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...

Leaders Develop Leaders… If you won’t do it, find someone who will!

Like many consultants, I sometimes struggle to follow the great advice I give other people. Okay, more than sometimes. The whole ‘physician, heal thyself’ thing comes along like a spiritual two-by-four upside my head pretty often. But the situation where ‘do as I say, not as I do’ really gets my goat is during a leadership development engagement when the boss is uninterested or disengaged from the effort. And I’m not talking about one-and-done engagements (I don’t do those). These are six- to twelve-month, multiple group- and individual-session engagements, so there are some talented people doing heavy lifting trying to be better leaders. But I know it will be an uphill slog when the CXO who signs my check wants the team to improve but doesn’t want to be involved. For instance, a few years back I worked with the team of a CXO who complained that everyone – despite his best efforts – suffered from the same leadership shortcomings. It bears mentioning that these senior managers had exactly two things in common: they had the same boss, and they all breathed air. I politely suggested to the CXO that if it smelled like dog crap everywhere he went, he should probably check his shoe, after which he made it clear that he was NOT one of the people who needed coaching. You’ve heard the old saw: “What if I develop my people and they leave?” “But what if you don’t and they stay?” Exactly! It was de ja vu all over again during a follow-up phone conversation with an exec about an additional engagement with some of his...

We Need Reinforcements… Send in the Leaders!

In my many years of experience growing, coaching and training leaders, I’ve discovered that it’s seldom talent… or training… or give-a-shit… that interferes with a leader’s success…, at all but the senior-most (the senior-most) level. It’s reinforcement. Or, more appropriately, the lack thereof. Managers are trained, facilitated and coached, then return to the barren wasteland of their workplace, left to fend for themselves amid the hyenas, badgers and cape buffalos. Identifying appropriate leadership behaviors is certainly valuable. Ensuring learners can understand and assimilate those behaviors… equally important. Senior leadership reinforcing those desired behaviors… priceless. “In behavioral psychology, reinforcement is a consequence applied that will strengthen an organism’s future behavior whenever that behavior is preceded by a specific antecedent stimulus.” Thank you, Dr. Pavlov. In consulting terms, he means “When you ring the bell, the dog slobbers.” And before any Psychologist wannabes (or the real deal) start to educate me on classical vs. operant conditioning, cut me some slack. It’s newsletter article, and I’m trying not to induce an eye-rolling coma. Now, let’s be clear. Reinforcement isn’t reminding. Reinforcement is used to specifically connect awareness to execution. Or to quote the slobberin’ dog Doc: It’s “a consequence applied that will strengthen… future behavior.” Like all things necessary and valuable, there’s a process involved, or in this case, four “elements:” 1 – Set expectations. And make ‘em clear, using specific, plain language. Employees sometimes have some difficulty doing their basic jobs; adding “mind-reading” to their description is just plain unfair. And by clear, I mean the employee should be able to read it back to you, and you agree “that completely...

Inspired or Not, Here You Come!

“Leadership is about influence and inspiration.” – Everyone Who Knows Anything Who has the most influence on the mood in your workplace? If you’re part of the leadership – formal or informal – you do. Especially if your mood reveals your anxieties about the organization or job security, or your lack of compassion for those struggling to meet your expectations. Hmph. In one of my favorite comic strips ever, Calvin sums it up nicely: “Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around a little bit.” Around the mid-point of my Air Force career, a mentor remarked one day, “You’re just not prone to happiness, are you?” After he had my 8-year-old daughter explain what a Marsh-wiggle was, we talked about the effect it was having on my Airmen. I got his point, and I’d like to think I’m remembered differently by those who served with me in my later years. Like leading by example, you don’t have a choice about impacting the office climate with the mood you’re emoting. You may not be aware that you’re doing it, but that’s a matter of your emotional intelligence, not reality on the ground. No, I’m not trying to resurrect the old myth about leaders having to be demonstrably charismatic – there’s plenty to evidence to debunk that; but from the C-suites to the referent leader far down in the organization, others are taking their positive and negative emotional cues from you. This is anything but new information, and yet we could all benefit from the occasional friendly reminder. A huge part of a leader’s job is inspiring others to follow...

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...

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