Tag Archives: assessments

A strategic leader pop quiz – are you ready??

The dreaded pop quiz. I can still remember how I felt when hearing those words when I was in school. If I had done my homework, I didn’t flinch. But if I wasn’t prepared, my heart would start pounding!

Yes, I have a strategic leader pop quiz for you today, but first let’s study what will be on the test.

Research conducted by the Wharton School of Business and the consulting firm Decision Strategies International, Inc. (DSI) on over 20,000 leaders identified six “essential skills” that can be assessed and developed to become an adaptive strategic leader.

Anticipate – the ability to recognize subtle or ambiguous threats and opportunities before they affect your team or organization. Strategic leaders take action to “scan the horizon” by:

  • continually talking and listening to all stakeholders
  • gathering market research and utilizing scenario planning
  • interacting with people and organizations in other fields

Challenge – closely examining the current situation, assumptions being made and the popular point of view. Strategic leaders focus on reflection and examination from multiple points of view by:

  • searching for root causes and underlying issues not just the surface indicators
  • identifying and examining assumptions
  • actively seeking out alternative perspectives and encouraging debate

Interpret – the ability to accept and synthesize diverse and conflicting input and information. Strategic leaders seek new insights by:

  • identifying multiple explanations for observations, issues and results
  • actively seeking out and listening to diverse perspectives when analyzing information
  • using both observational and analytical analysis
  • taking a break and providing space for uncluttered analysis

Decide – use a disciplined process to make decisions, even when lacking information or time. Strategic leaders take responsibility for making decisions and using a robust process by:

  • rejecting either-or scenarios and asking “what other options do we have?”
  • identifying unexpected consequences
  • keeping stakeholders informed on the status of the decision
  • utilizing pilots and staged decisions

Align – discover common ground and buy-in among diverse perspectives and multiple stakeholders. Strategic leaders proactively build the trust needed to facilitate alignment between divergent points of view by:

  • over communicating (early, often, 8 ways, 8 times, etc.)
  • identifying and acknowledging concerns and issues in advance
  • reaching out to resisters and listening before explaining
  • recognizing when and where team members and stakeholders are willing to support the overall purpose or values of the organization

Learn – facilitate continuous organizational learning. Strategic leaders promote a culture of inquiry and learning lessons, both from success and failures, by:

  • conducting after-action reviews and lessons learned sessions
  • transparently sharing and communicating the information from the reviews and learning sessions
  • recognizing and rewarding people who take action and utilize lessons learned

Strategic leadership requires a mix of all six essential elements but the good news is that leaders can develop them.

Are you ready for a short pop quiz to help you identify where you shine and where you may want to take action to become a more strategic leader? Here is a link to a short assessment developed by the Wharton School and DSI on the six essential elements of strategic leadership.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

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Foolish or appropriate?

teeter-totterI rode my first teeter-totter last week on my mountain bike. To me it felt like a well thought out and reasonable action to take. I have been practicing my “skinny” skills and my bike handling has improved over the past year. I have watched my brother ride teeter-totters and he has shared with me information on technique so I felt well prepared. Was I afraid? Yes! Was it scary? Yes! Was it a risk? Yes! (Did I make it? Yes!)

We all assess and take different types of risk. Leaders are asked to take “appropriate” risks and then make decisions. Your success depends on your ability to accurately understand, assess, judge and take risks.

Dylan Evans, a researcher on risk and author of Risk Intelligence, believes that we can develop our skills in this area and actually build our “risk quotient.” The starting point for increasing our risk intelligence is the ability to accurately understand and accept what we do know and what we don’t know. Research has shown that most of us are bad at estimating probabilities based on what is actually know or not known. We end up either overconfident or excessively uncertain, both of which lead to poor risk assessment and decisions.

Leaders can use the following checklist that Evans developed to better understand and improve their risk intelligence.

  1. Do you consciously review what you know before making a decision?
  2. How does what you know actually relate to the decision?
  3. How likely is each piece of information to be true and how does that likelihood influence your decision?
  4. What else do you know that might actually relate to the decision?

Purposely and consciously asking these questions and using the results will increase your ability to assess risks and then make better decisions about an uncertain future.

Good luck on your next teeter-tooter of leadership!

Todd Thorsgaard

 

The dreaded review!

h-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-628x314A leader at one of our schools remarked that when done right, performance reviews can be energizing and uplifting but when done wrong they are demoralizing. It appears that the latter is what is happening in most organizations. David Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and the “Godfather of HR” just published an article in the  latest issue of Talent Quarterly titled “Resolving the Performance Management Paradox.” He cites that 90% of HR professionals are unhappy with their review system, only 14% of CEOs believe that the review system is working and only 8% of HR executives believe that performance management makes a contribution to the success of the organization. Yet, he also cites a long history of studies that clearly indicate that accountability makes a difference. In fact one study identified that just the presence of a performance review system is the greatest predictor of success for hospitals. What can a leader do?

Ulrich recommends that regardless of the process or forms used, leaders embrace conversations:  conversations focused on what he calls “positive accountability,” conversations emphasizing learning and improvement opportunities rather than evaluating what went wrong, and conversations primarily focused on the future rather than the past. He suggests that leaders look for opportunities to engage in “real time” conversations that are ongoing and revolve around work events (projects, semester start or finish, work cycle periods, annual milestones, etc.) Leaders should focus on asking questions to discover how employees can sustain success and prepare for the future and help their people look forward to apply what they have learned and address new opportunities or challenges that arise.

A simple conversational model for leaders to use with their performance review process includes the following three steps:

  • Know Yourself – ask about and discuss each person’s strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests.
  • Action for Growth – ideas and concrete action to leverage individual strengths and interests to support success and on-going development.
  • My Value – dialogue focused on the value that each employee provides to the work unit, institution, students, stakeholders or overall organization.

By focusing less on the process and more on the conversation we can make performance reviews a more uplifting experience.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Talking talent

“Talk to me, please!”

The Gallup Q12 poll highlights the fact that people need to know that their manager actively supports their development. Yet research by Gallup indicates that less than 20% of employees get regular feedback from their boss. In fact, over 50% meet less than once a month. That is not enough talking about development!

Roland Smith and Michael Campbell from the Center for Creative Leadership suggest that leaders have an opportunity to turn this around quickly by talking talent with their people – in their words start having regular talent conversations. Sincere and direct dialogue with your people focused on their interests, their job, the work that needs to be done and what support or development they need to be successful.

What I like best about talent conversations is that they are for everyone. Not just people who “need” development and not just under-performers. Talking about what is needed to maintain current and future success demonstrates that you are supporting your people.

At Minnesota State we will be working this year to help our supervisors have talent conversations with their people. The first step is to identify the goal for the conversation for each team member based on their current job-related competency and their own personal development needs or interest in growth. In general you will discover that each person on your team will be interested in one of the following four goals:

  1. Develop full competence. Focus on acquiring the skills and developing the competences needed to become a solid performer in their current role.
  2. Explore growth while developing competence. Similar to the first group but also include conversations about future opportunities and how current develop will support growth.
  3. Maintaining their expertise and staying successful in the future. This group will be interested in deepening their skills, sharing their expertise and staying up-to-date in their current role.
  4. Accelerating their development. These folks are competent and want to learn new skills and develop competencies needed for bigger roles.

Having a simple and clear goal for your talent conversations will make it easier to dive in and start talking talent!

Todd Thorsgaard

I wonder why?

wonderland-gate-1When I am getting frustrated, confused or angry I go to wonderland…..” I can still see the leader who made this comment in a program I was facilitating.

Her statement was cited by many participants as one of the key take-aways at the end of the three day program and I still use it today to help me better understand those I work with. She encouraged us to “wonder why” someone was acting the way they were, rather than judge them or assume you know their reasons. A powerful aspect of the first leadership competency, Leader of Self, is to know yourself AND others.

Beverly Kaye, an expert on employee engagement, and Marshall Goldsmith, named the number 1 leadership thinker in 2015, have both identified the practice of asking questions and developing curiosity as a crucial component of leadership success.

In “The Art of Asking Questions,” Goldsmith recommends the following specific techniques to learn how to ask questions that deepen understanding:

  1. Start with a setup statement that sets the context for the dialogue and why you want to better understand someone.
  2. Ask questions that require higher-level thinking. Your purpose is to gain insight and understanding, not just exchange facts.
  3. Avoid specific questions that feel judgmental. You are going to wonderland but limit questions that start with “why did you do that?”
  4. Use your own curiosity to stimulate more curiosity. Be authentic in seeking to understand and demonstrate genuine enthusiasm as you learn more about your people.

Beverly Kaye, in “The Inclusion-Curiosity Connection” provides a quiz that you can use to understand your own curiosity. Using a scale of 1 – 7, Never – Always, read the statements below and ask yourself, How frequently do you make an effort to…

Mind

  • Give yourself time to ponder issues and outcomes?
  • Wonder how things work?
  • Engage in self-initiated research?

Mouth

  • Ask questions of others?
  • Try to understand how others think, feel and behave?
  • Explore “what ifs” with others?

Motion

  • Seek out different points of view?
  • Experiment and try novel approaches?
  • Stretch yourself with challenging experiences?

Where did you score high? Low? What did you learn about yourself? Most importantly, what can you continue to do or start doing to become more curious and better understand your people?

It's lateIt’s late and I need to get this posted!

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

 

Are you losing air?

Best of 2015, first published on January, 2015
The holiday season can be exhilarating and fulfilling as we take time to connect with family and friends. On the other hand we can also end up feeling drained and overextended. This post reminds me of the importance of assessing where I am and where I want to be as we wrap up 2015. –Todd Thorsgaard

It is one of the most depressing feelings while biking. I can be riding along; happy, outdoors, feeling strong and having fun. Everything is in synch and flowing until I feel myself slowing down and I can tell I am riding on a flat tire. I may hear a loud pop and a fast “whoosh” as all the air escapes at once or a soft, almost evil, hiss as my tire gradually goes flat. Or I may hear nothing at all and just have a soft tire. Either way it means I need to stop what I am doing, assess the situation, and take the appropriate action to refill my tire so I can get back to riding.

Bike flat largeSometimes I have just gone too long without pumping up my tires and I  need to use my CO2 cartridge and add air, other times I have hit an unexpected bump in the road or run over a small sharp object and need to patch a hole before adding air. Occasionally my inner-tube has been neglected and ruptured in multiple places and I need to completely replace it with a new one before I can add air.

We go flat in our lives when we lose our work and life balance. How you refill yourself depends on the type of leak you are experiencing. Paul Blatz, founder and president of Good Leadership Enterprises, encourages leaders to utilize his 7Fs Wheel to understand where they may be leaking energy or if they have a major rupture to repair! The seven Fs that help us stay positive and moving forward as leaders are:

  • Future
  • Fun
  • Friends
  • Fitness
  • Finances
  • Family
  • Faith (spiritual)

Over time we can get distracted by the regular demands at work and lose track of our daily choices that keep us fulfilled in all seven areas. Then we may just need to take some small actions that “refill” all seven. Other times we hit a major bump and need to focus on one area that is losing air fast. When I travel for work I tend to ignore my extended family relationships and I need to remind myself to take the time to call my mom and check-in with her.

The Seven Fs Wheel (Seven Fs Tool) is an easy tool to carry with you and use to keep yourself “pumped up” and rolling along as a leader. TT and Ellie bike

Todd Thorsgaard

Shifting sands

time exposure of waves hitting shore

“Everything was working yesterday!”

The harsh reality is that often, as soon as you understand the culture you are in and are aligned with it, it shifts! Suddenly your leadership behaviors may not work as well as they did in the past. The on-going transitions that higher education, and all industries, are experiencing leads to continual shifts in culture. Your effectiveness as a leader depends on how quickly you recognize these shifts and how you adapt your leadership style and actions.

Peter Daly and Michael Watkins, authors of the First 90 Days books, have developed a framework that can help leaders understand the shifting cultures. Their transition assessment model identifies four common situations that exist in organizations, the related cultural implications, and potential leadership actions that are aligned with the culture.

  1. Start-ups: This occurs during times of new priorities, new programs or restructuring.
    • The culture is one of confusion.
    • Key leadership actions focus on providing clarity and direction.
  2. Turnarounds: This occurs when there has been a major set-back or shake-up.
    • The culture is one of despair.
    • Key leadership actions are to provide support and hope.
  3. Realignments: This occurs when priorities are shifting or there are predictable and expected changes happening.
    • The culture is one of denial or lack of awareness.
    • Key leadership actions are to expose reality and highlight the urgency of the situation.
  4. Sustaining Success: This occurs when “things are working” and results are strong.
    • The culture can slip into complacency.
    • Key leadership actions focus on continual development, reinforcing success and active searching for new opportunities.

The sands of culture are constantly shifting and require leaders to strategically assess and respond to leverage the best of their people.

Todd Thorsgaard