Needing Leaders… The “make” or “buy” decision…

So, do you grow your own leaders from within, or hire someone new with – presumably – the leadership skills you need are unable to find inside your organization?  What do you tell yourself to justify not developing those skills from within your organization?  How about these?  See if any sound familiar…

“I don’t have anyone ready to ‘step-up.’”

“Leadership development is expensive.”

“If I train them, they’ll just leave and join the competition.”

Please.  I’ve heard them all, and many more just like these.  Some are urban myths, some are akin to the business version of “old wives’ tales.”  All are dumb.  Worse, however, is that some are actually damaging to your organization.

For example:

I don’t have anyone ready to step up.  Really??  You have no one on your staff, or available to you, who with proper development, coaching, and mentoring could step into a more responsible role?

My first comment is “not likely.”  If you really believe that, though, here’s some free advice: Whack ’em all and start over.  Simple statistical odds are that some should be ready or capable of becoming ready; if not, our hiring process is so remiss that blowing it up and starting over may be the only option.

It costs too much.  Again with the “really??”  How much does it cost, in revenue, earnings, and your time, to re-tell, re-advise, re-answer, and re-work?  How about the conflicts that apparently only you can resolve? Aren’t you tired of having to make every decision yourself?

What sort of productivity gains are you missing by not having competent and skilled managers and supervisors at all levels of the leadership food chain?

If I train them, they’ll just leave.  So then, your choices seem to be either train someone who may eventually leave, or keeping that person without the necessary, relevant knowledge.  You’re not seriously weighing this, are you?

Why “grow our own” leaders?  In my mind, there are three simple reasons:

  1. It ensures continuity.  Someone who has seen, experienced and “lived” the functional day-to-day may better understand what issues and challenges are significant.  Yes, sometimes we need an outsider to provide some new-blood thinking, but not at the expense of continuity and corporate memory.
  2. It sends a positive message. Advancement opportunities are a big reason that good people stay – including you.  Promoting a deserving candidate trumps and external hire 24×7 in that regard.
  3. They already know, understand, and more importantly fit our culture. Let’s face it —  though valuable, skills are a dime a dozen on the open market.  They just aren’t that difficult to find (including mine and yours).  What’s difficult is finding those skills wrapped up in someone intelligent enough to learn our jobs, and who also fits our current culture.

Except in very unique circumstances, developing current staff to assume future leadership roles always, always, benefits the organization in big ways.  Many of you reading this have been promoted into your roles, so you clearly understand the value.  We can – we really can – teach and develop the skills necessary to “grow your own,” so keep that in mind before thinking there’s “greener grass” in a newly hired manager…

A physicist, a preacher and an Iman walk into this bar…

Though that has all the makings of a great joke (appropriate apologies to those easily offended), I just wanted to highlight the diverse uses of today’s topic.

The three characters mentioned above are the most frequent users–or at least, most frequently referenced–of the Principle of Before, also referred to as the Empirical Priority Principle. Seems physicists thrive on making complexity from the simple… but I digress. Defined, The Before Principle “…asserts that within the circle of the world, what comes before determines what comes after without exception.”

Lots of examples for this. Battles before victories. Sweat before gains. Planning before execution. Investment before returns. If you want to win the lottery, you buy a ticket first.

So, let me add Management Consultant to the list of characters above (luckily, consultants are not easily offended). And let me better, more simply define The Before Principle: “You’ve gotta do this first.” And this applies to Leadership in a big way. For example…

Feedback–you’ve got to give it first to others, before others may be willing to give it to you. And I don’t mean just criticism; positive feedback is information provided solely to help someone grow and improve. Are you doing that today? If not, don’t expect to receive valuable feedback for yourself.

Respect–You receive respect from others, above or below you in the organizational food chain, after you first give them that respect. Listen. Show you care about them. Be courteous. Include when appropriate–or even close to appropriate. Give credit where due, and recognition frequently. Show gratitude, always. Keep your promises. Be on time. Respect isn’t tolerance, nor does it mean you like someone. It’s a positive, ongoing behavior acknowledging someone’s abilities, accomplishments and worth. You don’t deserve respect because of your position, you are afforded the opportunity to show respect for others. Don’t screw that up.

Trust–The holy grail of leadership. We need lots of things to be good at leading; we need trust to lead at all. Frequently called “The currency of leadership,” never is the “Investment before returns” more true. You want folks to trust you? Trust them first. My close friend Richard Fagerlin (author of Trustology) likes to say that trust must be given, never earned. I believe that to be true, but I also believe that trust given freely is usually returned. No, I don’t live in a Pollyanna world, and yes, there are some people simply not trustworthy. For those few, we steal from Ronald Reagan: Trust, but verify. But we still must trust first.

Empower people to do their jobs. Understand that well-thought mistakes are learning events, not cause for a beating. Focus more on outcomes. Realize that more often than not, employees want to do a good job. Our job, then, is to let them. Get better at saying yes. Don’t expect someone to trust you if you haven’t shown them trust first. Ain’t gonna happen.

So, this Principle of Before may not have its roots in leadership vernacular, but it’s pretty darned pertinent for those wanting to lead. It’s actually the very basis of leadership, when you think about it:

Lead first, then others will follow.

Be Brazen.

You Don’t ‘Create’ a Culture… You CHANGE It!

Speaking with a potential client, she asked about the process to “rebuild” their culture. The ensuing chat was interesting (I would call it “great!,” but the client hasn’t signed on yet…!)

First, culture isn’t actually “rebuilt.” It exists — in complete form — in every organization.

You may not LIKE the culture, may want to CHANGE the culture, but remember: It’s a change management effort, and has all the corresponding efforts and challenges of any organizational change process.

A specific culture can START anywhere within an organization, though it can only really be DRIVEN by the top. The top controls processes, most extrinsic motivations, environments, and sets values and acceptable behavior (the whole ‘lead by example’ thingy).

To change culture, all levers must be congruent… policies must match behaviors; values must be supported by procedures and accepted norms; compensation must match desired behaviors, actions, and results.

They’ve all got to work together, and when changing a culture (vs. maintaining), you really can’t afford even small inconsistencies.Without over-stressing my keyboarding skills, desired culture change will never take place via “programs,” off-sites, workshops or other isolated events.

It’s gotta be the whole enchilada. It must have complete support of the senior-most staff, and necessarily reinforced (in part) via performance management.

In other words, it’s kind of a big deal…

Be Brazen.

Some Coaching Advice – Gratis

I coach several individuals; most at a fairly senior level, some in mid-management.

Some are remedial efforts; in other words, we’re trying to get an otherwise-valuable employee to step it up a bit in performance. These are challenging, but it’s positively great to watch the progress.

The rest are for those already operating near the top of their game. Those folks for whom we’re trying to give them that “extra” edge. That 1% improvement for which, in their hands, makes a significant difference in the success of the business.

Performance Management Simplified

It’s not about the paper…

Someone recently asked me why the Performance Management process seems so painful in many organizations. They further questioned how lower-level managers could possibly implementPerformance_appraisal_2 effective performance management if the senior executive(s) are less than fully compliant themselves.

Man, oh man, do I have an opinion on this…

First, lower level leaders in an organization don’t get a free pass simply because some senior executive isn’t up to par. Leadership accountability is bigger than a simple reporting relationship.

If subordinate managers got an accountability “walk” every time more senior leaders were errant, we’d have but one or two accountable people in every organization, followed by a bunch of well-paid drones.

Sorry, Charlie. You have the position, you cash the check, and you have the personal accountability.

Next, performance management isn’t really difficult at all; most reasonably successful leaders/managers do some form of this on a regular basis. Think about it – for those who do not have a real formal process, do you still work on employees to improve their performance? For those who are late turning in those annual reviews to HR, have you been ignoring your employees all this time?

Of course not.

It’s the review process that’s typically broke all to hell. And frankly, that’s a system issue, not (necessarily) a leadership failing. In other words, most performance reviews exist, not for performance management, but for performance management documentation.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we too often attempt to have those reviews do so much more than documentation. And if we do that without training all involved (both sides of the review equation) and without fully institutionalizing the process, well, we get what we usually get.

GIGO at its finest.

If an organization is reasonably successful, there’s probably a decent amount of effective performance management occurring.

Further, if that reasonably successful organization has a painful performance review process, then we should stop that right now… the review process should aid in performance management, not merely memorialize it for posterity.

What a concept, eh?

Be Brazen.