Lead­ers lack­ing

Sur­vey finds shock­ing gap that needs fill­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

THE lat­est re­search by the now-fa­mous Gallup sur­vey and polling com­pany says to­day’s or­ga­ni­za­tions are con­tin­u­ing to fail at hir­ing the right talent for their or­ga­ni­za­tion 82 per cent of the time. The study sug­gests people are still be­ing hired and pro­moted for their tech­ni­cal talent rather than lead­er­ship talent.

Not only is this statistic alarm­ing, but ac­cord­ing to Gallup, it ap­pears to ac­count for the 70 per cent vari­ance in world­wide em­ployee-en­gage­ment scores. As a re­sult, the sur­vey sug­gests bad man­age­ment can in­deed be blamed for the low em­ployee-en­gage­ment and em­ployee-morale scores.

James Harder, Gallup’s chief sci­en­tist, sug­gests over­all, few people re­ally do have the skills to lead and mo­ti­vate oth­ers while at the same time giv­ing di­rec­tion and be­ing as­sertive, yet con­sid­er­ate, when tough de­ci­sions must be made. In his view, only ap­prox­i­mately 20 per cent of man­agers have the la­tent talent to be a good leader/man­ager and have the abil­ity to im­prove with coach­ing ser­vices.

Frankly, this makes a man­age­ment and lead­er­ship team rather an elite group and a crit­i­cal one for the suc­cess of an or­ga­ni­za­tion. Yet, while the ev­i­dence of poor re­cruit­ment and se­lec­tion ap­pears to be overwhelming, most or­ga­ni­za­tions sim­ply have to work with the team they al­ready have in place.

So the ques­tion now be­comes how to pro­vide train­ing and de­vel­op­ment in or­der to in­crease the skills of these cur­rent man­agers/lead­ers. While some in­di­vid­u­als may turn to in­ten­sive two- to three-day cour­ses, it is well known that in most cases, upon re­turn, the train­ing bin­der is put on a shelf and re­mains un­used. In other sit­u­a­tions, in­di­vid­u­als are turn­ing to webinars and quick on­line­learn­ing pro­grams. While these are in­ter­est­ing, they typ­i­cally do not pro­vide depth, but more im­por­tantly, there is no prac­tice and/or guid­ance.

There­fore, as the chief sci­en­tist for Gallup sug­gests, coach­ing may be the an­swer. Coach­ing as a pro­fes­sion has grown con­sid­er­ably over the past 10 years. The chal­lenge is it’s not a sin­gu­lar pro­fes­sion but in­stead one with many con­fus­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and des­ig­na­tions. In fact, ev­ery­one is sud­denly call­ing them­selves a coach, each with a dif­fer­ent ap­proach and dif­fer­ent busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence as an or­ga­ni­za­tional leader, coach and con­sul­tant, I find the most suc­cess­ful ap­proach for train­ing lead­ers is to en­gage in­di­vid­u­als in an in­ten­sive and prac­ti­cal six-month lead­er­ship-train­ing pro­gram. This type of pro­gram cre­ates a firm knowl­edge foun­da­tion as well as in­creas­ing self-aware­ness and lead­er­ship skill-build­ing. In a small group en­vi­ron­ment, par­tic­i­pants meet oth­ers with sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence and chal­lenges and can bounce ideas back and forth and learn from each other.

This type of struc­tured pro­gram is de­liv­ered bi­monthly and fol­lows a fa­cil­i­tated­dis­cus­sion strat­egy rather than a lec­ture ap­proach. This ap­proach of “learn, see and do,” ac­com­pa­nied by per­sonal fol­lowup coach­ing, has been found to be much more prac­ti­cal and ef­fec­tive. The value of be­ing able to im­me­di­ately ap­ply what you have learned, re­port and dis­cuss the chal­lenges and suc­cesses, and to share those suc­cesses, not only builds self-con­fi­dence, but so­lid­i­fies skill de­vel­op­ment.

Self-as­sess­ment and self-aware­ness are also crit­i­cal com­po­nents of lead­er­shipdevel­op­ment pro­grams such as this. Selfassess­ment takes courage as it not only iden­ti­fies an in­di­vid­ual’s blind spot, but each per­son is held ac­count­able for de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing plans to over­come their ar­eas of chal­lenge.

As­sess­ments range from paper-based sur­veys that ex­am­ine both per­sonal and pro­fes­sional lives to on­line sur­veys that ask for em­ployee feed­back. In most cases, there is some level of sur­prise with the feed­back, and par­tic­i­pants of­ten need help to ac­cept the re­sponses and move on with skill de­vel­op­ment.

An­other im­por­tant com­po­nent of this type of pro­gram is the dis­cus­sion of the con­cept of lead­er­ship. Lead­er­ship style in to­day’s world has changed dra­mat­i­cally to more of a team­work and in­flu­ence style. This style is much more com­plex and re­quires much more so­phis­ti­cated in­ter­per­sonal and in­flu­ence skills. Any­one who thinks and/or prac­tices the au­to­cratic, “do as I say” style will sim­ply not suc­ceed in the long run.

Over­all, the best of pro­grams cover topics re­lated to per­sonal growth and de­vel­op­ment, then move to the im­por­tance of de­vel­op­ing oth­ers, de­vel­op­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion and then con­tin­u­ing to sus­tain the gains and suc­cesses.

One of the ar­eas where many man­agers ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fi­culty is how to deal with per­for­mance is­sues with­out neg­a­tively im­pact­ing em­ployee mo­ti­va­tion. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, I find man­agers of­ten ig­nore is­sues for too long and are then forced to deal with a cri­sis. On the other hand, many man­agers sim­ply “po­lice for fail­ure” in­stead of coach­ing for suc­cess. As well, many man­agers ig­nore the need for doc­u­men­ta­tion, and when it comes to mov­ing an em­ployee out of an or­ga­ni­za­tion, they have noth­ing to sub­stan­ti­ate the ra­tio­nale for their de­ci­sion.

A prac­ti­cal, hands-on lead­er­ship pro­gram pro­vides guid­ance to par­tic­i­pants by pro­vid­ing re­al­time sce­nar­ios and invit­ing in­di­vid­u­als to share their chal­lenges in the group dis­cus­sions. This shar­ing ap­proach helps par­tic­i­pants learn from each other.

A key skill ev­ery man­ager must learn in to­day’s or­ga­ni­za­tions is how to man­age change and tran­si­tion. This can range from in­tro­duc­ing and ori­ent­ing a new em­ployee into an es­tab­lished team to pre­par­ing for new own­er­ship through a merger and/or ac­qui­si­tion. Par­tic­i­pants in a fa­cil­i­tated-learn­ing pro­gram learn and ex­pe­ri­ence the proven steps to ef­fec­tive change man­age­ment, how to best com­mu­ni­cate change and how to rec­og­nize and deal with the signs of re­sis­tance.

Al­though there has been much fo­cus on stress and men­tal health in the workplace, I still find many lead­ers fail to do a good job of look­ing af­ter their own health and stress is­sues. They are the first ones at work in the morn­ing and the last ones to leave. They find it dif­fi­cult to shut off their work thoughts and in­stead take their work is­sues home. As a re­sult, pro­gram dis­cus­sions about per­sonal stress and how to deal with it be­comes im­por­tant con­tent in any lead­er­ship-train­ing pro­gram.

The com­bi­na­tion and flow of lead­er­ship topics rang­ing from self-aware­ness, to em­ployee mo­ti­va­tion, del­e­ga­tion and per­for­mance man­age­ment to per­sonal stress is im­por­tant in the pro­gres­sive de­vel­op­ment of pro­gram par­tic­i­pants. How­ever, in my view, the most im­por­tant el­e­ment of any pro­gram is the train­ing ap­proach, and that is why I pre­fer a fa­cil­i­tated-dis­cus­sion ap­proach rather than see­ing an ex­pert sim­ply lec­tur­ing to a crowd.

Frankly, I was quite shocked to learn the re­sults of this re­cent Gallup sur­vey. It is just hard to be­lieve ap­prox­i­mately 82 per cent of to­day’s lead­ers and man­agers are still con­sid­ered to be so lack­ing in skills. So if Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tions want to be com­pet­i­tive in the global mar­ket, they bet­ter start in­vest­ing in the train­ing lead­ers and man­agers ob­vi­ously need.

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