I Don’t Need Leadership Development September 2014

In the last issue and over the next few issues of this newsletter, I’ll explore some of the common excuses leaders use to avoid going to leadership training. And I’ll share what we can do about the excuse.

Excuse #5: I’m a hands-off kind of leader; the good people bubble to the top if they truly have the desire. With this style of leadership, I don’t need development (although people who work for me sure do!)

20140910_Excuses1On my BS meter, this excuse pegs the needle. While providing room for employees to demonstrate initiative IS important (see the previous excuse as a contrast), providing NO direction is not only inefficient and ineffective, it abdicates the very role you’re charged with – to lead.

Leadership guru and author John Maxwell states, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” [Clever guru that John Maxwell!] In my experience, those leaders who claim to be a “hands-off kind of leader” either don’t know the way (vision) or refuse to go the way (model); they lack the courage to lead and, as novelist Stephen King suggests, “A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.”

Advice for the person in charge of leadership development:

  1. A 360° assessment will clearly identify that this style of leadership is taking its toll on employees and will help the leader conclude that maybe this “hands-off” style isn’t as effective as he’s making himself believe. Make sure to help this leader analyze the results correctly as s/he will tend to assign the low scores to the quality of people completing the survey.
  2. Consider hiring an executive coach to help this leader if the position warrants – and the leader is worth – such an investment. One-on-one support may be the most effective and efficient intervention since this type of leader tends to dismiss possible leadership techniques as “not aligned with my leadership style.” [By the way, Mr./Ms. Leader, this type of leadership isn’t a style! It’s a non-leadership style!] The best executive coach may be Dr. Phil. While I’m not a Dr. Phil fan, I LOVE his cut-to-the-chase question that would be a great response to this leader’s claim that “I am a hands-off kind of leader”: “So, how’s that working for you?”
  3. Teach Marshall Goldsmith’s “feedforward” technique in your leadership development program. Essentially, feedforward is asking others for advice; it’s like feedback without all the baggage that usually comes with feedback. The leader asks a peer or boss or employee: “I’d like to focus on my leadership capabilities (or communication, or recognition, or connecting with employees, or…) and value your opinion. What do you feel would make me more effective as a leader?” The leader then listens without comment or judgment (good or bad) and then says, “Thank you for your input! I appreciate it!” If taught in the leadership development program, make sure to have the participant/leader identify WHAT they’re going to ask, WHO they’re going to ask, and WHEN.
  4. Be gentle. Often this type of leader truly is lost and is hoping that someone else figures out what should be done. Sometimes this leader is approaching the sunset of his career and is looking merely to eke out a few more years before retirement. Coach the leader and help identify ways to create or articulate a vision, if, for nothing else, to create a legacy that will impact the organization for years to come.

Excuse #6: If I go to leadership training, what will my people think?

20140910_Excuses2They’ll think you’re probably finally getting the help you’ve needed! Or perhaps they’ll see this as affirmation that there IS a God since their prayers have been answered! The WORST they would think is that you’re modeling a behavior that employees should model – continuous development.
As Marshall Goldsmith states, “The best way to encourage your people to develop and grow is to have them see YOU develop and grow.”

Actually, this excuse comes up less in getting ready to ATTEND leadership training and more in getting ready to LEAVE the training. “How do I apply this stuff without coming across to my staff like I have two heads? If my employees hear me asking for their feedback, they’ll think I’m dying of some horrible disease and am looking to make my peace with them.” Or “If I just come back from training and start delegating more or coaching more, they’ll think it’s a trick.”

Fair enough! Reduce the shock effect by sharing with your team (and your boss) what you learned and what you’re working on. If you’re brave enough, invite them to give you feedback on how you’re doing and how you could be even more effective. Be kind – but firm – with yourself since you may make the occasional blunder or temporarily slip into old habits; get back on the leadership horse and try again. Pretty soon leading effectively will be the new old habit!

Advice for the person in charge of leadership development:

  1. Make the models and techniques you cover in training adoptable. For example, everyone may have a different coaching style, but they should follow the same three steps (or whatever) of the coaching model. Like a pair of favorite shoes, leadership models and techniques should be easy to put on and comfortable to wear. If they bind (violate my philosophy) or scratch (don’t sound like me) or otherwise don’t fit, they won’t be used.
  2. Make sure leadership development is viewed throughout the organization as an opportunity for good leaders to become great, and NOT a “fix-it program” for wayward leaders. Make leadership development a privilege and an honor; make it a big deal. Have a senior leader take the group out for dinner and use the opportunity to share “what makes for a great leader at our company” or “leadership lessons I learned.”
  3. Build into the leadership training a discussion around how participants should act when they leave training and return to the job. Should they, for example, have the coaching model in front of them as they coach? Or should they share the coaching model with their employees? Discuss these in class to prepare participants. (My answers to these questions by the way are yes and yes. Why not be transparent? These models and techniques aren’t the Colonel’s secret recipe!)

Read more valuable leadership and management-related articles in this month’s Unleash Your Leadership Potential newsletter…

September 2014

Author: STEP Consulting