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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is it Better to Be Liked or Respected as a Leader? - "The Power of Engagement"

Some leaders ponder the notion "is it better to be liked or respected by my subordinates and peers".

In my experience, I have too often only seen the following two traditional approaches to leadership: 

Those who seek respect: Some leaders subscribe to the view that they would rather be respected than liked. They tend to keep a professional and emotional distance between themselves and their peers and subordinates. They typically drive for business results and are very demanding, keeping high standards and expect the same of their peers and subordinates. The perceived positive aspects of this approach to leadership is the leader is viewed as hard-driving, focused first and foremost on  delivering strong business results and typically seen as surrounding themselves with like-minded staff. The negative aspects, however, associated with this puritanical approach to leadership are that these leaders are often viewed as traditional, autocratic, non-dynamic, lacking creativity in their approach  and often risk alienating high quality staff as a result.  (Note:  Please watch for more on this topic in an upcoming blog on the shift in the economy from the "information age" to the "conceptual age" and what that means for talent.)

Those who want to be liked: Some leaders seek validation through developing positive connections with their peers and subordinates. These leaders may be viewed as having a motherhood and "apple pie" approach to their professional relations, being too forgiving or soft and reluctant to compromise relationships for results. Some perceived advantages to this approach to leadership are that peers and subordinates can feel a deep and genuine bond with the leader resulting in the leader creating a followership who will go to great lengths to support them. The downside of this style of leadership is that some may see these leaders as too soft and placing too much value on personal relationships versus driving business results.

Instead of being a slave to either of these two approaches, I recommend a third approach that seeks to achieve a balance between being respected and being liked, but which also ultimately leads to higher organizational profitability.

Seek to achieve a high level of employee engagement: In this third approach to leadership, leaders attempt to achieve an appropriate balance between focussing on driving business results while equally valuing strong professional relations with peers and subordinates. This approach to leadership, when effectively mastered, enables the leader to develop strong professional and personal relationships with peers and staff while still driving significant business results through their peers and subordinates. One of the key drivers of success to this approach is the leader's ability to harness the discretionary efforts of their peers and subordinates. Discretionary effort is defined as the effort staff choose to deploy over and above what they would normally expend under normal job conditions. This is also referred to as "employee engagement".  A number of studies have found that there is a direct link between high levels of employee engagement and employee retention, greater job satisfaction and the achievement of greater business results, which all lead to higher organizational profitability.

Achieving a high level of employee engagement should be an approach that leaders should strive to achieve.  If genuinely subscribed to, it will not only drive greater organizational profitability through higher employee retention, reduced absenteeism and greater employee discretionary efforts, but will also lead to a better work environment for all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leadership Trait Theory

I happened upon an interesting article by Mark Shead appearing in in which he challenges "Leadership Trait Theory", the theory that people are born leaders, that I thought was a worthwhile read and would be a good segue into my next blog about leadership: 

"Leadership trait theory is the idea that people are born with certain character traits or qualities. Since certain traits are associated with proficient leadership, it assumes that if you could identify people with the correct traits, you will be able to identify leaders and people with leadership potential.

Most of the time the traits are considered to be naturally part of a person’s personality from birth. From this standpoint, leadership trait theory tends to assume that people are born as leaders or not as leaders.
There is a lot of value in identifying the character traits associated with leadership. It is even more valuable to identify the character traits that followers look for in a leader. These traits would be the characteristics of an individual who is most likely to attract followers.

However, the idea that leadership traits are inborn and unchangeable appears to be incorrect. It is true that many of our dispositions and tendencies are influenced by our personalities and the way we are born. However, most people recognize that it is possible for someone to change their character traits for the worse. Someone who is known for being honest can learn to be deceitful. The whole idea of saying that someone was “corrupted” is based on the fact that people can learn bad character traits.

If people can learn bad character traits and become different than the way they are naturally through conditioning, it logically follows that they can learn good character traits as well. A person who is prone to being dishonest can learn to be honest. A person who avoids risks can learn to take risks. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

The book The Leadership Challenge identifies 20 character traits that are generally associated with good leaders. The top five traits are:
  • Honesty
  • Inspiring
  • Forward-Looking
  • Competent
  • Intelligent
These are all traits that someone can learn to implement. It may not be easy, but with practice you can become more inspiring, with practice you can become more honest, with practice you can become more competent.

What makes this less difficult than it first seems, is that these are character traits that followers are looking for in a leader. By simply displaying these character traits more consistently an individual is able to change how they are perceived. Sometimes it isn’t a problem with changing your internal characteristics—it is just an issue of displaying those characteristics more openly."

Mark's article suggests that although some leaders are born, leadership traits can most certainly be learned.  In fact, leadership characteristics may already be inherent in some individuals, but "followers" just don't know about them.  These individuals just need to work on displaying those characteristics more openly.   In a nutshell, nature or nurture! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Etiquette "E-body language, techno-communications"

For over 25 years, Diane Craig, President of Corporate Class Inc., has provided corporate consultations, helping hundreds of men and women realize their professional and personal goals. She regularly speaks at national business meetings, delivers comprehensive workshops to corporate groups, and offers private consultations on executive presence, business etiquette, dress and dining.

Diane was kind enough to allow me to share this post which I found very relevant and an interesting read.

E-body language — cornerstone of business communications

When I established my Executive Presence Training Program, body language was an important building block. Still is, when you consider that our strongest impressions are conveyed visually. The subtleties or nuances of even minimal body movements and gestures provide important signals. Body language speaks volumes.

Today, however, there’s another lingua franca in the workplace that has become the cornerstone of all business communications. Although often referred to as e-body language, I think “techno-communications” really covers it all — email, cell phones, mobile devices. When we can’t see a person speaking, we look for other interpretative clues to help decipher the message. Words and tone become the carrier pigeons for emails, text messaging and obviously, phone calls.

But just for a minute, let’s return to body language. Professor Albert Mehrabian is frequently quoted for his non-verbal communication research on what’s often called The 3 V’s: visual, vocal, verbal. His published studies indicate that, person-to-person, we interpret messages:

• Visually — 55% from facial expressions
• Vocally — 38% from voice quality and the way words are spoken
• Verbally —7% from the actual words

With techno or e-communications, the relevance of the actual word choice increases dramatically. Obviously, the spoken tone upstages language on phone calls — we hear anger or joy — but with emails, words become the stars of the show. From the minor 7% bit player in face-to-face communication, words now move up to 70%, a big change of roles.

Just for a moment, consider the permanence of email. The sender has no control over the message, in terms of its “replay” frequency or readership. And this is worrisome for the simple reason that as we have become more and more dependent on email and message texting instead of personal meetings, we’ve become not lazy or careless, just less attentive. When it comes to trendspotting, I’m on autopilot, and I’ve noticed this shift. There’s a time for easy-breezy e-chitchat, emoticons and buzzword abbreviations like “BTW,” but business email isn’t the place. I’m not advocating a return to old-fashioned correspondence. Au contraire. Techno-savvy communication is essential in our feverishly fast-paced world. I’m simply pointing out that attention-to-detail is mandatory with every email or text message.

We all make email typos. SpellChecker isn’t clever enough to highlight “tow” when we meant to type “two,” in a hastily composed message. Take an extra minute to proofread; it’s such an easy solution. Robert Whipple, CEO of Leadergrow and author of Understanding E-Body Language, raises an important point:

“Everyone knows that E-mail is different from conversations, but often people do
not consciously change communication patterns based on that knowledge. For
example, people cannot modify content of an e-mail based on the real-time visible reaction of the other party as is possible in face-to-face conversations. Instead, all of the information is presented at once without feedback. Misunderstandings or hurt feelings are common.”

Then there’s the embarrassment-email category. It could be called really-big-blunders and criticism heads the list. Believe me, a follow-up email with an “Oops” subject line just doesn’t strike the right chord! And remember, the original, offensive message is floating around in cyberspace for posterity. When in doubt, put the brakes on. Send the message to yourself and reassess its implications.

Texting’s inherent limitations are in some ways a bonus. We tend to be more forgiving about the often heavily abbreviated and occasionally hieroglyphic content. Mobile devices function as prompters or mini-message boards — it’s the protocols of usage that are the problem. Park your mobile device in your pocket or purse when you attend a meeting. Every time you’re tempted to make an exception, don’t. Remember instead your suppressed sense exasperation when fidgeting fingers signaled you were talking to yourself.

Same story for cell phones. Of course, we all know cell phones must be parked and off before meetings, big or small, but most people seem to think this rule only applies to others. The fact is, from cell phones to emails and mobile devices, techno-communications present a long learning curve. I think we’ve just started the journey.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Eight questions NOT to ask at the job interview

The phone call you have been waiting for finally arrives for a job interview. Are you ready? Have you researched the company? Are your Situation/Action/Result – SAR-  stories articulate and snappy?

The interview is not a one way conversation. An experienced interviewee should be prepared to ask the interviewer questions as they go through their time together. Prepare the questions you are going to ask the hiring manager in your next interview, as questions are expected; but, stay away from these:
  • Salary: Never, as in never, ask what the position pays. Until a hiring manager determines your fit and expertise they may be flexible with salary, don’t give away your asking price or ask how much the job pays – they just might be willing to pay more than you are expecting.
  • Vacation time/Benefits/sick days: Don’t expect an offer if you are already suggesting you need time off. Wait until the contract is signed before mentioning pre planned trips or personal leave.
  • Time in lieu/overtime:  If you are on salary, expect you will be working 40 – 44 hours without extra compensation; the higher the salary, the more overtime is expected and not compensated for. If you want to negotiate time in lieu once the offer has been made, do it then.
  • Expense accounts/car expenses: Don’t think of an expense account as additional income, it is taxable. Expense remuneration is pretty standard across the board within a company and it is not usually discussed until an offer has been accepted.
  • Health issues: You are under no obligation to disclose past illnesses or disabilities that do not pertain to the job responsibilities as outlined in the job description – don’t bring them up.
  • Past conflicts: Don’t speak negatively of past positions or bosses. Keep the reason you left explanation as general as possible. It is perfectly fine to say your values were not congruent with that of the new manager or management or that there were personal differences.  You also don’t want the interviewer to think you will ever speak ill of them.
  • A higher up position: Don’t interview for any other position than the one you applied for. If you have ambitions of moving up, great, but stay focused on what you can contribute NOW. Don’t ever tell the interviewer you would eventually like their job.
  • Personal stuff: The interviewer is NOT your friend; do not share any personal information no matter how well you think you are “bonding.” The answer to “tell me about yourself” is not how many children you have or your favorite holiday.
Article writtine by Collen Clarke 2010.