From Leading a Team to Leading Leaders

Has the scope of your role increased?  Are you now leading leaders with teams of their own, rather than leading a team of individual contributors? Then you have a challenge. You can’t be the expert in every area you lead. You can’t be the problem-solver every time there is a crisis. Somehow, you need to find a way to have your finger on the pulse of your organization without monitoring everything directly. You need to “scale” yourself or you will be overwhelmed. And hardest of all, you may need to step further back from activities that you have found personally satisfying.   SO WHAT CAN YOU DO? To scale yourself […]

Be a Better Performance Coach – Ask, Don’t Tell

If you’re like most leaders, you have a picture in your head about the performance you want from your people, and you want to get them closer to that picture. When faced with a gap between how they actually perform and what you want, what do you do?  It’s likely that your first inclination is to tell the person – about how you see the situation, or what you believe they should be doing differently.  Of course you tell, right? You have a perspective you want them to get, and you see the opportunities for different approaches that you believe would be more effective. Furthermore, you probably believe that this […]

The Uncomfortable Truth about Leadership Training

Let’s get it out right up front – organizations spend billions every year on leadership training yet see little, if any, change in actions or results.  The uncomfortable truth is that most leadership training is a waste of time and money.  To better understand this situation, we need to look at three critical questions. -Why does most training fail? -Why do companies continue to spend money for so little value? -What steps can you take to make sure that your investment isn’t wasted?   There are several reasons why training fails. Confuse skill and perspective problems – This factor may be the single most common cause for why training fails.  […]

Learning By Trying To Do Something Different

Action is a good door into learning. We coaches and consultants often focus on getting you leaders to reflect and gain insight on your style and your impact and your inner conflicts – and that has its place. But when you think about your development as a leader, isn’t the point to become able to take new actions that lead to more of the outcomes you value? A good coaching conversation, for me, gets very concrete about what you are trying to accomplish, and what actions and choices might help you get there. That doesn’t mean I’m completely disinterested in helping you understand your style, your impact, your inner conflicts, […]

Banish the cult of the A-B-C player!

Many managers are enamored of the ABC player model first made popular by Jack Welch at GE and since then adopted by many organizations wishing to raise the bar on employee performance and to confront festering performance problems. Some versions of this approach involve forced ranking, in which the top 20% of employees must be classified as A players, the middle 70% as B’s, and the bottom 10% as C’s – and then the C’s exited from the organization like so much deadwood.   The forced ranking component of this approach is controversial and has been abandoned by many organizations because of the toxic consequences, which were engraved into the […]

Biggest Coaching Mistakes Managers Make

Are you trying to adopt a coaching style in how you work with your reports? That’s terrific, and promises a range of benefits to your reports’ growth and careers, your team’s performance, and your own leadership capability. But many managers learning to coach bring some misconceptions about what effective coaching is – and isn’t. Here are the top managerial coaching mistakes I’ve observed, the effect of these mistakes, and some thoughts about what you might try instead. Giving them the answer. Many managers new to coaching think it’s about “teaching them how I do it.” These managers struggle to unpack and articulate how they solve this problem or address that […]

Ethics Training to Address Senior Military Officers’ Bad Behavior? Not so Fast!

The New York Times reports that Defense Secretary Panetta has ordered a review of ethics training, in light of recent scandals involving CIA Director Petraeus and others. Officers have been investigated or fired for behaviors including “sexual improprieties, sexual violence, malfeasance, or poor judgment.”   What’s wrong with the training solution? The leap to ethics training as a solution reflects a common organizational bias towards training as the solution to all problems. And, as with most situations where this bias exists, training isn’t likely to make much of a dent in the problem.  The training solution is predicted on invalid assumptions: –       that the officers don’t have a clear set […]

Does Praising Employees Create Problems?

Our workshop on collaborative performance management includes a discussion about reinforcement. This discussion is often contentious, largely because I question the value of praise. During these discussions, I find that people have been taught to see praise as universally good and useful, and I almost never find anyone who questions this belief. When I question it, people ask me “what’s the matter with praising people” and I list three concerns. 1 – Dependence. The first concern is that any judgment (praise or punishment) can create undue dependence on the judge. People have been conditioned from primary school to seek out the judgments of their authority figures, far more than they’ve […]

Is There a “Problem Executive” in Your Midst?

We’re often asked to coach an executive who is demonstrating some behavior that others perceive as a problem, but who also contributes significant value to the organization.  For example, he may be interpersonally abrasive, micro-managing, or unable to execute on a vision. The boss or HR manager will ask, “How do we get this person to accept the need to change?” “How do we get him to successfully make change in these problem behaviors?”Yes, of course, in many such circumstances such an individual can change. Coaching can help by giving him insight into how his behavior affects others and impedes the outcomes he cares about, by helping him understand and […]