6 Leadership Strategies To Build A Bulletproof Business

road to excellence

How to Achieve Organizational Excellence

 

Excellence.

It’s the focus of every leader. It’s the aspiration of those who seek to make a mark.

How to achieve organizational excellence is the subject of a new book by David Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training. THE ROAD TO EXCELLENCE: 6 Leadership Strategies To Build A Bulletproof Business is the result of his research and experience as a CEO of a global organization. I asked him to share some of his leadership insights as well as some blind spots that can catch business leaders off guard with potentially disastrous consequences.

 

“Effective leaders are always in recruiting mode, not just when an opening appears.” -David Mattson

 

Leadership Blind Spots

The first part of your book spotlights the blind spots that many have in building a culture of excellence. Of these 14, what blind spots do you see leaders making most often when it comes to leadership excellence?

The most common mistake – and it seems to be universal across all industries – is the failure to make recruiting the very best people an ongoing, continuous priority. Effective leaders are always in recruiting mode, not just when an opening appears. They build up a bench of talent, so that when there’s an unexpected departure by a key person, there’s no crisis that threatens the entire organization. If you look at the top-performing companies that dominate, you almost always find that they’re the ones that have made recruiting the very best people an ongoing organizational priority. You are always, always looking for the best talent.

 

“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” -Orison Sweet Marden

 

Know the 6 P’s

The Power of Company Culture

company culture image

The Power of Company Culture

In more posts than I can count, I have written, discussed, and interviewed authors on the importance of organizational culture. A powerful culture fuels an organization to achieve greatness. When a new book by Chris Dyer titled The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits hit my desk, I was interested to see the author’s view of culture and his interpretation of the latest research. Chris didn’t disappoint. The book takes the reader on a thoughtful overview of culture and shows the practical steps to take to improve yours in record time.

I recently spoke with Chris about his work on company culture.

 

“Culture is the bedrock of business success.” -Mark Goulston

 

3 Ways to Increase Transparency

Transparency. You share some great ways to increase transparency. Is it ever possible to be too transparent?

Of course! Take any example, and a case can be made that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Each company needs to decide how transparent they should be with employees, customers, and vendors. InThe Power of Company Culture, I present evidence that more transparency is usually better. Regulations, privacy concerns, and competitive advantages aside, transparency is really about writing—and playing by—the rules of the game.

When companies take charge and share information about their financial health, successes, failures, goals, and dreams, they then control their own narrative. As humans, we can only use the information we already have to explain something new we don’t understand. By providing more information to those impacting our companies, we help them arrive at the correct conclusions and outcomes.

Any company looking to improve their transparency should start in a few key areas. First, ask: Does everyone in the company know what goals have been set by senior management? Overall company goals, department goals, and even team goals should not be a secret.

Second: Does everyone know and understand the financial health status of the organization? For public companies, this information is available to everyone. But most companies are not public. Decide how far you are willing to go, and share the numbers that you can.

Third: Do teams, departments, and employees understand what is expected of them by senior leadership? Nine times out of ten, when a department or person is not measuring up to what is expected, there is a disconnect as to what they believe is expected.

 

“Transparency is both a business ethic and a cultural element in the workplace.” -Chris Dyer

 

Develop a Positive Culture

How do leaders develop a culture of positivity?

There are lots of ways to infuse positivity into an organization. I suggest a deep dive into the Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Leadership working models, via books and interactive workshops.

Before you do that, consider where your business falls on the positivity scale. Do your people ask, “What went right?” or, “What did we do well?” Or do they just focus on solving “problems”? Often, we forget to ask and identify what is working, and consider that the place for us to do more.

Positivity also entails identifying who does what, well. In a team, it is common for some people to excel in one area, and others somewhere else. Aligning tasks and goals around strengths, and minimizing weaknesses, is more positive than working on what’s not working.

Additionally, look at the language used by people in your company to find potential tweaks for positivity. Instead of addressing troublesome issues as “problem solving,” which is a negative concept, start calling them “opportunities to improve.”

 

“Give feedforward not feedback.” -Chris Dyer

Develop the Leader Habit

Master the Skills to Lead

We generally don’t think of leadership as a habit, but it’s time that we do.  How we get things done at work, and how we manage people, is the result of habits – and those habits can be purposefully changed.

Martin Lanik is an organizational psychologist and the CEO of Pinsight®, a global leadership software-as-service company known for its disruptive HR technology.  His new book, THE LEADER HABIT:  Master the Skills You Need to Lead in Just Minutes a Day, shares the science behind how people develop habits and shows you how to develop key leadership skills through simple, daily exercises.

 

“Any leadership skill starts as a weakness.” -Martin Lanik

 

Why Most Leadership Programs Fail

Why do most leadership development programs fail?

There are two main reasons why most leadership development programs fail. First, they rely mainly on classroom training and workshops that focus on acquisition of knowledge. Not only do we forget 85% of what we learn within one week, but knowledge also doesn’t equal skill. Knowledge doesn’t make us better at actually doing things.  One of the examples I use in THE LEADER HABIT comes from music education: You can take classes on proper piano-playing techniques and watch YouTube videos, but that won’t make you a concert pianist. You must actually touch the keyboard and practice every day. But even more importantly, traditional leadership development fails to take into account the overwhelming influence that habits have on our daily behavior. It assumes that we rationally decide how we behave at work and in life. But research suggests that almost half of our everyday behavior is actually unconscious and automatic. No amount of classroom instruction alone can build effective leadership habits.

 

“What cannot habit accomplish?” -Herman Melville

 

Tell us more about the latest science on learning and the development of the Leader Habit Formula.

Leadership, at its core, is a set of habits. How we interact with coworkers, customers, how we answer the phone, make decisions, plan and delegate work, or empower our employees are all to some degree influenced by habits. Positive habits make us better leaders, while negative habits hinder our performance.  In the research we did for THE LEADER HABIT and for our online leadership training platform, we identified the 22 core leadership skills and the underlying micro-behaviors that effective leaders possess. By associating each micro-behavior with a natural cue and then deliberately practicing this pairing every day for 66 days, anyone can turn these effective leadership behaviors into habits. Once the new habits take root, people perform these effective leadership behaviors automatically, without having to rely on reminders, or even thinking about them. They just happen as seamlessly as making your bed in the morning.

 

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” -Vince Lombardi

 

What are some ways to incorporate this science into today’s training programs?

Training professionals should think about what happens after the class or workshop. What will happen with the concepts? How can you help learners turn these concepts into habits, so that they stick? The Leader Habit Formula tells us to distill the main concepts into specific actions or thoughts, associate them with a cue, and then ask learners to practice the pairing once per day for 66 days. For example, if you are teaching leaders how to delegate better, distill the knowledge about effective delegation into one actionable behavior. For example, we found that effective leaders tell employees what to do but not how to do it when they delegate projects and tasks (otherwise it’s micromanagement). Then associate the action with a specific cue, such as when the learner decides to delegate a project or task. And there you have a Leader Habit exercise that anyone can practice: After deciding to delegate a project or task, describe what needs to be accomplished but let the employee figure out how to do it. If the learners practice this exercise for 66 days, they form a new habit and become better at delegating. It’s that simple.

 

“Habit is stronger than reason.” -George Santayana

 

22 Core Skills of Successful Leaders

The Quiet Strength of the Introverted Leader

introverted leader

Introverted Leader

 

One of the biggest misconceptions about leadership remains that you must be or should be an extrovert in order to succeed. Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, CSP, debunked that myth long ago with her book The Introverted Leader (new edition).

This month, she released an updated version of the book, updated with new research, stories, and experiences.

If you’re an introvert, you don’t have to pretend to be an extrovert to succeed. You don’t need to mimic extroverts either. Learn from Jennifer’s extensive experience and adopt her practiced techniques that can make all the difference. Whether it’s dealing with an interrupting, extroverted boss or learning to lead a project team, you can tap the quiet strength inside.

 

“With the great problems our organizations face today, we are surely losing out by not tapping into more than half of our population and acknowledging the many gifts of introversion.” -Jennifer B. Kahnweiler

 

What are you seeing in the latest research regarding introverted leaders?

I have done my own research through speaking and coaching around the world. It has been enlightening to hear the dialogue about introverts and introverted leadership surface across many industries and organizations where there was bias.

Academic research still appears to be in its infancy, and the studies that I have seen often have very small samples. However, professor and author Adam Grant, Francesca Gino, and David A. Hoffman did research showing that introverted leaders make the best managers for extroverts because they listen. Another study found that introverts’ contributions are more appreciated because they exceed the low expectations of people who believe that introverts are withdrawn or may be too anxious to live up to their potential. I am seeing more studies about the brains of introverts getting published and am very pleased to see all of this activity happening.

 

“Please kindly go away, I’m introverting.” -Beth Buelow

 

Unique Challenges for Introverted Leaders

Would you share just one example of a challenge, or significant barrier, introverted leaders face?

An emphasis on teams is very draining for introverted leaders. When brainstorming happens in meetings and conference calls, the ideas of quieter contributors may never surface. Extroverts, who get their energy from connecting with others, tend to think aloud and thus will often be the first to offer ideas and populate the white board at meetings. It’s not unusual for them to interject themselves into discussions as new thoughts come to mind. Introverts, on the other hand, are more reflective by nature. They may get interrupted or be less likely to contribute thoughts in real time. Instead, they’re apt to come up with ideas on their own after the meeting is over.

 

“Introverts crave meaning so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche.” –Diane Cameron

 

4 P’s

What is the 4 P’s Process and how did you develop it?

The 4 P’s Process is an easy-to-remember road map that builds on research done with thousands of introverted leaders. The 4 steps are preparation, presence, push and practice,  and they can apply to almost any leadership scenario. Preparation is the first step and plays to the introverted leader’s sweet spot by doing what comes naturally. Presence, the second step, refers to being present in a way that allows you to be with people. You are not thinking of what you could have done differently or worrying about the future outcome. Push, the third step, puts you out of your comfort zone, and Practice, the fourth step, helps you to seize opportunities to practice new behaviors.

 

“You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.” -Yoko Ono

 

How Introverts Master Meetings

Let’s talk about meetings because it comes up so often in the book and in conversations about introverted leaders. What tips do you give an introvert who says that she cannot get her thoughts out before the extrovert interrupts?

Keep in mind that extroverts typically don’t mind being interrupted because that is often their speech pattern. Extroverts are also usually unaware that they are dominating the conversation, until they are stopped.

She should try these assertive tools to handle extroverts:

1) Use a physical gesture like raising her palm to grab the interrupter’s attention

2) Say in a firm voice that she would like to finish her thoughts. Note: She might want to practice this aloud before her next meeting to get her game voice on.

3) Avoid smiling and nodding when they are interrupting her. That just encourages the person to keep talking.

3) Grab an ally before the meeting who can step in and tell the group they want to hear from you.

 

How to Manage Up

You have included a unique section in the book on “Managing Up.” Have you noticed this to be a particular need for introverts? What one takeaway would you share from this section?

Yes. Introverted leaders don’t typically initiate conversations with their managers. Because they often fly under the radar and aren’t the “squeaky wheel,” their accomplishments may get overlooked. This is one reason it is important for them to open up the communication channel with their managers. Another is to understand where they fit into their organization’s mission and vision, especially as roles and goals change.

One takeaway? Be willing to ask your boss for what you need including their style preferences in order to succeed. For instance, as an introvert, explain that you need time to prepare and that your boss will get better quality work out of you if you can prepare questions and points ahead of time. The more you share about yourself, the more they will be able to help you.

 

Misconceptions

You wrote the first edition to this book long before introversion was a popular topic. Are there any misconceptions that you find continue year after year?

I smile when I think about the articles I have been interviewed for about how introverts love, date, spend, money, plan weddings, etc. Though there is truth in these pieces, they also tend to make neat generalizations about introverts and extroverts. In actuality, we all have both introvert and extrovert qualities within us. Our behaviors are not as drastically different as these posts tend to position them.

There are still misconceptions about introverts: Introverts: can’t lead, are shy, aren’t good at public speaking and they don’t like people. And we often think introverts are bored or angry when they don’t show much on their faces.

Fortunately, with the “rise of the introverts,” we are seeing these stereotypes erode.

 

Misconceptions about introverts: can’t lead, are shy, aren’t good at public speaking and they don’t like people.

 

For more information, see The Introverted Leader.

 

“I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds.” -Laurie Helgoe  

 

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How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage

purpose

How Leaders Create Engagement

A decent product at a fair price with good customer service may once have been enough. No longer. The bar has moved. Employees and customers want organizations to do some social good along the way.

My friend and bestselling author John Izzo is out with a new book, co-authored by Jeff Vanderwielen: The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good. The book is full of examples and ideas to help you move your organization to one that is infused with purpose.

I recently asked John to share more about his research and work in this area.

 

“Winning in the purpose revolution requires authenticity.” -John Izzo

 

4 Forces Driving Change

You say that there is a revolution happening right now and ignoring it will send your company to irrelevance. What is it and what forces are driving it?

The revolution is a desire among employees, customers and investors to leverage social good with their choices. This is a revolution of AND not OR. Employees want everything they have always wanted, but they also want a job that gives them a sense of purpose in a company they feel is doing good in the world. Customers want products that excite them at a good price, but they also want to leverage good with those choices—and certainly buy things that cause no harm. Investors was a return on money, but the fastest growing funds are those that also promise social impact.

In an age of commoditization, the marketplace is filled with many similar products, and purpose is a way for companies to create brand differentiation based on values, not just product.

What’s driving the revolution are four primary trends. The Millennials are now a global force with a strong set of values around creating social good and having meaning in their work. The boomers are moving into the “legacy” stage of life where the impact they leave starts to compete with ego. The rising middle class in the developing world is another major driver, as people rise out of poverty, they are able to think about the social good in their choices. Finally, business is both blamed for some of the world’s biggest challenges but also increasingly seen as the key to addressing those same issues through corporate social responsibility.

 

“Purpose is a way for companies to create brand differentiation based on values, not just product.” -John Izzo

 

Connect Purpose to Contribution

How do leaders help employees connect purpose to work contribution?

The first step is to have a clearly articulated compelling purpose that is authentic. Starbucks’ purpose is to “inspire the human spirit one cup of coffee at a time” while 3M’s is to “advance every life and improve every business while using science to solve the world’s greatest challenges” (like sustainability).

The second step is to drive job purpose more than job function. Focus on the real impact jobs and teams make. Have every person identify the purpose of their job and the same for every team. Consistently tell stories of how your company makes a real difference. Bring in customers to tell their stories, and create space for employees to do the same. One large bank we worked with started having a standing agenda item in every branch: “How did we make a difference for a client since last time we met?” In the branches that did it, engagement went up 23% and sales went up 18%!

 

Move Purpose to Center Stage