How do you as CEO stay on top of your leadership game? Many think reading the latest books on this will keep things fresh. Others rely on bootcamps or CEO peer groups to stimulate their thinking about leading, and to work through business challenges.
Books can provide great insights. Bootcamps can certainly inform you of leadership trends and approaches you might want to consider. And peer groups can bring fresh ideas, community, and accountability.
But statistics show that none of these by themselves (or all together) yield the relevant changes that are most important. In other words, if you are spending significant amounts of money on your leadership in the ways we’ve just mentioned, you may be gaining some good value – but you are still leaving a lot of your leadership potential on the table.
How do you actually sharpen your leadership in the areas that matter most?
To strengthen your leadership, you need to know which areas of your leadership are ready for upleveling, and how to actually make these shifts in order to make lasting change.
Which of your leadership behaviors is ready for an upgrade?
You won’t really know what you need to change until you get good feedback.
As CEO, you may have a fair idea of those areas you need to sharpen. But as a human being, you also have your blind spots. And you can’t see your blind spots, because, well, they are blind spots.
Michael, our CEO in the last three articles, was given some feedback. As you will recall (see last week’s article “Confronting”), Michael was highly motivated to rise above the weeds once and for all, and to bring his team along with him. They had done some important work in establishing a company business imperative with top priorities over the next 12 months, and also identified what this meant for each executive team member’s focus and energy.
When it came time to identify what the team needed in order to accomplish these things, you may remember that the team members shared what they needed as to systems and processes, but also in behaviors – team behaviors together, and leader behaviors from Michael.
“I had no idea some of my behaviors were getting in the way of team effectiveness,” he confessed.
“The good news is, Michael, that you are well respected by your team. You received some good feedback, and we need to use it. Let’s talk about what you heard.”
“Well, I heard that I disempower people by allowing their employees to come directly to me – and I may counter what their supervisor has instructed them. And I also heard that I tend not to listen to the perspectives of the other executive team members when making decisions. Those are pretty big.”
“And I agree with you,” I responded. “Those are the two main behavioral shifts I heard, as well. Do you agree?”
“I agree. I’ll stop doing those things. Today.”
“Not so fast,” I countered. “That’s not the way it works. At least, if you want the change to be effective and to last.”
“Okay, I’m listening,” he said.
You need to identify upgrade behaviors for those you want to replace.
“Explain, please,” said Michael.
“You may know what you need to stop doing, but your brain needs a picture of what it needs to do, instead. For example, if you need to stop allowing employees to come in and work around their supervisors to get a better answer from you, what should you do instead?”
“Ah,” said Michael. “Okay. I need to redirect the employees back to their supervisors.”
“Now you have it!” I responded. “And what about being open to and listening to the perspectives of others?” I asked.
“Well, that one is harder,” Michael mused. “I thought I was open, but evidently I don’t appear to be so.”
“May I give you some feedback?” I asked. “I noticed in our team meeting that, when others gave a different opinion than yours, you acknowledged them, but then went right back to your own perspective. In other words, you didn’t ask them to tell you more, allowing them to share a different point of view, while listening carefully instead of waiting to jump back in.”
“Phew,” said Michael. “This may be tough.”
“True,” I said. “In fact, these kinds of behaviors take up to a year to shift so that they are lasting.”
“Well, how do I stay on track with that?” He asked. “I don’t have a lot of time to spend on this – but it’s key and I know it.”
“Fortunately, the third step is what keeps you on track,” I answered.
Track your progress regularly by getting feedback.
“Your team has given you great feedback. They can also provide you with info on your progress.”
“Like I said, I don’t have a lot of time,” he said.
“Oh, this is a one- to two-minute check-in about once monthly to see how you are doing. And of course, your regular coaching meeting with me to discuss how it’s going, what we need to do to break through roadblocks, keep moving forward, etc.”
“I see,” said Michael. “So, I’ll just be working as usual – only I’ll be integrating upgraded behaviors. That should not take more time – it’s just doing things differently.”
“You are getting it!” I said. “I’m happy to sit with you and put together a plan.”
Michael beamed. “I’m ready,” he said. “I think we are getting the formula for staying on top of the things we want most. If I can rise to the occasion with my leadership, I can bring the others along.”
What in your leadership needs upgrading? How do you know? Reaching the most important goals successfully starts here.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.