When working with leaders on organizational change management, we often find that the leader’s perceptions about his or her role and responsibility for influencing change is colored by a combination of past experience, skill sets and awareness.
In fact, awareness is the largest contributing factor to a leader’s success in moving initiatives forward. To be a truly great leader in these times, leaders need to understand how their behavior and style engages people or disengages them from high performance. Until leaders clear the hurdle of awareness, their desires and goals may fall on deaf ears and they will lose effectiveness.
Lack of awareness often leads to missteps in leadership and management, from hiring and firing decisions to misguided training initiatives and strategic planning.
There are many good leaders in organizations today, however, The Bailey Group’s ongoing analysis of leadership effectiveness demonstrates that competitive environments call for an extraordinary level of leadership. This white paper examines several common leadership behaviors in the form of case studies and charts each leader’s path of awareness to successful, results-based leadership. We demonstrate the role that leadership awareness plays in overcoming blind spots so that leaders can nurture and guide competitive, high performance throughout the organization. In other words, produce greatness.
Case Study: The Perfectionist Leader
Martin is the chief financial officer for a growing medical products manufacturer. His career has developed through a series of finance positions within public accounting and manufacturing. He credits high-level technical skills and attention to detail for his rise above the ranks to his current position. He now leads a team of 35 professionals and sets the vision for the company based on a precise analysis of several financial benchmarks.
Because the firm is growing so fast, Martin is working an average of 60 hours per week to stay up to date on financial analysis and keep track of his team’s productivity. He spends much of his time “correcting” mistakes and showing team members how projects should be done. Usually, it’s easier for him to handle the tasks than try to explain them to a team member.
It’s not that his team isn’t capable, he reasons, it’s just that they don’t seem to have the same drive to do things correctly and at a pace that Martin expects. He’d like some guidance on motivating his team to increase their productive output while not sacrificing accuracy.
High-level technical leaders like Martin have relied on their own intellectual skills for many years for success. As such, they are often uncomfortable delegating too much responsibility to others; in fact, they will justify reasons for not delegating work. However, as they rise in rank, they are unable to continue shouldering 100 percent responsibility and remain effective.
When working with perfectionist leaders, we first must address obstacles and excuses for not delegating responsibility to their team. We test their assumptions about the capabilities of the team by asking them to focus on the desired outcome of the task rather than how the team member will choose to complete it.
Clarifying the goal and timeline, then designating the team member(s) with the skills and capabilities to accomplish the task, we ease the perfectionist leader into empowering his team to accomplish more.
Progress is measured by the percentage of time the leader spends on managing people and the percentage of time now devoted to strategy. We may also measure whether or not there is a decrease in overtime hours — another indicator of improved productivity.
Ultimately, we assist the leader with genuinely assessing the skill sets of his team, identifying skill gaps and making adjustments, and entrusting more and more responsibility to create a true team environment.
Case Study: The Conflict Avoidant Leader
Julia is the Director of Human Resources for a large not-for-profit organization. She started in the organization as a volunteer and believes highly in the mission it embodies. Rising in the ranks of the organization, Julia finds that very little of her time is spent on mission and more is spent as staff counselor.
A few people in the organization are constantly taking up her time with their complaints, needs and non-business personal issues. Julia does her best to listen and send them on their way, but feels drained. She is also aware that other employees have complained about the lack of productivity from these high-maintenance complainers.
Julia is looking for a way to set boundaries around her time so that she is no longer the 24-hour, staff counseling center.
Conflict-avoidant leaders like Julia often find themselves in self-defeating and frustrating situations with other people until they can step up and make a decision. Leaders can lose valuable energy and time from fears around other people’s opinions and a lack of confidence in their personal power.
We help these leaders assess the defeating situation from an objective viewpoint and understand their level of control. By controlling their emotional response to the situation and practicing dialogues that address the issue rather than the person, conflict-avoidant leaders can navigate difficult conversations more quickly and free up more of their time for productive activities.
Case Study: The Competitive Leader
Chase has won at just about everything he’s done in life and his career. In situations where he hasn’t won, he’s quickly moved on. Over the last 22 years, he’s had six different sale director positions. His specialty is to pursue a large contract and deliver results at any cost.
He is familiar with people feeling uncomfortable around him because he believes that his level of confidence is rare. If he could bottle it and sell it, he could retire early from the profits.
But in reality, Chase loves the pursuit and the eventual victory over identified “enemies.” He has his own style and few people can handle it unless they’re okay with doing things his way. He’d like to improve his team-building skills to pass on what he knows about high-stakes sales, but wants a professional opinion on who would be the best protégés.
Competitive leaders are under constant self-imposed pressure to win. They value a certain image and won’t tolerate less than delivering results. They may be among the most difficult leaders to coach because their way of doing things has actually produced results. However, they tend to leave some destruction in their wake such as severed relationships, unmotivated teams and neglected duties that are deemed “not important.”
By approaching the competitive leader from the vantage of missed opportunities or unmet needs, we can identify ways to improve their performance even more. Competitive leaders hate to feel vulnerable in any area of life, but love to win. Supporting their drive to win while addressing weaknesses will move the leader into a position of facilitating a winning strategy for the entire team…which they can proudly add to their list of accomplishments.
Bringing it Full Circle
What we have seen here are three common behaviors or blind spots among leaders that limit their potential to influence greatness in themselves and the organization. The first requirement for change is an openness to addressing these blind spots so they can see themselves clearly in the context of the team environment.
Awareness of their blind spots leads to action steps for self-correction and empowerment of others. With the perspective that “great leaders are never satisfied,” we can instill a sense of self-improvement that never ends throughout the leader’s career. There is always something new to learn and explore.
By the same token, we know that great leaders will always seek the unmet need and work to fill it. By assisting leaders with foundational skills for managing and empowering others, we move them to this great leader level of envisioning unmet needs and devising solutions. With their management skills firmly in place, they can move forward with implementing solutions — maximizing not only their personal potential, but also the collective human potential in the people they lead. This is what greatness really looks like.
If you would like additional information on results-based leadership solutions at The Bailey Group, contact Martha Carlson at 763-545-5997 or firstname.lastname@example.org.