How to improve your company’s leadership coaching results

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on November 21st, 2018 by admin

In the geopolitical uncertainty following the Cold War, U.S. military leaders found themselves in uncharted territories. The world had become volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous — or VUCA, as they called it.

Leadership Coaching Results
That same term has also been used to describe today’s business environment, and industry leaders find themselves in similarly new territory. In a VUCA world, traditional command-and-control management styles simply don’t cut it.

By contrast, the best modern managers coach and empower their people to think critically and adapt fast, and it’s a learning process that takes significant time and trust. Still, it’s worth it. According to an ICF report from 2014, preparing managers to be good coaches boosts employee productivity and customer service by up to 39 percent.

Turning Managers Into Coaches
Companies that are aware of even the most basic coaching principles recognize that adults do not respond well to being told outright what to do. Instead, as research has shown, people need to discover new ideas and practices for themselves; that is, they benefit from leadership coaching.

Through the act of asking questions, having targeted conversations, and engaging people in practice and discovery, leaders can motivate significant changes in attitude and behavior back on the job — changes that can improve job performance. Knowing this, companies have recognized the benefit of embedding a coaching culture in their organizations, undertaking countless initiatives to inspire their leaders to become better coaches.

But do these leader-as-coach initiatives work? Have they successfully created coaching cultures? The results are mixed. Almost all big businesses have some sort of coaching skills program or initiative, but very few can call their initiatives successful.

Why is this? Unfortunately, too many coaching programs are written as if business still existed in a linear world. For example, the preponderance of the GROW model (set Goals, recognize Reality, identify Options, and Will it forward) shows a predilection for structured tools. Valuable as they are, however, structured tools aren’t necessarily the key to the agile transformation that businesses need in today’s fast-moving VUCA world.

So what does work? These four concepts are central to building into your business a coaching culture that gets results.

1. Make Every Minute Count
In order to become effective at professional coaching in a time-pressured world, managers have to retrain themselves on how to be fully present in one-on-one situations. Your presence as a coach is the single most important factor in your relationships. If you are distracted, judging, or worried about the other person, then it won’t matter how good your coaching is. It is better to have fewer, shorter, totally present interactions than to spend a longer time together with a lower quality of focus.

2. Emphasize Everyday Brilliance
Bring coaching to life at every opportunity by focusing on the everyday brilliance of your regular interactions rather than the occasional intimacy of long one-on-ones. Be sure to define and communicate which moments make a difference. What does it look like when someone starts a new task? How do they respond to making a mistake, and how could they respond differently? An overemphasis or reliance on processes such as the GROW model will cause you to miss those moments and miss the point of your relationships. Instead, stay engaged with daily activities — the ones that add up to new habits that improve performance.

3. Avoid Cookie-Cutter Training
Successful leaders encourage growth in others, but sometimes they express ideas in ways that aren’t easy to understand. It’s important to embrace that leadership that speaks to different ways of inspiring others. For this reason, you need to teach your leaders situational awareness: the ability to know when and how to adapt their instinctive approaches to fit others’ needs.

A good leader should be able to fluidly switch between styles. You’ll need to determine when it is best to step back and trust, as opposed to when it is time to ask the probing questions. When is it appropriate to share your own experience, and when it is best to provide challenging feedback? Each of these strategies has its place, and great line manager coaches know how to use the right mix at the right time.

4. Focus on Conversations, Not Questions
Abandon the notion that all a coach needs is the ability to ask great questions. Good coaches should use their adaptability to turn thoughtful questions into great conversations. Sure, questions are at the core of great coaching. However, having analyzed our database of more than 120,000 coaching conversations shows that distinct conversations will drive distinct changes.

With a VUCA environment in business today, managers can no longer rely on linear, cookie-cutter techniques to inspire people. Managers can take inspiration from coaches and learn how to adapt, be present, engage in conversation, and celebrate daily brilliance. By doing so, managers and their teams will become adept at navigating a volatile, confusing world with confidence, resilience, and adaptability.

Source: BTS.com, October 2018
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By: Jerry Connor, Head of BTS Coach, originally published by hr.com

När på dygnet är du som bäst?

Posted in Allmänt, Executive Coaching, Uncategorized on October 29th, 2018 by admin

Börja inte dagen med att svara på e-post, slå vakt om den tid på dygnet då du är mest analytisk och undvik svåra saker på eftermiddagen. Daniel Pinks nya bok ”När” är en guide för den som inte är nöjd med att bara göra rätt saker på dagen, utan också vid rätt tid.

1. Var lika noggrann med när du ska göra något som vad du ska göra.

– Det är mitt viktigaste råd till den som vill hantera sin tid bättre, säger Daniel Pink.

Inte nog med att de flesta är vassare på förmiddagen, dessutom är vi mer positiva. Det här vet vi eftersom forskarna Michael Macy och Scott Goulder har analyserat 500 miljoner tweets av 2.4 miljoner användare i 84 länder. Mönstret var likadant, oavsett var man bodde eller vilken kultur man levde i. Vi är mer positiva på morgonen, mindre positiva på eftermiddagen, men blev på allt bättre humör allt eftersom det blev kväll. En tidig topp, en dal och sedan en återgång. Helgerna visar ett lite annat mönster, där är allt förskjutet med ungefär två timmar, vilket forskarna tror beror på att människor går upp senare på helgerna.

Tweetsen kategoriserades utifrån vilken sorts ton det var i dem och det var avgjort så att de flesta av oss är mer negativa, mer retliga och – framför allt – mer stridslystna på eftermiddagen.

Daniel Pinks andra råd till oss som inte vill vara retliga i fel ögonblick och, kanske ännu viktigare, kreativa och konstruktiva i rätt ögonblick, låter enkelt, men är lite svårare att göra.

2. Hitta tiden när du fungerar som bäst och håll den helig.

Först behöver du alltså ta reda på när du fungerar som bäst och det gör du exempelvis genom att föra ett slags dagbok under en vecka. Säg åt din mobiltelefon att påminna dig varje timme och vid varje timme skriver du ner hur du mår och hur du känner dig. Efter en vecka borde du veta när du fungerar som bäst.

– Jag har min ”peak time”, min bästa tid, från klockan 8.30 på morgonen, säger Daniel Pink.

Strategin är då att se till att chefen inte drar in dig i ett meningslöst möte. Undvik att bli distraherad. Men din största fiende i detta är inte chefen eller arbetskamraterna, det är du själv. Det är nämligen lätt att använda sin mest kreativa tid till att göra saker som inte kräver din bästa tankeförmåga. Förutom att slösurfa på sociala medier finns en professionell fiende till din bästa tid: e-posten.

– Det är lätt att hamna i att man börjar besvara e-post under den tiden, för att det ger en känsla av att man åstadkommer något, när man betar av e-posten, säger Daniel Pink.

I själva verket är mycket av e-posten administrativa uppgifter som kan göras även när man är tröttare och på sämre humör. Ska du verkligen använda din mest konstruktiva tid för att hitta rätt tid för ett möte, eller svara på en enkät?

Administrativa uppgifter är bättre att göra under den dal, eller dip, som för de flesta av oss inträffar någon gång på eftermiddagen.

Men de flesta av oss har inte en sådan makt över vår egen tid. Analytiska saker kan behöva göras på eftermiddagen. Daniel Pink har system för det också.

– Jag bokar in pauser på eftermiddagen, säger han.

Under den tid som vi fungerar bäst kan vi vara koncentrerade i kanske en timme eller mer i sträck. (Det är förstås individuellt). Men på eftermiddagen har Pink löst det genom att ta tätare pauser. Nu jobbar han sällan mer än tjugofem minuter i taget innan han tar en paus, just för att kunna få eftermiddagen att fungera bättre.

Men vår minskande analytiska förmåga under eftermiddagen har en oväntad effekt på vår förmåga att lösa problem. Och det kallas för ”inspirationsparadoxen”. På morgnarna är de flesta av oss bättre på att hålla borta störande moment, på att koncentrera oss. Och det är bra för analytiskt arbete. Men när det gäller insikt – då är det andra regler som gäller. För somliga kommer insikten i duschen, för andra under löpturen, men gemensamt är att vi slappnar av, den där delen av oss som håller kontroll har slappnat av och – voilà – nya oväntade tankar kan slinka in. Inspirationsparadoxen är att innovation och kreativitet är som störst när vi inte är som bäst, eller i alla fall mest analytiska.

Förutom dessa råd har han stött på något annat i sin analys av hur vi förhåller oss till tiden och det spänner över ett betydligt större område: hela livet.

– Medelålderskrisen är en myt, säger Daniel Pink.

Han har hittat den vetenskapliga artikel som en gång gav upphov till uttrycket och säger att den är svag och att den knappast skulle kunna publiceras i dag. Det finns heller ingen vetenskaplig bevisning för att medelålderskrisen skulle existera. Kurvan på hur vi människor upplever våra liv går visserligen nedåt en aning i medelåldern, men det är en marginell minskning, säger han. Det finns inga belägg för att vi skulle krisa.

– Vi människor går igenom kriser hela tiden, men inte någon specifik kris i medelåldern.

Så om du nu följt råden om hur du ska lägga upp din dag, ägnat morgonen åt de svåraste sakerna och eftermiddagen åt de administrativa, då har du bara ett moment kvar: att gå hem.

3. Ta en minut innan du går hem från jobbet och sammanfatta vad du har åstadkommit.

Och naturligtvis har Daniel Pink letat upp hur man ska avsluta dagen på bästa sätt.

– Slutet är inte bara något som ska hända, utan ska tas på allvar. Ta någon minut, eller två, och skriv ner vad du har åstadkommit i dag, säger han.

En vanlig arbetsdag gör vi många olika saker och för många flyter allting ihop. Och då kan det vara svårt att känna att man åstadkommit något.

– Det enskilt bästa sättet att hålla den dagliga motivationen uppe på jobbet är, enligt en bra forskningsstudie, känslan av att ha gjort framsteg.

En annan sak som har visat sig effektivt är tacksamhet. Och det kan man åstadkomma genom att till exempel skicka tack-mejl det sista man gör till någon som har hjälpt en under dagen.

– Vad man vill åstadkomma är att sluta dagen med en positiv känsla.

Han tycker du ska ha en personlig ritual, varje dag vid arbetets slut, då du samlar tankarna, och påminner dig själv om allt du har fått uträttat under dagen.

Och om du har följt hans råd är det antagligen mer än det var förut.

Källa: DN.se, 29 oktober 2018
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Making work meaningful: A leader’s guide

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on October 28th, 2018 by admin

People who find meaning at work are happier, more productive, and more engaged. Four practical interventions can help make the search more likely to succeed.

By now, it is well understood that people who believe their job has meaning and a broader purpose are more likely to work harder, take on challenging or unpopular tasks, and collaborate effectively. Research repeatedly shows that people deliver their best effort and ideas when they feel they are part of something larger than the pursuit of a paycheck. (For more, see the companion article, “The link between meaning and organizational health.”)

Most business leaders know this. They take pains to broadcast the company’s strategy to employees. They say they really want employees to know that the organization has a higher purpose. And yet many of these messages aren’t getting through: in one survey of senior executives around the world, only 38 percent of leaders said that their staff had a clear understanding of the organization’s purpose and commitment to its core values and beliefs. US and global Gallup polls confirm this, finding that about 70 percent of employees are not “involved in, enthusiastic about, or committed to their work.”Another study showed that nearly nine out of ten American workers believe they do not contribute to their full potential, because they don’t feel excited about their work.
At a time when many companies are engineering jarring transformational changes to become more agile, digitally enabled, and proactive competitors, it is more important than ever that employees find meaning in their work. Traditional rewards systems and career ladders are disappearing, so workers need new reasons to believe in their companies.
We have found four organizational-design interventions that can help. They are simple, inexpensive, practical, and local and can help employees at any level of the organization. This kind of straightforward practice is often overlooked in ambitious corporate initiatives. But it is critical for any company hoping to create an environment where organizational change is personal and where innovation becomes a bottom-up process of purposeful actions initiated by employees themselves.

1. Reduce anonymity
Humans are collaborators. We have evolved that way, understanding that we can accomplish more by cooperating face-to-face with others. Modern organizations, with their siloed workplaces and increasingly digitized operations, can foster separation and anonymity. But perceptive leaders can find ways to establish deeper connections between any worker and his or her customers.
Consider a cafeteria experiment conducted by Ryan Buell, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, and his coauthors Tami Kim and Chia-Jung Tsay.4 In many cafeterias, cooks and diners do not see each other, since waiters serve as the intermediary between the two. Buell changed that dynamic by setting up a video feed from the grill station to an iPad in the kitchen. There was no sound and no interaction, but the chefs could see who was ordering the food that they would prepare.
Immediately, the cooks started to work differently. For example, they began freshly preparing eggs for each customer, instead of grilling several eggs in advance and plating those when ordered. Simply seeing their customer changed everything. In short order (ahem), employee satisfaction soared. Better still, customer satisfaction went up 14.4 percent, according to Buell. Even though the chefs went unseen, the video feed had created a connection that added meaning to their work.
Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief executive of Sadler’s Wells Theatre, in London, understands the value of direct contact. About ten years ago, Spalding realized that he had to improve morale at the venerable dance venue—in particular, among its supporting staff of marketers, stagehands, and administrators, as well as others. The theater had endured a history of strikes, and the prep work for many shows lacked the precision and attention to detail that Spalding craved.
Spalding saw that the artists who performed at Sadler’s Wells were essentially anonymous to the staff. The employees did their work during the day, the artists showed up at night to perform, and the groups never connected. Unsurprisingly, the employees demonstrated relatively little interest in the theater’s overarching intent to become the center of innovation in dance. Indeed, the staff tended to have a somewhat negative attitude toward the artists.
Spalding decided to combat this by launching an “associate artists” program. Artists who performed at the theater regularly would get free office space at the theater and access to its rehearsal studios and cafeteria. Spalding went so far as to position Sadler’s Wells as a center of innovation, where artists could meet, practice, dream big, or just hang out.
This was a great boon to the artists. But the employees benefited as well. As the theater became more of a home to a community of artists, the artists became much less anonymous to the employees. Gradually, Spalding began noticing proactive changes and improvements in the performance of the employees. For example, lighting staffers became more involved in the selection of lamps for performances, bringing a level of technical expertise that had been lacking before. Similarly, the cafeteria staff became more engaged as they saw how their work contributed to a dynamic atmosphere that, in turn, encouraged artists to spend time at the theater. The marketing and sales side benefited as well, and over the next four years, attendance at Sadler’s Wells grew 25 percent, to 470,000 visitors a year.
Spalding believes that none of this would have occurred without the associate-artist program. “I thought that it was important that it wasn’t just administrators around,” he said. “That there are actual living artists in the building reminds everyone of what we’re doing. The whole organization is involved in the work of artists.” By replacing anonymity with familiarity, Spalding had altered attitudes and behavior, laying the groundwork for success.

2. Help people grasp the impact of their work on the customer
Many companies give workers data about their customers. But giving employees a clear sense of how their work directly affects specific customers is more profound.
Wharton School professor Adam Grant conducted a series of experiments with university fund-raisers.6 Fund-raising is a tough job; many people do not appreciate unsolicited calls, and yet the typical fund-raiser must make numerous calls before receiving a pledge. Most employers pay for performance: a fund-raiser’s remuneration depends almost completely on the donations secured. But the job is so monotonous and taxing that productivity and morale are generally quite low.
Grant conducted two experiments. In one, he arranged for fund-raisers to hear a senior executive and a board member of a university speak about the significance of education in society and the importance of the fund-raisers’ work to scholarship recipients. Nothing came of these supposedly motivational speeches. Productivity didn’t improve at all.
In the other experiment, Grant arranged for fund-raisers to meet a student who had received a scholarship. The student explained that the scholarship had changed his life, allowing him to attend university and study abroad. By conversing with the student, the fund-raisers saw the impact of their work firsthand.
After meeting the student, fund-raisers placed many more calls than before and secured larger donations per call. Research shows that the person on the other end of the line can sense the caller’s enthusiasm. The fund-raisers’ new attitude made their phone conversations more engaging, convincing, and successful. In the two months after meeting the student, fund-raisers raised 295 percent more than they had in the two months before—an average of $9,704.58 versus $2,459.44.
Helping people understand the impact of their work does not have to be complicated or expensive. It should be personal, however. These kinds of firsthand interactions should be built into an organization systematically. One useful practice is to insist that all employees—whether they are customer facing or not—make regular on-site visits to the end users of the company’s products.
That is what Dorothee Ritz, Microsoft’s general manager for Austria, did with her Vienna-based employees.8 Ritz insisted that everyone see for themselves how people were implementing the company’s products and services. One manager spent several days out on the street with police officers to learn how they use remote data. Another manager spent two days in a hospital to see the impact of going paperless. Soon, Ritz noticed, employees were suggesting more pointed solutions for customers based on their on-site visits. According to Ritz, this simple practice gives employees a better sense of the real value of their work.

3. Notice, recognize, and reward good work
Employees want to know that their work is noticed and valued. Smart companies find meaningful ways to do this without doling out raises and bonuses.
Wikipedia relies heavily on unpaid editors who volunteer to create and correct its pages. Retaining these editors is key to the success of the company. To further this effort, the company gave UCLA Anderson assistant professor Jana Gallus permission to randomly select a number of people from a group of 4,000 eligible editors to receive an award (the remainder served as the study’s control group).
The Wikipedia award had two components: an electronic image posted on the editor’s personal page and recognition on an official Wikipedia page. Since editors use pseudonyms, the award conferred no direct personal gains in a traditional sense. Nevertheless, this symbolic award spurred productivity (up by 13 percent over 11 months) and retention (up 20 percent). Many of the award-winning editors started taking on more ambitious tasks, such as writing articles from scratch, while others tackled critical behind-the-scenes coordination and maintenance. The editors also became more engaged in helping others: reward recipients were twice as likely as other editors to answer requests for help from community members.
“Thank you very much,” one editor posted on the award’s public discussion page. “I have spent much time with Wikipedia. The recognition . . . makes me very happy.” Another wrote, “I feel very honored to receive this award. It makes me realize that contributions, even if they may be small, are recognized here.”
Put simply, work becomes more meaningful when people know that their actions are noticed and appreciated. The recognition doesn’t necessarily need to be public, as Bryan Stroube from the London Business School and Robert Vesco from Bloomberg discovered when they studied the comments posted on the website Hacker News.
The site is part of Y Combinator, which provides seed money to start-ups in exchange for an equity stake. The company built Hacker News for entrepreneurs to post ideas for start-ups and get reactions from a relevant community. All users, for example, can “like” a particular comment when they value it. At one point in its history, Hacker News made the number of likes that someone had accumulated visible to the community, but at another time, it showed the number only to the individual commenter. By comparing the public and private periods, Stroube and Vesco showed that publicizing the numbers of likes did not increase useful comments across the system. The number alone gave commenters a sense that their feedback was being noticed and appreciated.
Many companies can create an internal network where employees can “like” the work of colleagues. But the personal touch is important as well. Good leaders make constructive praise a regular part of their management routine.

4. Connect daily work to a grander goal

Our first three suggestions offer simple ways to help employees feel that their work is valuable. Our fourth suggestion offers a concrete way to help employees understand how their daily responsibilities tie in to a higher meaning, to a purpose larger than themselves.
Almost every company says they would like to do this, but few succeed. Business leaders regularly communicate their company’s higher purpose in a vision or mission statement and try to reinforce it at conferences and workshops.
While these efforts are well intended, few have a positive or lasting impact. Sometimes, the problem is the vision itself. Gerard Langeler, a cofounder of Mentor Graphics, said that his own company fell into such a “vision trap” when it defined its vision as “changing the way the world designs,” an expression of purpose that was too grand and too detached from daily tasks.10 Sometimes, the problem is the way that the vision is communicated. Remember the fund-raiser experiment? When leaders try to impose a vision, employees tend not to take the message to heart. Employees need to make the connection from their work to the company vision themselves.
To help leaders stimulate this bottom-up process, we recommend a simple intervention technique based on the work of Antonio Freitas and his colleagues from the State University of New York and New York University.11 The exercise pushes people to think about their work in an increasingly high-level way and can be exercised one-on-one, during team meetings, or in internal workshops.
Here is how it works. Imagine a manager at XYZ Technology who regularly fills out performance-evaluation forms. The exercise begins by asking the manager, “Why are you completing these forms?” Perhaps she would answer, “In order to give my team members feedback about their performance and to help them improve.” A second question builds on her answer: “Why do you want to help them improve?” She might say, “so that my team can develop better enterprise software.” A third repetition of the question builds on the second answer: “Why do you want to build better enterprise software?” She might answer, “to improve the efficiency of our customers.” A fourth and final question gets to the essence of her work: “And why do you want customers to be more efficient?” The response might be, “so they are free to be their most creative and productive selves.” That is a grand goal—indeed, the kind of thing a company might say in its mission statement. As each of her answers builds on her previous ones, the manager comes to align her task with the organization’s loftiest goals.
Wharton School’s Andrew Carton examined how a similar exercise worked at NASA during the 1960s, when the agency was tasked with putting an astronaut on the moon. In four steps, employees discovered a meaningful connection between their work and NASA’s ultimate aspirations. These steps linked their daily tasks (“I am building electrical circuits”) to NASA’s objective (“I am putting a man on the moon”) and even to a greater purpose (“I am advancing science”). According to Carton, the personal connection to a meaningful common goal boosted employees’ “coordination and collective enthusiasm.” As one former NASA employee recalled, “We didn’t want to go home at night. We just wanted to keep going, and we couldn’t wait to get up and get back to work in the morning. The clarity of NASA’s strategic objective helps remind managers of another important point about meaning: namely, that employees must see clearly how their organization is trying to contribute to a higher purpose, in the form of concrete strategic intent.
Research confirms that people are more motivated and persistent when they think about why they are doing something (for instance, losing weight to become healthy) instead of what they are doing (eating a salad). After the fund-raisers met the student, they focused less on what they were doing (making unpleasant phone calls) and more on why (helping students fund their college education). When people understand and believe in the reasons behind their actions, they display greater resilience and stamina.

The idea that employees perform better when they feel a deep connection to their work is a fundamental part of many corporate reorganizations, where agile systems and other efforts are designed to tap a company’s greatest asset: the personal creativity of its employees. But it is not enough to institute systemic changes and hope that employees will rise to the task. Instead, senior executives should take the sorts of practical steps that help employees in their search for meaning at work. When successful, these efforts provide a road map for aligning the personal aspirations of employees with the most important goals of the organization—a combination that benefits everyone.

Source: McKInsey.com, October 2018
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By: Dan Cable and Freek Vermeulen
About the authors: an Cable is a professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School and the author of Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do (Harvard Business Review Press, 2018). Freek Vermeulen is the chair of strategy and entrepreneurship faculty at the London Business School and the author of Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press, 2017).

Servant Leadership: Moving from Mindset to Skill Set

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on October 23rd, 2018 by admin

“A servant leadership mindset is all about focusing on others rather than yourself,” says bestselling business author Ken Blanchard. As part of research for a new book, Servant Leadership in Action, Blanchard had an opportunity to explore both the mindset and the skill set needed for leaders interested in adopting an others-focused approach to leadership.

“The mindset is to recognize that there are two parts of servant leadership, says Blanchard. “There is the vision, direction, and goals—that’s the leadership part. Everybody needs to know where you’re going and what you’re trying to accomplish.

“The servant leadership skill set is turning that vision into action. Now you are looking at the day-to-day management behaviors people need from their leader to succeed.”

Blanchard shares some examples:
Developing Others: “Servant leaders are always preparing people to be their own boss by helping them own their job and be in charge. This means identifying a direct report’s development level and providing the direction and support they need to grow and develop.”

Delegating: “Servant leaders first make sure that people know what the goals are. Then they turn the organizational pyramid and the reporting relationships upside down. They ask questions like How can I help? and What can I do to make a difference to help you accomplish your goals?

Directing Others: “It’s not really about directing them,” says Blanchard. “It’s about helping them. Sometimes when people are new they need clear direction—it is a temporary leadership behavior to help someone take ownership of their job and get to where they want to go.”

Servant leadership is a journey, says Blanchard. It’s both a mindset and a skill set. Once you get it right on the inside you can begin to develop the skills related to goal setting and performance management. Blanchard points to two of his company’s flagship programs as examples of how servant leadership principles can be taught as a part of a larger leadership development curriculum.

“In many ways, servant leadership is the overarching theme that covers the concepts of two of our most popular programs: Situational Leadership® II and First-time Manager.

“For example, Situational Leadership® II has three skills that generate both great relationships and results: goal setting, diagnosis, and matching. Notice that the first skill is goal setting. All good performance starts with clear goals—which, for a manager, are clearly part of the leadership aspect of servant leadership.

“Once clear goals are set, an effective situational leader works with their direct report to diagnose the direct report’s development level—competence and commitment—on each specific goal. Then together they determine the appropriate leadership style—the amount of directive and supportive behavior—that will match the person’s development level on each goal. That way the manager can help them accomplish their goals—the servant aspect of servant leadership. The key here is for managers to remember they must use different strokes for different folks but also different strokes for the same folks, depending on the goal and the person’s development level.

“In our First-time Manager program we teach the concepts of One Minute Management. The First Secret of The One Minute Manager is setting One Minute Goals—which for a manager is part of the leadership aspect of servant leadership. Once employees are clear on goals, an effective One Minute Manager tries to catch people doing something right so that they can deliver a One Minute Praising—the Second Secret. If the person is doing something wrong or not performing as well as agreed upon, a One Minute Re-Direct is appropriate—the Third Secret. When effective One Minute Managers are praising or redirecting their employees, they are engaging in the servant aspect of servant leadership—working for their employees to help them win.

“Why are the concepts of Situational Leadership® II and The One Minute Manager so widely used around the world? I think it’s because they are clear examples of servant leadership in action. Both concepts recognize that vision and direction—the leadership aspect of servant leadership—are the responsibility of the traditional hierarchy. People need to be clear on their goals. Implementation—the servant aspect of servant leadership—is all about turning the hierarchy upside down and helping employees accomplish their agreed-upon goals.”

Mindset and Skill Set
“Saying you’re a servant leader is a good start, but it is your behavior that makes it real for people,” says Blanchard. “Servant leadership is a combination of mindset and skill set that focuses on serving others first so that organizations develop great relationships, achieve great results, and delight their customers.”

Source: Kenblanchard.com
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By: David Witt

Don’t forget coaching when transitioning new leaders

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on September 13th, 2018 by admin

Between 50 and 70 percent of executives fail within the first 18 months of being placed in an executive role, whether they are promoted from within or hired from outside the organization, according to research from the Corporate Executive Board.

That statistic is unnecessarily high, say organizational coaching experts Madeleine Homan Blanchard and Patricia Overland. As leaders in the Coaching Services division of The Ken Blanchard Companies, both coaches have seen the research and witnessed firsthand the failure that can occur when leaders are not provided with the support they need to succeed.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve coached leaders who were newly promoted because they had a set of skills and good relationships with people,” says Blanchard, “and when they got on the job, they failed.”

It’s not that surprising, she says, given the high expectations set for new leaders and the minimal support they actually receive when transitioning into a new role.
“Leaders are under a lot of pressure to produce results, but they often don’t get the mentoring support they need. The thinking is that at this level they should be able to just do it.”

In conducting interviews with 2,600 Fortune 1000 executives, organizational and leadership consulting firm Navalent found that 76 percent of new executives indicated that the formal development processes of their organization were, at best, minimally helpful in preparing them for their executive role. What’s more, 55 percent of respondents indicated that they had little if any ongoing coaching and feedback to help them refine their ability to perform in an executive role.
“It’s a challenge for HR professionals,” says Overland. “And with the level of change and the number of executives transitioning into new roles, especially in larger organizations, the problem becomes magnified. It’s not uncommon for larger companies to have five executives in transition from five different parts of the company at the same time.

“Even one or two levels below the executive team, all kinds of change is occurring at the VP and director level. It’s always difficult when decision makers move. Now HR finds itself managing several different coaches from different companies, each with their own approaches, contracts, conditions, etc. It can be overwhelming, and that much harder to ensure quality and a return on the investment.

For HR leaders facing this challenge, Overland offers four words of advice: “Don’t go it alone—especially if you are managing a large number of executives in transition across a wide geographical area. This is where working with one company with global reach and a single point of contact really helps. Having one contact person who can help ensure quality, vetting, reporting, and ROI can position an organization to provide successful coaching to every leader who needs it.
“A larger, experienced coaching organization can provide a consistent quality of coaching. Not only is this good for the client and the leaders being coached, it also permits the coaches to talk to each other about how the coaching is going or about the challenges they encounter, and to ask for help when necessary—all without breaching confidentiality.

“This keeps the coaching aligned with organizational objectives and keeps the people focused on priorities,” says Overland.

Be especially careful about going it alone if you are looking to bring the executive coaching function in-house, says Overland.
“In my experience, executives tend to have a real hesitancy to work with an in-house person. They see a risk in disclosing potentially sensitive information to someone junior to them in the organization. Let’s say a senior executive is feeling stressed about a major strategy change, the sale of the company, or a pending merger. The executive won’t want to talk to an internal person about that. An external person is almost always a better choice.”

Blanchard agrees. “Coaching gives people the direction and support they need for the complex, high level leadership and management skills used in a senior role. When I’m thinking about the role of coaching, I always go back to Jim Collins’s book Good to Great,” explains Blanchard. “Collins said that a leader’s job is to get the right people on the bus in the right seats and make sure that the bus is going in the right direction.

“That’s what you are accomplishing when you bring coaching into an organization. You are ensuring that the bus is going in the right direction and all the right people are in the right seats.”

Source: KenBlanchard.com
Author: David Witt
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Winning with your talent-management strategy

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete, Executive Coaching, Executive Team / Ledningsgruppsarbete, Leadership / Ledarskap, Strategy implementation / Strategiimplementering on August 9th, 2018 by admin

Three best practices for managing and allocating talent support better business performance, according to a new survey.

The allocation of financial capital has long been recognized as a critical driver of an organization’s performance. The value of managing and allocating human capital, however, is less widely known. But the results from a new McKinsey Global Survey confirm the positive effects of talent management on business outcomes.1 According to respondents, organizations with effective talent-management programs2 have a better chance than other companies of outperforming competitors and, among publicly owned companies, are likelier to outpace their peers’ returns to shareholders.

The survey also sought to uncover the specific practices that are most predictive of successful talent-management strategy. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the effective management of human capital, the survey results reveal three common practices that have an outsize impact on the overall effectiveness of talent management as well as organizational performance: rapid allocation of talent, the HR function’s involvement in fostering a positive employee experience, and a strategically minded HR team. The survey results also point to underlying actions that organizations of all stripes can take to cultivate these practices and thereby improve their talent-management strategy and organizational performance.

Why effective talent management matters
According to the survey responses, there is a significant relationship between talent management—when done well—and organizational performance. Only 5 percent of respondents say their organizations’ talent management has been very effective at improving company performance. But those that do are much more likely to say they outperform their competitors: 99 percent of respondents reporting very effective talent management say so, compared with 56 percent of all other respondents.3

What is more, the effects of successful talent management seem to be cumulative. Like an overall effective talent-management program, the abilities to attract and retain talent appear to support outperformance. Among public companies, we see a similar effect on total returns to shareholders (TRS). At companies with very effective talent management, respondents are six times more likely than those with very ineffective talent management to report higher TRS than competitors.

Three drivers of successful talent-management strategy
To support these outcomes, the results suggest three practices that most closely link with effective talent management: rapid allocation of talent,4 HR’s involvement in employee experience, and a strategically minded HR team.

Respondents who say all three practices are in place—just 17 percent—are significantly more likely than their peers to rate their organizations’ overall performance, as well as TRS, as better than competitors. They are also 2.5 times more likely than others to rate their organizations’ overall talent-management efforts as effective.

Rapid allocation of talent
Only 39 percent of respondents say their organizations are fast or very fast at reallocating talent as strategic priorities arise and dissolve—a practice that leads to a 1.4-times-greater likelihood of outperformance. And while it is well established that companies with rapid capital allocation are likely to see higher TRS, our findings show that the same holds true for talent allocation. At public companies that quickly allocate talent, respondents are 1.5 times more likely than the slower allocators to report better TRS than competitors.5 The link between rapid allocation and effective talent management is also strong: nearly two-thirds of the fast allocators say their talent-management efforts have improved overall performance, compared with just 29 percent of their slower-moving peers.

To allocate talent more quickly, the survey results point to three specific actions that meaningfully correlate with the practice. The first of these is the effective deployment of talent based on the skills needed, which has a direct impact on the speed of allocation. Respondents are 7.4 times more likely to report rapid talent allocation when their organizations effectively assign talent to a given role based on the skills needed.

Second is executive-team involvement in talent management. Respondents who say their leaders are involved in talent management are 3.4 times more likely to report rapid talent allocation at their organizations. The frequency of leaders’ involvement also makes a difference. At organizations that quickly reallocate talent, executive teams usually review talent allocation at least once per quarter. Finally, the results suggest that organizations where employees work in small, cross-functional teams are more likely than others to allocate talent quickly.

HR’s involvement in employee experience
A second driver of effective talent management relates to employee experience—specifically, the HR function’s role in ensuring a positive experience across the employee life cycle. Only 37 percent of respondents say that their organizations’ HR functions facilitate a positive employee experience. But those who do are 1.3 times more likely than other respondents to report organizational outperformance and 2.7 times more likely to report effective talent management, though our experience suggests that the HR function’s role is just one of the critical factors that support great employee experience.

A couple of key actions underlie the HR function’s ability to ensure better employee experiences. One is quickly assembling teams of HR experts from various parts of the function to address business priorities. Just 24 percent of respondents say their organizations employ this characteristic of an agile HR operating model, and they are three times likelier than other respondents to report a positive employee experience. Second is deploying talent and skills in a way that supports the organization’s overall strategy. One-third of all respondents say their organizations’ HR business partners are effective at linking talent with strategy in this way, and those who do are over three times more likely than other respondents to say the HR team facilitates positive employee experiences.

Strategic HR teams
The third practice of effective talent management is an HR team with a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s strategy and business priorities. When respondents say their organizations have a strategy-minded HR team, they are 1.4 times more likely to report outperforming competitors and 2.5 times more likely to report the effective management of talent.

The factor that most supports this practice, according to the results, is cross-functional experience. When HR leaders have experience in other functions—including experience as line managers—they are 1.8 times more likely to have a comprehensive understanding of strategy and business priorities. Also important is close collaboration among the organization’s chief HR officer, CEO, and CFO.6 Fewer than half of all respondents say those executives work together very closely at their organizations,7 but those who do are 1.7 times likelier to report a strategy-minded HR function. The findings also point to the importance of transparency with all employees about strategy and business objectives. Respondents who say their organizations’ employees understand the overall strategy are twice as likely to say their HR team has a comprehensive understanding of the strategy.

In summary, effective talent management—and the practices that best support it—contributes to a company’s financial performance. No one approach works for every company, but the survey results confirm that rapid allocation of talent, the HR function’s involvement in fostering positive employee experience, and a strategic HR function have the greatest impact on a talent-management program’s effectiveness.

Source: McKinsey.com, 8 August 2018
About the authors: The contributors to the development and analysis of this survey include Svetlana Andrianova, a specialist in McKinsey’s Charlotte office; Dana Maor, a senior partner in the Tel Aviv office; and Bill Schaninger, a senior partner in the Philadelphia office.
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How to get your employees to think strategically

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on May 15th, 2018 by admin

Studies show that strategic thinking is the most important element of leadership. But how do you instill the trait in others at your company.

What leadership skill do your employees, colleagues, and peers view as the most important for you to have? According Robert Kabacoff, the vice president of research at Management Research Group, a company that creates business assessment tools, it’s the ability to plan strategically.

He has research to back it up: In the Harvard Business Review, he cites a 2013 study by his company in which 97 percent of a group of 10,000 senior executives said strategic thinking is the most critical leadership skill for an organization’s success. In another study, he writes, 60,000 managers and executives in more than 140 countries rated a strategic approach to leadership as more effective than other attributes including innovation, persuasion, communication, and results orientation.

But what’s so great about strategic thinking? Kabacoff says that as a skill, it’s all about being able to see, predict, and plan ahead: “Strategic leaders take a broad, long-range approach to problem-solving and decision-making that involves objective analysis, thinking ahead, and planning. That means being able to think in multiple time frames, identifying what they are trying to accomplish over time and what has to happen now, in six months, in a year, in three years, to get there,” he writes. “It also means thinking systemically. That is, identifying the impact of their decisions on various segments of the organization–including internal departments, personnel, suppliers, and customers.”

As a leader, you also need to pass strategic thinking to your employees, Kabacoff says. He suggests instilling the skill in your best managers first, and they will help pass it along to other natural leaders within your company’s ranks. Below, read his five tips for how to carry out this process.

Dish out information.
Kabacoff says that you need to encourage managers to set aside time to thinking strategically until it becomes part of their job. He suggests you provide them with information on your company’s market, industry, customers, competitors, and emerging technologies. “One of the key prerequisites of strategic leadership is having relevant and broad business information that helps leaders elevate their thinking beyond the day-to-day,” he writes.

Create a mentor program.
Every manager in your company should have a mentor. “One of the most effective ways to develop your strategic skills is to be mentored by someone who is highly strategic,” Kabacoff says. “The ideal mentor is someone who is widely known for his/her ability to keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions.”

Create a philosophy.
As the leader, you need to communicate a well-articulated philosophy, a mission statement, and achievable goals throughout your company. “Individuals and groups need to understand the broader organizational strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate it into their own plans and strategies,” Kabacoff writes.

Reward thinking, not reaction.
Whenever possible, try to promote foresight and long-term thinking. Kabacoff says you should reward your managers for the “evidence of thinking, not just reacting,” and for “being able to quickly generate several solutions to a given problem and identifying the solution with the greatest long-term benefit for the organization.”

Ask “why” and “when.”
Kabacoff says you need to promote a “future perspective” in your company. If a manager suggests a course of action, you need to him or her ask two questions: First, what underlying strategic goal does this action serve, and why? And second, what kind of impact will this have on internal and external stakeholders? “Consistently asking these two questions whenever action is considered will go a long way towards developing strategic leaders,” he writes.

Source:Inc.com
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Author: Will Yakowizc

Vad innebär det att vara chef när medarbetarna består av en kombination av män, kvinnor och robotar?

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on November 27th, 2017 by admin

Vad innebär det att vara chef när medarbetarna består av en kombination av män, kvinnor och robotar?

De maskiner vi har vant oss vid i fabriker och kontor har framför allt varit verktyg. I morgon är de kolleger, eller åtminstone smarta system som kommunicerar med oss med människoliknande röster. Vi talar kanske för mycket om vilka jobb robotarna ska ta över och för lite om hur vi bättre kan samarbeta med dem. För när människa och maskin förväntas samarbeta skapas mängder av nya ledarskapsutmaningar.

Domstolar i USA rådfrågar redan en algoritm innan de bestämmer straffet för en dömd, IBM:s superdator Watson tar plats som en i läkarlaget för att stödja behandling till patient och en så kallad roboadvisor kommer att vara med när en finansiell rådgivare presenterar ett investeringsförlag till sin kund. Men vad gör chefen när en mänsklig anställd har en konflikt med en robot och de har olika åsikter kring hur ett uppdrag ska utföras? Eller när kunden klagar på robotens otrevliga kommentarer?

Morgondagens chefer måste tänka nytt och utvärdera vilken förstärkning de kan åstadkomma, vilken organisationsform som är mest lämplig och vilka värderingar de vill hålla fast vid när robotar värvas in i verksamheten. Den nya ledarrollen handlar om att på bästa möjliga sätt slå samman mänskliga och automatiserade roller, fördela ansvarsområden och ge alla de människor som är anställda möjligheter att bäst använda sina naturliga kompetenser.

På BMW:s fabrik i Spartanburg är man redan nära en sådan verklighet. Där jobbar så kallade ”cobots”, collaborative robots, sida vid sida med människor. Cobots är enklare robotar som är utvecklade för att kunna förstå sin omgivning och arbeta säkert nära människan. I fabriken har man som framtidsvision att varje produktionsledare tilldelas och tränar upp en utvald robot som sin partner.

Cisco förutspår att 60 procent av alla företag inom robottunga branscher kommer att anställa en så kallad Chief Robot Officer, som har till uppgift att optimera robotstyrkans dagliga uppgifter. Precis som en människa behöver en robot stöd för att förstå vilka uppdrag den ska utföra och vilka mål den ska uppnå. Robotarna behöver också medarbetarsamtal för att lära sig och utveckla sig – och roboten kan i sin tur kommunicera tillbaka mängder av data till sin närmaste chef med förslag på ytterligare förbättringar.

Även de högsta cheferna kan ha en robot vid sin sida. Enligt McKinsey kommer 25 procent av en nuvarande vd:s jobb att kunna automatiseras. En smart chef kan dra nytta av att en algoritm ofta är bättre på att delegera, schemalägga och koordinera uppgifter. Ny mjukvara, som till exempel amerikanska Orchestra, kan dela upp projekt i lämpliga arbetsströmmar, kalla in frilansare från ett register, ge dem tydliga arbetsuppdrag och följa upp med automatiskt utdelat feedbackansvar.

Managementstilar har kommit och gått genom åren, men den förändring som nu väntar är förmodligen större än något vi sett tidigare. Framtidens robotar kommer att kommunicera, interagera fysiskt, och skapa vanor med människor. Ledarskapsutmaningarna består av att designa komplexa system där automatiserade processer möter konstarten att höja människors förmågor bortom maskinernas banbrytande effektivitet. Kritiskt tänkande och kreativ problemlösning blir allt viktigare när algoritmernas rekommendationer ska värderas. Den verkliga nyckeln till framgång blir att optimera ekvationen mellan humankapacitet och automation, och att skapa sammanhållning mellan människa och maskin.

Källa: DI.se, 27 november 2017
Av: Sara Öhrvall
Om Sara Öhrvall: Sara är senior rådgivare inom digitalisering, föreläsare och styrelseledamot. Hon har tidigare drivit konsultföretag inom varumärken och innovationer.
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Four secrets for turning insight into execution

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Executive Team / Ledningsgruppsarbete, Leadership / Ledarskap, Strategy implementation / Strategiimplementering on November 27th, 2017 by admin

A well-designed leadership off-site is a great place to generate the big ideas that can take your business to the next level. You bring in a speaker, have an in-depth discussion, walk through an analysis, and suddenly, light bulbs go off. People see what they’ve been missing or what has been holding them back.

Unfortunately, as soon as people leave the event the light often begins to fade, and even those who complete planned tasks can lose sight of the big idea. Managers may be rigorous about their vision for implementation, but still find that execution varies widely — putting their business at risk and damaging trust and confidence on the team. “Are we going to have another one of those meetings where everyone signs up for stuff, and then no one does anything?” becomes an all-too-common refrain. As a leader, you might be tempted to throw up your hands. You would think that mature professionals could be counted on to follow through on their agreed-upon actions, right? Do you really have to hold their hands?

Well, yes, in a way, you do — for two reasons. First, brain science shows that new insights are fragile. In “The Neuroscience of Leadership,” published by this magazine, David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz show that when a new idea emerges, it is amorphous and faint, and thus more difficult to call to mind than something familiar. They explain that an engaging experience (like an off-site) is a great way to generate new insights and new connections in the brain. But to turn these new connections into repeatable action, they need to be reactivated again and again, until neural pathways become embedded in everyday thinking and decision making. Rock and Schwartz refer to this process as increasing the “attention density” given to a new idea. “Over time, paying enough attention to any specific brain connection keeps the relevant circuitry open and dynamically alive,” they write. “These circuits can then eventually become not just chemical links but stable, physical changes in the brain’s structure.” (Charles Duhigg’s analysis of habits and Dan Ariely’s description of predictable irrational behavior are both great additions on this subject.)

“Are we going to have another one of those meetings where everyone signs up for stuff, and then no one does anything?”

The second reason your people need more support for follow-up is the sheer volume of information they have to mentally sort and file every day — requests, alerts, introductions, announcements, and the list goes on. The constant noise can swamp even the most competent employee’s system for managing commitments.

Given these two factors, you can increase your team’s execution effectiveness by shifting your view of your role as a leader. Instead of being a taskmaster or allowing poor follow-up to undermine results, you can think of yourself as the architect of your team’s focus and attention — using simple practices to reactivate the insights that really matter over time. Here are four ways to start:

1. Document insights in real time, in vivid ways.
Don’t wait until the meeting or off-site ends. Instead, allocate some time near the end of the agenda for reflection — to capture key insights, outline project plans, and schedule next steps. Try sharing a project planning template. Give people time to check their calendars before asking them to commit to next steps. And, where possible, chronicle “aha” moments in ways that easily bring them back to life. I find hiring a person to serve as a graphic recorder, photographing key flip charts, or having people tell the story of the biggest insight from the meeting all make it easier to reactivate important insights later.

2. Be rigorous about your personal system for managing attention and commitments.
If you want to increase your team’s attention density, you need to proactively manage your own focus. There are many valuable methods available — for instance, David Allen’s Getting Things Done is explicitly designed to help you manage the flood of information inputs. The key is to have a personal routine for consciously directing your attention to what matters, and to follow it religiously. Having your own system helps you to choose how to direct your team’s attention, and sets the expectation that they should have similar systems. This is also the only way you or your team can make commitments you know you can keep.

3. Use questions to reactivate the “aha.”
In your team meetings, in your one-to-ones, and even when passing someone in the hall, try asking questions that prompt people to think more deeply about a big idea. “What did you find when you looked at the external market data?” “What is your goal for that sales call?” “Who are the new customers and who will be helping to set them up correctly?” Ask what the idea means to them, and how it can be applied in practice. As a leader, the questions you ask also let your team know what you expect and how they should prepare for discussions with you (an idea I learned from sales strategy expert Steve Thompson).

4. Notice everyone’s deadlines.
Too often, deadlines come and go, and no one mentions the hits or the misses. Unfortunately, this can signal that the project or the task isn’t important. By contrast, if you notice when a key date is coming up, you can ask the relevant individuals how the work is coming along, dig into challenges or delays, or thank your employees for solid execution. Doing so reinforces the idea that you are paying attention, and conveys the significance of everyone’s contributions. Simply recognizing when someone takes a crucial first step or shows signs of real effort to change can make a huge difference, especially when they are learning new habits. This need not become micromanaging if your focus is on helping people make progress toward the goal (rather than on catching their mistakes).

At first blush, you may think that adopting these four habits will cost you precious (and limited) time. But if you give them a try, I think you will find they increase the payoff from every insight your team develops. Isn’t that what we mean when we tell our teams we want them to do less and achieve more?

Source: Strategy-Business.com, November 2017
By: Elizabeth Doty
About the author: Elizabeth Doty is a former lab fellow of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and founder of Leadership Momentum, a consultancy that focuses on the practical challenges of keeping organizational commitments.
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How CEOs can work with an active board

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete, Executive Coaching on August 10th, 2017 by admin

At companies of almost all sizes, across all sectors, boards are undergoing a profound transformation. Largely as a result of intensifying shareholder intolerance of mediocre or poor corporate performance, the ceremonial boards of the past are being replaced by active boards that are more demanding of managers and more intrusive in their affairs.

This change can be daunting and frustrating for CEOs. However, based on our experience of advising CEOs, operating as CEOs, and sitting on boards, we have found that executives can be effective in the new environment by revamping their interactions with their boards. It consists of four approaches.

Work with board members individually as well as in the group — and selectively seek their help. It’s remarkable how many CEOs focus mainly on formal boardroom relationships. Yet by investing the time in regular one-to-one informal interactions, a CEO will help address the new active board members’ sense of duty to get close to the business. Through a personal dialogue, the CEO can better enlist them in important initiatives and address issues before they become crises. In addition, by creating a personal bond with the individual directors, the CEO lessens the odds that they will undermine or blindside him.

It is especially important to create a bond with the lead director and/or the chair. As boards have become more active, the lead director and board chair hold the keys to setting productive agendas and managing issues with the total board or individual members. One of us served on an active board that included members who frequently threatened to derail agendas and process with counterproductive questions. The CEO quietly recruited the lead director and chair to restore order, which they did. As boards have become more active, the lead director and board chair hold the keys to setting productive agendas and managing issues with the total board or individual members.

CEOs should consider recruiting one board member as an informal advisor. This must be done with great care and an ear for political nuances. For example, as one CEO we know discovered, a prospective board advisor actually had his eye on the CEO role for himself — hardly the right confidant! By using already-scheduled one-on-ones to assess board members for this advisory role, the CEO can better identify an appropriate advisory board member. This board member can be of great value as a sounding board and a guide to working effectively with the rest of the board.

Communicate less formally, more intensively, more often. Many CEOs and their teams still deliver traditional 80-slide PowerPoint summary presentations at board meetings. But given that today’s boards increasingly want a substantive dialogue, we advise replacing the presentation with a thoughtful, verbal review and Q&A around critical updates, challenges, and opportunities. (Further background can be provided in brief pre-reading material.)

This will show that the CEO is using his or her face-to-face time with the board for serious discussion. It will focus board activism on topics where the CEO will benefit from directors’ insight and counsel. And by taking the lead in inviting the board to engage on business-critical matters, the CEO can better manage the process and avoid one of the biggest downsides of the active board: disruptive interference by board members in business operations.

It may seem obvious that CEOs should communicate with board members regularly and substantively between board meetings. But in reality, CEOs often communicate mainly when there is a problem. Many also have difficulty regularly addressing a balanced mix of important topics.

One very effective approach to this issue is regular CEO letters to the board. The management of this letter should be delegated to a top lieutenant such as the head of communications or the COO. A monthly rhythm has proven effective with many boards. To assure balanced, relevant content, the letter should routinely address a fixed set of regular topics (e.g., business-environment trends, business updates, people/talent news, and early warnings of potential upside and downside developments).

Expose Level 3 and 4 managers to the board. While boards in the past were typically focused on CEO succession planning and the talent among the CEO’s direct reports, active boards are also very interested in the levels below. They rightly see these executives as the future leaders and the operational leaders of today who should be driving performance. Active board members will therefore seek to get to know them.

Some CEOs feel this is overly intrusive or worry that the lower-level executives are not ready for board exposure. But, in fact, it’s positive to have board members engaging with deeper levels of talent. They learn more about the business and the next generation of the company’s leaders. Board members can also give the CEO valuable feedback about the people they meet and their view of the company’s overall bench strength. And for the executives, the right kind of exposure to board members is a great development opportunity.

The CEO should take the lead with the board in driving the engagement process, which will allow him or her to have greater influence over it. She can select the highest potential individuals for the interactions and organize the interactions so that they are most productive — for example, by holding them as one-to-ones over a breakfast or dinner. She can also brief the executives in advance on the style of the board member and potential question areas and brief the board members on the executives they will meet.

Handle strategic planning… strategically. Older-style boards typically become involved only at the end of the strategic-planning process — typically in a board meeting devoted to review and approval of the strategy. By contrast, active boards often push to be involved from the start because the strategy is so important to the company’s performance.

The notion of involving the board in strategic planning can make CEOs anxious and defensive. They fear that the board may undermine the planning process due to insufficient knowledge about the business. They also worry that board involvement in strategic planning will be the thin edge of a wedge and lead to board interference in day-to-day management of the company.

The key to navigating this challenge is to keep strategic planning in the hands of management but to invite the board to provide advice and feedback from the beginning. One good way to do this is to involve the board early in deciding on the right, big-picture, strategic direction for the company, without getting into the details. The CEO and her team can develop and present to the board several options to the board, explaining why each has merit. Then the executives can solicit board input on each but not ask for a vote. In this way, the CEO and her team can gain valuable board perspective that will strengthen all the choices that are developed and obtain early board buy-in for both the options and the ultimate strategic plan that’s chosen.

The CEO can then provide periodic updates on the strategic-planning process through letters to the board and board meetings. This allows the board to stay engaged and provide input but keeps the control over the actual process with the executive team, where it belongs.

Active boards are a corporate reality. How to work with them effectively should be one of the most important items on the CEO agenda. As we have outlined, the CEO has an opportunity not only to manage this new relationship but also to make the active board an asset in building long-term, high performance of the company.

Source:hbr.com (Harvard Business Review)
Authors: Ken Banta and Stephen D.Garrow
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