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...

Come together, right now… over me!

— The people side of merger integration    Ok, so maybe the Beatles reference was a bit much… We were two companies, someone decided merger was a good thing… then just one big, happy family… right?? Bain Capital.  McKinsey.  Deloitte… don’t take just my word for it; the single biggest reason for merger or acquisition failure is NOT costs, lack of synergy, shortage of capital, incompatible strategy, etc. It’s people. Failure to integrate cultures, directions, leadership and communities within an organization result in more failures than any market disapproval could muster. Pay attention here; you’re paying big bucks for – usually – more than a simple asset. Realistically, even simple “asset purchases” are hoping for more than a simple Return on Asset; we’re always hoping for bigger, better returns that can only happen through the newly combined workforce talent. Again, “people.” Let’s get right to it. I’m assuming you’ve competently determined that the merger or acquisition is a logical addition to your business. The technical part is fairly simple… a bunch of spreadsheets, a month or two of due diligence to verify the lofty promises, assurances, and statements from management. Now, let’s work on the more fickle side… The most important thing to remember is communication. Frequent, informative, helpful communications. The initial merger time is the most critical, since many of the employees in the acquired company will “overthink” the event, and may believe they will be summarily replaced. Or, more important to key performers, that they’ll lose their “key performer” status. Frankly, you may actually WANT to lose some of them, but don’t you want the opportunity, at...

Congrats on the promotion, LOSER!

So, just got that big promotion, eh? Now, you’re “It.” Big Shot. Grand Poobah. Boss Hog. El Jefe. Shiznit. The Big Cheese. Uppity-Muckety-Muck. She who must be obeyed. Kahuna. Sounds great, right? Finally, you’re a CXO, with all the rights, privileges, honors and benefits occurring thereto. So I say, Congrats! Finally, you have all that extra money, private elevator, fancy business card and a big, honkin’ corner office… you big LOSER! Wait, what?? If I have just been promoted, why are you calling me a Loser?? What the hell have I lost? Funny you should ask. I hate to be a buzz-kill, but you may want to put down that promotion drink for a second. You see, when ascending into senior-most leadership, you do lose some things. For instance: You lose the ability to solely determine your success. Your success now depends almost entirely on others’ efforts and successes. Hint: this should be a clear indicator that their success is now your #1 priority. You have lost the ability to suggest. Unfortunately, at your new lofty stratum, suggestions sound more like orders than random ideas. Surprisingly, nearly all your suggestions will be implemented, post-haste. Complete with “I thought that’s what you wanted.” You lose the ability to consistently rely on a decision-making safety net. This one is tougher to realize before you’re there. Until in the seat, most of us don’t really understand the comfort we get from having others above us in the food chain to prevent our sheer stupidity from making the 6 o’clock news. You have lost the ability to hold a grudge. Sure, remember how...

Who’s Got Your Six??

As the leader of your team, who’s got your back? Are the people who work for and with you watching out for you, or do you find yourself covering your six to keep from being stabbed in the back? A few years back, the “Got Your 6” campaign launched to unite nonprofit, Hollywood, and government partners to “create opportunities for our military veterans to successfully convert their leadership and operational training into positive civilian roles.” They had some great public service announcements that explained how “got your six” means we’ve got our veterans’ backs as they transition from military service to civilian life. The PSAs also reminded me of lessons I learned in pilot training about how to keep the enemy from maneuvering to my ultimate position of vulnerability: my six o’clock position – the blind spot directly behind me where I wouldn’t recognize I was about to be killed. Translated into office politics: the blind spot where someone is about to make us look stupid or incompetent without us realizing it. “Covering your six” is what pilots have wingmen for. In aerial combat, wingmen fly behind and above (or below) their lead to make sure no one sneaks up on them. Pretty easy to apply that as an analogy in the corporate world: who’s going to watch your back in the dog-eat-dog of self-sufficiency and watching out for yourself? Your teammates, that’s who. The ones you’ve built trusting relationships with and know you have their backs as well. When leaders are intentional about creating an environment of trust and collaboration in the office, coworkers watch out for each...

Integrity Isn’t Flexible

I wrote about this a couple of years ago, but it seems like things are getting worse, not better. I’ve had a number of conversations with transitioning military veterans recently, and a common issue among them is adjusting to the perceived lack of integrity out in the “civilian world.” I’m not going to get all preachy and start throwing stones, but I can honestly state that I’ve run across more liars and cheaters outside the military than in. Or maybe I’m just more sensitive to it because integrity-bashing is so pervasive in our media today. It seems like in business – and politics – we tend to throw the word ‘integrity’ around without giving much thought to what it means. Probably because it’s obvious to us if someone has it or not. If you’re thinking, “Gosh, the blinding flash of the obvious is hurting my eyes,” take just a minute to write down the definition of integrity. Not that easy, huh. You see, integrity has as many definitions as leadership, and that’s as many as the number of people you ask. Integrity, like leadership, is in the eye of the beholder. To quote the late Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it.” (He was, of course, referring to hard-core pornography, but whatever). Among the many definitions of integrity found via the Oracle (aka the internet), honesty and strong moral and ethical principles are most often used. The problem is that morals – the principles of right and wrong – are individual and depend on a person’s belief system. And ethics – principles of good...

Integrity, Courage & Inigo Montoya

Kevin Ross is my best friend and my partner-in-crime at Triangle Performance (how cool is that?) We frequently have discussions on various leadership topics; sometimes over the phone, sometimes via text, sometimes in-person over a cigar (and perhaps a wee dram or two). Makes for an interesting dialog, to say the least. Recently, we discussed Integrity. We have forever simplified “integrity” to mean “do what you say you’ll do.” And frankly, for a generalized foundational definition, that works well. For more sophisticated, nuanced conversations… well, it sucks. In looking at leadership from an application standpoint – something we absolutely strive for here – integrity shows up as a factor in so many things. As much as I love simplicity, some things are necessarily complicated. Dammit. I’m none too happy about that, but reality is what it is. You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality. So, we’re digging deeper into the reality of integrity. And we realized that integrity can’t be simply telling the truth. “Whaaat??” you say? Let me explain… (finally get to use my Princess Bride reference…) You see, there’s more to integrity than simple honesty. So, time for a new definition. Integrity, it seems to me, is simply demonstrable moral courage. I’m still keeping it simple, but for leaders, it involves more than simple honesty. It includes honesty to self—the courage of your convictions. I’ve used courage now twice in describing integrity, so you word-counters must know it’s important. It is. Our folks want to see us leading… from the front… even when it hurts. The hurting that you feel? It’s...

Leadership 2019: A new year, let’s do it right!

2018 is in the can, finished. Stick a fork in it, it’s done. A new day has dawned. 2019 is here, we’re over a week into it already. Soon, we’ll be discussing how fast January flew by, then Q1. Have you made plans? Personal goals are great. Business objectives are super. But do you have specific plans to “do” leadership better in 2019? No? Why not? Many of us create detailed plans for the new year. We spreadsheet various categories like personal, family, business, spiritual, health, etc. But we need to add one: Leadership. What can you do differently this year to improve your leadership impact? “Get better at it” sounds great but is woefully unactionable. How about I suggest a few things for you to consider? Address a specific people problem. Take that toxic employee or the just-barely performer into a private office and have that tough conversation. Advise them, coach them, counsel them. But it’s get better or take a hike. Trust me, those around that person will sing your praises. Mentor someone. I mean really mentor them. Take them under your wing and help them grow. Be present, and pay attention. Listen closely, make sure you hear what that mentee means, not just what they say. Take notes so you can follow up when appropriate. Deliver genuine feedback. Tell them what’s working, and what isn’t. You need to be the truth-teller in their life, don’t let them down. Direct feedback is essential to effective mentoring. Inspire and motivate. Mentoring is not coaching, and it’s not therapy. You need also to advise based on your experience. That’s...

The (not so) Great Communicator

In her book Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott writes, “The fundamental outcome of most communication is misunderstanding.” That’s never been truer than in today’s multi-generational, multi-cultural workplace. It’s a subject that is as old as the Tower of Babel itself, but a couple of recent miscommunications reminded me that I am not the Great Communicator Ronald Reagan was. The first incident occurred a couple of weeks ago as my adult daughter and I were assembling a shelving unit using very Ikea-ish directions – you know, the kind without words. In 30 minutes, the task was finished (almost perfectly), and I asked her a straight-forward – but unexpected – question: “How many times in that 30 minutes did I make you feel stupid?” Her answer surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t have. “Two,” she said. “Both times, you took over and said “here, let me…”” Poor thing; that certainly wasn’t my intent, and I sincerely apologized both to her and my wife. If you think twice in 30 minutes is bad, you can only imagine being married to a tone-deaf oaf for 32 years. The next miscommunication(s) happened during a cross-functional staff meeting discussing participants of our local Veterans Treatment Court. In retrospect – but only in retrospect – I realize I started it by making a glib remark to someone who: a) doesn’t like to be challenged; and b) wasn’t in the mood. You know the type. The first time she cut me off mid-sentence didn’t phase me; after decades in the military, I’m used to being told to shut up and color. The second time was irritating; the third...

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...

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