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Friday, February 17, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Business article review - Can You Measure Leadership?

Recommended reading is an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review entitled Can You Measure Leadership? In the article, Robert Gandossy and Robin Guarnieri address the urgency, as well as the accompanying challenges, to measure the effectiveness of the leadership at your organization.  Not only does this piece add more dimension to an area that is front and center for all businesses, it also supports two of the 12 Currie Success Principles©:
Currie Success Principle #5 Continuous Development
Currie Success Principle #9 Results Orientation
Please note on the first page of this article – another stern reminder that the world is about to change.  Paragraph #2 contains mission critical information that Bob and the Currie team have been repeating for the past several years:  “the so-called ‘key leader age’ will drop by 15% over the next decade…”  Now is the time for all distributors to plot the strategic placement of your future leaders.  And this article is in keeping with the theme of talent management that has been assembled this year, beginning with The 2012 Global Workforce Study[i].
The Sloan article takes us through the process of identifying the circumstances when a company has successfully developed leaders.  In other (Currie) words:  “What does [leadership] look like when it’s right”.  Then we learn how talent is analyzed, and finally the author provides some questions and measurements to help all companies create and implement a leadership measurement process.
Pay special attention to the Sample Nine-Block Framework diagram.  This graphic demonstrates “Results Orientation” in action, as it applies to leadership, which has historically been an area that is difficult to assess.  The Framework is a rating tool designed to assist top management in their endeavor to understand exactly how effective their leadership team is.  Notice that accountability is created by the public reporting of the results, and it is likened to McKinsey & Co.’s “team barometer” survey.  Now we understand the vision behind the measurement of leadership effectiveness, just as we understand the evaluation of financial results through the Currie Financial Composite©.
In the quest for “Continuous Improvement”, the authors have developed a series of questions that are critical to the growth of the leadership team.  These questions are geared toward different groups within the organization:  People Managers, Key Talent, Business Leaders, and HR Professionals.  By defining the parameters for a great leadership team, the company can develop a world class talent capture (refer to Currie’s website for Q2 2014’s recommended article:  Building a Game Changing-Talent Strategy[ii]).  The Currie Leadership Development Program and Operational Seminars are continuous development offerings that all distribution companies should be taking advantage of.  Other activities (think of the annual Currie Reading List and the quarterly article reviews) are designed to promote and inspire development initiatives.  At most Best Practices group meetings, Currie Management Consultants, Inc. encourages all Human Resources Departments to invent and implement a continuous development plan for each and every employee of the company.  (And remember, in our Model, we encourage a ratio of one HR executive per 100 employees.)  This is how we build solid, engaged leaders.
Finally, how do we apply the lessons from this article to our equipment distribution companies?
  • Utilize a tool such as the Nine-Block Framework or the team barometer survey, create motivation by sharing the results publicly, or create a leader scorecard. All of these methods build a culture of accountability, as well as motivate and engage the leaders.  In other words, this is how we construct a “Results Oriented” leadership team.
  • Encourage, inspire, excite, and motivate your leadership team through ongoing educational programs and advanced training. Invite your team to learn and grow.  In the Currie Leadership Development Program, Leadership Practices Inventory[iii] is utilized to help each participant assess their own inner “toolbox” and their capacity for growing from a good leader into a great leader through the following practices:  Encourage the Heart, Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, and Enable Others to Act.
  • “Hire for attitude, train for skill” (Herb Kelleher, former Southwest Airlines CEO). Identify your brightest talent and prepare your replacement! Remember Emperor Napoleon’s Military Maxim LIV:  “Assets should always be placed in the most advantageous position”.  Your company’s talent is not only an asset, but a precious resource that contains the power to propel your company into future successes.  Succession planning is an ongoing process that needs to be approached with vision, focus, and purpose.
Favorite quote from Can You Measure Leadership?:  “When a company has a true commitment to leadership, it becomes integrated with business planning and woven into the culture of the organization”.
[iii] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z Posner
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Assertive Communication Skills - Program Offering Saturday February 4, 2017

“To know oneself, one should assert oneself.” This is an interesting quote from 20th Century French philosopher and novelist Albert Camus, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. Camus reportedly would not call himself an existentialist, but his followers labelled him as one, mostly because of ambiguous and deeply abstruse statements and quotes such as that one. Let’s take a closer look at Assertiveness and the concept of assertive communication: what does it mean for professionals, and what do other experts have to say about it?
Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines assertiveness as a form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person’s rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one’s rights or point of view.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a top U.S. hospital located in Rochester Minnesota, Assertiveness can help you control stress and anger, and can also contribute to improved coping skills. An informative article on the Mayo Clinic website makes two sets of important contrasts concerning behaviors: Assertive/Passive Behavior, and Assertive/Aggressive Behavior.
Assertive vs. passive behavior
If your style is passive, you may seem to be shy or overly easygoing. You may routinely say things such as, “I’ll just go with whatever the group decides.” You tend to avoid conflict. Why is that a problem? Because the message you’re sending is that your thoughts and feelings aren’t as important as those of other people. In essence, when you’re too passive, you give others the license to disregard your wants and needs.
Assertive vs. aggressive behavior
Now consider the flip side. If your style is aggressive, you may come across as a bully who disregards the needs, feelings and opinions of others. You may appear self-righteous or superior. Very aggressive people humiliate and intimidate others and may even be physically threatening.
More of this information can be found here, on the Mayo Clinic website.
An assertive personality is something that many people are born with, therefore it is natural for them. However, the good news is that assertiveness is a behavior which can be learned. Naturally assertive people and their approaches can and should be studied, thus enabling those who are naturally aggressive, passive, or some combination of these factors, to learn. When naturally assertive people are modelling the way, here’s what we will find:
• They have a healthy level of self-esteem.
• Assertive people feel empowered.
• They feel free to express their feelings, thoughts, and desires.
• They are also able to initiate and maintain relaxed relationships with others.
• They understand their rights, and the rights of others.
• They have control over their anger, and other strong emotions. This does not mean that they do not experience these emotions, but it means that they are able to effectively manage them, and talk about them in a productive manner.
• Assertive people have been found to be comfortably and reasonably accommodating, and willing to compromise with others.
• They are proactive rather than reactive.
• Are able to resist non-assertive forms of communication that are meant to intimidate or manipulate.
Now let’s talk about Assertive Communication. I'm a big fan of Dr. Jon Warner and his work entitled Assertiveness Style Profile. Once again Warner gives us an interesting analysis, and remarkable labels for four very specific communication styles:
1. Firmly Asserting
2. Passively Observing
3. Warmly Proposing
4. Aggressively Controlling
By utilizing Dr. Warner’s Profile, we learn about a great variety of degrees of assertiveness. The four categories described above are detailed, and also combined with other factors such as level of energy and level of empathy. Assessment results can now be plotted and analyzed according to all of the factors mentioned. And Dr. Warner also provides strategies to move toward enhanced assertive communication. Below is the chart that Warner has created to assess and analyze individual assertiveness styles.
Assertive Comminucation grid
An added bonus that Warner gives us is information about body language, and how it relates to each individual assertiveness style. It’s important to note that Dr. Warner’s Assertiveness Style Profile has no right or wrong answers—it simply analyzes and describes each person’s own unique style based upon their honest responses to a series of statements. Finally, Warner describes assertiveness as “getting what you want from others without infringing upon their rights”. Sounds like a win-win!
Looking at some other viewpoints, we find that assertiveness in business is a critical skill. John Folkman, a contributor for Forbes, lets us know just how important effective assertiveness is for a leader. In his article The 6 Secrets of Successfully Assertive Leaders, Mr. Folkman describes the outcome of a survey where assertiveness was ranked against good judgement. Here are the surprising results:
“Leaders who were rated high (in the 75th percentile) as having good judgment but lower on assertiveness had only a 4.2% chance of being highly rated as an effective leader.
On the other hand, leaders who ranked high on assertiveness but lower on good judgment had a 12.5% chance. However, leaders who ranked high in both characteristics had an actual 71% change of being rated as one of the best leaders.”
The article then takes us through “The 6 Secrets”, which are provided, in brief, below:
1. Connect and Communicate with everyone.
2. Give honest feedback in a helpful way.
3. Use good judgement to make decisions.
4. Walk your talk.
5. Maintain excellent relationships.
6. Look for opportunities to collaborate.
Read the full article for further details about John Folkman’s take on assertiveness and its importance to managers, CEOs and other influential people.
Finally, for further development, Robin Currie recommends the book,Managing Assertively, by Madelyn Burley-Allen. Burley-Allen’s work delves into assertiveness and assertive communication, and also helps the reader to vastly improve his or her “people skills” using her eight building blocks method to become a more effective manager.
There is a plethora of information available on assertiveness, developing assertive communication, and enhancing communication skills. These are invaluable tools for all people, whether in business, family life, volunteering, coaching, teaching, or parenting.

Quote for the Day!

"Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt."
...Shirley Chisholm

Monday, January 23, 2017

Time Management

Want to attend Women In Action, Inc.'s Time Management Seminar?  Click here!
Gravel, rocks, sand and water.  What do those items have to do with managing your time? And what is time management all about?  Here’s a crash course, with just enough information and three important Time Management methods, for you to start creating your own strategy for better handling your 2,400 minute work week.
Lifestyles are becoming increasingly hectic.  Lean business design, and the flattening of organizations, have led to new levels of complexity in the workplace.  Because of these factors, effectively running on what never seems to be enough time, has become a “make or break” activity for people across all segments of life, including athletes, executives, line workers, soldiers, students, politicians, and parents.
Method #1
Decades ago, an idea was presented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower which became commonly known as the Eisenhower Method.  This practice began with a memorable statement from our 34thPresident:  “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”  Using the Eisenhower Method, tasks are evaluated and designated into four categories as follows: delegated; dropped; completed personally and immediately; or completed personally and with a deadline.
Method #2
Later, in his book entitled First Things First, Steven Covey introduced a concept similar to the Eisenhower Model.  Covey’s approach is widely used today, and is best explained through a hands on demonstration using a container in which is first placed gravel, then rocks, then sand, and finally water.  The grid below is depictive of the theory, without the mess:
Covey diagram
Similar to The Eisenhower Method, tasks are assigned a quadrant where they are most appropriately executed.  Covey has included a deeper analysis of how to effectively distribute your time based upon the quadrants.  For example, the recommendation of many time management experts is to spend 45% of your time attending to the tasks relegated to the upper left-hand box labelled “Important/Urgent”.  Additionally, 35 % of your time should be focused on the upper right-hand box labelled “Important/Low Urgency”.  What now remains is 20% of your daily 1,440 minutes to be spent on the bottom quadrants.  15% should be spent working on the lower left hand box, or the “Not Important/Urgent” items.  The final 5% of your time could now be devoted to the remaining tasks, which have already been recognized as neither important nor urgent.  Eisenhower, always every bit the general, grouped matters such as trivia, pleasant activities and time wasters into this box, and followed with the ruling that these tasks be abandoned.
The next step after learning Time Management theory and understanding the box approach, is to decide more specifically what tasks and occurrences are comprising your day, and then placing those tasks into the appropriate quadrant.  In brief, the list below combines recommendations from several theories, including Covey’s and Eisenhower’s:
GRAVEL—crises, deadlines, problems, some meetings
ROCKS—planning, thinking, relationship building, recreation
SAND—visitors, mail, telephone calls, meetings, interruptions
WATER—trivia, pleasant activities, “escape” activities, chat rooms

Method #3
Finally, another expert in the field is Dr. Jon Warner, who has advanced a list of competencies associated with time management skills.  Dr. Warner, in the following quote, describes our 1,440 minutes per day as if it were money in the bank:  “Every night, our “time bank” writes off as lost whatever we have failed to invest in a good purpose. It carries no balance forward and allows no overdrafts. Each new day, it opens a new account with us, and each night it burns the record for the day.  If we fail to use the day’s deposit, the loss is all ours. There is no going back, no drawing against tomorrow. We must live in the present—on today’s deposit. Invest in it to get the utmost in health, happiness, education, and service, and anything else that is valuable to you”.
Warner has identified and developed seven competencies in his Time Management Effectiveness Profile.  The Profile scores an individual on each level of skill, in each competency, and from there one can create a personal action plan aimed at improving the areas that have been determined to be challenging. Using the assessment findings and the tools provided in The Profile, the individual now has the ability to collectively and generally improve his or her time management practices and results.  Below are the seven Warner competencies:
  1. Organizational Ability
  2. Predisposition/Temperament
  3. Managing Interruptions
  4. Delegating
  5. Preparation
  6. Stress Management
  7. Results Orientation
What happens when you more effectively manage your time?  The benefits include higher productivity at work, decreased levels of work-related stress, the ability to focus on a deeper level, and the discovery of new (and often more efficient) ways to approach your profession.  Companies that implement time management training have also discovered deeper levels of innovation as well as increased employee engagement, which is a critical element in today’s business environment.  Superb time management skills are essential for today’s executives.