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.

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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.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

If You're a Leader -- It's Time to Go!

Recently, I have been dillgiently working to prepare my house to sell. I love my house for many reasons, and though I've not lived there full time for several years, being there again
reminds me of why I purchased it in the first place.

When I lived in the Chicago area, I made a commitment  to consistently assess my business on a quarterly basis and to do so with a clear head and heart free from any internal or external clutter or distractions.

That meant I had to go -- I had to get away. I am a nature lover from an early age and it's by water and woods that I gain a sense of peace and clarity. Fortunately, in Illinois there are a good number of state parks that provide that. My favorite became Starved Rock. The moment I walked into my house for the first time, I was instantly reminded of that precious place. 

One reason in particular I came to love that spot was it had an historic lodge with a large floor to ceiling stone fireplace and large windows to view the beautiful woods surrounding it.

It just couldn't get any cozier, watching the fire and listening to the crackling wood. It sent sensations of "awwhhhh" all over. In front of that fireplace, I felt at peace and safe. I could finally let go.

During my many visits to Starved Rock over the years, I came to learn the value of getting away -- the value of retreating. It became a meaningful business building partner. 

Though I could not always meet the quarterly goal, if I'd not retreated within 6 months, I could feel it. I would begin to feel exceptionally weary inside and out. My mind/ thinking was not as sharp - it would take me longer to make decisions and made them with less confidence. 

I'd also get off course easier. I'd become distracted by buinsess opportunities that were not aligned with my previously set goals and/or decisions. My clarity and focus would wane. My stamina diminished. I'd get cranky and frustrated over the tiniest thing.

Retreat is defined  as follows: 

the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.
a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy
The Value of Retreating

The decision to retreat -- as a regular practice, was my admission that I'm a human being -- that I in fact have limitations. 

I know that sounds silly. But for many of us who are leaders, business owners, and/or entrepreneurs (moms or dads for that matter), we tend to adopt a superhuman state of mind. We convince ourselves, and give ourselves no choice in the matter, that we can defy common challenges of existence, along with those of running or building a company. We must be the superhuman hero in our story!

And yet that can come with consequences that impact us personally, but those we lead and the company, and perhaps stockholders we serve.

The commitment to retreat, I learned, became a practice in humility -- a practical, conscious reminder that I was human, and needed to rest if I was to be at my best. 

And, the ultimate form of rest was through detachment. I've done alot of work with creative thinking over the years and crucial to that experience are the activities involved in detaching -- disrupting current thinking, disconnecting from the old, taking in the new so ideas and fresh perspectives can be cultivated.

As I shared in a LinkedIn post, Are You Trying to Get New Results From Old Thinking, one of my favorite quotes from Einstein is, "You can't solve a problem at the same level of thinking at which you arrived at it."  And the best way to create the environment for that to occur is to detach -- to completely disconnect.

I have to admit, this is tough to do -- internally.  Actually, it taks practice. We're talking detaching the whole chabang --mind, heart and spirit!  It's easy to plant your body in a different location, but your insides still be siting behind your desk in your office chair.  All those parts need to leave too. 

Two of the most valuable gifts detachment offers are clarity and congruency. It's amazing what you can see clearly, definitively, when you are thoroughly, completely detached. And that leads to congruency. 

Your Inner Compas
What's congruency? Something many leaders are not!  It means that internally: all parts correspond, and are in agreement and harmony. That means that how they conduct themselves is driven from their values, beliefs, mission, purpose that all correspond and work in harmony together. 

This composite I consider one's inner compass. It guides and directs even when experiencing the most significant external pressures and challenges.

So for example, if a decision is made that does not correspond with a value, it will "not feel right." There would be discomfort, they would feel unsure of the ''direction". Perhaps another way of phrasing it-- it would go against their gut.

In coaching leaders, I've learned that if aspects of their company are not aligned, it is most likely because they themselves are not, which means the core leadership team probably isn't either. 

Their inner compass may be clouded, buried and for some, broken.

Leaders lead from the inside out and not just from their head (though some may not be believe this truth). If they are not internally clear and aligned, their leadership won't be either. 

Powerful leadership is an "inside job".... and it doesn't just happen. It must be intentionally cultivated. The compass must be continually cleaned.  Retreating is an invaluable resource and experience in which that can happen.

Humility, clarity and congruence are 3 crucial leadership qualities that are not commonly acknowledged and yet are essential human qualities to effective leadership.

I bet you could identify many more benefits of retreating. These 3 have been my favorites. 

If you're a leader, it may be time for you to go! It my be time for you to go retreating -- alone. Sure, leadership retreats with colleagues are important and play it's own role. But first your retreat must come! 

How often and where?...that's for you to decide. Just do whatever it takes to get to a place of peace, safety and detachment so that you can cultivate an empowered inside, getting that internal compass calibrated, to lead powerfully on the outside!

Here's a link to more great pictures of Starved Rock

And, for the more curious-minded, here is my Atlanta version of the woods, view and fireplace. I bought this house because it gave a feeling of being on a perpetual retreat. 

It is now pending sale. Hopefully the buyers will experience the same gifts it gave to me!

By the way, we conduct faciliated Leadership Retreats - connect with us if you're considering one. Em:

========================================================================================== 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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Top 5 Leadership Conditions That Sabotage Company Growth

I recently had a conversation with the president of an organization regarding a key leader that has gone rogue. Yep, in her mischief, this leader has created mistrust, issued threats, bullied colleagues and generated a palpable fear of retaliation rippling throughout the organization. It's compounded by the fact, (I'm sadden to say), it the Human Resource manager!

In learning more, it's became clear that this has been occurring for quite sometime and in fact, a reputation for the harmful behavior had developed. 

Many of you reading are probably thinking... and she is still employed?....allowed to behave that way?....why?  Exactly!

Ironically, in my latest executive briefing book Show Me The Money! Solving the Mystery of ROI to Unlock Profits & Increase Company Value, I use a similar scenario in an exercise to practice learning to read behavior and identify its impact. Why?...because this and other similar situations are so common, go unacknowledged and undermine business success.

Additionally, what is not recognized or fully realized is the adverse human and financial impact these scenarios have and therein lies the key reason why it's allowed -- and for periods of time. I have repeatedly seen that this and other leadership conditions and practices foster a climate that allow situations like the rouge manager.

To follow, are my top 5 conditions and/or practices:

1. A lack of understanding of the role and impact of human behavior 
...waiting too long to address, hoping or thinking things will change. Here's a crucial leadership and management insight to consider --always believe the behavior.  In my latest executive briefing I advise "see past the person, observe the behavior."

Observing a person's behavior is very instructional. It will provide you with information regarding their thinking, as well as their values and beliefs. Values and beliefs represent the core of someone's personal make-up, are deeply embedded and tend to resist change. (That's why a 1 day "training workshop" will not adequately address needed changes).

Additionally, while observing someone's behavior, look for the ripple effect. Determine its reach -- who is being affected and how. If the rouge HR manager situation had been seen and handled in this way, there probably would have been a quicker and more active response to her situation. See past the person - look at the impact.

2. Not developing competent managers
I'm amazed how much time, energy and money is spent acquiring talent and then that talent is subsequently lead by an unskilled manager. This is a head scratching practice for sure. It's common sense to realize that managers impact the performance of their team. And yet, companies, even in this day and age, struggle with investing in training and development or parcel it out without continuity, consistency, and content specifications in a way that adequately enhances strategic needs.

...and this leads to #3

3. No practical, timely accountability to needed outcomes 
Without a doubt accountability influences behavior. And though some companies employ performance management as a form of accountability, even with software, the way in which some execute performance management still does not provide adequate accountability. 

Here's why: most performance management practices are past performance oriented, meaning, "Let me give you feedback on your performance in the past." This approach does not address current performance and/or results. Accountability needs to be positive, current, timely, relevant (in a meaningful context), constructive, and results-focused to be effective.

4. A weak leadership voice
Sometimes I wonder, "If an employee was clear on what a manager expected, would they behave differently? If they were clear on their leader's exceptions and values, would they behave in a way that challenges that?" I think for the typical employee, the answer would be no.

I've observed, if team members are clear and connected, with positive accountability in place, they act in accordance to what's expected (and I say this assuming there is a dose of professional maturity. Even if it is not substantially clear, maturity will rule the day).

However, if a leader's voice is weak -- meaning there has not been adequate communication regarding values, culture, and exceptions, immature employees tend to behave as they please -- left to their adolescent whims producing waves of disruption. A leader's voice provides the boundaries and focus needed to have productive teams, departments, business units and company.

As it relates to the rouge manager, consider what might have been different if the opposite of conditions 2, 3, and 4 were strongly in place. At least the behavior could have been quickly detected and constructively managed.

Though not directly related to our rouge manager scenario, there is another sabotaging leadership practice I feel compelled to share, and that's #5.

5. Expecting and initiating company growth without growing a staff's capability and capacity 
Want to discourage and burn-out a team or department quickly?, #5 will do exactly that. This is also another common practice - investing in all sorts of initiatives for company growth with little to no investment in developing the capabilities and capacity of those who'll be managing the growth. Doesn't make sense does it?

This practice harkens back to #1 - understanding human behavior and the role it plays in achieving operational outcomes. Because of this, "human resource" management is typically not included in business planning or strategy and is therefore not aligned to business growth needs.

I do believe there are a number of reasons for that, which I address in the briefing Show Me The Money! (one of which is #1 -- again...see a running theme here?)

I recommend you give thoughtful consideration to these 5 leadership conditions/practices. They are popular saboteurs, even though there certainly are more. But even if you and/or your leadership team addressed only one, you'd experience operational improvement and increased profits.

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