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.

4 Keys To Setting Development Goals


Did you set professional goals for this year? Setting goals for your professional lives is a good idea. It is meant to motivate you to reach that goal. But we often overlook the importance of setting the “right” goal and providing the steps necessary in order to successfully reach them. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when setting your leadership development goals.


Grand goals are just that, grand. It’s best, though, to keep your goals simple in order to make them attainable. Ask yourself what one skill you want to improve upon this year. Do you need to become a better listener? Do you want to improve your organizational skills? Choosing one goal and keeping it simple will help you develop the actions you need to develop a positive habit and incorporate it into your daily life.


Let’s use the example of becoming a better listener. What does this mean to you? Are you talking about not interrupting people, listening to ideas in meetings, or setting time aside each day to listen to people’s concerns. Be specific about what successfully reaching this goal looks like to you.


Determine what strategies and steps you need to implement in order to reach your goal. These steps should be simple and easy to incorporate into your daily life. For instance, if your goal is to be a better listener in meetings, you could say “What I hear you saying is…” before giving your opinion. Just by saying this one phrase you are taking the time to verify that you understand the other person’s idea, perspective or concern. Once you’ve validated what they said and established that both of you are on the same page, it’s easier to give your thoughts on the subject.

Often we want to make these action steps more complicated than they need to be. Instead, just ask yourself what one thing you can do today to get you closer to your goal. Then take a few minutes to do it every day and pretty soon it becomes part of your daily routine and you’ve reached your goal.


It’s important to review your progress on achieving your goal. Try to do this on a weekly basis. What did you do this past week to reach your goal? What can you do better next week to get closer to success? Another idea to help you review your progress is to ask other people to hold you accountable. Go to a trusted friend, peer or advisor at work and tell them what goal you have and what strategies you’re following to reach it. Then ask them to give you feedback on how well you’re progressing and what other ideas they have to help you. You might be surprised at the feedback you receive or the simple ideas they give you to help you reach your goal.

Goal setting is generally a good idea in order to accomplish tasks and improve your skills. It becomes a negative in people’s lives when they feel bad for not reaching it. So pick one simple goal, decide what success will look like to you, create your plan to reach it and ask for feedback to review your progress and you will soon be well on your way to achieving your goal.


12 month leadership development plan & toolkit

4 Tips To Improve Your Listening Skills


Effective communication skills are one of the most important skills to develop and one of the hardest to achieve. Most people think they communicate well, but very few people actually understand how to do it effectively.

It’s easy to think we’re listening to someone when they talk, but do we really understand what they’re saying? Almost without exception, what we are really doing is listening to hear the pause in their conversation so we can interrupt them and give our perspective. It’s more important to us to show others that we have the knowledge, share a similar story or defend our position, than it is to truly take the time to hear what they’re actually saying. We make the conversation about us instead of about the other person and the point they’re trying to make.

Here are four ways to improve your listening skills and thus, improve the relationships you have at work.


It most conversations, we are more interested in getting our point across or explaining our side of the story than we are in truly listening to the other person’s perspective.  If we want to become better listeners, we must first seek to understand what the other person is trying to say. Are they expressing a concern or stressed out about something? Do they not understand their role on the project? Solutions can only be found after we have a clear understanding of the situation. We have to take the time to listen to what is being said instead of reacting to it.


This is probably the hardest listening skill to develop. In our chaotic world where we are constantly attached to our electronics, it is hard to simply be present in the conversation. Provide your complete attention and focus on your audience with eye contact to indicate your sincere and complete interest. Suppress the urge to check your smartphone or computer while someone is trying to have a conversation with you.


Think of active listening as a muscle you need to constantly exercise in order to make stronger. Ask a different peer or employee a question about the details or progress of a project, the company culture or just what’s new in their life. By constantly exercising your listening skills, not only will it help you to discover potential problems and solutions, but it will build trust and positive relationships in your work environment.


Clarify and validate what you hear the other person saying. Be patient and remain quiet while the person makes their point and asks for your opinion or solution. Then take a deep breath and say, “What I hear you saying is…”. Or if you are still unclear of their perspective, ask for more clarification on the subject until you can repeat what they said. By clarifying and validating what they said, you’re showing that person how much you value them by clearly understanding their point. This builds mutual trust and is a key building block to developing better relationships.

Listening is a skill that can be learned by anyone. It simply takes the desire, knowledge and practices to do it well. Use these tips to develop your listening skills and watch how it creates better personal and professional relationships.

Leadership skills development

3 Top Coaching Tips For Derailers: Diligent

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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. This week, we highlight the derailing behavior Diligent.

All of us are diligent to different degrees and this served you well as you progressed up the ladder in your organization. It was very handy to be a perfectionist as an individual contributor and produce high quality work products. Setting high standards and working really hard to achieve these ideals is typically valued by organizations. However, the trouble comes when you can’t relax these standards and get work done through others. You can have a high degree of diligence and survive, until you start leading mangers, directors, and other executives. You can become known as a micromanager and these behaviors stunt development of the team and tend to drive off highly talented employees.

Connie was CEO of a major health services organization. She had been promoted to that role from the Chief Scientist role based on her insights and knowledge in the field, industry reputation and influence, and ability to get things done. When she took over, her senior team (former peers) was tolerant of her need to know all of the details and to closely manage their projects and initiatives. After a few months, it became apparent to Connie that she needed some help to improve the team’s morale and effectiveness. When I entered the situation Connie described her day-to-day activities to me and I identified some very specific behaviors that were causing some issues with her senior staff.

For example, the leader of external communications was not able to get acceptable press releases out about the organization in Connie’s opinion. Instead of Connie challenging the leader to improve that facet of her department, she thought it was easier and faster if she edited the press releases. The picture was this: the CEO was reading and editing press releases. Is that a valuable use of her time? No, so she stopped doing these and started to put her requirements and expectations in place to improve the quality of the press releases she had to approve. It was hard for Connie to resist the temptation to return to writing these, but once she did, she was able to spend her time on much more strategic activities.


The leader should continue: Working hard, being careful and maintaining high standards.

The leader should stop: Criticizing subordinates’ work, pointing out their shortcomings, and requiring them to do their work “your way”.

The leader should begin:

  • Delegating tasks to subordinates and letting them make their own mistakes
  • Differentiating tasks that need to be completed to perfection from those that don’t
  • Recognizing that others may not share your high standards of quality

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.



How Do I Get Promoted? – Use Leadership Assessments To Evaluate Your Skills


In my previous blog post regarding the Leadership Development Process, I said that the first step is assessing your skills. There are several other sources of input that can help you with an objective evaluation of your leadership skills and reputation. Unlike 360 degree surveys, these assessments rely on your own self-reporting as you answer the questions and the research used to develop the assessment makes a prediction on how you are most likely to lead and be perceived by others.

It is important to use assessments that have a solid foundation of research and validity to get the best information for your development. These are typically accessed through your internal HR department or an external executive coach.

For example, the following are among the most widely used by the Fortune 1000 organizations:

  • Hogan Assessment Systems – Leadership Potential and Leadership Challenge Assessments
  • Corporate Executive Board’s SHL Division
  • Pearson Assessments – Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal

Do not use an online assessment offered to the general public since you may end up focusing on the wrong areas for executive leadership success. If your HR department does not offer one of these assessments, choose an accredited executive coach to administer it and interpret the results for you. Once you have assessed your leadership skills, the executive coach will be able to assist you with the rest of the development process and help you on the road to achieving career success.

Leadership skills development

How Do I Get Promoted? – Are Leaders Born or Made?


I have asked this question in the past and there is still much debate regarding what really makes a leader. The Center for Creative Leadership, a research firm, surveyed top leaders globally and found that 52.4% believed leaders were made, 19.1% believed leaders were born, and the remaining 28.5 % believed it to be a combination of factors – that leaders may have some intrinsic skills but have also worked hard to gain valuable experiences, perspective, and knowledge to maximize their success.

I believe it is a combination of factors and that intrinsic skills play some part in success as a top executive. However, the majority of success is derived from work experiences, training, mentoring, and development. In my experiences as a leadership coach and developer of talent for 30+ years, there are some foundation traits leaders must possess to be made into great leaders.


Leaders have to possess at least an average level of intelligence. If a leader is very intelligent he/she may possess stronger analytical abilities and utilize development experiences and training faster than someone who is of average intelligence.


This trait helps accelerate a leader’s development when they are constantly seeking to further their careers. It is still possible to become a top leader without much ambition because other skills they possess helped them move up the career ladder such as technical abilities, relationships, and being in the right place at the right time.


In organizations today the responsibility for development has been delegated to the leader. The manager is responsible for providing resources and coaching, and developing their successor. However, many managers do not prepare development plans for their team members. And, if you are at the VP level now, it is my experience that most development stops at your level. There is a big assumption that you should know what you’re supposed to do and there is little need to make investments in your leadership development. That is, unless you ask for the resources and funds to further your own career.


It helps a lot if you are outgoing and like to work around people. However, I have worked for and with many senior leaders who were introverts. They developed the necessary behaviors to exhibit leadership and achieve results while many of their stakeholders had no idea they were introverted.


Courage is helpful because you will need to develop and display behaviors that may have not been required in the past. I have coached many leaders who succeeded because they were courageous and tried to lead differently than what had made them successful in the past. This is important as you need to develop your leadership as you rise in the organization to senior roles.


You get noticed when you can meet and exceed expectations.  If you are not able to exceed performance expectations it will take you longer to build credibility and trust that you would be able to drive performance at the VP+ level.

So what’s your opinion? Are leaders born or made, or do you believe it’s a combination of factors? What other skills or traits form the foundation for leaders at your organization?

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How Do I Get Promoted? – Leadership Skills to Develop


Tired of feeling stuck in your career? As part of our ongoing blog series “How Do I Get Promoted”, this week we focus on specific leadership skills every great leader possesses and continually develops. After working with hundreds of leaders in dozens of organizations, I have found that the following competencies are the most important to develop in order to increase your chances of being promoted.


  • Strategic Agility
  • Business and Financial Acumen
  • Applying Broad Perspective
  • Displaying Seasoned Judgment


  • Driving Execution
  • Results-Orientation
  • Organizational Performance


  • Leading Change
  • Motivating and Inspiring


  • Building Great Teams
  • Leading Effective Teams


  • Building Effective Relationships
  • Communicating With Impact
  • Collaborating with Others


  • Inspiring Trust
  • Adaptability
  • Self-Development

When you perform well in these areas you increase the likelihood of your advancement in your organization. Think about which one on the list you can target for improvement. Then set a goal of developing that skill during the next couple of months. By demonstrating to your boss and other decision makers that you’re serious about improving your leadership skills, they may see you in a new light and consider you for the next level.

Share your thoughts on the subject: What other leadership skills do you think are important to career advancement and has your company openly discussed what it takes to get ahead?

Lessons In Leadership: Build Your Followership



I often encounter leaders who feel like their careers have stalled and they don’t really know why this has happened or how to proactively manage their careers without seeming too “political” in the eyes of their peers.

The harsh reality is that as you progress higher in the organization, the positions are fewer while the competition for them increases. If you are like most corporate citizens, you believe that by working hard and demonstrating loyalty and commitment you will be recognized and continue to progress.

What if you are a field leader who is very successful and not at the Corporate office? What if you are a high potential Director in a business unit away from headquarters? In order to succeed you will need to become more strategic and take these steps to ensure you are on the “top of mind” of key leaders as openings occur.

1. Have a discussion with your manager and find out how you are viewed by his/her senior management. Ask him/her which leaders they recommend for you to meet.

2. Volunteer to your manager to work on enterprise-wide initiatives and task forces. These are great opportunities for exposure to other departments, leaders and teams.

3. List the 6-7 key stakeholders at your manager’s level and above whom you should contact on a periodic basis to form a relationship. For example, if the CFO is key to your career then make plans to spend time with the CFO when you are in the home office.

4. Get your LinkedIn profile updated. Most search firms rely on this tool to conduct their research. Employees in your company also can review your profile since they don’t have access to your resume anywhere else.

5. Seek a mentor in your company. This would be someone at your manager’s level or higher.  When you go to that person to ask for help, be sure you have the role you desire for them to play specified so you can communicate your expectations to see if they will be able to serve  in that role.

6. Establish a relationship with the most senior HR executive. Many leaders don’t take HR into consideration for career mobility but they are always present when talent discussions occur. While they rarely recommend on their own they can veto a suggestion from your senior leadership team.


If you take these steps you can begin to build stronger followership in your company and promote yourself in professional and appropriate ways. These actions can help you move your career along faster than simply waiting for someone to call and ask you to take a role.

Lessons In Leadership: Become More Strategic

During your performance reviews, how many times have you heard that in order to advance your career you needed to:

  • Demonstrate you can think and plan for the future?
  • Become less tactical and more strategic?
  • Focus less on the day-to-day and more long-term in your planning?

lessons in leadership

The problem is that most jobs below the VP level are designed for you to be very tactical, day-to-day, and to focus on the details. This varies to some degree by industry, but generally organizations are designed for the VPs+ to do the planning and strategy while everyone else’s job is to execute and implement the necessary tactics.

There are number of ways to build that strategic agility competency required to advance, even when you are in a tactical role. Here are some practical tips:

  • Conduct your own SWOT analysis on your company. Going through this process will be similar to what you would do when you are developing a strategic plan. It will get you used to the methodology and also give you a useful tool. By using this as part of your day-to-day vocabulary you’ll start getting noticed for your longer range planning.
  • Create a mission statement for your department or function. While on a smaller scale, you’ll be able to use the steps to develop your mission later when you get the bigger jobs requiring strategic agility.
  • Volunteer to participate on a taskforce or temporary team that has been assembled to work on a strategic initiative for the company. You get exposure to other great colleagues and learn parts of the strategic planning process.
  • Don’t shy away from strategy or long range planning. It is not a waste of time if the strategic plans are created and executed flawlessly. It’s not perfect, by definition since we are anticipating the future and other external factors outside of our control.
  • Seek outside programs to help you broaden your perspective, especially if you have been resident in one function in your career. These range from earning an MBA or EMBA to a 3-5 day university based course on strategic agility.
  • Schedule time to spend one-on-one with senior execs who are responsible for the strategy. Ask several questions about their approach, factors considered, tough choices made, and plans.
  • Get the foundation of strategy through books available including Michael E. Porter’s classic Competitive Advantage, a great book to think about business and strategy using the balanced scorecard foundation. Also, Strategy Maps by Robert S. Norton and David P. Kaplan about converting intangible traits into tangible outcomes.
  • Also, an article by Jeanne B. Liedtka titled “Strategic Thinking: Can It Be Taught?” gives you the framework and tools necessary to build your strategic agility leadership competency.

Take the initiative if you are in a tactical role and start expanding your dormant competency: strategic agility. It should pay off for you when you get the next promotion.

Leadership skills development

How Great Leaders Inspire

Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start With Why”, talks about how to become inspiring leaders by starting with the simple concept of why. His Tedx Talk at Puget Sound explains how leaders who start with why have the ability to inspire and he gives examples such as the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr.

He says everyone knows what they do, many people know how they do it, but very few people know why they do it. The why is a person’s (or company’s) belief, cause or purpose, not to be confused with the result (money, profit) of what they do. He refers to these three as the Golden Circle:

cps golden circle 001

Most people and companies start from the outside circle to explain what they do, then move inwards. Simon advocates leaders and organizations should reverse that process and start with the inside circle and explain why you do something. He said, “We follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to.”

This concept applies to leaders inspiring others as well as organizations motivating people to buy their product or service. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he said. Simon uses Apple as a great example of a company who successfully explains why they do something which creates loyal customers who buy-in to the company’s purpose. What Apple does and how they do it is secondary to why they do it. “The goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

View Simon’s Tedx Talk and learn the importance of changing your way of thinking from what you do to why you do it. Great leaders and successful companies know the key to inspirational leadership: “Those who start with why have the ability to inspire.”