. In leadership, we all too frequently feel that an ethics breach means we’ve done something affirmatively. For instance, we accepted a gift from a supplier, then because of that gift we renew that supplier’s contract for another year. No brainer, right? Hold on a minute, Mr. Gekko; that’s incorrect, from an employee’s view. The ethics violation occurred when you accepted the gift… period. Even had you cancelled the supplier’s contract, the gift acceptance was your ethics breach. You see, it’s the appearance of conflict that causes ethics concerns, not the actual dastardly deed. It doesn’t matter if you care, they must see that you care. This comes up a lot with coaching clients, when presented with 360-degree feedback that suggests that they “don’t care about us.” “But I...

Politics, People and Leadership

— Don’t get them confused Politics. Damn. It just seems to permeate everything we do today. And not, necessarily, in a good way. “We the people” have seemingly become unable to have common conversations about so many issues. Leaders… Don’t fall for it. This communication impasse, this idiotic inability to have constructive dialogue, this desire to be “right” about all things partisan that will forever be based in opinion (no matter how strongly you believe), cannot become part of who you are. Not in your professional leadership role. Do I mean that, outside of work, you can’t have opinions? Of course not. Do I mean that you shouldn’t vote, participate in the political process, or even strongly debate those outside of the workforce on issues that are important to you? Of course not, have at it. We should do all of those things, as — in my opinion — we have an obligation as citizens to do. But don ‘t take citizenship all the way to jerkship. You can show your opinion without showing your ass. Really, you can. And I’m not speaking of literal bias here. I don’t mean the near-criminal act of assuming that a subordinate who doesn’t see your political views is somehow damaged. I hope we don’t even have to go there—if we do, we’re in worse shape than I thought. What I do mean is, you simply cannot let the common political bias affect how you lead others at work. And you’ve got to be ever vigilant, as these things can sneak in insidiously. I see them occur, maybe unintentionally, in three distinct areas...


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