leadership

What’s Your Corporate Policy Concerning GROWTHH Time?

You and your children may live to 100+. How will you have a fulfilling work-life balance?

Companies are learning that, in the longevity economy, people prefer not to stop working at the “traditional retirement age”; they want to stay productive for a number of reasons, only one of which is economic. In a world with tight labor markets, how do these companies avoid losing people with expertise and experience?

The answer to both questions involves the effective use of “time-off”.  We call it GROWTHH time: Goal Re-Orientation with Time for Health & Happiness.

Just as constructing a brick building requires the proper cement between the bricks, so too does the need for time between careers/jobs for proper work-life balance. People often take a “break” after concentrating time in one “job” in order to re-calibrate for the next.

Students take a “break” after finishing school.  In Israel, people completing their army service take time to explore the world and themselves, before starting their job. Bill Gates, realizing that Microsoft had not developed an effective plan to harness the power of the internet, took time off to gain a fresh perspective and develop a plan. Like many other corporate leaders, he continued to take time off periodically to explore and think things out. Teachers are granted “sabbaticals”, time off after several years, to refresh and reinvigorate. Forrest Gump took time to run across the country to make sense of his world. People take “gap years” to stop doing what they’ve been doing and think through what should come next.

Another way in which we recognize the need for workers to get in touch with their new roles and appreciate them is to give them time off for work-life balance shifts. If you’re having a baby, you get maternity/paternity leave; some companies give time off to take care of family members, to grieve losses, etc.

The world has changed and we all need more time to reflect on our elongated lives and the longevity economy. Fewer and fewer people have one lifetime career and retire from it and/or in some cases continue working in one “encore career”.  Today, people have more jobs/careers than every before and do so for longer periods of time. Indeed, Roberta Golinkoff & Kathy Hirst-Pasek, the authors of Becoming Brilliant, predict that children today will probably have 10 careers during their lifetimes.

Now is the time for companies to develop policies which give workers of all ages sufficient GROWTH time both to ensure they can lead a fullfilling life and maximize their contribute to the company’s future. This means enabling workers to think of their futures and plan appropriately. Fundamental to all is an open line of communication between the worker, supervisor, HR and leadership.

Older workers, who were raised  believing that they’re “supposed” to retire around 65, need to know that there are many options. The traditional practice of ”cold-turkey” retirement – today you’re working here and tomorrow you’re not – is just one. Many companies are experimenting with “phased retirement”models  that benefit both worker and company. For instance, in a phased retirement process where someone reduces the number of weekly workhours over a few years, the extra time can be used as GROWTHH time to explore next steps: travel, relocation, entrepeneurship, etc. Further, during this period of time, they can explore other ways the worker can contributing in the company: training younger workers, serving as mentor, contributing on innovation committes, providing advisory conulting services, serve as back-up workers, etc. Clearly this is preferable to losing a worker to “leisure retirement” who gets bored and chooses to rejoin the workforce later, including working for your competitor. Phased retirement is a win-win policy.

The 4 Most Important Leadership Behaviors

When I work with presentation clients, the starting point is to identify what’s the most important thing the audience needs to know to get them to act in the desired manner (e.g., invest in the company pitching the deal). Reading a McKinsey article, Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters, I realized that as a leadership coach, I face the same dilemma when helping executives become more effective leaders:  identify which of the many leadership qualities are most critical.

The researchers, using their own experience and relevant academic literature came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits. They then surveyed 189 people in 81 diverse organizations around the world, and the grouped the sample by quartiles so they could compare the top and bottom in terms of leadership effectiveness. They discovered that 4 of the behaviors explained 895 of the variance between strong and weak organizations!

The four behaviors are:

  • Solving problems effectively: Key is gathering and analyzing the right data, and then considering the right options that can lead to effective decision-making.
  • Operating with a strong results orientation: Creating a vision is only the start, following through to achieve results with efficiency, productivity, and prioritization of highest-value work is key.
  • Seeking different perspectives: In this VUCA world, leaders need to monitor trends, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute meaningful ideas, differentiate important issues from those which aren’t, and give appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Success here involves sound analysis and avoidance of biases which often affect decisions. (Vistage CEOs engage in issue-processing sessions each month which reinforce the importance of this approach. It leads to incredible results (see case studies) and model the behavior in their companies.
  • Supporting others: These leaders understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in others, they build trust and inspire colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote efficiency, allay unwarranted fears and prevent energies from producing internal conflicts.

Obviously, different business situations often require different styles of leadership, but knowing which four behaviors provide a solid foundation will help every leader.  What do you think? What’s your experience with these behaviors?  Share with us!

Leadership Speed – Where Do Your Executives Stand?

In today’s fast-paced VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world) making correct decisions relatively quickly is important. It’s important for all members of the executive team, especially those who might advance to top positions in the company.

Zenger and Folkman address the issue “leadership speed” in Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution They created a “speed index” which focuses on the leader’s ability to:

  • Spot problems or tends early
  • Quickly respond to problems
  • Quickly make needed changes

They found that leaders in the top quartile of the index were rated substantially higher in their overall leadership skills – rated at the 83rd percentile on effectiveness; those in the bottom were rated at the 18% percentile. (You can assess yourself at Zengerfolkman.com/speed).

Most important, these leaders displayed eight sets of behaviors which accelerate pace. They are:

  • Innovating – a willingness to change; refusing to settle for good enough
  • Exhibiting strategic perspective – keeping the focus on high-priority goals and objectives
  • Displaying courage – standing up for needed
  • Setting stretch goals – focus on ultimate goals and inspire others to try to achieve them
  • Communicating powerfully – sharing ideas, encouraging engagement and listening carefully
  • Bringing external focus – participate in your and adjacent industries, expose yourself to new ideas
  • Taking initiative – with rock-solid integrity and high standards, focus on delivering results
  • Possessing knowledge and expertise – constantly be learning for continuous improvement

Are you looking for these behaviors when hiring key executives? Are you seeing superior performance by those who engage in these behaviors?  Share your experiences.

It’s the Fresh Perspective that Often Wins

“What Makes a CEO ‘Exceptional’”, an article published last April in McKinsey Quarterly caught my attention as I constantly want to help the CEOs achieve more. It focuses is on what differentiated the top 5% of CEO performers among a group of 600 CEOs at S&P 500 companies between 2004 and 2014. These leaders had to guide companies through unusual circumstances, including bankruptcy proceedings and returning successful to the public markets.

The study discovered that CEOs hired externally tend to pull more strategic levers than leaders promoted from inside. Within their first years of tenure they are:

  • More likely to conduct a strategic review and initiate a cost-reduction program
  • Less likely to engage in:
    • Organizational redesign
    • Business/product launch
    • Management reshuffle

Why? These leaders may have been hired to bring fresh perspectives about marketing to the customers. They are less sensitive to “sacred cows” and “internal cultural politics”, which may restrict the vision and efforts of leaders promoted from inside. At the same time, they may not want to overload the company with changes, so they focus first on strategic shifts and then use first-hand experience with staff before making structural changes to support them. In contrast, many of the leaders promoted from within the company may have been chosen to do what they did – continue the trajectory of existing strategy and culture. (It would be interesting to see how internally promoted leader who has radically promoted new ideas compare to these other two groups.)

Thus, the issue for the Board of Directors when choosing CEOs and other senior leaders is whether they have a clear understanding of what changes are needed, now. In a VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), with technological, demographic and global power changes that may require new conceptual frameworks (e.g., a “Blue Ocean Shift), it’s the fresh perspective that apparently wins.  Moving around the furniture on the Titanic only makes sense when you understand where you should be headed.

Organizations should hold annual Strategic Leadership Advances (SLAs) to challenge themselves on what’s needed for success in the coming year. (We don’t call them “Management Retreats” because leaders must always move forward.) Using outside facilitators to inspire fresh thinking and observe the current leadership culture makes lots of sense, if you’re seeking an exceptional result!

What are you doing to make sure that your top leaders have the fresh perspective and wind-behind-their sales to support improvements in the coming year?  Share with us!

Four Elements of a Successful Leader Development Program

At the end of last year, I reflected on how to improve the leader development services that I  provide to CEOs through Vistage Worldwide’s multi-service ecosystem (e.g., Peer Advisory Boards and Vistage Inside for executive teams, which provides), a statement in a McKinsey article (“What’s Missing in Leadership Development?” by Feser, Nielsen and Renni); August 2017) caught my attention. “There is overwhelming evidence that the plethora of services, books, articles, seminars, conferences… a global industry estimated to be worth more than $50 Billion – are delivering disappointing results….just 10 percent said their leadership development initiatives have a clear business impact.”

The authors concluded that four sets of intervention appear to matter most:

  • Contextualizing the program based on the organization’s position and strategy
  • Ensuring reach across the organization
  • Designing the program for the transfer of learning
  • Using systems reinforcement to lock in change.

Each year, I review the results of last year’s program with clients as we forge next year’s strategic goals. Are sales and profits increasing – and why or why not? Are human and capital resources being maximized, and if not what’s necessary? How is the market – changes in customers’ needs and competition – impacting on the company? Do we have a clear and executable strategy for the next year, with KPIs measuring the effectiveness of execution? What else needs to change? Are we becoming a Continuous Improvement Learning Organization (CILO)?

Apparently, our leader development programs are working. As a result of regular monthly meetings to review progress, improve through executive coaching, fresh perspectives and adoption of new tools shared by Vistage experts and CEO peers, 24/7 access to a Chair/coach and our focus on becoming a CILO, is enabling our leaders and their organizations to achieve new heights: one member’s company has quadrupled in sales and profits during the five years we’ve been working together.

Whatever leader development system you use, heed the advice of these authors, as we are.

For more information about Vistage’s potential help you and your team have a super year in 2018, feel free to contact me!  Remember, Vistage’s 21,000 leaders are in 20 countries, served by over 600 Chair/facilitators; so I can refer you to another local Chair if you’re not in NYC!

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