Leadership Barometer 174 Leadership Foundation

December 7, 2022

Just as every building needs a firm foundation, every organization needs a Leadership Foundation. No construction company would think of building any size building without first providing a suitable foundation.  If they eliminated that step, the building would not stand for long. 

Organizations need a Leadership Foundation

For an organization, it is imperative that the key leaders construct a leadership foundation so they can be successful. I will describe my interpretation of the elements of the foundation and tell why each one is critical. I will also provide some examples from personal experience.

The foundation for a building has many interrelated parts.  Likewise, a leadership foundation has different parts that must work together.

Start with values

The values provide the floor of the foundation. All activities and decisions must be consistent with the values, or they will damage the organization. The values must be owned by the entire organization. Make sure to have wide participation in creating the values.

I believe it is best to have a “handful” of values.  A long shopping list of nice things to have may look impressive, but it is hard for people to remember. For values to provide the proper centering, they must be in play at all times.

Aim for four to six strong values.  If they spell out an acronym, that is helpful for people.  For example, in my own organization, the values spell out the word “LIGHT.”  The words are Loyalty, Integrity, Generosity, Honesty, and Trust. Having an acronym that has meaning really helps with memory recall.

Leaders need to emphasize that “we always follow our values, especially when it is difficult or expensive.” That attitude is what gives the values their power. 

Add your purpose

The purpose tells everyone in the organization why they are doing the work. Purpose is often confused with mission.  These two concepts are different.  Here is a classic example to illustrate the difference.  For a quarry, the mission might be to cut rock into slabs.  The purpose could be to build a cathedral.

I used to work at Kodak. Our mission was to make photographic film, but our purpose was to help people preserve memories.

Solidify the mission

The mission statement tells everyone in the organization what we are trying to accomplish.  Keep the mission short and memorable for maximum effect. For example, the GE Mission statement of “We bring good things to life” is an excellent one.

Don’t include a lot of management jargon in the mission statement.  For example, here is an actual mission statement for a company. Can you guess what the company is?

To establish beneficial business relationships with diverse suppliers who share our commitment to customer service, quality and competitive pricing.

Finally, create a vision 

The vision tells everyone where we are going. This statement is the most powerful part of the foundation because it points people in the right direction. The vision is a positive statement of what we are trying to become. Many leaders think a vision statement should be achievable or people will become discouraged.  Personally, I believe an aspirational vision statement is stronger because it provides reach.

For example, the FedEx vision, “Absolutely positively overnight” is a strong vision statement. It is not possible to achieve 100% of the time due to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, or pandemics. That does not make it a weak vision statement.

Conclusion

Once you have those four elements, you have a solid platform and can start building walls with confidence. You can build your strategic plan based on this strong leadership foundation.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 173 Entropy

November 30, 2022

There is a spooky property in thermodynamics called Entropy. In this article, I will reveal my struggle to understand the concept of Entropy. Then, I will relate the mystery to some ideas about trust between people.

My Bachelor’s degree was in Mechanical Engineering, and my Master’s degree was in Chemical Engineering. I took my share of thermodynamics and physics courses in college. The concept of Entropy always puzzled me.  I could deal with the concept mathematically in equations, but I never understood the essence well.

The classic definition

For starters, let’s look at the classic definition. We define Entropy as the degree of disorder, uncertainty, or randomness in a system. I can relate to this concept as my office frequently has a problem with too much “Entropy.”

The scientific definition

Scientifically, Entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work. The more disorder or uncertainty, the less work can be done.

This seems like spooky stuff to me. Why would scientists define something as the lack of something else? In trying to measure the Entropy of trust between people, we can see a glimmer of useful meaning.

Defining trust 

Just trying to pin down a single definition of trust is difficult. It is situational, and I have read hundreds of definitions of trust in my life.  Charles Feltman gave a helpful definition as, “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” In other words, to experience real trust, we give up control.

Mutual trust is also like a lubricant that lowers the amount of stress or effort required to get work done.

People only want to give up control if they trust the people they are giving it to. As we give up control and choose to make something valuable to us vulnerable to other people, trust emerges. That is where I begin to see a parallel between the concepts of Trust and Entropy.

I cannot send you a box full of Entropy, because it is defined by the lack of order.  But I can send you a box of trust by relinquishing my control over you. That conundrum is exactly the problem that many organizations faced during COVID-19.

Trust during COVID 19

Since so many people were working remotely, many managers felt the need to regain control of how employees worked. By clinging desperately to the need for control, they were destroying trust big time. They put in tracking systems or other means to check up on the workers. I believe that is a root cause of the Great Resignation and the concept of quiet quitting today. People don’t like to be treated as if they are untrustworthy.

To increase Entropy, you need to increase the unavailability for energy to be converted to real work.  To increase the level of trust, you need to demonstrate more trust in others. You must be willing to give up more control to increase trust.

Conclusion

I hope these ideas are helpful in some way. I have always found the concept of Entropy to be confusing. You have to think in reverse, and my brain has trouble with that. The concept of trust is easier for me to understand. To increase the amount of trust you experience, learn to give more of it away.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 172 Leaders Read Your Hat

November 23, 2022

If you are a leader, sometimes you need to stop and read your hat.

I used to enjoy watching the ALF TV Series. The gags were very creative, as was the furry little creature named ALF. I remember a concept from one episode that has a lot to do with trust. 

In that edition, Willie (ALF’s host) was dealing with a CEO of a large organization.  This leader wore a hat that was inscribed, “Save the Earth!”  The leader was sending a good message with his hat. In reality, he was making decisions to dump toxic waste from his factory into the river. 

Willie tried in vain to have this manager see the hypocrisy of his actions.  Finally, in exasperation, he yelled at the leader, “Read your hat, man.”

Avoid hypocrisy

Reminding leaders when they are not practicing what they preach can build trust. In some situations, it can destroy what trust is already there.  It all depends on how the leader treats the person who points out the hypocrisy.  

If the leader punishes an individual for pointing out a perceived inconsistency, then he is destroying trust. (I am using the male pronoun here, but realize the situation is gender neutral.) He is blocking a vital communication channel in the future. Future messages of potentially wrong behavior will never reach the light of day.

Make sure your actions model your words and reward people who point out when you slip up.

Read your hat more often

It is probably impossible for any leader, no matter how enlightened, to practice this 100% of the time. The person with a gripe may pick a poor time, place, or method to describe the paradox. 

Leaders need to move from a typical low percentage of making people feel glad when they point out a disconnect. In my opinion, most leaders have the patience to do this only 10% of the time. Those who can do it over 70% of the time will create higher trust cultures.

Why many leaders cannot do it consistently 

Every thought and action a leader takes is coming from his brain. The leader is convinced what he is advocating is the right thing to do under the circumstances. If someone suggests a different path, then that person must be wrong according to the leader. Therefore, he punishes the person for being candid. That action destroys trust fast.

Conclusion

The leader is wearing a hat with the words, “I want to build trust” on it. The best method to do it is to reinforce people for their candor. In other words, make the person glad when he or she points out something you have done that seems inconsistent or wrong. Read your hat!

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 171 Are We There Yet?

November 15, 2022

If you are a parent, you have heard “Are we there yet?” many times from your children. The view from the back seat of a car in a car seat is severely limited.  It is boring just sitting there, and the child anticipates the fun we will have upon arrival. The same frustration occurs in organizations that are pursuing a better culture.

Obtaining a state of high trust is a long journey and we never reach a state of perfection.

Painting a picture of the future 

Leaders have the responsibility to model a better existence for their organization. A vision of a smooth-running organization with no conflict is highly appealing.  Leaders frequently talk about a culture of high trust. Many actions move us in the direction of higher trust, but it seems we never fully reach the destination.

Culture requires constant investment 

Culture at work is a race with no finish line.  If you ask, “Are we there yet?” the answer will always be “no.”  There are always further investments that we can make.  Obtaining maximum trust is a great goal but do not think you can ever reach it.  There is always more that you can do.

Likewise, it is the mindset to keep investing in a culture of trust that makes it so powerful. In “Lead the Field” Earl Nightingale observed that true success is in the journey rather than the destination.

Similar to love

In a family situation, we must always invest in love. We never reach a state of perfection. I believe the real power of love is in the continual investment in sharing it. As we strive to deepen our love and affection for each other, we enable excellence. We should never take our foot off the gas because we have achieved love.  Keep improving!

In our organization, are we there yet? 

We never arrive at perfection, but that does not make the journey any less rewarding. The more trust we can build in an organization, the more benefits will accrue. I have studied organizational trust for decades.  I have written four books on the topic. My own observation is that the productivity multiplier of high trust versus low trust is two to five times. What organization would not welcome that level of forward momentum?

In addition, trust is the best antidote for the “quiet quitting” phenomenon many organizations are experiencing recently. For many organizations, the lack of a culture of trust is proving to be fatal. Do not let your organization fail because of low trust.

Conclusion

When it comes to building a culture of trust, we should never ask, “Are we there yet?”  Rather, we should ask “what more can we do to invest even more in our culture?” Doing that will provide the greatest possible rewards.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 170 In the Trenches

November 8, 2022

Military historians know that the view from “in the trenches” is far different from the master strategy war room. This article will contrast the two views of a proposed activity and offer some advice for organization leaders. The result is a better chance for a successful venture.

In the trenches is not fun

The trench is a long hole in the ground constructed to protect soldiers. The entire body is protected from the bullets flying above.  Living and working in a trench is incredibly frustrating.

First of all, life in a trench is not pleasant at all.  The atmosphere is wet and cold all the time. You often have to stand knee-deep in mud.  Mobility is severely limited.  Communication with the rest of the company becomes more difficult. You only interface visually with a few of your compatriots.

Meals are the bare minimum and usually not hot.  You have a very difficult time obtaining the raw materials to do your job (bullets).

If you stick your head out of the trench in order to assess what is happening, you stand a good chance of having it blown off. You may end up dead in the mud like your buddy next to you.

Contrast with the War Room

In the war room, the generals are plotting the next phase of the battle. The room is warm and well-lit. The generals eat hot food off clean plates.  They can even enjoy a cocktail or two.

They spend their time talking about the strategy of battle. Often they will focus attention on maps of the area with small models of tanks and artillery. They push these pieces around the map with long sticks like in a chess game. In more recent times the maps are on computer screens with the battle materials in simulations. It is not a bad life at all in the War Room.  The generals are also financially compensated better than the troops.

Now let’s take this contrast and describe the situation for an organization. There are many parallels to discuss. 

Organizational trenches

The shop floor is the trench for workers in a company.  It is noisy and often smelly and dirty as the product gets mass-produced on huge machines.  One advantage organizations have over the military trenches is that you rarely get your feet wet. However, the atmosphere can hardly be described as pleasant.

You may not get your head shot off, but you might have an encounter with a part of the process that goes out of control.  It can actually be dangerous in certain circumstances.

In a non-production environment, you may be working from home with no one in your trench except you.

Leaders mostly stay in the War Room 

The leaders usually remain in the offices and conference rooms. Conditions are much more favorable. They can sit and drink coffee while listening to presentations about how they will overtake the competition. They spend their time strategizing about the next product introduction.

Leaders often make substantially more money than workers while enjoying the perks of their position.

Really good leaders break this cycle

Great leaders spend significant time out of the office and conference room. They actually get down in the trench with the workers in order to experience what they are doing.  This habit gives excellent leaders more empathy for the workers, and they respond by being more engaged.

Conclusion 

Don’t be a general in the War Room.  Take the time to be out on the production floor with your workers.  You will find things go a lot better when you do.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 169 Temporary Assignments

November 1, 2022

Organizations use temporary assignments for a variety of reasons. These assignments are usually loosely controlled activities of convenience.

Sometimes temporary assignments are for a specific project. An example is to serve on a transition team during a merger or acquisition. 

Many organizations use temporary assignments as a way to enhance the skills of an individual. They are also used to test the person in different ways prior to a promotion.

There is a wide variety of temporary assignments

Temporary assignments can be delightful opportunities to pick up new knowledge and shine in a different way. Most businesses are becoming more global.  Assignments in a different country give rising executives a convenient way to become more sensitive to cultural differences. 

Temporary assignment in a merger or acquisition

In a merger or acquisition process, there are often numerous temporary assignments because conditions are changing dramatically. It is important to have some people pulled out of the daily business decisions. They need to focus on the integration effort. In the steady state, these design and policy-making positions will no longer exist. During the transition, there may be numerous people in temporary slots.

The science of making temporary assignments work well is rather eclectic, and the track record of success is spotty.  This paper deals with some of the problems that can occur. It includes several ideas that can help improve the probability of success.

Ten typical problems with temporary assignments 

  1. Poorly defined position – Sometimes leaders make the assignment in haste. The temporary position is ill-defined. The cure is to take the time to consider at least a partial list of duties that transfer with the individual. Make the assignment one that includes a real challenge, along with the authority to make professional decisions.
  2. Inadequate facilities – Many temporary assignments require people to perform in ad hoc project teams. Finding a central location with the proper facilities in which to do the work is a typical challenge. For some period of time, individuals may have to work out of hotel rooms or sparsely-equipped community gathering places.  
  3. Inconvenient location – Often the need requires an individual to live in a different city and fly home on weekends for months. Sometimes it is possible to arrange temporary housing for the person. This is a typical scenario for expatriates.
  4. Lack of Authority – Roles of a temporary assignment are transitory by definition. Individuals often feel a lack of authority at a time when they must assume greater responsibility. The antidote here is to give decision rights to the individual on the assignment. Also, be sure to back up this person’s decisions and actions publicly.
  5. Bad Personal Chemistry – An individual doing a temporary assignment is often entering a society with little knowledge of people, customs, and culture. The exact reason for this person coming in may be unknown. An individual must establish new relationships from a position of distrust. The antidote here is simple. Whoever arranged for a temporary assignment owes the person being moved a good introduction. It includes an adequate rationale and an expectation of fair play.
  6. Sense of futility – Some people may assume the job is just a placeholder. Assure the individual that it is due to this person’s worth that he or she was selected. There will be a good job at the end of the ordeal. Actually, people on the integration team have a natural advantage. They help invent the structure and rules for the merged entity.
  7. Burnout – There are just not enough resources to cover everything. Both the ongoing business resources and the integration team are stretched to the limit. It is easier for the ongoing business to stretch. Some people from lower levels can step up to temporary management positions to cover. For the transition team, life is more difficult. There are literally thousands of details to consider. The work is endless, critical, urgent, and highly emotional in nature. Coupled with living or working out of temporary housing, it causes many people in these assignments to burn out. For this reason, senior managers need to provide some modicum of work-life balance or “R&R breaks.”  
  8. Guilt or sense of punishment – Some individuals will over-analyze the nature of a temporary move and feel a sense of failure. They wonder if this is a signal from top management that there is a serious issue. To prevent unwarranted worry, top managers need to be transparent and share the true reason for a temporary assignment. If there are issues, then the individual is due an explanation. Give the person a chance to mitigate the damage to his or her reputation.
  9. Squishy Return Arrangements – Often a person on a temporary assignment has no visibility to his or her return path. Will there be a good job at the end of the assignment? When will the assignment end? Was this little adventure good or bad for the person’s ultimate career? Have frequent communications with the remote individual. Show appreciation for the service and assure the individual will have a viable return path.
  10. The pasture – Unfortunately, some groups use a series of temporary assignments to encourage an underperforming individual to leave. The jobs have marginal value, yet keeping the person on organizational life support seems kinder than pulling the plug. People who are going out to pasture are usually well aware of the intent. Many upper managers hope it will cause the person to quit and leave. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, it causes quiet quitting. Here again, the antidote is candor and transparency. Let the individual know the truth so he or she can make appropriate choices rather than guess.

Conclusion

These are just 10 of the common issues with temporary assignments. They include how upper management can reduce the stress and pain.  Properly managed, temporary assignments can be invigorating and helpful to both the individual and the organization. If done poorly or without care for the individual, they can be a real problem.

For additional information on how temporary assignments impact creativity, check out this article by Philipp Cornelius. “How Temporary Assignments Boost Innovation.”

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 168 The 30 Second Email

October 26, 2022

Can you read that email in 30 seconds or less?

You know how it feels. You are grazing your bloated inbox, and you see the name, Sam Jones. You cringe. Having waded through his prior tomes, you know the routine.

Opening this e-mail will tie you up for at least 15 minutes trying to get the message. Sam writes really l-o-n-g notes and rarely uses paragraph breaks. He does not capitalize the start of sentences, so his writing is hard to decode.  You pause and pass the note because there is just not enough time to deal with the hassle. 

Don’t be a Sam Jones!  Follow these seven simple rules, and people will appreciate your email communications.

  1. Make it easy on the reader. Have a well-formatted and short note that deals with a single topic in a compressed format. Don’t ramble!
  2. Don’t go “over the horizon.”  Try to have the majority of your notes fit into the first window of a note. The reader can see the start of your signature block at the bottom of the opening window. He knows that is all there is to the note. That is a psychological lift that puts the reader in a better frame of mind to absorb your meaning. When the text goes beyond the first page, the reader has no way to know the total length. This is a psychological burden that frustrates the reader subconsciously.
  3. Aim for 15 to 30 seconds. Try to have the email compressed enough that the recipients can read it in less than a half minute.  They will remember it much more than one that takes 5 minutes to read.
  4. Use bullet points. Short, punchy bullets are easier to read than long complex sentences.
  5. Highlight expected actions. Delineate action items in a way that is not offensive. Do not use all caps. Sometimes bold text works, but I find it best to have a separate line like this:      Action: Please get me your draft report by Friday.
  6. Be polite. Start with a friendly greeting and end with respect but not long or trite quotations.
  7. Sometimes the Subject can be the whole note. In this case, use EOM (End Of Message) to designate there is no note to open at all. It looks like this:      Subject:  The Binford celebration is Wednesday 3 pm.  EOM

If you follow these simple seven rules, people will pay more attention to your emails. You will improve the hit rate of your communications.  Not all notes can follow all of these rules but most can. Make sure the majority of your emails follow these rules.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 167 Grow Leaders

October 19, 2022

One of my favorite quotes is, “The highest calling for any leader is to grow other leaders.”  That is why I named my company “Leadergrow.” I truly believe the best leaders carry the idea in their hearts at all times.

Performance is essential every day, but so is investing in the future of people. In fact, I believe that is a major component of performance for anyone who leads people. 

Distractions are there every day 

It is typical and easy to become distracted with daily critical decisions and forget about developing people. I advise leaders to carve out at least 30% of their daily energy to grow leaders. That may sound like a lot. On many days it seems there is not enough time to deal with emergencies.

The challenges are opportunities to grow leaders

What some managers fail to understand is that problems are opportunities. It is in the crucible of immense challenges that you find the greatest teaching moments. A good technique is to delegate a problem to upcoming leaders and then coach them as they learn.

Many leaders forget to use the critical times as teachable moments.  In doing so, they feel more in command of the problems, but they sacrifice the learning opportunities.

Find the genius within your people

Each person on your team has brilliance within, and your job is to let it shine through. You are like a sculptor trying to find the beauty hidden inside a mound of clay.

Get to know your people

One technique that will help you is to get to know your people very well.  Find out what types of things light them up.  Create opportunities to enhance learning in that direction.  Let them play in their most creative sandbox.  They will amaze you with their engagement.

Embrace the failures to grow leaders 

There may be failures along the way, but human beings learn more from their failures than their successes. With the proper coaching, any failure can be a teachable moment. That fact is how we all learned to walk and talk.   

Reinforcement is essential

As you coach less experienced leaders, don’t forget to praise the baby steps in the right direction.  People need recognition at all times, but it is most critical when they are stretching their skills. For example, learning to evaluate smart risks is one skill that will pay off for any person.

Conclusion

As you work with people, the best use of your time is to work on growing other leaders. Let that be your leadership legacy.  You will shine as one of the elite masters in your enterprise.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 166 Successful Succession

October 12, 2022

Succession planning, if done well, will provide an endless stream of fresh and vital talent. It will help any organization have continuity of excellent performance despite the vicissitudes of outward factors. Neglected succession planning will lead to spotty performance over time and frustration on many levels. Let’s take a look at some key observations and concepts about succession planning.

Succession is most important at the top

The need for good succession planning increases at the higher levels in any organization. Shop floor people only need minimal training on functions to become effective. Groom CEOs well on all the policies and nuances of running the organization before taking over.

There should be a specific succession planning process for all key jobs in any organization. Specify who is ready to step in immediately and who is learning for future roles. The obvious reason is that we never know when someone will leave for one reason or another. The transition may take place over years or as abruptly as a few hours, depending on circumstances.

An example from my past 

I remember one transition where my organization doubled in size. The previous manager and I had exactly 5 minutes for him to cross-train me before he left. He showed me where the personnel files were, gave me the keys to the office, and that was it.

Actually, the transition worked out pretty well. He did not have time to color my thinking about individuals or processes. I started out by building my own knowledge base.

Succession is broader than we think 

The activities of succession planning are much broader than most people realize. It starts with general cross-training for bench strength. Also include identifying high potential people for future roles, mentoring, and even job rotation. In fact, at the higher levels of leadership, the majority of daily activities are part of the succession process.

Make succession a conscious and continuous effort

Good succession planning takes a lot of time and energy. The process should go on at a conscious level nearly every day. It is often a hidden process that the rank and file do not understand. They only see the result.

When Jack leaves, we realize that Ann is fully capable of replacing him. It often takes on a political feel, since not everyone can be involved in many of the discussions. It can cause a lot of anxiety in organizations, so the best approaches are as transparent as possible. The anxiety occurs because people recognize there are posturing discussions frequently. Most of the discussions are private, so people feel nervous about the unknown.

Sometimes succession has a low priority 

It is too bad that succession planning takes a back burner in many organizations. This is true for several reasons:

  • Overburdened leaders have little time to think about long-term development.
  • There is a fear of setting up an implied competition and tension between contenders.
  • People may interpret succession discussions as meaning the incumbent is trying to leave early. This could imply a lack of commitment.
  • External replacement versus internal promotions can demoralize understudies.
  • Succession is a highly emotional topic. People get nervous.

Advice from an expert

William Rothwell of Penn State is one of the recognized experts in Succession Planning.  He suggested there are at least 10 key steps that need to be included in any succession planning process:

  1. Clarify expectations for Succession
  2. Have competency models
  3. Conduct individual assessments
  4. Create a performance management system
  5. Assess individual potential
  6. Create development process
  7. Institute Individual development plans
  8. Keep a talent inventory
  9. Establish accountability for making the system work.
  10. Evaluate the results.

Rothwell also gave us a list of 6 of the biggest mistakes in succession planning:

  1. Assuming success at one level will guarantee success at a higher level.
  2. Thinking bosses are the best judge of who to promote.
  3. Considering promotions as entitlements.
  4. Trying to do too much too fast.
  5. Giving no thought to what to call it.
  6. Assuming that everyone wants a promotion.

Conclusion

The best approach is to have a formal succession process for all professional jobs in an organization. Let people know what it is. Make it a daily focus instead of something managers think about only when someone is leaving.  I believe succession is a fundamental leadership process. The highest calling for any leader is to grow other leaders.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer165 Your Leadership Legacy

October 4, 2022

Consider your own leadership legacy as you navigate the minefield of your current challenges. It is easy to become buried in the vast array of urgent and critical things to accomplish. Focusing on short-term performance is important, and it must be a priority.

Also, make sure to also set aside some quality time to consider the long-term impact of your actions. You may wish to have a group discussion with peers at some point. Consider asking your superiors for their input. How would you like people to remember you once you are gone from day-to-day activities?

Visualize your strengths

Start out with an accurate view of your strength areas.  For this step, I like to use Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton’s “Strength Finder.”  I did that exercise years ago, and it startled me.  Until I took the assessment, I was unable to articulate consciously two of my strongest areas. Before you can leverage your strengths in the organization, you need to be crystal clear on what they are.

Your strengths become the key to your leadership legacy

You can find hundreds of ways to apply your strength areas to improve the organization and even beyond. When you use your God-given talents in a conscious way, wonderful things begin to happen.

A personal example

One of my three strongest areas on the Clifton Strength Finder was a thing called “WOO.”  The term was unfamiliar to me. Whatever I was doing to engage this strength was a result of instinct.  Once I understood the term to mean “Winning Others Over,” I began to see how to use it to enhance my effectiveness. I love the challenge of breaking the ice and making a connection with people.

Once I was aware of the impact of WOO along with my other strengths, things changed. It was possible to build a legacy as a leader who likes to connect with people at all levels. I used another strength (Maximizer) as a way to stimulate excellence within my organization. That image became my own legacy.

Leadership legacy moves beyond the organization

 You can leverage your leadership legacy beyond the work environment. My own situation has enhanced my life after retirement as I work with volunteer groups of all types.  Knowing my specific strengths allows me to be more effective in all environments. That makes my contributions more satisfying and enhances my network of friends almost daily.

Conclusion

We all have areas of God-given strength.  Become aware of these and seek to engage them in your daily life. You will see they become the cornerstones of your legacy in all areas of life.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations