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...

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...

Physicians, Physicists and Brainiacs

–Coaching the know-it-all You read know-it-all in the subtitle like it’s a bad thing. That’s not how I meant it at all. No, I’m not referring to the seventh-grade insult where we looked at the smartest kid in the room and said, “Well, Mr. Smarty-pants, you think you’re just a know-it-all.” No, that’s not what I’m talking about at all. I’m referring to those people who hold positions that — quite literally — require that they know it all. And yes, there are several of those floating around in various organizations today. For example, you certainly wouldn’t trust a surgeon who frequently said, “You know, I’m not quite sure about this, but let’s just give it a try anyway.” Nor would you be thrilled if you discovered that a PhD physicist working in some hush-hush, ultra secret laboratory somewhere, said, “Man, I don’t know if this hydrogen bomb will be safe to transport, but hey, I’m giving it my best guess.” And the list goes on. Not with just physicians, physicists, and other scientific experts; we also include others in the mix, like high-level economists, super-duper engineers (gosh, hope this bridge holds up), and other individual experts that hold sway in things like major decisions, fiscal policy and even advancing regulations or legislation. Life and death can be held in the balance. These experts tend to hold positions where their key value is providing their knowledge… their expertise. Now, in and of itself, this isn’t a major problem. After all, why wouldn’t we expect these obvious experts to be, well, the expert? The problem isn’t with their expertise, per...

Analog Leadership Meets the Digital World

— Faster isn’t always better… Analog… “Analog…” Analog… it sounds so, well, old. Leadership, in its most successful, meaningful form, is not about size, scope, or reach. It’s about relationships. Trusting relationships. Our followers trust those they hold out as leaders when: That leader demonstrates appropriate competency for their position, The leader demonstrates integrity (does what she says she’ll do), and The leader convinces them they have some level of empathy; that they care as much about the subordinate as they do themselves. Leadership is entirely personal. It’s about people. It’s all about trust! Have I beat you to death enough with this yet? We live in an age where the digital medium reigns supreme. Where information, both broad and narrow in scope, can be transmitted instantaneously and simultaneously, across vast networks and collections of people, and in fact happens countless times each day. That makes it more, not necessarily better. Sharing information is not the same thing as communicating. And communications are necessary to build that trust we speak of so frequently. Trust, friends, is the very currency of leadership. You can inform digitally. You lead personally. Information can be digitized; leadership is—and always will be—analog. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m a long way from a Luddite; I blog, tweet, and facebook. I manage my LinkedIn account, send this electronic newsletter, and subscribe to a multitude of feeds, blogs and forums. I use dropbox and evernote, write using dictation software, carry a tablet for shorter trips, and have a smartphone roughly 10x of the total computing power of NASA in 1970. My smokin’ Surface Pro syncs with my...

25 Leadership Tips and Hacks

I was just doing some thinking on a plane ride recently (not much else to do). Often, we are our own worst enemy, sabotaging our efforts with our own behavior. Though added resources (people, money, etc.) seem to be an answer to many of our challenges, the reality is that Leadership, first and foremost, is what will cause us to succeed or fail. And leadership is free. Here are some things to consider as you go about your day… If one employee has an attitude or morale problem, it’s COULD be an exception. If more than the exception, it IS a leadership issue. If you say you’ll do something, do it. If it gets you in trouble with your boss, live with it and accept that responsibility. Integrity is not situational. Quit nickel-and-diming line employees. They are the only ones making us money. When asked to decide, decide. We’re paid to make decisions, not stall with unnecessary questions and analysis. Turnover is a symptom, not a root cause. Reducing turnover without addressing the root cause (usually Leadership) is simply smoke and mirrors. Enough with the barrage of emails. If you cc: others just to make sure your addressee pays attention, you are part of the problem. After the first email reply, communication is an issue; pick up the phone or walk across the room, floor or building. I don’t know your intent, only your actions or words. Quit assuming. Ask. Take care of employees, they’ll take care of you. That’s a promise. Hold each other accountable. If your peer does something wrong and you say nothing—you’re now part of...

Decision-Making, Mistakes and Leadership

— If you ain’t failin’, you ain’t tryin’ Oops! Mistakes. Nobody likes ‘em, everybody makes ‘em. Yet it still sends a quiver up the spines of leaders everywhere, hearing “you made a mistake.” Our minds start racing, searching for pieces of memory that could reveal where we may have stretched a bit, or perhaps were a bit unsure in the decision we made. “Crap! Now what…?” We investigate our mistake, searching minute details in hopes of ensuring we never make that mistake again. Or any mistake, frankly. Many of us spend numerous waking hours fretting over the possibility (and reality) of making one mistake or another, incorrectly believing that error-free efforts are the minimum threshold of success for leadership. How’s that working for you? I’ve got some suggestions that may help you be more successful — and less frustrated — in your leadership decision-making. First, a newsflash: you will make mistakes. Get over it. Mistakes are not inherently bad; our reactions to mistakes are much more telling than the mistake itself. So, here we go… The 3 Principles for Avoiding Death through Mistakes: 1. Make more mistakes. You heard me right — make more mistakes. Look, you didn’t know how to ride a bike when you started, did you? You didn’t know how to play golf well when you started, did you? Even your job… you couldn’t do that when you first started, could you? The answer to all of these is NO! You needed practice. Practice makes perfect. Well, technically, perfect practice makes perfect, but this ain’t Carnegie Hall. I used to work for General Lawrence Bose. He...

The Simplicity of Leadership

—quit complicating the uncomplicated By that, I mean that leadership is not complex. Can it be difficult? Certainly. But we need to remember to keep things as simple as humanly possible. We read books, articles, white papers, etc.… All in search of a silver bullet, a magic wand, or something that will allow us to leapfrog common sense and simple leadership techniques. We study “The Five Principles of Employee Engagement;” we listen intently to the webinar, “How to Increase Employee Commitment;” we read books on “Motivating Millennials.” And we don’t get any better. In fact, many could make a good argument that as we study these “new and innovative” techniques our ability to actually lead people gets worse. In other words, the more we “know,” the less we do. My advice then is simple: just stop it! (love me some Bob Newhart…) Leadership is really simple. Truly non-rocket surgery sorts of stuff. We rarely get into trouble for failing to “engage” employees, or for failing to “motivate millennials.” Nope, we usually get in a bind because we forgot to set clear expectations, refused to diffuse known conflict, or maybe we just didn’t listen to the feedback we received from interested employees. This is not higher level math. Leadership hasn’t changed much in a couple of thousand years. The business of leadership is inherently simple. A couple of years ago, I was at Champions Golf Club in Houston Texas as a guest of a good friend of mine (Roy). The owner of the club, Jackie Burke, used to be a PGA Pro, winning the Masters and PGA tournaments. Roy and...

Leadership and Playing Favorites

   — It’s what good leaders do! One of your best employees (by whatever performance measure you use) needs an extra day of bereavement leave for the death of a grandparent who raised her near single-handedly. This employee has been with you 6+ years, with no attendance issues, no unreasonable demands, and you can’t even remember the last time she asked you for something. She even commits—without your asking—to working extra hours to cover her absence, and says you can reach her via email and cell during that time. As your lips purse up to say “yeah, sure!” you get this nagging thought: “If I do it for her, I’ll have to do it for everyone.” There’s this string of advice that oft-times permeates otherwise thoughtful organizations. In a misguided effort to avoid conflict, tough conversations and tense performance discussions—and the ubiquitous “prevent lawsuits”—many will advise leadership to treat all employees the same. What a load of crap. Nice try, Mister Lazy, but you’re not getting off that easy. If identical treatment for all was effective, I’d include it in my “Definitive, 12-Page Guide to all Things Leadership.” It would sell three gazillion copies, and I’d be living on my very own private Tahitian island. And in all likelihood, you wouldn’t be invited. No, identical treatment is not the answer. Think about it this way… divide all your employees into just two categories based on overall performance and behavior: High Performers and Low Performers. That’s it, just those two categories. Got it? Now ask yourself this: If I treat all employees identically, who does a happy dance—High Performers or...

Leadership—Empowerment Done Right

   — Put ‘em in a box and learn to say ‘yes’ I used to believe that empowerment and delegation were the same thing… that we just invented the term “empowerment” because so many managers sucked at delegating. I was wrong. I try not to say that too often (just ask my family), but it’s a certainty here. I was wrong. Let me give you my decidedly-non-textbook definitions of each, so we’re at least close to being on the same page. Those who know me know that I’m not about to wax on in some academic discourse. No, let’s keep it simple, shall we? Delegation: I take something—a task, usually—that I’m personally responsible for, and ask someone else to perform that task. They act in my stead. Empowerment: I give someone more control over the variables and operating decisions within their existing role. More control over their existing responsibilities. If I ask you to prepare a report that I normally must do myself, I’m delegating. If I allow you to make decisions within your job that previously I made for you, I’m empowering. See the difference? An oversimplification, I know, but it works. Both sound pretty simple, and they really are. That doesn’t mean that we do either all that well, only that it’s not overly complex. Delegation is easier than empowerment, though in my experience we don’t necessarily do it any better. We’ll discuss delegation some other time… today, it’s all about empowerment. In my simplified world, empowerment has two distinct elements: The box Saying ‘yes’ Let’s first talk about the box. At Triangle Performance, we created the...

The 5 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

   — and they’re non-negotiable, folks! (My most read article–I try to republish it at least once each year.) Leaders, new and old, sometimes lose sight of the most fundamental tenets of leadership. Here’s a reminder… I frequently tell executives that leadership – its concepts, theory, and core applications – haven’t changed in a millennium. Some our demographics may have changed, forcing us to use alternative applications of those concepts, but the basic concepts and theory remain. So, why don’t we “just do it?” Sometimes we aren’t motivated; sometimes the “time” just doesn’t seem right.  Maybe we simply forgot some of the basics… hence this article. I use the following rules for both new managers/leaders, as well as for any level of leadership when taking on a new role – some good things to not forget… So, here goes… Kevin’s Survival Kit for Leaders (of ALL levels) — 5 Irrefutable Laws Law #1. Never delay or abrogate a decision that must be made. Make it and move on. You may have to immediately make another decision; this doesn’t mean your first one was wrong, merely that your second one had the benefit of additional knowledge. When in the military, I worked for a General who would frequently tell me, “Son, there aren’t many “wrong” decisions; it’s just sometimes we have to make another decision quickly after the first.”  Some truth to that… Law #2. If you want something specific done, say so specifically, using clear, plain language. Employees, generally, have some difficulty doing their basic jobs; adding “mind-reading” to their description is just plain unfair. No hints, implications, or...

The King of Malicious Compliance

I was the King of Malicious Compliance, and I wore the crown proudly. Not familiar with the term? It’s a kind of organizational sabotage where the demise of the organization’s leader is the goal. I’ve been known to rigidly comply with an instruction in a way that I knew would cause embarrassment for the instruction giver. (Ask me about my M&M watch sometime.) Knowing I had the answer, I might deliberately withhold my contribution in a discussion unless asked a direct question. I could adhere strictly to office hours – just the arrival and departure times, of course – while spending the intervening hours in decidedly unproductive ways. Even worse, I might do something I knew was counterproductive, just “because you told me to.” And I was pretty effective, because malicious compliance is contagious. I freely admitted I wasn’t the best follower, and I blamed it on poor leadership. After all, I deluded myself, if I had a decent leader instead of a marginal manager, I’d have been a better follower. So what do you do with a guy like me? I know what you’re thinking: I’d have fired your ass in a heartbeat. And sometimes they tried. I won’t say all organizations have someone like that, but many do. And we justify putting up with them for bizarre reasons like he’s better than a vacancy, or she’s really good at what she does (when she does it), or even HR makes it so hard to get rid of people. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Do not let malicious compliance spread like sick building syndrome. I never understood why they put...

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