Monday, June 19, 2017

Are Your Leaders Human?

Silly question right? on...

I and my strategic partners have been completely immersed over the past several years helping clients improve their bottom line. We've successfully helped the companies we've served realize millions of dollars, buried under ineffective leadership.

In the course of our work, I've come to a striking realization. Our work has evolved from promoting and fostering traditional managment principles and practices to almost exclusively helping leaders become more relational -- helping them be more relatable, learn to connect to those they lead and influence-motivate their teams toward needed outcomes...and more importantly come to believe these capabilties as a leader are no longer an option --considering the make-up of today's workforce.

We in fact have been helping them become more human, that is helping them recapture and reconnect to their humanity in a business context. Many are left in the wake of uncaring, to some degree inhumane, command and control, transactional management practices from the past.

In the world of leadership development much of my work now falls under the heading of social-emotional intelligence and neuro-leadership popularized by Dr. Daniel Goleman, David Rock and others over the past 20 years.

The truth is some past more traditional management practices are just not as effective anymore. Employees want more. Gone are the days when leadership effectiveness was represented by putting on a certain leadership "persona", exercising power exclusively from a title or position.

Leadership effectiveness today is primarily sourced from personal and relational power -- in essence who you are as a person and how you relate to others vs. the title or position that is held.

And this pretty much describes the evolution of my leadership development work -- stripping away the contrived personas and allowing the authentic self to emerge. The challenge is many leaders are not comfortable with this.

Employees today want real people as leaders. They want and are very willing to follow leaders who are vunerable, transparent, honest, authentic, humble, collaborative, empathetic, compassionate, "have a heart" -- who lead from their humanity, not from a title or position.

I've termed it "human-focused" or human-centered leadership and fits perfectly with our view and approach of holistic talent management-- working with the whole of a person and seeing an organization as an organism.

If you take a moment to consider any employee, leadership or managemnt issue, I suspect that many will be related to "in-humane" treatment of an employee. Now, when most people hear this, they think of something very dramatic. But its the subtle actions, building up over time that become real issues and subsequently eat away at organizational strength, leadership effectiveness, talent retention and ultimately profits.

For example: not showing appreciation, disrepect, bullying, humiliation and shaming, ignoring, not listening, not being available, a lack of caring or support, being non-responsive, little connection or communication ...just to name a few. These leadership and management behaviors relay a message -- one that, for many, demotivates and undermines successful "human resource" management.

I conduct leadership/peer group coaching as a part of our consulting practice (one of the most popular and satisfying elements of our offerings). In a recent session, I asked these questions, "What does your team need, to be treated more humanely? Thinking of leadership from a "human" perspective (vs. the latest, hottest leadership strategy) is an interesting exercise. Let's just say, the answers didn't flow.

I also asked, "What human needs can be met so that your team would be more responsive to your leadership?"

Here's a list from those 2 questions:
a sense of fairness
listen to / feeling heard
feeling needed
important / relevant / sense of contribution/ "I matter"
to be able to learn vs. just criticized when a mistake is made

As we contemplated these human needs, we considered -- if these needs were meet, how would it impact the quality of team culture, responsiveness to customers /client needs, getting improved results? In fact, would it create a climate where it would be easier to lead? Their answer was an resounding yes!

My observation and conclusion: The more "human" leaders are, the more effective they will be.  Those who are skilled at building respectful, positive relationships, who are comfortable and in touch with their own humanity, will be the most influential and the most successful at nurturing and leveraging talent, fostering better organizational performance resulting in improved profits.

A lot of our work as of late has been working with clients who want to update their leadership culture and have baby boomer leaders who desperately need to transform their leadership. For them, it's a journey beyond leadership, but of personal evolution as well (something that, by the way, a 1 day leadershp training workshop or seminar won't achieve).

I'll continue to write about our work as we develop and promote human-focused leadership and as it develops, will expand into holistic organizational leadership™.

We really do intend to put the "human" back in human resource-talent management and when we use this term it's literal. For us it's not a department, but an active leadership competency. I truly think we've become numb to the human element of that phrase!

I invite you to subscribe to the blog. And don't hesitate to connect if you'd like to start a dicussion regarding how this relates to your organization.
The Human Sphere™ is a holistic talent management-organizational develoment consultancy that partners with forward-thinking senior leaders to bridge the gap between people, performance, and profits. We focus on business growth through human-focused, results based leadership. // email: // Ph: 888.388.0565

Monday, March 13, 2017

3 Crucial Paradigm Shifts for Unparalleled Leadership Development

I'm in my 19th year working with the human side of business. Within that duration of time and exposure to a variety companies, you'd think nothing related to human resource or talent managment would surprise me. But still, there is.

One of the most significant relates to leadership development. For years now, the same ineffective approaches and practices have been and still are being used. Millions of dollars are wasted each year on leadership training and initiatives that over the long term garner little substantial or sustainable results.

1998: The Billion Dollar Mistake: "Not only as there no improvement, but those executives who attended were rated by their bosses, on average, less effective in these competencies than before the seminar."  Working With Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Daniel Goleman

Training Magazine: "Almost 75 percent of respondents to Brandon Hall Group’s 2013 Leadership Development Benchmarking Survey said their leadership development programs are not very effective." (

HBR: According to a 2014 survey from Deloitte, 86% of business leaders know that their organizations’ future depends on the effectiveness of their leadership pipelines — but a survey of 2,200 global HR leaders found that only 13% are confident in their succession plans, with 54% reporting damage to their businesses due to talent shortages (

A large majority (nearly 60%) are dissatisfied with their organization’s investment in leadership development activities, and more than 65% state that the level of their organization’s investment in these activities has, in recent years, declined or stagnated. (This is an excellent study :

Here's what you'll notice, I've shared just a few stats ranging from 1998 to 2016 and they pretty much give the same report. Rarely have I seen stats that rock progress and effectiveness.

If you're in any related industry to leadership development -- think about that for a moment.

And yet, if you ask any leader from just about any organization, they will tell you that leadership development is an imperative for growth and competitiveness.

A few more stats from the 2016 report: 
Leadership Development is believed to be a main driver for ensuring delivery of business results (43%) and business growth (20%).

Nearly half of respondents (44%) characterize leadership development in their organization as poor, and more than half (54%) describe it as ineffective.

A majority (56%) believe support from top management to be a critical success factor for ensuring effective leadership development within organizations.

29% of respondents are not aware of their organization having any kind of leadership coaching or mentoring program. 

What does all this mean? I'd love to hear your conclusions, please leave your comments below. 

From my point of view, considering my past experience and current client work, in order for businesses and the talent / human resource industry (and other related industries) to move beyond this perpetual albatross, 3 fundamental shifts must occur:

3 Essential Paradigm Shifts

1. Leadership development needs to be seen as a foundational, non-negotiable element to business building. Right now it's not. It's seen primarily as "training and development" -- a good thing to do - not as an essential business function.

Leadership development is business building.

2. Leadership training and development needs to be seen and treated as installing and reinforcing a piece of business infrastructure. It's the human framework of effective business operations. Here's how Infrastructure is defined: An underlying base or foundation especially for an organization or system.

Leadership development is installing operational infrastructure.

3. Building that infrastructure is seen as a permanent strategic need and function which requires continuous investment. For most, it's currently seen as periodic, and as a cost vs. an investment.

Leadership development is a permanent function requiring continuous investment.

Permanent implies ongoing and consistent. This approach offers continuity (in content, core values, philosophy), relevance, market responsiveness, strategic integration and a path for promotion and succession planning as well as creation of an intentional leadership culture -- the precursor to company culture. (Many companies have a confused company culture, because they do not have a defined leadership culture.)

Consider how common it is for a company to identify pre-promotion candidates and then say, "Now, let's get them some leadership training and development."

Unless decision-makers see leadership development in these 3 ways, it will continue to be used and treated as an optional, secondary activity ("when it can be afforded") and not given it's rightful place as a core business function that supports operational success.

Additionally, many (and I dare say most) of the employee performance challenges many companies experience are the result of not having an active, successful leadership  infrastructure in place. Employee performance is not at its best unless strong, secure, clearly defined leadership is in place.

Where many HR & talent mangment professionals think an employee engagment initiative may be needed. What most likely is needed is the installation of an effective leadership infrastructure -- very few companies have one.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you're a decision-maker, a final note regarding continuity and consistency: Years ago when I delivered leadership/management workshops for a seminar company, I came to realize how many different leadership messages managers received depending on the speaker of the day. 

I'd get to hear what was taught at the last "training" that in my view was appauling. I would think to myself, "If I were the leader of this company, I would not want my staff to follow this type of leadership information. As a leader, I would want my leadership philosophies to be promoted, to have a reliably consistent leadership culture."

As leaders, if you don't define your own leadership standards or engage someone whose material you've vetted to mirror yours - you confuse your leaders, which confuses your employees and greatly diminishes effectiveness.

In truth, most companies practice buffet leadership in which leaders can select and practice their own. This practice is additionally promoted through the variety of speakers and competing management/leadership workshops offered touting their brand of what works.

This approach to leadership training communicates to the leader, "Whatever leader you want to be is fine by us because at this point, we've not made it a priority to offer and hold you accountable to our branded leadership standard because we don't have one."

And thus, a potpourri leadership culture prevails...and sometimes, it's not a pleasant smell.

=> Recommended action item - Assess your leadership development.

Starter Questions:
How do you currently view your leadership training and development?.. overall company attitudes?
Is it consistent?
Is the content consistent and relevant to specific business needs?
Is it robust enough that it is provides a core leadership standard, culture and infrastructure?
Does it incorporate performance accountability?
Is it evolving because it is tied to business strategy/objectives?
Is it one time or developmental?
Has every manager and leader gone through it so that at least everyone has heard the same principles, philosophies, values, etc.?
Is it included in new hire on-boarding? (if not -- missing a great opportunity here.)
Do you know how to track the roi of the initiatives (if you don't, you'll want to pick up my lastest executive briefing Show Me The Money!)
Is ongoing execution of development initiatives built into the overall spending plan?

I know these questions will help as these are my initial questions in meeting with potential clients. They are eye-opening.

Need any help? Happy to do so - just email or call with any questions you may have: | Ph: 888.388.0565

The Human Sphere is a business growth, talent management consultancy that partners w/ senior leaders to bridge the gap between people, performance, and profits. | Learn more here.