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Posts tagged ‘Organization Development Resources’

Creating New Leaders from Within

While the predicted tsunami of Baby Boomer retirements has not yet materialized, the fact remains that 42% of the workforce will become able to retire by 2017 and 70% within the next 10 years.1 The question for all organizations is how to best prepare for this significant change in leadership and management?

Many organizations look externally for candidates. But with intentional planning and preparation, new leaders and managers can be built through internal processes. The following outline of questions provides a foundation for creating such a process.

What are we trying to achieve?
Every organization has a mission. It has linchpin positions or capacities that keep momentum moving toward fulfilling that mission. A linchpin is a special pin that is used to keep axles on vehicles. In organizations, a linchpin keeps the team functioning smoothly, delivering what is needed – with a great attitude. A linchpin manages operations efficiently. A linchpin looks to the future, translating plans into actions while remembering the lessons of the past. A linchpin knows that it is about relationships throughout the system. Can you state the mission; and, list the linchpin positions and what they achieve for your organization?

What does it mean to be an effective linchpin?
Take your linchpin list and apply the “know-do-be” algorithm. Create a one-sentence statement of what makes someone effective in each linchpin position. For example:

  • Know skills that allow the person to manage people, processes, and technology.
  • Do behave in ways consistent with achieving results in building positive relationships, thinking strategically, and communicating well.
  • Be a person who is an athlete in self-awareness, practices trustworthy and authentic leadership, and has a calling to serve others.

What are the essential linchpin competencies?
Now add a column to your list that gets specific about capacities and competencies that are necessary for success in each linchpin position. These should include knowledge and expertise, behavioral competencies, and critical success factors. Again, the examples are general; your list should be as specific as possible, limited by the needs of the linchpin.

Knowledge and expertise might include:

  • Possesses technical skills
  • Understands how to cultivate productive relationships
  • Communicates skills and values
  • Develops resources
  • Understands organization finances
  • Asks the right questions
  • Works across complex organization systems

Behavioral Competencies might include:

  • Self-managing
  • Exemplifies integrity
  • Resilient in uncertainty
  • Adapts to new environments
  • Builds trust
  • Manages strategic relationships
  • Influences others
  • Communicates confidently
  • Handles conflict resourcefully
  • Mentors and coaches others

Critical Success Factors might include

  • Committed to the organization’s values
  • Innovative and creative
  • Understands the financial impact of decisions

What actions need to be taken?
Add a fourth column that lists names of persons in your organization who have high potential for leading and managing each linchpin position. For each person identified, create an action plan. Their plan should include opportunities to expand knowledge, grow behavioral competencies, and be given opportunities to act. Here are concrete ideas to use in systematically developing leaders and managers:

  • Job rotation
  • Special project assignments
  • Action learning: study and make recommendation on a significant issue
  • Individual coaching and feedback
  • Targeted training – online or in person – in operations and leadership
  • Opportunities for role transition – allowing them to serve temporarily in a linchpin capacity while someone is on vacation or leave.

What other actions will support this process?
How will you communicate this information throughout your organization? Would a profile and checklist for each linchpin capacity allow everyone in the organization to understand the requirements and development path? How might you build this into your performance reviews? When and how will you start building your leadership pipeline?

There are many compelling reasons to begin building an actionable plan for developing future leaders. What first steps will you take to begin planning today?

1Government Accounting Office

Other reading:
Godin, S. (2011). “Linchpin: Are you indispensable?” Penguin Group, New York, NY.
Charam, R. (2012). “The Leadership Pipeline.” Wiley, San Francisco, CA.

Power Listening

Listening is a vital business skill. Listening can be the deciding factor between a cohesive or fractured team, profit or loss, or long or short job tenure. Bernard Ferrari’s book, Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All, offers an overview of this powerful skill.

We all know people who are poor listeners. We may even exhibit some of these characteristics ourselves depending on the situation. Practicing self-awareness can alert us to when these crop up in our conversations. Ferrari identifies six types:

  • Opinionator: listens only to confirm his beliefs, never doubts, can be intimidating or squelch others’ ideas
  • Grouch: assumes nothing others say is valid, can be contemptuous
  • Preambler: goes down side trails, asks questions containing her preferred answer, a one-way communicator
  • Perseverator: talks on-and-on to sharpen his point and support his bias, self-serving
  • Answer Person: offers an instant solution, seeks to impress with quickness and brilliance, needs to “save the day”
  • Pretender: is not interested because he has reached a decision or is distracted

Ferrari goes on to suggest habits that we can practice to improve listening skills:

  • Plan: know what you hope to accomplish in a conversation before you begin.
  • Stay focused: set aside distractors and set a goal of keeping a running summary of the important points, seeking the right question to clarify as needed.
  • Be respectful: act in good faith, with honesty. It can help to say so at the start, “Talking with you helps me think through our options and risks.”
  • Be quiet most of the time: use the 80/20 rule – speak only 20% of the time. Keep your mouth shut; ask good questions. (Note: if there are two good listeners, it should be a short and effective conversation!)

While this is not groundbreaking information, I appreciated the first third of the book as a summary of types of listeners and listening habits. The remainder discusses listening skills for decision-making, improving performance, sorting information, and steering conversations. Ferrari offers examples of effective questions and uses stories throughout to reinforce his points.

The book is well-organized and comes with an index, which I find particularly useful. A reader who is looking for a review of listening habits and questioning tips will find a good summary and thoughtful ideas presented here.

As an introvert, I find the “be quiet most of the time” habit the easiest to practice. The challenge I continue to work on is keeping the summary of important points in memory, which lessens the distraction of writing down everything someone says in conversation.

What is your easiest habit to practice? How would you challenge yourself to improve?

Reference:
Ferrari, B. T. (2012). Power listening: mastering the most critical business skill of all. Penguin Group, New York, NY.

Resources for Positive Organization Development

Long-time readers and associates know of my interest in positive organization development. What follows is a short list of organization development resources for those readers who are interested in looking at some of the research supporting positive organization development.

First, a quote from Daniel Goleman, “As new ways of scientifically measuring human development start to bear out these theories and link them directly with performance, the so-called soft side of business begins to look not so soft after all.”

Bad is Stronger than Good
Research from Case Western University and the Free University of Amsterdam says, “Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good.”  The implications are for experiences, interactions, and events at home and work. It takes 5 good interactions over a period of time to overcome 1 bad interaction or experience. The authors discuss extensive research in the positive-negative asymmetry effect. Food for thought: What impact would be felt if people in workplaces and families did their best to eliminate the negative patterns.

Appreciative Inquiry is Not (Just) About the Positive
Research from Simon Fraser University says, “Many people seem to get blinded by the ‘positive stuff’. After years of focusing on problems and deficits and dysfunction they get entranced with “focusing on the positive” and equate this with AI, but I don’t think that is the core of appreciative inquiry. Instead, the core of AI is generativity (Cooperrider & Srivastva,1987).” The implications here are for leaders and consultants who facilitate change in organizations. (Read more G.R. Bushe research here.)

Positive Deviance, and Performance
Research from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan says that the greater the levels of perceived trust and compassion, “the greater the amount of innovation, quality, and customer retention, and the lower the amount of employee turnover.” The Discussion section, which begins on page 33, has a summary of the work being done in Positive Organization Scholarship. The questions here are for those who have the greatest potential to impact an organization’s culture, creating an environment where people and the bottom line thrive. (Read more from UM here.)

Open Hearts Build Open Lives
Research from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan says, “People’s daily experiences of positive emotions compound over time to build a variety of consequential personal resources.” How can organizations intentionally work to build positive cultures that support the well-being of the organization and the people who create it? (Read more from UNC here.)

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership
Research from Harvard University in summary says, “As we explore the discoveries of neuroscience, we are struck by how closely the best psychological theories of development map to the newly charted hardwiring of the brain. … [it is important to provide] a secure base from which people can strive toward goals, take risks without unwarranted fear, and freely explore new possibilities.” All of this is linked directly to improved performance by both personnel and the bottom line.” A good overview of social intelligence and how awareness impacts organizations. (Read more research from the EI Consortium here.)

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