11Dec/140

Do You Love What You Do or Are You Living in New-Age Professional Hell? by Marshall Goldsmith

Posted by WABC

Do you love what you do or are you living in new-age professional hell? This may be the seminal question of our age.

In yesterday’s world, people worked 40 hours a week and took four weeks of vacation. This question was practically moot. If you didn’t like your job it was practically part-time anyway, the benefits were glorious, and it just wasn’t that bad.

I remember visiting the corporate headquarters of one of the world’s most successful companies at 5 p.m. sometime in the early 80s. There was almost no one there! You could fire a cannonball down the hall and not hit anyone. Those days are gone. It was much easier to find meaning and satisfaction in activities outside of work when we were under a lot less pressure and worked far fewer hours. Not only did people have more time, they weren’t as tired.

Today’s professional has much different experience. Almost all of the professionals I work with are busier today than they ever have been in their lives, working 60 to 80 hours a week. They feel under more pressure than ever. Cell phones, tablets, and laptops tether us to our work wherever we are whether we like it or not. Put it all together and you quickly realize – if you don’t love what you do, you are in the new-age of professional hell where you spend your days waiting for a pause in the steady flow of work so that you can take a break. Let me tell you, that day never comes!

 

Making the Move to Loving What You Do

Life is too short. It’s not worth it. In the new world, we don’t have to love everything that we do, but we need to find happiness and meaning in most of our professional work. One of my coaching clients, Vicky, has a mind that races at about 1,000 miles an hour. She’s extremely creative and entrepreneurial. Vicky was working as a division president in a large, somewhat conservative company. The people who hired her believed that they wanted someone who would “rock the boat” and “make waves.” Once they began to experience “waves” and “boat rocking,” though, they decided that this might not be such a great idea after all!

Although I was hired to help her fit in with the existing culture, it was just a bad match. She was becoming frustrated with her life and was frustrating many of the executives who were running the firm. Summing it up in one sentence, she groaned, “I feel like a racy Ferrari that’s being asked to act like a Ford pickup!”

As her coach, my advice was simple: “Leave.” She had beaten me to the punch, replying, “I just did!”

There was nothing wrong with Vicky. There was nothing wrong with her company. She just didn’t belong there. When she asked herself, “Do I love what I do?” her answer was a clear, “No, I am living in new-age professional hell!”

Vicky’s time off for reflection after leaving her job didn’t last long. She’s playing a key role in an entrepreneurial startup, she’s on two boards of nonprofits doing a lot of good things for her community, and most important, she’s having a lot of fun. She has successfully made the move from new-age professional hell to loving what she does. And, you can too!

Watch the video here:

Do You Love What You Do?

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
3Dec/130

Senior Leadership Transitions: What Makes Them Work and What Causes Them to Fail?

By Patricia Wheeler, PhD

Today's senior leaders face high expectations that go beyond being an expert in one primary line of business, principal role, or segment of the organization. In our fast-moving environment of mergers, acquisitions, divestments, and sell-offs, leaders are asked to come up to speed even more quickly as well as influence an increasing number of stakeholders across their organization in order to be successful. Given this climate, how are these leaders faring? And what can coaches do to help?

In 2008, the Institute of Executive Development and the global coaching alliance Alexcel reported results of a year-long market study designed to examine transitions that senior-most leaders (those executives in the top five percent of their organizations) make and to identify what helps them succeed and what causes them to fail. Participants included approximately 150 executives and talent professionals from more than 100 organizations in 12 countries and 21 industries. Participants took an online survey consisting of 18 multiple choice questions, plus a number of deep-dive interviews, specifically on the subject of internal and external transitions, how many failed, and why they failed. Failurewas defined as when the leader failed to meet their organization's criteria for success by the two-year mark. (This did not mean that all leaders who were considered "failing" were fired or moved out of their roles.)

We found that one in three senior executives hired externally failed to meet their organization's criteria for successful performance within two years. This is consistent with and perhaps even more optimistic than results from some other studies, particularly those that focused on the entire executive population.

What was even more noteworthy was our finding that one in five senior leaders taking on new roles within their existing organization failed. The clear message here is that what makes a leader successful in one role in the organization will not necessarily continue to drive his or her success in the next role. We echo Marshall Goldsmith's words (and title of his book), "What got them here won't get them there." Organizations must ensure that they offer sufficient help to leaders making internal transitions.

Why did so many of the senior-most leaders fail to make successful transitions? The top two reasons cited by organizations we surveyed were lack of interpersonal skills and lack of personal skills. (Note: Each survey respondent could choose to cite more than one cause of executive failure.) Only 15 percent of respondents said leaders within their organization failed due to lack of technical or business skills. The highest cause of failure was leadership skill deficits, reported by 68 percent of organizations. Another 45 percent of respondents reported failure due to leaders' poor personal skills, including lack of focus and self-management. The implications are clear: obstacles to success in new roles are primarily due to what many organizations consider "soft" skills, i.e., those that focus on the quality and quantity of relationships that leaders craft and maintain.

So what can companies and executive coaches do to help? We gathered information on what companies are doing and what they deemed effective. Online onboarding and meet-and-greets are helpful for external hires, but clearly not sufficient for senior leaders. With leaders new to a company, mentoring programs and informal networks with other executives were the support modalities perceived as most effective. Customized assimilation plans and executive coaching were also helpful.

For internally transitioning leaders, the supports perceived as most effective were executive coaching and the creation of a customized assimilation plan. This speaks to the importance of creating a network of people that will help leaders differentiate the demands and needs of their old role from those of their new role, and develop more senior-level presence as they move through the leadership pipeline.

What does a customized assimilation program look like? Here is an example from my personal case files:

Mark had been with his organization, a Fortune 100 manufacturing division, for 14 years. He was promoted to a corporate vice president role. In this role (his 12th position in the company), he needed to rapidly form relationships with his new stakeholders, many of whom he knew from afar in his plant manager role but with whom he had never worked closely.

First, we reviewed the 360 evaluation generated for his former position. His strengths included his clear ethics, dependability, ability to collaborate with others, and easygoing manner. His primary leadership challenge was his tendency to be too easygoing with employee communication and feedback; we decided that in his new position, he would focus on giving clear, ongoing feedback (and FeedForward1) to his team and challenge himself to adopt a greater sense of urgency about results.

We crafted an assimilation plan that included an "all-hands" meeting with Mark and two levels of his direct reports. Mark organized and prepared to discuss his thoughts around issues including:

  • Team vision
  • Expected results
  • Key customers
  • First impressions of his role and of the team
  • Expectations of the team
  • Plan for ongoing review of progress.

We gathered anonymous information from the team, including:

  • Important stakeholders
  • First impressions of Mark and the reputation that preceded him
  • Questions for and about Mark.

Then we facilitated dialogue between Mark and the team on these areas. My continued role as coach was to help Mark stay aware of his leadership style, leverage his strengths, and navigate around his potential derailers. He created a contact plan to help him identify and reach out to key stakeholders in his new role. We also developed ways for him to hold himself accountable for ongoing FeedForward to his team, boosting both their performance and engagement scores.

Two years later, Mark continues to be successful in his role. Comparing his previous transitions to this one, he credits the plan with saving at least six month's worth of wasted time, false starts, and "water-cooler talk." According to Mark, the work on forming key relationships quickly and creating a platform by which these relationships are maintained and deepened was the most valuable benefit of his assimilation program.

In conclusion, as leaders today must manage more frequent and more complex transitions throughout their careers, it is crucial for organizations and their internal and external coaching resources to take clear steps to help these leaders succeed in their new roles. Making sure that they continue to monitor and develop personal and interpersonal skills is absolutely critical to optimizing performance in new roles, even when they have clear track records of success in their former positions.

Alexcel and the Institute of Executive Development will continue studying what makes senior leadership transitions work and what causes them to fail. We welcome dialogue with organizations and internal coaches who are achieving success in this area, as well as those who are struggling to develop more robust programs for their senior leaders.


1 This process, developed by Marshall Goldsmith, is a quick and proven method for helping successful people be even more successful. The practice of FeedForward requires a disciplined approach to following up with important stakeholders, which research has shown is the key ingredient to successful change. For more about FeedForward, see "Leadership Is a Contact Sport: The ‘Follow-up Factor' in Management Development" strategy + business, Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan, Fall 2004.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide  (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 3). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
6Dec/120

What Helps Leaders to Be Effective on a Global Level…and What Doesn’t – Part I

Posted by WABC

By Jeremy Solomons

As business becomes more and more global, many organizations are asking themselves if an effective leader in one country or region can duplicate her or his success on a worldwide level?

For example, Lucia Mannone may have a proven track record in the southern European region, but is she still able to develop new client relationships, manage projects, and run teams in the very different markets of Latin America and East Asia? And if she can't, what is the best way to prepare her and other budding global leaders like her to be fully productive and effective in the future?

This is the first of three articles that will explore and explode some common myths around global leadership development and then come up with some alternative approaches that coaches can use to help all leaders be successful across international boundaries.

In order to do this, let's go back to Lucia. She is a 38-year-old Italian senior marketing officer for a German medical instrument company. The company headquarters are in Stuttgart and she is based in Milan. She has worked on Italian national accounts and then the southern European region for the last 12 years and her performance and that of her teams have been consistently high.

As her company is expanding in the key markets of Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea, she is now being asked to take on a more global role. Her technical knowledge is beyond compare and her ability to motivate her colleagues has been demonstrated again and again, even during economic downturns and company restructurings. But she has not traveled much beyond the Mediterranean, except for a professional conference in Baltimore and family holidays in Phuket and Cancun.

For someone like Lucia, the first step is usually to help her become more "culturally competent," but this can be interpreted and realized in many different ways.

Myth 1: The Behavioral Approach

A typical way to launch "cultural competence" coaching might be for Lucia to read one or two of the many books or websites that outline all the things to do—and more importantly, not to do—in a particular country.

If Lucia is like most businesspeople and she does not want to give offense or look stupid, it might be very helpful for her to learn how to give someone a business card in Osaka or what not to discuss at an initial business lunch in Monterrey. All of these hints and tips can certainly help with those important first impressions, but what happens after you kiss, bow, or shake hands?

Lucia might have done her homework and diligently learned the top 50 or 100 or even 500 etiquette tips for working and communicating with Brazilians or Koreans, but what would she do in situation 501? Unfortunately, she would have no idea what to do or say, because the behavioral approach on its own only gives the "whats" and the "hows" but not the "whys." There is no context for the content. No framework for the structure.

Myth 2: The National Values Approach

In order to get at the "whys," Lucia might then be directed to some well-grounded research on the differences between national values. The innovative works of Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars are frequently studied during this stage of global leadership development.

Through her reading, Lucia will probably be delighted to discover that the traditional importance that Italians place on such values as family, relationships, creativity, aesthetics, love, passion, and even calcio (football/soccer) are also shared by Brazilians. She might be surprised to find out that the Chinese value "face"—social harmony and personal honor-just as the Italians do. In China, it is called mianzi and in Italy, bella figura. And she might appreciate the warning that "respect" does not mean the same thing in Mexico as it does in Italy or that the Japanese are much more concerned with centralized authority than the autonomy-loving Italians.

Similarly, explanations of the different concepts of "quality" and "seriousness" in Germany and Italy might shed  light on some long-running tensions with certain people in the Stuttgart headquarters. But this approach can only help so far, because it is based on a rather dangerous assumption: that everyone—or even most people—within a national culture will conform to the norms of that culture.

This is a particularly dubious claim in the vibrant cultures of international business and among young people, where change is a constant and deviation from the norm is much more prevalent.

On an individual level, Engineer Lee may not be very Korean in his value system, because he studied for his undergraduate degree at Delft University in the Netherlands and his master's degree at MIT in Boston. And Señor Trujillo may not be very Mexican as he grew up in seven different countries on three continents as his mother was a diplomat.

And what about Lucia herself?

At first glance, it would seem that she is typically Italian, having lived and worked there her whole life apart from her frequent business trips around Europe and a few work and pleasure jaunts beyond the continent.

But what if you knew that she was an orphan from North Africa, who was brought up by her nonna (adoptive grandmother) in a clean, safe, but very modest home in a small town outside Naples. As a math genius and natural athlete, she excelled in school and was the youngest MBA ever to graduate from the prestigious Bocconi University in Milan. She is now married to a struggling artist and has three young children, one of whom has cerebral palsy.

How might these unique environmental and genetic factors affect her personal value system and how she behaves and communicates with other people?

We will explore this and related issues in the next Global Leader Development article to be published in the June issue of BCW.

In the meantime, if you want to respond to any of the points raised in this column, please email the article author.

 

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

References

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Hofstede, G. (2005). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (Revised and expanded 2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hampden-Turner, C. and F. Trompenaars. Riding The Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

  Jeremy Solomons, is the UK-born and USA-naturalized founder and president of Jeremy Solomons & Associates, which helps current and future leaders to connect and communicate effectively across all cultures-national, organizational, professional, and individual. From his base in Austin, Texas, he coaches, consults, designs curriculum, facilitates, and trains in many areas of leadership. Contact Jeremy.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
13Sep/120

Job 1 for Leaders: Aligning Rhetoric to Reality

By Dr. Albert A. Vicere

Scan typical corporate mission statements and you'll note that most companies aspire to be some combination of innovative, customer-driven, market-leading, employee-focused, performance-oriented, and of course, profitable. Although admirable, most leaders would agree that living up to those traits consistently over time is incredibly demanding and extremely difficult. That is not to challenge corporate aspirations, but simply to make an obvious observation: declaring aspirations is much easier than actually achieving them.

My research, coupled with my years of experience as a consultant, has convinced me that the key to resolving this perplexing challenge is rooted in the ability of leaders to reconcile the rhetoric of corporate aspirations with the reality of corporate operating environments. Organizations need aspirations, and as Jim Collins reminded us in his book Built to Last1, people seek the exuberance of being part of an organization with Big Hairy Audacious Goals. But if the organization's declared purpose and aspirations are out of synch with its operating environment, if people within the organization experience a culture that is very different from its stated purpose and aspirations, the organization is headed for disaster.

That's because, regardless of the strategy statement or CEO speeches, the way an organization's leaders actually behave, coupled with the things they ultimately measure and reward, combine to shape employee thinking and behavior across the organization. In effect, they shape what I call "organizational DNA."

Through careful research and discussions with thousands of leaders and managers worldwide, I have built a framework for organizational DNA, the Direction and Alignment (DNA)® Model [Figure 1]. The model is based on a visual metaphor, the DNA double helix. The biological double helix is comprised of a backbone—the two intertwining strands that frame genetic character. These strands are connected by a four-letter code comprising the instructions for a person's genetic profile. Each letter of the code is comprised of essential chemical elements. Those elements combine into sets of base pairs within which one's genetic code resides.

Figure 1: The Direction and Alignment (DNA)® Model

In the Direction and Alignment (DNA) Model®, the backbone of organizational DNA is comprised of two intertwining strands—an organization's roots or its history and operating capabilities, and its wings or its ability to change and innovate. Those two strands are connected by a three letter code—SLC, the first letters in the words strategyleadership, and culture. Each letter of an organization's genetic code is comprised of three essential elements. Strategy is comprised of perspectives toward innovationtalent, and infrastructure. Leadership is comprised of perspectives toward hindsightinsight, and foresight. Culture is comprised of perspectives toward aspirationaccountability, andinitiative. As indicated in Figure 1, each of these nine essential elements can be defined by a set of "base pairs" or essential viewpoints held by leaders that guide their interpretation of organizational strategy, leadership, and culture.

The DNA Model®, as described above, has been operationalized in a survey instrument, the Strategy, Leadership, Culture Questionnaire (SLCQ)®.Respondents indicate their perceptions of their organization with regard to each set of base pairs. The data generated by the SLCQ® reveal the way members think about strategy, leadership, and culture and the potential impact those perceptions have on member behavior, organizational performance, and strategy execution.

The SLCQ® has been used by a variety of major organizations and in a number of settings over the past six years, resulting in a database of nearly 12,000 respondents representing all levels of organizations, though the vast majority are in middle- through senior-level leadership positions. An analysis of the database paints a compelling picture of the challenge faced by leaders as they attempt to align their organizations with a desired future state.

Despite the fact that the economic environment has had its ups and downs over the period that data have been collected, an analysis of the overall database generated a "typical" or average profile of an organization that has remained consistent over time, despite economic fluctuations and changing business conditions.

In terms of strategy, respondents indicate that their organizations are followers/perfecters slow to develop new ideas or approaches to business, staffed by take-charge people complemented by technical experts, who are trying to work together but feel like they are operating in silos.

In terms of culture, they indicate that their organizations are prospecting for and reacting to opportunities, in order to generate improvements, for the purpose of extracting as much return as possible from their current asset base.

In terms of leadership, they indicate a passion for their organization and feel challenged by their jobs. However, although a majority feel energized by their work situation, over 30 percent indicate that the organization's reward system is not tied to performance and that there is little certainty about pathways for advancement in the organization.

It is worth repeating that this overall profile emerged early and has remained consistent over the years that we have collected data. Individual organizations can vary dramatically from the norm, but the norm itself has remained consistent. Respondents indicate that the "typical" organization is exactly as described above.

The vast majority of respondents to the SLCQ® are from large, established companies. As those companies have grown and become successful, their culture, as defined by focus, metrics, and rewards, has evolved from the creation of new products, services, and business models to a focus on maintaining share and margins and driving profits. The typical organization is profiled as having limited openness to new ideas and making limited effort to divine new opportunities for growth and development.

If that's the case, how likely is it that a new strategy statement, even one rolled out with town meetings, speeches, and training programs, is really going to make an impact on the way respondents think and behave on their job? It's a safe bet that respondents will keep working as they always have until leaders not only generate the rhetoric of a change in focus and emphasis, but also take steps to align that rhetoric with the reality of the operating environment by changing the mental models of organizational members. And they do that by changing metrics, adjusting rewards, modeling new behaviors, and demonstrating that the organization actually means what it is saying.

Like many key elements of leadership and strategy, it may seem like common sense that to achieve organizational performance and longevity, leaders must align the rhetoric of an organization to the reality of its operating environment. Yet, my research and experience suggest that for most organizations, this connection is fleeting at best. Data from an SLCQ® analysis make rhetoric-reality gaps clear, and therefore addressable.


1 Collins, J. and Porras, J. (2004). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperBusiness.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 3). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.