Tag Archive for: Business Success

People get hired or promoted into leadership roles every day.

Sadly, when they get the job they may get little or no training on how to lead a team. (1)

The opportunity to develop our future leaders before placing them into leadership roles is an obvious one. Building employee skills, capability and awareness to be ready for leadership is ideal, yet is rarely applied well in practice.
The first blog I wrote many years ago was titled, Falling Into Leadership. It highlighted the common practice of people being ‘thrust into’ leadership roles without development and support both prior to and during the opportunity. I have written about this topic again since as it is something that continues to challenge many organisations.
CoachStation: Setting Leaders Up For Success
In fact, the low frequency of leadership support and meaningful development was a core reason why I created my business, CoachStation, in the first place. Too often I saw people being held accountable for our own failures to set them up for leadership success and support our team members to achieve.

Based on recent coaching conversations and discussions with clients, it would appear little has changed regarding leadership development in the years since. 

It is timely to revisit the message and challenge ourselves as business leaders to ensure we provide the most promising base for our leaders and managers to succeed.
In practice few businesses truly succeed at maximising the opportunity for their new leaders, not to mention the existing leadership team. To genuinely succeed in business, leaders must know their role, continuously develop their skills and be constantly supported to achieve the best they can as a leader, based on each individual. It is worth taking a moment to consider where your organisation succeeds or fails in this area. Take stock and make adjustment where required. (2)
Being a genuine leader does not come from the role and title designated to you but rather from your decision-making, inclusiveness, delegation skills, ability to communicate and other, well-recognised and documented traits. Many of these leadership traits can be learned and enhanced through proper coaching and development, however it takes focus and effort.

Because no one tells them (leaders) how to lead, how to communicate with their team members or how to inspire people, they are left with the mistaken idea that their principal job is to get the highest level of output from their team mates — and that’s all! (1)

That is only part of the story. Maybe you can relate to the following scenario I originally presented in 2012.

You started in a company at a lower level. Opportunity presented itself in the form of a chance to step-up temporarily into a role providing more money, esteem, credibility or some other perceived benefit. You jumped at it! Of course, along with all of the benefits the role also came much higher expectation…that of others and yourself.
You worked hard. Things went fairly well but you didn’t really feel supported to truly excel. You wanted to be the best operator so didn’t ask many questions  – after all, asking questions shows that you were not ready for the promotion in the first place, doesn’t it? “Better to bite your tongue and work your way through the issues on your own” is a common thought and action at this stage.
Your boss didn’t spend much time developing you or even working with you day to day. You were mostly left to yourself. In discussions, your boss commented that you were trusted and you should be able to do what’s required without the need to be ‘micro-managed’. This response rarely felt appropriate and in fact is a serious form of avoidance and reflects poorly on your boss but you wondered, what you could do to influence the situation? In some ways this autonomy had its benefits, but also plenty of downside. You were often stressed, tried to please everyone and in so doing often pleased few people, including yourself.

Longer hours and pressure meant that you regularly wanted something different but didn’t know how to achieve it or even what that difference looked or felt like.

However, after a while further opportunity presented itself. Another step onwards and upwards. You reflected on why you were being considered as you had not felt you were particularly effective in your current role, but people seemed to like you and you occasionally received some good feedback, however insincere it may have felt. You knew in your heart that you were not ready for more responsibility…more pressure…and you wondered, “can I fake it until I make it at an even higher level of management?” After all, your annual review (which is one of the few formal meetings you had with your boss) went fairly well, even though it lacked real depth and was a relatively ‘safe’ discussion with little meaning or opportunity for improvement.
So, you took on the new role because it was expected of you, or it offered greater prestige, salary or some other perceived or real benefit. You did not want to let others down and certainly the benefits outweighed the negatives…you’re leading people!
You are now responsible for your team, a process and regular input into projects and other ad-hoc work requiring your expertise, skills and knowledge. You were not only accountable for yourself but leading, developing, coaching and inspiring others. You often asked yourself whether you were ready to lead. If not, the impact would be felt by many.

Effective leadership can have a significant benefit on a team or business culture, personnel satisfaction, attrition, sickness levels and the bottom line. Ineffective leadership has exactly the opposite impact. Now, how does that pressure feel for you?

Reflecting on the scenario above, does it sound familiar? In my experience and working with many new and experienced leaders, this is a very common journey felt by many. Most of these people felt they had few opportunities to influence their situation, develop appropriate skills and feel supported during their journey.
Progress and genuine development will only succeed if you are willing to take some risks, source someone to assist you (a coach, mentor, role-model or some other trusted person) and challenge your own beliefs, perceptions and perspectives.

Leadership development is a joint responsibility – yours and your organisations. Too many leaders wait for others to provide them with the answers…and end up waiting a long time. 

Accountability and ownership are extremely important traits in your development.

The ability to take yourself out of your comfort zone often enough to test yourself and learn, is key. Knowing when to step back into your comfort zone is also a skill linked to self-awareness and emotional intelligence. These are skills and traits that can be learned.

Employees typically don’t fail. They are failed by their leaders.

No matter what level of the organisation people are employed at, the benefits in setting up all of your employees for success are too many to list here. The opposite is also true, with the risk of not getting it right negatively impacting your organisation for years. Very few companies are actually training people. They are expected to come equipped ready to work.  The mindset is “what are you bringing to the table”? However, it’s important to set the employee up for success on the front end with:

  • A solid job description and clear expectations
  • Training and development opportunities
  • A path to grow and develop with the organization. (3)

There is no doubt that the most effective and respected leaders in any role or organisation are those who recognise that they are not in their role because they have all the answers. They are honest in their own self-assessment and seek the same of others. They are successful because they understand their own strengths and limitations, possessing the self-awareness and desire to surround themselves with a team who have supporting strengths and skill-sets that contribute to the effectiveness of the team.
Effective leaders are accountable to themselves and take on the responsibilities for their role, inputs and outcomes willingly and with purpose. This is not a one way street. Organisations must support their current and future leaders and continue to provide relevant and genuine development and growth opportunities.

To succeed as a leader, significant support is required.
Success starts before the opportunity to lead begins…or at least, it should.

Effective leadership manifests itself through many positive influences. It is our responsibility to make this good intention a reality.
Conversely, when we expect people to automatically become the leaders we want without our support and development, the risk is that we get what we deserve.

(1) Six Things Real Leaders Don’t Do (Like Boss People Around)
(2) CoachStation: Invest In Setting Up Your Leaders to Succeed
(3) 3 Things Great Leaders Do To Set People Up For Success

Related Articles:

Falling Into Leadership

Set New Leaders Up For Success

Three Ways to Set Up New Leaders for Success


 Not really! The consistently large gap between behaviours, intent, desired culture and reality remains an issue.

I was flying home to Brisbane last week and had the opportunity to read the latest ‘Inside HR’ magazine from cover to cover. It is always an interesting read with much that grabs my attention. However on this occasion, by the time I was towards the end of the magazine a theme had started to form in my mind. There were various articles and highlights within the content that rang alarm bells for me. Or maybe it was more that the messages were articulating many of my own recent thoughts more clearly.

CoachStation: Leadership, People and Business Development

Let me show you what I mean through various excerpts taken from the magazine:

Engaged employees are at least three and a half times more likely than disengaged employees to say their organisation is committed to bringing innovative products and services to the marketplace. Highly engaged employees are nearly six times more likely than disengaged employees to use challenging goals to improve performance, and more than seven times more likely to agree that their senior leadership team encourages innovation and creative ideas. (1)
The best HR teams and leaders are driving innovation across three key dimensions: achieving the next frontier of functional effectiveness  (6)
The gap is widening between what business leaders want and what HR is delivering, according to a global research report, which found that HR needs an extreme makeover driven by the need to deliver greater business impact and drive HR and business innovation. The Deloitte 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, which involved surveys and interviews with more than 3300 business and HR leaders from 106 countries, found that while CEOs and top business leaders rate talent as a key priority, only 5 per cent of survey respondents rate their organisation’s HR performance as excellent. In addition, just 11 per cent of respondents feel that their organisations provide excellent development for HR. “To put it bluntly, HR is not keeping up with the pace of change in business,” the report said. “Today, there is a yawning gap between what business leaders want and the capabilities of HR to deliver, as suggested by the capability gap our survey found across regions and in different countries.” The research report found the most significant capability gaps for HR in Australian organisations were in the areas of HR and people analytics, reinventing HR, performance management, leadership, and culture and engagement, while the smallest capability gaps were in the areas of people data, simplification of work, learning and development, and workforce capability. Other Deloitte research has found that only 30 per cent of business leaders believe that HR has a reputation for sound business decisions; only 28 per cent feel that HR is highly efficient; only 22 per cent believe that HR is adapting to the changing needs of their workforce; and only 20 per cent feel that HR can adequately plan for the company’s future talent needs. (8)
The report shows a widening capability gap in HR’s ability to deliver strong talent solutions, in the areas of:

  • Engagement and retention (the number one challenge around the world this year), HR teams are 30 per cent less ready than a year ago
  • Building leadership and filling leadership gaps (the number two challenge around the world), HR teams are only half as ready as they were a year ago
  • Delivering learning and training solutions (the number three challenge around the world), HR teams are only one-third as ready as they were a year ago.

What is going on? Why are HR organisations having such a hard time keeping up? After studying this marketplace for the last few years and talking with hundreds of clients, the answer is simple. HR today is undergoing more change than ever before, and we are on the brink of disruptive change.

The obvious theme here is that HR is not up to scratch in supporting the goals and actions required for many organisations. Although in my experience this is a genuine issue, holistically it is too easy a statement to make and glosses over the more entrenched issues organisation-wide. It is a much more difficult set of questions that requires multiple solutions owned by leadership, HR and their ability to drive action beyond mere words.
Amongst various factors, HR and its current position/reputation is a symptom of other issues that exists within organisational cultures based around competence, capability, intent, passion and desire. It is untrue to state that many people and specifically leaders do not care about their employers or employees. It is not about caring, but more about doing.

The pace of change; need for outcomes; short-termism; and skill gaps in leadership are hurting business at a time when it can least afford the challenge.
What I have learned is that good intent does not equal improvement, growth or success!

The articles highlight the ‘gap’ that exists between what business leaders want and need and what is being provided to support them and what they are providing themselves. In fact, the key points in the excerpts that struck me are the need for change yet the struggle to make this happen in reality. What do leaders and HR need to do fill the void that exists?
The opportunity to change culture by focusing on the key initiatives and measuring outcomes is something that I believe many organisations can improve. An idea in itself is not enough. What difference does or will this idea, concept, improvement etc. make to the organisation, its processes, people or customers is often discussed but not always efficiently met? The opportunity to hold team members and employees accountable is one that is missed too often with the outcomes and measurable change not highlighted as a core focus.

Most leaders would argue with this, stating that of course, the outcome and results are critical. But, few actually lead their teams with this in mind on a daily basis.
“We need to turn what we know into what we do!”

The key to this change in culture and expectations has to at least in part, be a change in mindset. Talking about leadership and its criticality to business success is not enough – no matter how success is measured. Leadership by its nature requires that you build strong and effective relationships; know and connect with your team; and influence through coaching, not telling, for example.
In the same magazine there was an excellent interview with Alex Bershinsky who highlighted the need to focus on people and that traditional strategies and tools are, in many cases, quickly becoming irrelevant.

A recent research report found that many leading organisations are moving away from viewing performance management as a once-a-year event where employees are assessed and evaluated, to a series of ongoing activities that include goal-setting and revising, managing and coaching, development planning, and rewarding and recognition. The report found that continuous coaching is becoming increasingly important, as employees want to receive individual feedback and feel valued by their organisations for their unique contributions…The focus on these conversations is less about ‘here are your four KPI’s and tell me what you’ve hit or missed’ and more about ‘how are you going, how can I help you, what are you struggling with and what do you need from me to improve?’ So, it’s a very short, regular talent conversation.
“So we’re not using ratings, but the idea is to get away from ratings, distribution curves and batch data and instead provide real-time feedback to develop the 95 percent of our people who are terrific, versus the 5 percent who aren’t performing – which is the reverse of what most performance management systems are geared to do. That’s a real cultural shift.”

You can only hold others accountable if the appropriate expectations and standards have been established in the first place. Getting bogged down in ‘doing the do’ and not making time for your people will ensure that you fail to progress your business. This is relevant whether you have a formal performance management system or not. Tenets such as accountability, expectations; standards, relationships, connection, ownership and other key elements fill the void created by poor leadership, when applied. This takes effort, prioritisation, practice and planning.
As a leader, it also requires a personal strategy for assessing and measuring performance. It is not solely HR’s responsibility to drive this. Waiting for someone else to develop this strategy can only negatively affect you as a leader or employee. Taking the lead and positively impacting employee engagement in your team is a fantastic place to start.
Develop your own leadership skillset and capability. Then apply your new knowledge in positively leading your team. If Deloitte are correct in stating that employee retention, engagement and leadership are the number one and two business challenges this year, then you will be ahead of the game.
Need I mention ownership and accountability again!? Give it a try and let me know how you go.