Posted tagged ‘alignment triangle’

Hiring Leadership

June 13, 2010

When you think about it, the amount of time devoted to the hiring process is pretty insignificant. This is ironic given that it is one of the most critical decisions made at any company.  Perhaps, there are a few hours, or at best, a few days devoted to screening, interviewing and reference checking.

The process really cries out for a method – some way of determining whether the individual was appropriate for the position and for the culture. Such an opportunity presented itself in recent weeks and it afforded me the opportunity to create such an approach.

I have always found that having multiple people interview a candidate is extremely important. Everyone has “blindspots,” areas that are not important to them or areas that they are willing to gloss over. Multiple interviewers tend to mitigate this problem and force dialogue during the assessment process.

A COO recently invited me to participate in the selection of a new leader for one of his operating companies. In order to gain as close to a full perspective of the candidates, it was agreed that his focus would include prior industry work experience. The dimension that I hoped to contribute was an assessment of managerial style and knowledge in what was important in running a company

To prepare for my role in the interview, I organized this plan.

  1. Pre-work
  2. Deciding what to evaluate
  3. Building a way for capturing the information
  4. Designing the interview questions
  5. Preparing the introduction so that the interviewee can be engaged and comfortable
  6. Providing the assessment

The pre-work stage was devoted to understanding what the company provides, the culture of the company, the background of the candidates and what the heart of the assignment was.

Understanding the “heart of the assignment,” is perhaps the most critical element in this stage. Every leadership style has its place. A young team may need a patient mentor. A seasoned team may need an expert guide. An undisciplined team might do best with a firm leader dedicated to creating structure. In short, when looking for a leader, the answer to who is the right candidate is often, “it depends…”

In the next post, we’ll continuing reviewing these stages.

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Documenting Processes Create Opportunities

March 11, 2010

Documenting processes is typically a very good idea. Here are a couple of reasons.

(1) It clarifies what needs to be done in each process and allows you to eliminate unnecessary steps thereby increasing productivity and saving staff time and associated costs

(2) It is useful for training new staff; In fact the process flows can be part of an orientation program

(3) It allows the company to identify time consuming steps that would benefit from automation

(4) When selecting new software, it allows you to test the software in the context of what you actually do rather than the features of the software. In fact, the candidate software company can prove their mettle by showing where they add value by eliminating steps and improving workflow in addition to their features.

(5) If you are in a business that is heavily regulated, this documentation is typically prized and can be used as a sales tool to demonstrate the discipline in the business

As to how often they should be done and reviewed – and for the reasons noted above – I’d recommend that this be treated as living documentation and used regularly when making changes to the way work is performed, software created etc. This effort is only valuable if it becomes part of the company fabric and has a purpose.

I just completed a project where I managed the process flow analysis of a 300 person company and designed a software assessment process for them. I’d be happy to talk with anyone who wishes to discuss this further (david_blumenthal@msn.com)

Creating Coalitions

February 11, 2009

Anyone who has been observing the stimulus bill negotiations surely has become much more cognizant of President Obama’s need to build coalitions and the early lessons he is learning. To paraphrase his comments last evening, “old habits die hard.”

In order to exert influence without authority to require that people take certain actions, one needs to create coalitions to get things done. Influence networks – informal bonds among colleagues – can help you marshal backing for your ideas among colleagues. However, to do so, one needs to create an influence strategy. This means figuring out whom you must influence, pinpointing who is likely to support and resist your key initiatives, and persuading “swing voters.” .

Many new leaders make the mistake of focusing on the vertical dimension of influence, i.e., direct reports and supervisors, and not enough to the horizontal dimension, namely peers and external constituencies.  Think about who might be critical to your success and whether you have engaged and enrolled them.

Start by identifying the key interfaces between your group and others. Customers and suppliers, within the business and outside, are natural focal points for relationship building. Another strategy is to get your boss to connect you. Request a list of ten key people outside your group whom s/he thinks you should get to know. Then set up  meetings with them. (This strategy should be employed for your direct reports as well. Create priority relationship lists for them and help them to make contact.)

Another productive approach is to diagnose informal networks of influence. Observe the interactions at meetings including who defers to whom on crucial issues. Identify who is sought after for advice, who shares what information and news, and who is owed favors.

Identify the sources of power that give people influence such as expertise, access to information, status, control of resources (such as budgets and rewards), and personal loyalty. Talk to former employees and people who did business with the organization in the past. Seek out the natural historians.

Eventually, you will identify the opinion leaders. If these vital individuals align behind your A-item priorities, broader acceptance of your ideas is likely to follow.

There is a diagramming tool known as an influence map that will help you identify who influences whom. An influence map will help you identify supporters, opponents, and “convinceables,” people who can be persuaded.

Potential supporters typically share your vision of the future, are quietly working for change on a small scale, or are new to the company and have not yet become acculturated to its mode of operation. You must solidify and nurture this support. It is not a given.

Opponents will oppose you no matter what you do. They may believe that you are wrong. They may be comfortable with the status quo, have a fear of looking incompetent, see you as a threat to a value that they hold dear or to their power, or that your arrival will have negative consequences for people that they care about.

When you meet resistance, try to grasp the reason behind it. This will allow you to counter arguments and you may be able to convert some early opponents.

“Convinceables” are the swing voters who are either indifferent to change, undecided, or may be appealed to based on their interests. Take the time to try to figure out what their interests may be. Ask them or engage them in dialogue about the situation. Ask if there are competing forces that prevent these people from listening to you.

Now you are ready to think about persuasion strategies. People tend to weigh status quo vs. change. People will more likely gravitate to the status quo unless remaining with the status quo is perceived as a future threat or if there is a reward for change. If the leader has earned sufficient credibility, merely asking people to try something new is sufficient. These persuasive appeals can be based on logic and data or on values and the emotions that values elicit, or some combination of both.

There are action-forcing events that require change. Review meetings in which people must discuss progress publicly are one such event. These meetings encourage action and enforce accountability.

If people are unable to move at once, a leader may employ strategies to allow people to make incremental steps towards change called “entanglement strategies.” For example, getting people to participate in an initial meeting may cause them to participate later on. Entanglement works because each step creates a new psychological reference point for deciding whether to take the next small step.

Another way to do this is to get people to participate in data gathering. Once the person recognizes the problem, have them participate in refining the problem definition. From there it is a small step to solution planning and then, to implementation.

Finally, if you get people to change behaviors, right attitudes often follow. This is because people look for consistency between their behaviors and beliefs.

This all leads to a concept called “sequencing strategy.” By getting individual influencer’s alignment and support, group actions follow. If you approach the right people first, you can set in motion a virtuous cycle. Approach people in the following sequence:

  • Individuals with whom you have supportive relationships first
  • People whose interests are strongly compatible with yours
  • People who have the critical resources to make your agenda succeed
  • People with important connections who can recruit more supporters

The Leadership Pipeline Model in Action – Part 2

December 9, 2008

Let’s continue on our path to growing our leader. When our leader moves to this next level, he or she has become removed from communicating with the individual contributor.

From Managing Others to Functional Manager
Skill Requirements
  • New communication skills must be developed to reach all levels.
  • Understand and manage areas outside of one’s own work experiences.
  • Illustrate the maturity to take other functional concerns into consideration.
  • Become proficient at functional strategy and the ability to blend that strategy with the overall business strategy.
Time Applications Participate in business team meetings and work with other functional managers. Team play with other functional managers and management of competing resources is vital. Limit the focus on functional matters. Delegate functional responsibilities to direct reports.
Work Values Shift here is from talking to listening to not only direct reports but customers, vendors and industry analysts so that more facts and perspectives may be gathered. Adopt a broad, long-term perspective (three years). Focus is on pushing the technical, professional and operational envelope, looking for sustainable competitive advantage rather than immediate but temporary edge. Understand the relationship between the function and other functions as well as the overall corporate strategy. Appreciate the work that is outside one’s own experiences.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Favoring and concentrating on areas where the individual is most comfortable, thereby undervaluing the unknown.
  • Failure to make the transition from an operational-project orientation to a strategic one (e.g. more focused on short term, demonstrates a poor sense of how the business operates.)
  • Immaturity as a leader-manager (e.g. lack of a control or measurement system, need to control everything, doesn’t trust others especially subordinates in unfamiliar areas, isolates himself except for a few direct reports where he or she has relationships).
Management’s Role in this Transition Place these managers on task forces, teams and committees of managers from different functions or with different backgrounds, skills and experiences. This will allow them to learn about new areas of work, develop new relationships with people who use different skills and methods.

Create meeting opportunities with other functional managers to discuss how they can work better together and what other opportunities exist for synergies.

Watch for development of and reinforce traits of maturity such as humility (aware that others may know more about something), delegation, communication and strong information flows within their organization.

By now you have probably noted that the common theme is that the skills in each of these passages are not the ones that you will use to become effective at the next level.

Let’s see if this trend continues.

From Functional Manager to Business Manager
Skill Requirements
  • Significant increase in autonomy, unfamiliarity and complexity at this level with a clear link between efforts and marketplace results.
  • Where he or she had to understand different functions before, he or she must now rely and integrate the functions and their leadership.
  • Balance future goals and present needs and make appropriate trade-offs.
  • The issue is no longer can we do something technically but rather will we make any money at this and is this profitability sustainable.
  • Become skilled at working with a wide variety of people and become sensitive to diverse functional issues.
Time Applications Shift from doing time to thinking time.
Work Values Learn to trust, accept advice and receive feedback from all functional managers even though they may never have experienced these functions personally.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Uninspired communications that doesn’t allow them to get their message across. This is because they are used to motivating a group of functional people who shared a particular “language” and now must address groups with different “languages”.
  • Inability to assemble a strong team of direct reports
  • Failure to grasp how the business can make money. This manifests itself in the failure to develop expense reduction or profit building programs. .
  • Problems with time management particularly in working upward, with direct reports and customers.
  • Neglecting the soft issues such as culture, feedback or organizational belief systems.
Management’s Role in this Transition Help business managers to learn to value all functions and assemble and rely on a strong team of direct reports. Encourage the business manager to spend time with each of his functional mangers to learn. Have them set goals which can serve as early warning systems of problems. Suggest that the business manager take an appropriate functional manager on trips to become more attuned to the marketplace.

Our next post will address two critical questions:

  1. Who is most responsible for the success of your leadership?
  2. What influences the likelihood that your people will execute successfully?

The Leadership Pipeline Model in Action

December 4, 2008

The “Leadership Pipeline” model can be scaled for small and large companies and includes six major leadership passages.  For example, in a small company of less than twenty people, the only real passage is a variation on the first one, Managing Self to Managing Others. The owner usually moves from individual contributor to managing others. It is only once you begin to hire others that these passages of leadership start to occur.

In the small business version of this model, the work within the group and enterprise levels is done by the Business Manager. The Functional Manager and Manager of Others levels are combined so there are really only four levels to address.

The small business model looks like this.

Level 1: Manage Self

Level 2: Manage Others

Level 3: Functional Manager

Level 4: Business Manager

Let’s take apart a couple of the levels and see how we can help our people become better leaders.

When one is effective at the “managing self” level, one’s skill requirements are primarily technical or professional. One contributes by doing the assigned work within given time frames and in ways that meet objectives. From a time application standpoint, the learning involves planning (so the work is completed on time), punctuality, content, quality, and reliability. The work values to be developed include acceptance of the company culture and adopting professional standards. When people demonstrate an ability to handle these responsibilities and adhere to the company’s values, they are often promoted to first-line manager.

Managing Self
Skill Requirements Do the assigned work within given time frames and in ways that meet objectives
Time applications Plan so work is completed on time, be punctual, deliver quality content and be reliable
Work Values Accept the company’s culture and adopt professional standards

This high performer is now ready for the first leadership stage. Let’s see what s/he needs to do to become effective in her/his new role.

From Managing Self to Managing Others
Skill Requirements Plan work, fill jobs, assign work, motivate, coach and measure the work of others. There are some individual contributions to the work product.
Time Applications Reallocate time so that one’s own work is completed and help others perform effectively. Set priorities for unit and team. Stop putting out fires, seizing opportunities and handling tasks themselves.
Work Values Delegate and get results through others. Value managerial work (rather than tolerating it) and the success of others. The passage begins a shift toward a great emphasis on planning.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Views questions from his or her people as interruptions
  • Fixes their mistakes rather than teaching them to do the work properly
  • Refuses to take ownership of the success of his or her people, distancing himself or herself from their problems and failures.
Management’s Role in this Transition Create measures so that these performers make the transition effectively. Survey the direct reports to get feedback. Intervene and coach extensively when problems are observed. . Reinforce the need to shift beliefs and guide the leader in becoming effective using the new skills that are required.

As you can see, to be successful at managing others, our manager will have to shift from many of the things that made him or her successful when he was accountable for only his work. There must be a shift from “doing work” to getting work done through others.

In our next post, we’ll look at the remaining levels of the small business model outlined in Ram Charan’s and Stephen Drotter’s book, The Leadership Pipeline.

Growing Your People to Become Effective Managers and Leaders

November 27, 2008

Without a doubt, the most important role of leadership is to develop the next generation of leaders. After all, hiring is really just a license to learn the job.

Without strong leadership throughout the company, growth will be restricted and limited. Improper decisions will be made or decisions will need to be centralized and funneled to a few leaders who will quickly become overwhelmed. Once overwhelmed, they too will make inappropriate decisions or they will delegate these decisions to those who lack the ability to make them effectively.

Most companies focus on personal traits and technical competence when making hiring decisions. The working assumption is that if a person performed well in one job, he or she will perform well in the next. This of course often proves not to be the case. And hiring gifted people from outside the company makes sense as a tactic but not as a strategy, because there is a scarcity of highly talented individuals. To address this challenge, CEOs need to look at this leadership development challenge as integral to an effective business strategy.

Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel have articulated in their book, The Leadership Pipeline, a way to understand how individuals grow to become leaders and the steps that we can take to make this transition more effective.

There are three major benefits to adopting this pipeline model.

  • Emotional stress for individual employees is reduced.
  • Skipping passages becomes unlikely.
  • The time to prepare someone for the top level is dramatically reduced because it becomes easier to recognize when an employee is ready to move to the next level.

The authors assert that there is a natural hierarchy of work. This hierarchy takes the form of six career passages or pipeline turns. This pipeline is not a cylinder but rather one that is bent in six places. At each change in organizational position, a significant turn has to be made. These turns involve a major change in three areas.

  • Job requirements, demanding new skills
  • The way they use their time, which we’ll call time applications, and
  • Work values

Unfortunately, many managers often work at the wrong level. They’re clinging to values appropriate to earlier passages in which they managed others individually rather than managing other managers. Or, they haven’t acquired the skills or time applications appropriate to their current level. As a result they are less effective or ineffective leaders and the people they manage are negatively affected as well.

The challenge for organizations is to make sure that people in leadership positions are assigned to the level appropriate to their skills, time applications, and values. With an understanding of this model, bosses can become better coaches and more supportive as they recognize the issues with which new leaders are struggling. What prevents companies from growing is, more often than not, the failure of people to be willing to change their work habits, give up their hands-on involvement, or trust a new layer of management.

We’ll explore this concept and approach in the next post.


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