Archive for December, 2009

How to Increase Your Leadership Effectiveness

December 15, 2009

Great leaders are not born. They are made—to a large extent, self-made—by following five simple steps, says Marshall Goldsmith

By Marshall Goldsmith

It’s an age-old question: Are we influenced more by nature or nurture? Applied to leadership, the question becomes: Are great leaders born or made? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions in leadership development.

Let’s start with the definition of “leader.” My good friend and mentor, Dr. Paul Hersey, defines leadership as “working with and through others to achieve objectives.” Given this definition, anyone in a position whose achievement requires support from others can play the role of a leader. I love this definition because it supports the philosophy of “leadership at all levels,” which is so critical in today’s world of knowledge workers.

Indeed, millions of people who are currently working with and though others to achieve objectives are already leaders. Whether they think of themselves as leaders (not to mention whether they are fantastic or disastrous leaders) is another issue.

So can people who are already working to influence others become more effective leaders? The answer is an unqualified “yes.”

My partner, Howard Morgan, and I conducted an extensive study on leadership development programs involving more than 86,000 participants in eight major corporations. Our findings were so conclusive that they are almost impossible to dispute. Leaders who participated in a development program, received 360-degree feedback, selected important areas for improvement, discussed these with co-workers, and followed-up with them on a consistent basis (to check on progress) were rated as becoming dramatically better leaders—not in a self-assessment, but in appraisals from co-workers—6 to 18 months after the initial program.
Five ways to become a better leader

Leaders who participated in the same developmental programs and received the same type of feedback—but did not follow-up—were seen as improving by no more than random chance would imply. Here are some specific ways to increase your leadership effectiveness:

1. Get 360-degree feedback on your present level of effectiveness, as judged by co-workers you respect.

2. Pick the most important behaviors for change—those you believe will enhance your effectiveness as a leader—e.g., “become a more effective listener” or “make decisions in a timelier manner”).

3. Periodically ask co-workers for suggestions on how you can do an even better job in your selected behaviors for change.

4. Listen to their ideas—don’t promise to change everything—and make the changes that you believe will further increase your effectiveness.

5. Follow-up and measure change in your effectiveness over time.

Are leaders born or made? If you are working with and through others to achieve objectives, you are already a leader. Can you become a more effective leader? Definitely.

Readers: I would love to hear your thoughts on this question: Are great leaders born or made? Please send me your comments.

Marshall Goldsmith is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Succession: Are You Ready? as well as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, a Harold Longman Award winner for Business Book of the Year. Marshall’s newest book, MOJO, will be published February 2010 and is available now for preorder. He can be reached at Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com, and he provides his articles and videos online at MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com.

Should a Best Boss use 360° Evaluations

December 10, 2009

Dan Eversole of Isabella Bank was kind enough to share his employee feedback form.  In my opinion it is terrific. Why is it terrific? Because it asks employees to give feedback to their manager without excuses or covering over what is really going on.  That makes it terrific!  In over 30 years in the business world rarely do I see managers who have the courage or just good sense to ask their employees “how am I doing as a manager?”

Now, you may ask. “Why not?” Why don’t managers ask their employees for feedback?  A simple 4 letter word.  Fear.  Yes FEAR.  Managers are afraid they might get their feelings hurt. Or they might get feedback that is right on target but hard to fix.  They might have made human failings, and don’t have the courage to apologize. All of those imaginary barriers keep them from using a the 360° feedback form, or just simply asking their employees how am I doing as a manager?

A CEO of a very large company ask me, “should we use 360° evaluations with all of our employees?” I could tell he wanted the answer to be no. Underlying his question I could sense his opinion, others might call it his personal bias. In his opinion managers had earned the right to be above all of that.  So I gave him the answer he was looking for – I said “no I don’t think your managers should use 360° evaluations.” And then a long, long pause.  I could see him relax.  That was the answer he was looking for from an outside consultant. But I didn’t stop there. I went on to say, “your managers should be the last to know what their employees think.  I think you should let the water cooler chatter take care of it.  Your employees know what they think of the managers, I think your managers should be the last to know, if they are ever to know.”  And I smiled.  I said it in a kind, but in a truthful way. He had a great company, and he was afraid of the negative ramifications that a 360° evaluation process could bring to the whole organization.  Yes, initially it can be very painful. But organizations or managers who have used it with the right intentions, and the desire to grow have gotten remarkable results. Can it be painful? Yes. Does it take time? Yes. Can it be rewarding. No question. Can it help you get positive results, yes, much better than water cooler chatter.

In the daily grind of the working world employees are given tasks by their managers, and given feedback on the accomplishment of those tasks, but rarely do companies ask for the same feedback in return. Why not.  A whole lot of very good reasons, but no excellent ones.  Dan Eversole of Isabella Bank has the courage to allow their employees to evaluate their managers.  That takes courage. But it helps managers get results, and isn’t that is what you are after, great results. Use it, to get the results you deserve. Positive results come from positive change.

Enjoy Dan Eversoles evaluation form for employees to managers.

Feedback questions from employees

How am I doing as your supervisor?

What can I do to help you better do your job?

What things should I stop doing that do not help this relationship?

What roadblocks, obstacles can I help with to assist you to do your job better?

Do you have concerns with any other department or employee(s)?

On a scale of 1-5 (5 is the highest) what is your satisfaction level?

What can we do to increase your satisfaction?

What are your career goals?  How can we help you achieve these goals?

Are you geographically flexible?  Where are you willing to work or move?