I am a strong believer in experiential learning – learning by or based on an experience and observation. Key learning points seem to be integrated faster and stronger when the learners are put in a situation where the skills they need to learn or apply are put to the test.
The exercise I am sharing (see download file below) is a group or team exercise focused on the style of a leader and how a leader approaches employee issues given their own background and preferences. The backdrop for the experience could be situational leadership or Emotional Intelligence for leaders. It is up to the trainer or facilitator to choose the right materials to suit the needs of the team or group.
The exercise requires some volunteers to engage in role-play based on specific scripts – included in the resource. There are “role sheets” to help those standing in as employees understand how that employee behaves and describes his or her style.
The key to this exercise is to showcase the possible dilemmas that leaders can face when confronted with employee behavior that seemingly goes against their own values or goals at work. The discussion after the role-play exercises is where the most value can be realized. Reflecting on what the group saw and experienced during the role-play and then relating that to their day-to-day work-life is where most insights tend to surface. This helps each leader determine how he or she could adopt a new mindset in dealing with difficult discussions with employees going forward.
This exercise works well for groups ranging from 8 to 16 people. Larger groups of 20 people or more can work too, but you may need to add in an additional step – a small group exercise. In that case, divide the group into smaller groups of 4 or 5 people and have them discuss the exercise debrief questions in the small groups before requesting each of the small groups to report back to the larger group for further discussion. You may want to consider an additional facilitator to assist if you are dealing with groups larger than 20 people.
Without emotional intelligence or a compassionate approach to interpersonal relationships even leaders with the best technical minds and education will never be great leaders with motivated followers. Exercises like the resource I share here can help trainers and facilitators bring home the importance of having the right approach and encourage a personal change process in developing leaders.
How many leaders are we developing for future leadership roles? Where should you be spending your employee development efforts? What is the best way to spend your training budget to contribute to the company’s ability to produce desired results? Being able to answer these questions, is the reason you would want to be able to do a talent audit.
You may benefit from doing a talent audit – review your team and your leaders to get to a thorough understanding of the needs of each individual and the capabilities of your entire team/organization.
The vertical axis on this graphic is where you rate the performance of the employee and the horizontal scale is where you rate his or her potential to reach higher levels of leadership in the company if you develop him or her.
The green star example would be a leader who is performing exceptionally high and who also still has the potential to move up more levels within the company – maybe 2 or 3 levels more in the next few years.
The red star would represent a leader or employee who is not performing according to expectations at all and who has not shown any signs of being capable of or motivated to move up any levels in the company.
When you are used to looking at your leaders and teams in this way, you may not need to use a formal checklist, but you should be able to do this on the back of a napkin. Until you can do that the resource I am sharing below and which you can download, may be useful.
An easy checklist for employees and leaders is shown below – note how well they are performing in their current roles and then compare that to how much potential do they still have to move up a level or two in the company in the short to medium term.
Once you have the number of YES answers to the questions in the downloadable link above, you can plot where each leader or employee would be on chart like the one shown below. The maximum value would be 12 on the potential axis and 11 on the performance axis. Your scores will likely be somewhere between zero and those maximum numbers. The scale for both axis is 0 in the bottom left corner and the the top of Performance would be the maximum and the right side of the Potential axis is the maximum.
Using the checklist helps you determine where your current employees and leaders would fit on the model shown above. All you need to do is answer yes or no to the questions shown. When you get to the bottom count the number of times you answered yes and calculate the % yes score (total yes answers divided by number of questions).
Alternatively you can use the next figure (see below) to plot the employees. Review their latest performance review outcomes against the vertical scale: Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations and Below Expectations. Looking at the employee’s motivation, mindset and capabilities – does he or she have the potential to move up some levels in the company? Plot that against the horizontal axis.
To ensure a good perspective of the employee pool that you are reviewing, ask various executives/senior managers who have regular contact with the employees to complete the list of questions in the resource. Combine all the answers to arrive at the final plot on the graphic for the employees/ leaders. Always perform a sanity check before you complete the final plot – employees must have the motivation and interest to advance in their own careers and have great interpersonal relationship skills before you can plot them towards the middle and right side of the horizontal scale.
Once you have the employees plotted as stars or markers on the diagram you can move towards planning next steps.
Interpreting the numbers in the chart shown above:
These employees are able to grow to the top of the organization. Accelerate their development and make sure they have stretch-goal assignments.
These employees are good performers who need to be recognized and you should keep them engaged. Retention is the word, especially if they possess key skills that are hard to find in the market.
These employees need training, coaching and a structured approach to improve on their skills and competencies. Since they have the motivation, ambition and ability to move to higher roles in the company, the gap between future role requirements and current performance assessments should be driving the development actions needed.
This group needs to be addressed fast. Or you can coach/motivate this employee to improve performance or you need to let them go. They are taking management energy away from growth and are not contributing to the company’s success. (If their below expectations performance is related to health issues – manage according to the local laws and agreements with unions etc.)
The performance of these employees has to improve. There are several reasons why someone could be plotted in this group. a) some executives/managers see potential here, but the employees’ own motivation or ambition may not align with that – move the employee into the correct group – towards the left; b) personal or interpersonal issues may be at work here – try to resolve; c) employee does not understand what is required from a performance perspective – ensure clear goals and expectations are set and train/coach and review regularly to ensure that performance does improve.
This process is not static and you should review your plots at least once a year. It is possible for employees to move into other areas of the graphic after they get the promotion they worked towards or their motivation and ambition at work may change.
This annual review is an exercise that should include the executive team or management team for that location, because it is important that the senior team understands the talent and leadership potential that is available at that location. It is also important that multiple views are incorporated and discussed during the review sessions. It all starts with doing the first talent audit though and this tool will hopefully help you do that.
One area that often causes misunderstandings and frustrations in the workplace is when two employees have different interpersonal styles and ways of communicating and they do not get along. Being different from each other mostly means that they do not understand why the other party is doing and saying things in the manner that they do. Most of us do have the ability to make small changes to how we do or say things in order to improve collaboration and interfacing with others and this resource can help by creating awareness, which is the first step towards improvement.
The downloadable document I am sharing can be used for reviewing relationships with customers, other employees, work-related contacts, and even friends or loved ones. It helps you reflect on the interpersonal style that the other person displays in his or her behaviors. Building on this awareness this resource enables you to be more mindful of the best ways to interact with that specific person to have a better relationship with him or her.
Once you have awareness of how you can improve interpersonal relationships with specific people it may still be difficult to make changes to your own behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Should you get stuck once you have done the first part of the exercise, consider asking others for ideas on how you can best approach improvement in the key aspects you came up with. Depending on the current relationship you have with the person you focused on, you may be able to ask him or her directly. For example: “I noticed that you are very detail-oriented. Can you help me understand how I can better provide you with what you need in order for you to feel comfortable with my contribution on the projects that we are working on together?”
Uses for this resource include:
Own reflection and then taking action to improve on some of your interpersonal relationships.
Discussions with your coach on how to deal with some difficult individuals that you often work with.
Team-building – ask each team member to rate themselves on the items shown and then share with each other as a way to get to know each other better and improve interpersonal relationships on the team. (advocating).
Team feedback – Depending on the time you have available and the size of the team you may also ask each team member to map out each other team member using this resource. This means each person gets feedback from the entire team on how each team member sees them. The outcome could magnify self-awareness in the team and drive interpersonal relationship improvements across the entire team.
Misunderstandings can lead to a lot of misalignments between team members and can result in rework, which is a waste every project should avoid. Better interactions with others make the workday more fun and go a long way towards employees feeling more productive and effective at work.
Leading and managing a group of people at a single location is not an easy task and managers often tell me it is the people-side that wears them down. When your team is very diverse and located at different remote locations instead of at one location, the challenges and risks of the team not reaching goals multiply. The resource I am sharing today is a checklist for team leaders or managers/supervisors of remote teams and it focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the the people-side.
The downloadable checklist above lists a number of items to consider when you are leading a dispersed or remote team. This may be a useful check for team leads or project managers to ensure they are taking into account the additional challenges that remote teams bring and are taking the appropriate actions and precautions to manage the interpersonal and communications aspects on such a project.
The checklist items are grouped by the following main topics:
Critical Skills for Supervising International Project teams
Setting Goals and Expectations
Giving Feedback and Coaching
Establishing a Good Start
Working with dispersed team members can be very interesting and it can be fun to learn about other cultures and other perspectives. However, those same interesting differences can make remote teamwork frustrating and difficult. The checklist shared here can go a long way towards helping you, as the team leader, take advantage of leading a diverse team while successfully managing the harder part of leading teams.
The ability to reflect and learn from experiences and observations is one I most commonly associate with and admire in the best leaders that I have met over the years. This resource can be used to help leaders reflect on their own behaviors to identify development and improvement needs.
The leadership rating worksheet shared contains a sheet for self rating and also a sheet which can be shared with others for feedback purposes.
The resource (see downloadable file above) is not only helpful for leaders in rating themselves and uncovering possible developmental needs, but can also be used as a 360-type feedback tool. In that case the leader rates himself or herself and then requests feedback from others – in more senior roles, same level peers or in lower hierarchical roles – interacting with the leader on a regular basis. The 360 view can help eliminate any blind-spots that a leader may have concerning his or her own leadership behaviors as the perspectives are from others who often interface with the leader.
The leadership aspects covered in this resource are:
Each of the aspects come with a brief description to ensure ratings are comparable after you have obtained feedback from others.
Uses for this resource include:
Updating your own development plan and setting new goals and priorities for your own development activities
Discussing the results with a coach or mentor to get guidance on what to focus on and how to plan next steps to improve on key leadership aspects.
If a manager rates all of the leaders working in his or her department using this tool you can compare the leaders to each other in terms of strengths and development needs. This would be useful information to help select the best development programs for the team over the next year (for example).
Developing leadership skills is a lifelong journey. We can all learn to do better in some aspects over time and tools like this one can be a very useful check-in for reflection even for those who have been leaders for a long time. It is also true that we expect more from leaders in a globalized business world and concepts like “diversity conscious” and “cross cultural” skills are becoming very important for leaders to be effective on a global scale.
Trustworthiness is the undisputed main characteristic that we look for in a leader and frankly also in any other person we encounter on a daily basis. Trust is a topic that is often discussed in a business context after employee satisfaction or engagement survey results are known in organizations. The topic also often comes up when leadership training or development is considered.
The resource I am sharing consists of some slides highlighting the nature and importance of trust in teams and then it has an exercise which you can do with a group of leaders.
You can use this (download above) file in a few ways:
As a quick exercise (about 20 to 30 minutes) with meeting participants where Trust and Leadership is the topic of conversation or discussion. For example: in a meeting to discuss a recent employee survey where trust came up as an area to be addressed.
As a sub-section within a leadership training course where Trust and Leadership is an aspect of the course.
As a coaching discussion topic where it is important for someone to learn more about actions and behaviors that can contribute to being viewed as more trustworthy.
These slides won’t teach someone all of the aspects of trust and leadership, but they do provide a context for you to explore the topic. You may always choose to follow-up with more exercises or conversations about the topic in future.
(Note that the last “Slide” in the resource is not for display purposes, but for you to print out so that the small groups in the exercise have a way to capture their thoughts while going through the exercise.)
Setting a strategy for an organization requires a focus on aspects internally and external to your organization. Once you have set your strategic growth targets you would need to look at how you need things to change internally to support those growth targets. You may want to set your signs on improving profitability, increasing organizational effectiveness or moving leadership behaviors closer to your values and vision for the organization.
The resource I am sharing can help you align some of the most important internal aspects with your strategy to improve your chances of successfully executing on the strategy.
Most organizations are able to successfully navigate through the process of setting a strategy. Many organizational leaders find execution and implementation of the strategy the hardest part to achieve. I believe this is mostly because internal aspects that are needed to support the strategy are not always taken into account in the execution plan.
The framework (See download option above) and questions to address in each case help you by acting as a checklist. Reviewing the execution plan, this list will help you consider how to engage, involve, and inform stakeholders in the process. It helps ensure that every aspect of your execution plan reinforces your strategic objectives leading to a better implementation plan.
The areas to ensure alignment are:
Company values and culture
Leadership (behavior and mindset)
Performance Management and Metrics
The sequence would always be to first select a strategy you would like to pursue with the organization and then use this resource to plan the implementation portion of the activity.
Setting strategies is often an iterative process as changes from inside or outside of companies require an adjustment in approach. Remember to check the impact of further changes on the same checklist (see above) to ensure you maintain the strategy alignment.