Category Archives: Leadership

Leadership adaptations

New beginnings often come with the need for adaptations. I’m learning that is very much the case for me after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a bicycle crash a year ago. Strengths and strategies that used to work for me no longer do.

For instance, my ability to focus for long periods of time on a task and power through to completion, now can be a liability. If I try to work too long on my computer without a break, I can end up with crushing head pain that lasts for a couple of days and is incapacitating. So, with help from my doctor and therapists, I’m learning to take breaks when I need. And I’m learning to apply other strategies to adapt while my brain is still healing and overly sensitive to noise, light, and other stimulation.

For leaders taking on new roles the same can be true. Adaptations may be needed. In their book, The Leadership Pipeline, authors Charan, Drotter, and Noel explain that as leaders are promoted from one level to another in an organization, what used to work for them may not work in their new role. They may need to let go of the very strengths or skills that made them successful in their last role and adapt by learning new strategies.

For instance, one of the most obvious shifts in the leadership pipeline is when someone moves into a managerial role and moves from getting work done themselves to getting work done through others. It can be tough to adapt and give up things that you were good at and had pride in, to focus on what is needed in a new role.

Another shift that requires adaptation is when a leader moves from managing others in a functional area to managing people in areas of the organization where they have little expertise. Leaders may have a steep learning curve to understand other functions. It is also necessary to make adaptations when leaders begin reporting to a new leader, who may have a different communication style or set of expectations.

If you are experiencing a new beginning in your role, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I doing that is no longer working or producing the results I desire?
  • Who can give me helpful feedback to examine practices and approaches that I may need to adapt? (a peer? boss? coach?)
  • What strategies might I employ to adapt to this new beginning?
  • How can I implement and sustain these new strategies to ensure I’m successful?

Most important, remember that any adaptation in practice or behavior takes time and repetition to make it a new habit. I’m still having trouble disciplining myself to take breaks as needed, especially when I’m really excited about what I’m working on. As my doctor kindly said to me last week, “Be patient with yourself.” I’d encourage you to do the same.

Anita Rios

 

 

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Choices and new beginnings

Sometimes leaders know they need to make a new beginning, either personally or for the organization, but they can’t figure out how to start.  There may be many options, and sometimes these options are complete opposites.

We’ve written several times before about managing polarities – the kind of decision making that needs to happen when there are two opposing options, both of which have positive benefits.

A natural tendency is to look for some sort of compromise. But sometimes the compromise results in an outcome that doesn’t satisfy anyone. In their new book, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin talk about ways to get out of the trap of either/or thinking and come up with new solutions.

So what does that have to do with Legos? As Riel describes in this interview with Harvard Business Review, the executives at Lego had to make a difficult choice related to the movie. Should they hold on to creative control and protect the brand, or should they give creative control to skilled professionals who would create an exciting movie but might not serve the brand well?

The executives came up with a new solution that resulted in a blockbuster hit. It was a win for Lego and for the creators of the movie. (Check out the interview to find out what that solution was.)

Is there an area where you are feeling stuck in either/or thinking? How can you look at the problem in new ways?

Dee Anne Bonebright

“If you don’t fall, you aren’t learning”

Paul falling 2Last week this photo of my brother crashing showed up in my Facebook feed. Ouch. Having biked with my brother often, I know he got up, checked himself for injuries, and then tried to get over that boulder again – and made it! He took a risk, tried an unknown, fell, figured something out and succeeded. Leaders have to do the same thing. Take risks, be prepared to crash, learn from it and try again.

A recent article in the Telegraph Connect, an online community for leaders, highlighted that successful leaders “will take carefully calculated risks, while accepting that failure is a byproduct of success and innovation.” The key point being that they are calculated risks and a part of a leadership strategy having four parts.

  1. Calculated risks mean predicted success. Assess if your goal is important enough to take a chance. Do your preparation and planning and don’t rush in blindly. And, purposely accept and have a plan for how you will learn from each and every misstep, mistake, blunder or crash!
  2. Failure is a part of experimenting. This requires trust and actually accepting the fact that failure WILL be a part of your career.
  3. Change requires growth. You will operate out of your comfort zone during times of important growth.
  4. Accept failure and build rapport. You can create a culture that takes risks, and then acknowledges, accepts and learns from the failures that inevitably follow.

Growing up my family always shared the phrase I used in the title, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying something new and learning.” Are you encouraging your team to “go for it?”

Todd Thorsgaard

Supporting your new hire’s success

Approaches to onboarding and training for new hires have come a long way since I first started in higher education. At the time, it was pretty common to be shown your desk, handed your keys and left on your own to figure things out. If you don’t believe me, talk to a few folks who are older than 50 and you’ll find its true.

That old “sink or swim” method of letting new employees just figure things out never worked out particularly well. Thankfully, most human resources departments nowadays will help leaders with resources to put together a good onboarding plan for their new employees to increase their chance of success in a new role.

Considering the statistics below from the  Harvard Business Review  it’s critical to invest time and energy into a good onboarding plan if you want your new employee to feel welcome and stay in your organization.

  • Almost 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job
  • Twenty-three percent of new hires turn over before their first anniversary
  • Organizational costs of employee turnover are estimated to range between 100% and 300% of a replaced employee’s salary
  • Newly hired employees typically take up to eight months to reach full productivity

Next week I have a new staff member joining our team. In anticipation, I’ve been busy putting together an onboarding and training plan and have enlisted my team members to assist. I’ve also been availing myself of every resource from our IT department, human resources, and our Talent Management online onboarding toolkit. Here’s one very helpful resource I recommend called: Ten Ways to Make a New Hire Feel Welcome

Our new team member will be working in a critical role with a large client group. The stakes are high to get him up-to-speed quickly and to make his introduction to our workplace a good one. As a leader, it’s my job to see that he has all the tools he needs to ensure his success.

Anita Rios

Making a reset

I have a confession. A few minutes ago I finished a task that I’ve been procrastinating about for several weeks. It took less than 15 minutes and I’m sure I’ve spent more time than that adding it to to-do lists and thinking about it. It feels great to finally check it off!

That step was part of some new habits that I’m working on. I decided I would start managing my time differently, and so far it’s working. I’ve been able to make significant progress on some big projects as well as get little things done.

To celebrate my “accomplishment,” I went into the break room for some tea and met a colleague who was excited about some new time management techniques her daughter learned from her piano teacher.  Not only was it making practice much easier, but mom had also started using the techniques in her work and home life.

Sometimes we can make our own new beginnings. Attending a class, reading a book, or a conversation with a piano teacher can create a spark that makes us want to make a change.  Whatever the reason, it helps to tell someone about your new goal. It keeps you accountable, and it means someone else will notice your success.

What new beginning would you like to make?  What’s one step you can take to get there?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

A fresh start!

back-to-school-300x199As a kid the start of a new school year was both exciting and a little unnerving. A chance to build on what you did last year and a chance to make a fresh start!

Similarly, when you are a new leader or an experienced leader each day is a new start. A chance to build on your experience and the opportunity to make a fresh leadership start.

Amy Jen Su, author and co-founder of the executive coaching and leadership development firm Paravis Partners, encourages leaders to “step back and think about your leadership presence and if you are thinking, saying, and showing up as you most hope to and intend.” In her Harvard Business review article she highlights four key fresh start actions for both new and experienced leaders.

  1. Set or update a leadership values-based goal. Your people pay great attention to what you do and how you do it. Having an aspirational other-directed goal to guide your daily decisions and actions will directly impact the perceptions your team has of you and will strengthen your relationships at work.
  2. Continue to develop and increase your emotional intelligence and situational awareness. Leaders get work done through others and everyone on your team is different and every situation is different. Different motivations, different perspectives, different backgrounds, different experiences, and on and on. You need to be agile and adaptive. A starting point is to ask yourself the following questions before important interactions:
    • Who is the other person or audience?
    • What might their (not yours) perspective on this topic be?
    • How are they best motivated or what is most important to them?
    • What is unique about this situation, what variables are important here and now?
    • What are the optimal outcomes in this situation, for these specific players, for our team, for our organization?
  3. Be clear and direct, with respect. Leadership is build on two-way dialogue and trust. Leaders need to be clear and open to other perspectives – at the same time.
    • Know what you think and what is important to you – what are your convictions.
    • Ask, listen and acknowledge – provide space and acceptance of other points of view.
    • Share the WHY – include context, connection to personal and organizational priorities, and alignment.
  4. Be a stable and grounded presence in the face of change, stress, or difficult news. People need to feel safe bringing you news, even bad news. Otherwise you will end up in a vacuum with no information and no ability to make a difference. In addition, your team will look to you and mimic how you react to stress and changes. It is important to be genuine but prepared to demonstrate your leadership presence, even in tough times.

Fresh starts are exciting and a little scary. They give us an opportunity to reflect, build on what has worked and try something new.

Good luck!

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Hiring talent

One of the most important things a leader can do is to hire talent. New hires, if chosen well, can infuse the organization with original ideas, fresh perspectives, and cutting-edge skills. They can help you refresh old ways of doing things and create new approaches to accomplishing work.  In many ways, they can represent new beginnings.

But how can you make sure you are hiring not only the most qualified candidate for the job, but the very best person to complement your team? This question has been top of mind for me in the last couple weeks as I’ve been interviewing candidates for a vital role on our Talent Management team.

Of course,  it’s important to create an accurate job description and a position posting that attracts talented applicants. It’s also essential to conduct interview processes that reveal applicants’ skill sets and strengths. In addition doing those things, I’ve been mulling over some of the best hiring advice I’ve encountered in my career.

When I was hiring my first supervisory training director at Minnesota State 12 years ago,  the Vice Chancellor for Human Resources at the time gave me a sage piece of advice. He smiled and simply said: “Anita, hire someone smarter than you are.”  After hearing that, I had two thoughts.  The first thought was ….of course, I want to hire the very best person for the job.  And the second was ….hmmm, that can take a lot of confidence AND humility to hire people who are smarter than you.

The late Steve Jobs believed that hiring was the most important thing he ever did. He managed all the hiring for his team and never delegated it, personally interviewing over 5,000 applicants in his career. I’ve admired this particular piece of advice he’s shared on hiring and leadership: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” 

Another of my favorite hiring insights comes from Warren Buffett, who said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” When you think about it, it really is true. Integrity is paramount when building your team.

Do you have a piece of favorite hiring advice? What has helped you to hire the very best talent?

Anita Rios