Executive Power: A Form of Bullying or Effective Leadership?

CEOWhen Marissa Mayer took over the leadership at Yahoo!, headlines of radical changes to strategy, direction and company policies flooded the papers. She came on board taking charge, and making sure everyone knew that it would be her way or the highway.

Many senior executives who assume control of a company feel that it is important to come in with a bang. It asserts leadership, and demonstrates that the status quo will no longer be tolerated. Things are about to change.

Typically, this behavior is exerted with good intentions; often, the new executive has a vision and a strategy, and intends to make it happen as fast as possible to prove his/her worth to the board in this new role. But is it really effective?

The leadership competency: Empowerment as a driver of change

There are several types of leaders and thus, many different characteristics to describe leadership. While subjective in nature, it is up to the organization to determine the type of leader it seeks in a given role, depending on the main task at hand.

Yet, despite the laundry list of competencies to be mastered to become a truly efficient leader for any sort of change to occur successfully within an organization, employees need to be given reasons to “want” to change.

Barking orders and demands at employees may help establish who’s in control, but it isn’t likely to encourage employees to desire change, and much less to support the company’s growth and success.

Rather, in today’s environment, CEOs and senior executives would generate much better results by joining the workforce as a team member, enlisting every person’s opinion and expertise in furthering the company, and empowering them with responsibilities to make it happen.

Can leadership be taught, or is it all a matter of personality type?

There is a great debate raging on about whether or not leadership – good leadership – can be taught. While some individuals are indeed natural born leaders, knowing exactly how to exert positive influence and assemble the troops, does this mean that leadership skills are purely genetic?

In October 2013, William F. Roth, Ph.D wrote an article for ISPI’s magazine, Performance Improvement, in which he presented some findings from Blakeslee’s The Right Brain:

“According to the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance, each side of the brain controls a different type of thinking. Left-brain oriented people are considered to be better at such things as logic, language, critical thinking and numbers. Right-brain-oriented people are considered to be better at dealing with people, at reading and expressing emotions, at thinking intuitively, and at tasks calling for creativity.”

By those findings, it may appear that leadership is a matter of genetics.

In contrast, a New York Times article claims that leadership qualities “are developed through attitude, habit and discipline — factors that are within your control.” The author asserts that many good leaders have in fact become as such by observing other effective leaders, and learning what made them great. A simple process on its own, but this also implies that the individual must have the competence to properly assess not only a circumstance (or environment), but also the individuals involved in the event.

The bottom line is that effective leadership is a product of genetics and skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics (competencies).

But, if Yahoo! succeeded in dethroning Google as the leading search engine, can we simply look at Marissa Mayer’s competencies to determine the secret behind Yahoo!’s success? Or should we not also observe every other variable at play, including Google’s own leadership, and the competencies that contributed to its success?

Conditioning, education and rewards

The truth is, to become an effective leader, one must possess an ensemble of characteristics: competencies dealing with people, with business, and self-management as shown in this competency “dictionary”.

Workitect Competency Dictionary

Source: http://www.workitect.com/Products-and-Licenses/workitect-competency-dictionary-license.html

If research has shown that genetic patterns can be changed, given the right set of circumstances – incentive, understanding, conditioning and education – then organizations can indeed develop very effective leaders, with the right coaching, training curriculum, assessment processes, rewards program, and talent management systems.

When looking for a new leader, it is important to begin by defining the ideal leader for the role through a customized job competency model. This will help you accurately assess candidates based on both acquired competencies and the ability to learn new competencies, because remember that some self-management competencies such as Personal Credibility are difficult to be developed through a training program. It is therefore those individuals who already possess the characteristics that cannot be taught that are most likely to succeed.

For more information on leadership competencies or to get started on a leadership competency model, we invite you to use our Competency Dictionary and other competency development tools, or contact us for a private consultation.

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Succession planning strategy can hurt company competitiveness

C-suite succession planning strategy can hurt company competitivenessLast March, we wrote about the benefits and challenges of using competency models for succession planning and mentoring leaders. In today’s employment environment, where there is a clear shortage of skilled workers, the practice of succession planning has however evolved beyond the grooming of future senior executives to include the development of employee skills at every level of the organization.

By understanding the advantages of building competency models for entry or mid-level employees, companies can learn to adequately cope with an increasing number of lateral moves – e.g., an employee transferring to a different function, a different team or a different geography.

It is indeed critical to grasp the idea that in most lateral moves, the employee’s job responsibilities and environment change, thus affording the employee new opportunities. Concurrently, it affords the company the opportunity to build upon its workforce, provide growth paths, and engage employees.

Succession planning or retention strategy? It doesn’t matter; it’s a win-win.

The fact of the matter is, despite a declining unemployment rate, most of the recent improvement has stemmed from workers dropping out of, or never entering, the labor force due to weak job opportunities.

A recent article from the Economic Policy Institute states that if the 3.4 million “missing workers” (those jobless workers who would be in the labor force if job opportunities were stronger) were in the labor force looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 9.4%, instead of 7.4%. In other words, the labor market remains extremely weak by historical standards.

We continue to believe that this environment is caused by the fact that many “workers” lack the right skills. And if hiring isn’t a possibility for many companies, due to weak demand for non-essential goods and services, more education and training to help workers make lateral job transitions could be the best way to boost productivity.

To achieve this increased productivity at the same staffing levels (or what we like to call ‘the art of doing more with less’), companies need to find ways to not only retain their high-potential workers, but also to motivate them to develop competencies that serve the organization’s main objectives by granting them access to better-suited – and possibly higher-paying – roles.

Giving your workforce the opportunity to succeed

A typical corporate scenario of job advancement consists in personnel internally distributing an opening, or job posting, and giving its employees the chance to apply.

But more often than not, employees who may be interested in this position – and worse, those who would have the competencies to become top performers in this function – have never had, until then, the chance to review the skills required to access this role, much less given the opportunity to develop and demonstrate those skills.

What we observe as a result is the company admitting to not being able to find suitable talent in-house, and investing considerable sums to recruit externally a new candidate who may or may not succeed. What’s more, at the other end of the equation, in-house employees feel betrayed, and lose their motivation to remain an actively invested part of an organization that fails to recognize their potential or that does not provide sufficient opportunities for development and advancement.

Organizations would have a lot more to gain from developing and implementing competency models, and making those available for consultation to all employees. Managers could then use these models in their regular discussions with their staff, particularly at the time of performance evaluations, to create a career path “progression map”, develop skills, retain employees, and keep motivation high.

Not convinced your organization needs competency models?

There are several valid reasons to include competency modeling in your talent management strategies, but one key issue that indicates a need for competency-based succession planning systems is poor promotion or placement outcomes. In simpler words: when too many people hired, promoted or transferred to new responsibilities fail or quit.

For instance, your organization may have promoted the best salesperson to sales manager or the best technical professional to supervisor, only to find out that this employee lacks essential interpersonal understanding and influence skills.

From line worker to supervisor to manager to director to vice president… an employee may exhibit signs of top performance at some of these levels, and fail at others. The reason is that these positions require very different sets of competencies. Your best technical expert may be your worst manager but until you have the right tools to accurately assess 1) the skills each job role requires and 2) the skills each worker possesses and has the ability/interest to develop, you cannot continue promoting and hiring, and hoping for the best. Your HR ROI depends on it.

In her Forbes article “What Employers Need To Know About The Class of 2012,” Jacquelyn Smith cites a recent study that shows that the majority of graduating students are looking for career advancement over anything else. Creating career paths through competency models is not something most companies do well, and most employees don’t understand how to move either horizontally or vertically in an organization.

To boost productivity and minimize turnover, your company must make clear how and where your employees can move on their career path…. or you not only risk losing them to a competitor, you jeopardize the success ratio of your talent management strategy – whether that is at the recruiting, promoting or retention level.

Learn more about Workitect’s approach to competency-based succession planning.

For more information on building competency models for your organization, we invite you to attend of our workshops or contact us for a tailored strategy.

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Change management needs a competency framework

Change management and the need for competencyChange is inevitable. Whether it is planned or reactive, change typically occurs as a necessity to rapidly evolving frameworks across all industries, around the globe. An organization’s ability to implement change successfully is key to competitiveness and a highly valuable differentiator.

 

BUILDING COMPETENCY MODELS CERTIFICATION ON JULY 18-20, 2017 IN ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

But managing and executing change in the workplace takes very specific skills and a thorough understanding of all the elements that have, will and may affect the company and its employees once the need for change has been acknowledged.

Recognizing the change management competency in your employees

The change management competency refers to the behaviors and skills required to anticipate the need for change, as well as to successfully implement and promote acceptance of change. Individuals who possess this competency constantly expect and welcome change, and adapt to it with little effort or disturbances in performance.

While change management is a critical competency at all levels of the company, it is particularly true for the C-suite because for change to be successful, it must be embedded in the culture and core values of the organization, and communicated effectively and convincingly to all employees.

Many individuals are reluctant to change, often due to fear of the unknown and the discomfort of the learning curve ahead. It is imperative for organizations to understand the normalcy of this behavior, and factor in the inevitable push back from a certain number of employees when attempting to implement change.

Accordingly, identifying and developing advocates for change is one of the most important steps of change management, as these are the employees who will help you not only implement change, but also promote it across your entire workforce. Organizations must seek those very individuals who, regardless of their function, exhibit the characteristics and behaviors of the change management competency, which include:

  • A thorough understanding of the company’s goals and limitations
  • Great awareness of industry developments
  • A desire to continuously improve processes and optimize results
  • A deep attachment (or engagement) to the company, culture and values
  • An inclination to providing support in transition periods
  • A record of above-average performance

The ability to recognize the need for change shouldn’t be confused with the constant pointing out of weak areas within the organization, the latter of which may prove to be more of the result of a dissatisfied employee. Rather, an employee who possesses the change management competency will come to the table with solutions and valid reasoning for wanting to implement change. The intent of the behavior is therefore extremely important to assess to identify true change advocates.

Leadership skills are only but a small token of the change management competency, for without support or a profound understanding of the need for change, a leader can easily steer your employees in the wrong direction, thus serving as a barrier to change.

The role of the organization in communicating and managing change

Of course, identifying your key change management personnel isn’t, by itself, going to guarantee a successful transition. Your organization must develop reinforcement programs to reward behaviors that support the change, and otherwise work to minimize resistance.

To effectively manage change, companies must:

  1. Define the change and every implication at all levels of the organization
  2. Develop an implementation plan and stress-test it with key personnel
  3. Establish a reinforcement strategy to facilitate the transition
  4. Communicate the change, the reasons for the change, the internal and external impacts, as well as the execution plan, to all employees
  5. Provide tools and resources to support employees through the transition

Remember that when implementing change, you should anticipate a drop in motivation and performance from some employees. To minimize these side effects on your bottom line, you need to ensure that you have properly identified your advocates for change by defining the parameters of the change management competency for your situation, and tasking them with the responsibility to promote and support the transition. Read more in Gaining Commitment to Organizational Change.

Click here to read the chapter in the Competency Development Guide on developing the Managing Change competency.

Click here for the definition, behaviors by role and level of proficiency for Managing Change from Workitect’s Competency Dictionary.

 

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Why your talent management is key to organizational success

42-25498443bAs we enter the third quarter of 2014, most organizations are preparing to kickstart the financial planning process for 2015. If your intentions are to gather a few key executives, discuss the competitive landscape, review market demand, trends and innovations, and develop strategies based on these findings, you should probably expect to encounter a few challenges.

Why? Simple: Your chances of success are driven by your employees’ ability to adequately execute the strategies you develop, because even the best course of action or the most accurate market analysis cannot yield the right results if you do not have the talent to execute it with precision.

Companies cannot afford to overlook talent, particularly in the current economic environment. It is now more than ever critical to consider your workforce’s ability to take on new challenges and adapt to changing directions before deciding on the very strategies that will take you where you want to go.

To do so, companies need to get HR involved in their annual planning exercise: first to provide a precise account of the skills, competencies and expertise readily available in-house, and then to identify any gap that need to be remedied in order to support the goals and strategic direction of the organization going forward.

By enlisting HR’s expertise in planning for the year ahead, companies grant themselves the opportunity to optimize the effectiveness of their strategies, as well as the organization’s competitiveness and overall performance.

Talent as a key differentiator

Talent has become the ultimate differentiator and a critical source of competitiveness for organizations around the globe. Nevertheless, very few executives grasp the intricate dynamics of talent development and business strategy. In fact, a survey conducted for The Talent Imperative states that “fewer than one in ten executives from midsized private companies say their talent strategies are intimately aligned with overall strategic planning.”

According to the study and a supporting Forbes article, if talent is often overlooked as a source of competitive advantage it is simply because it isn’t made a priority at the C-suite level. Rather, executives seek out new market opportunities, without first evaluating if their current workforce can support these ventures. Such a course of action typically translates into sub-par results because, as previously mentioned, it is your workforce’s ability to execute your strategies that is key to success… and a healthy bottom line.

Executives must stop assuming that their employees will be able to adapt and perform in exact alignment to the strategies they develop, but it is still HR’s job to plead that case, to demonstrate the importance of accurate workforce assessment and effective development programs in achieving your organization’s objectives over time.

Before adopting a new course of action, you must therefore:

  1. Conduct an accurate assessment of your employees’ competencies – this can only be achieved with an objective and effective performance evaluation process.
  2. Identify what (if anything) is lacking and how to fill that gap to achieve your goals – this requires transparent top-down and bottom-up communications to understand the strategic direction of the organization, as well as the potential/motivators of your workforce.
  3. Implement a talent development strategy based on your findings – assuming you have clear channels of communication and objective performance assessors.

5 steps to injecting talent into your corporate objectives

If you agree with the above, then you already know that the characteristics of your current talent pool, along with your talent development and career mobility programs, should be key influencers of your top-level objectives. Developing strategies is one thing; executing them is another.

To ensure that your workforce possesses the skills, competencies and drive needed to propel the organization forward, HR must work with other executives to:

  1. Identify the roles and positions where performance can differentiate your organization from its competitors
  2. Establish metrics to define what success looks like in these roles, as well as how performance should be measured
  3. Fill those positions (recruiting or developing) with the right talent with the help of competency models that accurately identify the skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics of the top performers
  4. Develop targeted training and performance optimization programs that are aligned to your organizational goals and talent pool
  5. Enhance engagement and motivation by improving communication with respect to these goals and by building career paths for your employees

We recommend competency modeling as a basis for achieving this because a competency framework supports the idea that results are tied to performance. Not only does it ensure that the right people with the right skills are placed in the right roles, but a competency-based talent management process also facilitates career-pathing, promotes engagement, and fosters skills development; all of which serve to improve bottom-line performance and minimize turnover costs.

We invite you to read this white paper to learn how an integrated, competency-based HR system can serve various applications for selection, succession planning, career pathing, performance management, and training, as well as serve as a key tool to drive organizational change.

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