2015 GOAL: Develop Leadership Skills And Effectiveness

Now is the perfect time to create an action plan for developing your leadership skills and effectiveness. While many people may have already given up on their resolutions or goals for the year, great leaders (and people who want to be great leaders) take time to conceive and generate a plan of action to reach their goals during the year. Here are 4 steps to help you get started.


Take time to sit down with key stakeholders, peers, team members and other direct reports to solicit their opinions on what you do well in your position and what you could improve upon. Reassure them that you truly want to improve your performance and their honest feedback is critical for you to understand those areas you can leverage for greater success and focus on the areas to develop. It’s only after you have a clear understanding of how you are perceived in the workplace as well as your strengths and weaknesses that you can begin to take steps to adjust them.


Increase your leadership effectiveness by setting SMART goals. Use the feedback you gathered from your colleagues to identify 2-3 goals you wish to set to improve your performance. Remember that SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented and Timely. If your goals don’t fulfill all of those criteria, then it will be difficult to achieve success on your goals. If you are unsure what goals to set for yourself, don’t hesitate to seek some ideas from your boss, mentor, team member or peer. Gaining insight through a different perspective will help you as you continue to grow your career in the future.


Be a more successful leader by learning to listen and communicate more clearly and with greater impact. Highly effective leaders improve their relationships at work, increase their followership, and collaborate better with others through clear, concise and inspiring communication. Practice your active listening skills by learning to be present in the moment and then clarify and validate what you hear. You’ll be able to understand the situation better, communicate your concern, and build trust in work relationships.


Ask your leader for additional responsibilities, preferably in a new department or a different function, or ask to lead a new project. Show your employer that you desire to learn and grow as a leader, thus improving your chances of promotion. If you are unable to attain a new project to manage or gain new responsibilities, then consider using a leadership coach to help you develop your plan of action. It truly helps to have a confidential, trusted source who can help guide you in your leadership development and make recommendations to help you achieve success.

Begin this year with the focus, determination, and action necessary to make 2015 the year you thrive, achieve, and succeed in your career.

A Better Way To Approach Annual Performance Reviews

The annual performance review can lead to feelings of dread and is often viewed as looking at the past instead of planning for the future. How, then, can companies change the annual review to be a positive, forward thinking evaluation of an employee’s performance?

Try approaching performance appraisals, not as a once-a-year event, but rather as a continuous, ongoing coaching process during the entire year. This is a 180° turn from how it is currently handled in most companies.

Instead of reviewing the past, companies should encourage their leaders to regularly sit down with their employees in casual, non-stressful situations to give feedback for situations as it’s needed.


1. Where the employee is currently at in their career and where he/she wants to be.

Ask the employee what their career goals are, where they want to be next year, what they are doing to reach their goals, if they participate in or desire leadership training, and other similar questions.

2. How the employee is performing in their current position.

Discuss current projects and job responsibilities. Compliment them on successes and validate their efforts. Discover what areas they want to further develop.

3. What obstacles or roadblocks the employee is tackling on current projects.

Find out what frustrations your employee faces while trying to complete current projects and goals. Coach them to come up with ideas on how to resolve these difficulties through their own initiative.

4. Who the employee can go to for answers, mentoring, support, and assistance for their professional development as well as for completing projects.

Show your support by assisting them with ideas of where they can get help and answers to help them resolve issues and meet their goals.

5. When you will meet next.

Always end your current talk with an idea of when you can get together next.

If managers and leaders focus on spending a little time each month with their team members to ask the above questions, it will foster a sense of trust, support and motivation. The employee will feel a sense of engagement with their boss and that he/she truly cares about them as a person, not just for what they do in their role.

These one-on-one conversations between leaders and their employees helps managers stay current about projects as they happen. It is a proactive approach instead of a reactive one like traditional performance reviews.


Make time in your schedule this week to recognize someone who is doing a good job, coach an employee about resolving an issue and identify new goals for someone who needs a bigger challenge. You will be laying the groundwork for positive coaching interactions with your team now and for future success.

Why Do Employees Dread Performance Reviews?

You are not alone if you dread the yearly performance appraisal process. Research reported on earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal discovered that the perceived effectiveness of the performance appraisal process was directly related to employee satisfaction, and that negative feedback resulted in lower satisfaction regardless of the employee’s learning goal orientation.

When I asked for people’s opinions on yearly performance reviews in a few LinkedIn groups, the responses generally agreed that performance reviews are necessary but preparation, scope and timing of the performance appraisals can cause headaches.

“I find that waiting until the end of the year makes the process unduly stressful and too many otherwise important things get missed in the interests of keeping the meeting a reasonable length.”
“Unfortunately, the paperwork can be tedious.”

Another person responded that the company’s culture is a key factor to employees’ satisfaction and work performance.

“If an honest, open dialogue exists in your company it will naturally increase the satisfaction, dedication and productivity of all associates.”

I agree with these and all of the comments provided. Annual performance reviews are necessary to evaluate employee performance but the frequency they are conducted, what is covered during the meeting, and how the information is presented are critical to developing high-performing, dedicated employees.

Effective performance appraisals include frequent conversations throughout the year to discuss performance and progress towards goals between employees and their managers. Then when it’s time to sit down at the end of the year, there is a level of trust already established. The manager has a clear picture of the employee’s performance during the year from frequent contact, and the employee has received regular feedback to help improve their performance and guide their direction.

This consistent and regular dialogue can be as quick and easy as meeting for coffee weekly or monthly to discuss progress towards goals, provide appreciation for their performance, or feedback on a skill or behavior to develop. It’s this reliable communication that builds a connection with employees that improves their performance and productivity over time.

Annual performance appraisals don’t have to be a dreadful experience for leaders or their employees, but only taking time once a year to provide feedback, leads to lower satisfaction. No one wants to receive negative feedback all at one time and high-performing talent prefers regular communication that shows you value their contributions.

Start laying the groundwork for improved performance reviews today by connecting with one of your employees. Take them to lunch or stop by their desk to tell them how much you appreciate their hard work. You’ll be lifting some of the dread and anxiety surrounding their yearly performance appraisals.

Are Performance Reviews Really Necessary?

The end of the year is rapidly approaching and many companies are turning their focus to the yearly performance review. Unfortunately, most leaders and employees are dreading its arrival and take a “grin and bear it” attitude toward them. With this type of anxiety surrounding performance appraisals, it begs the question: Are performance reviews really necessary?

Performance appraisals developed as a way to ascertain productivity and relative merit with regard to getting a pay raise. Even today, many companies utilize the yearly performance appraisal to assess the employee’s work performance and progress towards goals in order to justify a raise or placing the employee on probation with the idea of showing them the door.

But with the changes to the way people work nowadays (remote workers, less supervision, more autonomy, etc.) is the way we execute performance reviews still valid and, if not, what is a better way to apply them? If we don’t have some way of “rating” employees’ job performance, progress towards goals, work ethic, attitude and behavior, then how do we reward good employees with raises and promotions while providing poor performers with the tools and direction to improve?

I believe that as long as a company or boss handles performance reviews as an annual “look back” event instead of a proactive plan for the future they will continue to have negative connotations for all involved. Employees need positive and constructive real-time feedback and honest dialogues with their managers on a consistent basis in order to have the tools and desire needed to truly improve their job performance.

All of these questions, ideas and concerns will be answered in a series of blogs I’ll write and post now through the end of the year. In the meantime, enjoy this slideshare graphic from WorkSimple on the History of Performance Reviews.


Picking the Best Executive Assessment Tools

At least half of companies do no formal assessments of potential for their leaders and tend to be shooting in the dark when it comes to identifying their future talent. In another research study, it was found that 75% of high performers do not have the requisite abilities to handle the increased complexity in senior leadership roles. I4cp’s research showed that the most common executive assessment tools when there is a formal process is the 360 degree feedback assessment. Other popular tools they found included the following:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), used by 68.2%
  • DISC, used by 61.4%
  • Lominger Assessment Instruments, 47.1%
  • Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI), 43.2%
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0, 43.2%
  • Thomas Killman Conflict Management Indicator (TKI), 40.7%

In my opinion, of these assessments, only Lominger, Hogan and Killman tools meet the psychometric rigor required for assessment of potential. The other tools are less rigorous, valid, and reliable to be deployed to assess talent who may be considered for senior leader roles. These other assessments are more likely to be used for training and teambuilding activities.

We here at Corporate Performance Strategies strongly recommend that there are multiple data points when considering potential, including: education, experiences, cognitive abilities, personality attributes (what the above measure), performance results, and interview assessments. That helps ensure more accuracy of decisions for determining your bench strength.

What formal executive assessment tools does your company use? When was the last time your leaders were assessed to determine their strengths, weaknesses, or areas of concern? Isn’t it time to implement a rigorous assessment process for the current and future leaders in your organization?

Lessons In Leadership: What Great Leaders Do

One of the biggest differences among the generations of leaders is the desire for ongoing leadership development and frequent feedback. The new generation of leaders has continuous feedback through technology, collaboration, and parenting, and expect this to continue on the job. The most successful leaders across the generations have learned something very skillful they deploy just about every day. They understand that increasing their self-awareness is essential to meeting their stakeholders’ expectations and improving their leadership performance. When leaders fail, a key contributing factor is often a lack of self-awareness, or the misunderstanding and acceptance of how they are perceived by their stakeholders.

There are four valuable lessons we have learned from working with hundreds of successful and some unsuccessful leaders over the years. By following these four easy steps you will be on your way to achieving higher levels of leadership development and leadership performance.


Blindspots are very difficult to improve when the leader rates him/herself much higher than their stakeholders evaluations. Robert Hogan identified 11 potential derailers when leaders are particularly stressed often referred to as over-used strengths. For example, derailers we often encounter are leaders being highly Diligent. So, when these leaders have their results on the line, they take control and do things themselves. The problem is that over time their teams do not feel empowered and are not being developed toward their own goals. A leader can quickly be perceived as a “micromanager,” and have severe morale, productivity, and retention challenges. Our assessments identify a leader’s blindspots.


How others see them is what really matters the most, so that they better understand their stakeholders’ expectations and how their leadership is effecting followers. Even though this reality is sometimes harsh, unkind, and difficult to accept, great leaders have learned to confront their own reality. How we help leaders understand their perceptions is with thorough leadership assessments, including personality assessments and 360 degree feedback. Using this approach the leader can better understand how they are perceived by their stakeholder groups (i.e., direct reports, peers, manager, etc.). We have had various degrees of reactions to the 360 degree feedback ranging from elation to shock. In most cases, “no news is not always good news!” Often times the leader’s boss, peers, or direct reports provide some very telling feedback that indicate blindspots for intensive leadership coaching and development.


We advise our clients to create a network of supporters – that are representative of their stakeholder groups and that periodically provide direct feedback and suggestions for improvements. This is particularly helpful in CEO growth and development since very few people have the platform to provide unsolicited upward feedback!


Pick an area that you want to improve and be as specific as possible, and ask for feedback and suggestions for the future. Thank the feedback provider for giving you this gift.

Be sure to start your development network by seeking leadership feedback today. It’s a great and cost-effective method for improving leadership development skills and leadership effectiveness.

Five Traits Of Great Leaders

After working with leaders over many years I have found that there are five clusters of traits which set truly great leaders apart. These five clusters are:

  1. Cognitive abilities (vision and strategic agility)
  2. Self-confidence
  3. Results-orientation (unparalleled drive and determination)
  4. Integrity
  5. Sociability






There are proven methods to develop those leaders with these traits to help build a leadership talent pipeline in organizations. These are presented in my recent article in Leadership Excellence magazine (page 18) titled “True Leaders – They Possess Five Traits” and it also includes the seven best practices for developing and retaining great leaders.

Derailing Behaviors And Leadership Impropriety

Why do leaders and other celebrities risk everything they have worked so hard to build – fortune, job, reputation, family, and in some cases their freedom? We now have a group of CEOs embroiled in sex scandals (e.g., Harry Stonechipher, Mark Hurd, Brian Dunn and many more) and illegal activities (e.g., Ken Lay, Dennis Koslowski, and many more). When leaders who appear to have everything decide to risk it all and get caught, it can be quite difficult to understand why they choose to let it happen.

There are some habits and derailing behaviors that develop for some leaders which cause them to go into a downhill spin and lose everything. Research has shown that when power is abused, these derailing behaviors take a toll on them. Sydney Finkelstein outlined five poor habits of leaders who derail that include the following: a deep belief they can control the company, believing they have all the answers, and being overly concerned with their image.

In my recent Leadership Excellence article, I discuss why these derailing behaviors happen and what organizations can do to prevent executive failure and these costly behaviors from happening.

Creating Effective Talent Management Programs

Like it or not, the successes and failures of talent management are still placed squarely on HR’s shoulders. As the economy continues its steady improvement and housing prices return to the pre-recession levels, key leadership performers will again become mobile and start leaving their current employers. So any weakness in a company’s talent management program will soon become exacerbated in the new economy.


One fatal flaw in many HR talent management strategies is the failure to link them to the business strategies and requirements. Once the HR team successfully links their strategies for the talent management process to the business and begins to communicate using vision, strategy and leadership, the company’s leaders will better understand how HR actually adds value to the business (see above graphic for how to do this). When HR doesn’t tie their expense and investment capital to the business, they will continue to suffer from an “expense and cost center” perception and always be resource constrained.

In working with many senior HR leaders over the years to improve HR effectiveness, this type of strategic approach (linking HR talent management goals with business goals) along with better communications has made a step-change improvement in the perception of the HR leader and their functions. Consider using something like the above approach with your key business leaders and you’ll begin to experience the positive impact on your HR department.

3 Top Coaching Tips For Derailers: Skeptical

As part of our blog series 3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. In this blog we highlight Skeptical.


Coaching leaders with this derailing behavior is one that when elevated, gives me insight into how difficult it will be to really make quick progress with the executive.

You see, at the high levels, these leaders tend to scrutinize everything I say and try to determine if there are underlying or hidden messages when in fact there are none. It takes longer to build trust with these coachees who have this derailer.

Recently, I was coaching a leader (VP IT) who had an elevated score on Skeptical as well as serious issues with her boss, the CAO. She was not very supportive of her boss and felt that he was not competent in her IT function, so whenever he would provide her direction, she would question it and decide to do what she wanted to do. As a result, it was important to ensure there were clear, positive and negative consequences for not meeting leadership behavior expectations to help motivate changes from her in the coaching engagement.

In her case, changing her behaviors to build stronger stakeholder relations and having a good relationship with her boss could lead to a desired promotion (CIO) and not addressing these would result in her staying in her current role. It took many tough coaching sessions to be sure she understood and accepted responsibility for the perceptions she had created in the organization. Over many months she changed and dealt with the serious derailing behaviors and, as a result, was later promoted to CIO.


The leader should continue: thinking about and analyzing others’ motives and intentions; challenging others’ assumptions

The leader should stop: arguing with others

The leader should begin:

  • Developing the capacity to trust at least some other people
  • Keeping their doubts to themselves
  • Praising instead of arguing
  • Asking a trusted colleague for feedback on how critical and argumentative they are

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

Look for our blog series to continue with coaching tips for the other derailing behaviors identified by Hogan. Next time we’ll offer tips for Cautious derailers.