Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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The Proper Use of Feedback Builds Consensus

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Productivity is enhanced and empowerment achieved when leaders solicit, then act upon employee feedback, ideas and concepts. Soliciting and acting upon feedback is the essence of leadership. The proper use of feedback allows leaders to build consensus among their employees and give them ownership of the ideas and concepts to be implemented within the organization.

There are critical differences between managers and leaders. Managers tend to direct and control without soliciting feedback and building employee consensus.

Leaders, on the other hand, build their strength from group consensus, acting as facilitator rather than controller. They understand the power and synergy of combining ideas and working together to achieve mutual goals.

The more involvement leaders seek from their employees, the easier it will be to implement new ideas, resolve nagging problems, minimize conflict and move the organization forward.

Leaders will find the more proficient they are in working with their employees and soliciting their input, the smoother things will run as many problems and headaches experienced in the past are eliminated.

The ideas and concepts created by employees during the feedback process can be easily implemented using the following techniques either in a group setting or individually.

Initiate Dialogue

The feedback process begins with the initiation of a dialogue between the leader and employee(s). This should include a clear and concise presentation of the problem or circumstance being addressed.

Whenever possible, a presentation of background material, including any and all supporting facts, should be included in order to afford employees a complete overview of the situation.

Research has shown that by providing employees with the complete information concerning a specific problem, they are more responsive, feel more involved and in the decision making process, and are more productive when the ideas are implemented.

Solicit Feedback

Once the dialogue has been initiated and the facts presented to the employees, the leader should solicit feedback from them and open the floor to discussion.

Respectfully Accept All Feedback

All ideas and feedback should be respectfully accepted and considered. One individual should be assigned to write the ideas down on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper for the group to see.

The leader should make sure no derogatory remarks are made as an individual presents an idea or gives their feedback. A failure to do so will further limit contributions from more reluctant members of the group. Leaders should solicit feedback from each individual in their group, even if they have to ask for it.

Group Similar Ideas & Concepts

Together with the members of the group, the leader should brainstorm to combine ideas and concepts. Often individuals communicate the same idea or concept, but in different ways.

The leader should facilitate the discussion and direct the grouping and combination of related ideas and concepts. They should make sure that the entire group agrees and is in consensus when performing these tasks.

Build on Ideas and Concepts

Once ideas and concepts have been combined, the leader should facilitate additional feedback and brainstorm ways to build and expand upon them. Leaders should make sure that all members of the group are involved and that their additional feedback is solicited. As new points are added and expanded upon, the group should always reach consensus before moving forward.

Prioritize

After adequate discussion has been concluded and the group has run out of new ideas, a consensus should be reached regarding prioritization of the refined ideas/concepts.

The basis for prioritizing each of the ideas should be that which best meets the criteria for resolving the problem or situation presented at the beginning of the discussion.

Assess Feasibility

Every organization has a limited amount of human, financial and physical resources. Leaders will find that the group will typically develop a number of ideas; however, available resources make it impossible to implement each of them. Therefore the group must determine which ideas are feasible under current organizational constraints. Remaining ideas can be tabled for further discussion when additional resources become available or after the initial ideas have been implemented.

Formulate a Plan

Once the final ideas have been selected, then under the leader’s direction the group should formulate a plan to implement them. A specific goal, timeline as well as individual responsibilities are assigned for every aspect of the plan. Additionally, a reporting and measurement mechanism should be included for overall accountability for the plan’s implementation.

Related:

Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

7 Ways to Use Change to Increase Performance

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Vision is the Faith By Which the Leader Functions

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leaderinchair

Napoleon once remarked, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Adapted to the corporate environment, this statement might read, “Vision is the faith by which the leader functions.”

Leadership vision is one of the major characteristics defining a leader’s identity and, in the end, reputation. Trust in one’s leader and his or her vision enhances positive leadership outcomes, including overall improved job performance, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.

A leader should generate a vision similar to that which inspires his or her employees in terms of clarity, challenge, and future orientation and inspiration. Employees need to be encouraged to share the leader’s vision and use it to guide their daily operations. The leader should motivate and empower employees to pursue and attain the vision set before them.

The question employees typically find themselves asking when a leader begins to define and implement action steps to attain his or her visions is: “Can we trust you not to abuse the privilege of authority?”

Credibility as a leader ultimately depends upon perceived vision-related integrity—namely, keeping one’s word and commitment, not taking advantage of personal influence or authority, or manipulating employees into embracing the vision the leader wishes to attain.

Leaders able to maintain a persistent belief in their vision are further considered extremely competent by their employees and seen as a contributing resource rather than force to be opposed.

The depth and detail of a leader’s vision demonstrates his or her level of expertise. Expertise is needed for legitimacy, employee respect and making the vision a reality.

As leaders are involved in decision making all day long, the quality of their decisions is compounded over time. Effective leaders who stand by their personal vision generally make prompt, wise and accurate decisions, even under unimaginably difficult and confusing conditions and situations.

Having a higher level of expertise makes a leader become very pragmatic. The leader tends to see things in realistic terms, which helps to identify and develop strategies that are able to cut through to the core of problems and negative situations relatively quickly. This aids in quicker vision realization.

Expertise is acknowledged and respected when a leader effectively projects his or her vision by explaining to employees the purpose, meaning and significance.

In addition to demonstrating decisiveness and expertise, clearly defining the vision and adhering to it serves the leader by enhancing team performance, generating healthy conflict, and driving overall change.

Enhanced Team Performance

Defining a vision through clarifying roles, goals, and the way forward is a proven means of increasing team performance.

The quality of the relationships employees develop (and the people with whom they develop them) is influenced to a large degree by inward assumptions about their leader’s vision. When those assumptions are based on faulty generalizations, misunderstandings or misinterpretations, the quality of employee relationships suffers.

Factors that contribute to forming strong relationships across differences are affected by individual sets of experiences, beliefs and expectations. Vision has the power to generate positive experiences with others and realistic expectations of them. It helps to develop and maintain positive social identities through a process of molding individuals into a unified collaborative unit that shares the same beliefs, goals and outlooks.

In essence, if properly communicated and then embraced, vision positively shapes the way employees and leaders interact with one another. It helps to generate a type of “social identity” or a perception of oneness through shared and valued personal and work-related characteristics and goals.

Vision Generates Healthy Conflict

A visionary leader is often viewed as one who makes up his or her mind, then remains intractable and unmovable in direction and expectations. This perception tends to generate conflict and resistance.

The extent to which conflict emerges is dependent upon two factors: the strength of the visional expectation, or agreement between employees’ perceptions of the steps needed to attain the vision and the leader’s own expectations, and the outward attitudes, expressions, or behaviors the employee and leader display in embracing the vision and its directional courses of action.

When the two factors above are addressed, where persuasion and a sense of purpose and positive self-benefit are emphasized, feelings of harmony and balance typically replace levels of uncertainty, insecurity and resistance.

When leaders experience conflict, their ability to reduce or eliminate it will always depend upon how well they communicate their expectations both initially and over time.

Vision Drives Organizational Change

The need for change is normally stimulated by an external “trigger” necessitating a modification of some kind. Connecting the vision to this needed change typically forces the organization out of its status quo, alters values and attitudes, and establishes balance and stability.

Acceptance of change and related implementation procedures is loaded with human-related difficulties. Vision enables leaders to achieve higher levels of “buy in” by overcoming employees’ anxiety over changes, their personal uncertainty and lack of ownership of initiatives and their outcomes.

Leaders understand the culture and capabilities of their organization, and use it as the basis for the embracement of visional change. This change is further effected by:

  • Selecting key employees who tend to display unique leadership qualities to be project facilitators or unit directors for various assignments or tasks.
  • Working with small groups of employees and mentoring them in various assignments and tasks as it relates to their visional impetus and direction.
  • Creating ways for those involved in the change to share successes and failures.
  • Using discussion group cycles or brainstorming to move their visional direction and strategic objectives forward.
  • Developing small-scale achievable targets in order to introduce change or build small successes from them.
  • Encouraging both themselves and their employees to be innovative as well as to engage in more productive behaviors in the workplace.
  • Managing change proactively, by focusing forward movement on implementation and action rather than formal competence building.

Related:

Your Personal Vision Anchors You to Weather Your Storms

Visionary Leaders Are in a Different Class

Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

A Leader’s Management Style Sets the Organizational Tone

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Jack Welch – Former CEO – General Electric

The leader’s management style sets the organizational tone. When Jack Welch took control of General Electric, he “wiped out whole layers of management, jettisoned underperforming units, introduced tough performance measures for employees, and junked the venerable “blue books” that for years had told GE managers what to do and how.

Most significant, he redefined the CEO’s central purpose in life. Before, GE had focused on growing revenues, even though a bigger company didn’t necessarily mean a more valuable one, while its CEOs talked about balancing the interests of employees, shareholders, and society as a whole.”[1]

If Welch’s actions didn’t set the tone, no one was paying attention, but indeed they were and his management style affected American businesses for decades.

Like Welch, leaders imprint their companies with their unique management style. While they collectively can be categorized using labels such as autocratic, paternalistic, collaborative as well as other commonly used descriptions, individual leaders craft a style that is a reflection of who they are and how they prefer to manage.

The two most influential leaders who are responsible for shaping modern management styles were Alfred Sloan (General Motors) and Jack Welch (General Electric). Peter Drucker said of Sloan that he was “the designer and architect of management… a foundation for America’s economic leadership in the 40 years following World War II.” Both Sloan and Welch had a significant influence upon the management styles of their contemporaries.

As was cited previously, Welch’s influence began the emphasis on shareholder values that resulted in many leaders focusing on short-term profitability, which has underscored a host of problems with its application over the past two decades. Ken Lay (Enron), Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom), Al Dunlap (Sunbeam) and a host of other leaders have relied on this emphasis for their personal gain, at the cost of long-term corporate financial viability. While they maintained a focus on increasing shareholder value to the cheers of Wall Street, they collectively destroyed their companies.

Therefore a leader’s management style is an important factor in determining his or her professional competence. This is due to its overall impact on all key constituencies and the organization’s financial health and sustainability.

Prior to the introduction of Sloan’s management principles, many of the great leaders tended to be paternalistic, as exemplified by John Heinz (J.J. Heinz), Milton Hershey (Hershey Chocolate) and George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric).

These leaders provided fair wages, good working conditions and were socially responsible. They provided a variety of employee benefits, built housing communities and a clean and healthy home and working environment.

Others were autocratic such as J.P Morgan (J.P Morgan), Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel) and Cornelius Vanderbilt (New York Central Railroad). They focused on improving efficiencies, quality and the customer experience, while simultaneously driving down costs and prices.

Many contemporary leaders such as John Chambers (Cisco), Andrew Grove (Intel) and Thomas Engibous (Texas Instrument) have developed more collaborative management styles to harness their organization’s collective power to achieve their goals and objectives.

One facet that differentiated the great leaders was their ability to create and sustain the emotional balance incorporated within the Legitimacy Principles. They established and maintained strong emotional connections with all of their key constituencies. This was true despite the utilization of a variety of unique management styles that they incorporated.

Reference:

  1. Useem, Jerry, Tyrants, Statesmen, and Destroyers (A Brief History of the CEO) (Fortune Magazine) November 18, 2002

For more information on this topic and to read a free chapter, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Employees Handle Conflict

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The natural tendencies of many individuals and other group dynamics can hinder a leader’s ability to be effective in resolving conflict in the group setting. The leader must take the time to observe and then rectify specific behaviors that interfere with conflict resolution.

When problems and issues arise, many individuals have a natural tendency to avoid friction. When that is not possible, they seek to remain uninvolved in its resolution.

Employees may be forced to be part of a group charged with solving a problem, but these individuals are often not happy about it. The fight-or-flight response takes over, and even if they are physically present, they have mentally left the conflict.

When problems do occur leaders must ensure that all viewpoints and perspectives are heard and all alternatives explored. Techniques can be utilized to ensure that all members of the group are included in both the discussion and crafting of an acceptable solution.

Leaders can look for specific behavior patterns in order to determine how employees handle conflict. These patterns may be nonverbal and not readily apparent, but a careful examination will help leaders spotlight the behaviors impeding conflict resolution and enable them to address and rectify the situation.

Related: Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

Such an examination includes looking at:

Alternatives

The first behavioral patterns leaders need to explore are the alternatives that are considered when solving a problem in the group setting. Problems can present themselves and additional conflicts can be created if employees tend to consider only a few potential alternatives.

If leaders observe these patterns, they must engage the group in brainstorming techniques that explore all possible avenues toward resolution. This action fosters creative thinking within the group and provides innovative solutions to eliminate the causes of conflict.

Emphasis

Within some groups, the smoothing and avoiding approach to conflict resolution is predominant, resulting in areas of agreement being overemphasized while leaving areas of disagreement unexplored. This deficiency allows the situation to fester and explode into a bigger problem down the road.

When leaders observe this pattern, they must shift the group’s emphasis to balance areas of agreement with disagreement. All aspects must be fully examined and the alternatives considered before the problem can be adequately resolved.

Disagreement

Leaders need to observe how members respect individual disagreement, as group norms may keep any discordance from being voiced. In other situations, individuals who convey disagreement may be ridiculed, bullied or intimidated so that it is not taken seriously or considered by the group.

Leaders must ensure that all members of the group have an open and equal opportunity to voice any problems they might have and offer valid points and perspectives. Any attempt to quiet opposition will create additional conflict and deeper problems.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

Agreement

There are many criteria that a group can consider in establishing agreement among its members. Some will use a majority vote, while others will arrive at a consensus before moving forward. Some group norms interpret a lack of opposition as agreement.

Leaders should shift the group toward a consensus where all viewpoints are both voiced and considered. All members of the group must be included, especially those who may be reluctant to say anything. Only in this fashion will all viewpoints, options or alternatives be considered.

Openness

In several conflict resolution modes, leaders should be watchful for members “stumping” for a specific viewpoint or perspective rather than inquiring about the potential alternatives available to the group.

Additionally, leaders can observe how actively members listen to each other’s perspectives and whether or not the members respect the input of all individuals. These clues help the leader determine the group’s openness to alternative perspectives.

Leaders must ensure that all perspectives are voiced and respected. The advocacy of one point of view without a full exploration of the facts and all possible solutions should not be tolerated.

Participation

The participation of individual members, their reactions to the group setting, and their involvement with specific issues should be carefully observed. Leaders should pay attention to whether members are apathetic, frustrated, defensive, warm or enthusiastic.

Each of these emotional states will impact both conflict resolution and problem solving. Apathy, frustration and defensive postures can result in faulty or unresolved solutions that will lead to subsequent issues.

Leaders should meet with each employee displaying negative personal attributes in order to determine the causes of their attitudes. In some cases, these attributes can surface because conflict and disagreement are not tolerated. Individuals may feel that their opinions are not respected or wanted. Such difficulties must be addressed if the group is to be effective.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Interaction

The final area that leaders must monitor closely is the interaction of individual members within the group environment. Some of these factors have already been discussed, including individuals who are overly nice and polite and emote only positive feelings.

Group members might too readily agree with one another while suppressing their true thoughts. This indicates that the group is in a destructive conflict resolution mode where suppression dominates and the status quo is maintained.

Leaders who observe these clues must intervene in meetings and take the initiative in order to draw out the true feelings and perspectives of the group. They can effectively do this by using open-ended questions that operate until satisfactory responses are obtained.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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