Creating great Leaders: Consulting for impact
By: Myron Beard
What we know about great leaders is that they are few and far between. According to studies, between 50-70% of executives fail within the first 18 months of moving into executive roles. This failure rate remains constant whether an individual has been promoted from within or came from the outside! In spite of all the books and programs that are available for developing leadership, and the explosion of executive coaching options, it is still perplexing as to why this failure rate is so alarmingly high.
But wait, there is hope. Alan Weiss and I have been able to identify the essentials that are required for turning good executives into great ones through our combined 50-years of consulting experience and the thousands of evaluations of executives we have conducted. As you work with, or become, executives and leaders in companies, consider focusing on these essentials for creating extraordinary leaders:
- Accepting the role: Too often with internal promotions, the newly appointed individuals continue doing more of the same. They believe that by continuing, at a more intense level, those behaviors that got them in the role will make them successful in the new role. They do this without realizing that the new role requires a fundamental paradigm shift. As a result, these newly assigned leaders continue to be more tactical when the new role requires them to be more strategic. The higher up a person moves in an organization, the more they need to work “on,” rather than work “in,” the business. Company founders are particularly guilty of continuing to do what they did to establish the company rather than focusing on growing it. Great leaders recognize that as they rise in the organization, the level and kind of work they undertake must also rise.
- Understanding the business: It seems obvious that leaders in any organization know they need a full understanding of their business. This understanding would include the products their companies make, the markets they serve, their customers, their competition, potential technological (or other) disruptions and, fundamentally, exactly how their company makes money. As obvious as that seems, some leaders fail to understand even the basics of their business. A recent look at such companies as JC Penney, Blackberry and Quizno’s are examples of companies whose leaders failed to understand one, or more, of the important aspects of their businesses. Great leaders understand the way their companies make money and are always scanning the external business environment for possible opportunities and challenges.
- Setting a vision: Time and again, we hear from employees that they do not have a clear sense of where their company is headed. As a result, it is difficult for them to clearly align their work, or that of their departments, in a way that maximizes productivity and impact. Without a clear vision, a company is on the road to a slow death. An effective vision focuses on understanding why customers will buy from your company over the competition; and what internal products, processes or initiatives are in place to ensure they will continue to choose you over the competition. Great leaders understand the necessity for vision-setting and are very adept at crafting and communicating a clear, actionable strategy.
- Creating Leverage: Great leaders take time to analyze and carefully assign the tasks they are given. They know how to manage them in order to maximize the impact their people and their organizations can have. These leaders closely consider matching critical assignments with those whom they know can deliver. They also know that there are times when they need to “test” the potential of up-and-coming individuals by assigning stretch assignments. Delegation is not simply shuffling work, but leveraging the work for maximum effectiveness and acceleration of the development of people in their organization.
- Talent-Round Peg/Round Hole: New leaders tend to either accept the team they have been given or, if coming from the outside, conduct a wholesale turnover of the team by bringing their new team into the organization to replace those who reported to their successor. Both approaches are short-sighted and fraught with peril. The most successful leaders take the time to first determine if the people they have are the ones they need, for both short-term and long-term results. They also consider more than just skill-set. They consider “fit,” meaning the chemistry people have with other team members; the potential for them to grow and develop; and the potential of the individuals to be successors to key roles. They take a cold-eye view of all employees to determine if they will continue to fit in the growing organization or if some sort of re-deployment is best.
- Establishing Accountability: The idea of accountability is something that has wide-spread acceptance but, too often, poor execution. There is no other single, more important, leadership behavior than setting clear expectations (regarding quality and quantity); clear timeframes for accomplishment; providing the right resources and establishing a process to regularly monitor progress. Employee reviews are meaningless when assignments are vague, expectations are unclear and consequences are non-existent or minimal. This requires working-in the business, and without which no company can succeed. Great leaders are masters at setting clear expectations, creating repeatable processes for monitoring work, and consistently and relentlessly holding people accountable. As a result, they create a culture that is disciplined, productive and experienced as fair and equitable. These are the kind of leaders with whom others in a company flock to work.
- Self-Confidence: The Achilles heel, at any level of leadership, is a lack of self-confidence. While most people can find themselves in situations in which they feel challenged or, even, momentarily intimidated, for the truly self-assured leader these situations are temporary. When either the propensity-to-please or a constant underlying fear-of-failure are dominant, the behaviors of leaders will manifest that insecurity. This insecurity can range from being overly-deferential to bullying and intimidating behaviors. Great leaders have a high degree of self-awareness and do not judge themselves as being only as good as their last victory nor as bad as their last defeat. They have an accurate perception of the skills and abilities they have developed and put the challenges they face into context. They neither over-react nor under-react to challenges.
Focusing on these leadership essentials provides a roadmap for creating great leaders.
Myron Beard, Ph.D. works with public and privately-held companies to design high-impact strategies, to align their organization structures with their strategies and to establish succession planning. He consults with senior executives for high-impact results. He has worked with such well-known international companies as Western Union, First Data Corporation, Kiewit Construction, Orica, Best Western, Kaiser Permanente, CoorsTek and Joy Global. In addition, he is an expert in merger integration, having co-authored M & A Integration: CEOs field guide to the art and process of effective merger integration. His forthcoming book, co-authored with Alan Weiss, The DNA of Leadership: Creating Healthy Leaders and Vibrant Organizations, explores the essentials required to become a great leader, and will be published by Business Expert Press in September 2017. He can be reached at (303) 842-0658, or at MyronBeard@BeardExecutiveConsulting.com