On-Boarding Redux

Recent news from Washington brought to mind one of my favorite coaching topics—On-Boarding.  Beginning a new leadership role is always a crucible experience¹ providing a test of one’s fortitude, values, and beliefs.  As a matter of fact, according to a study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success; for CEO’s the failure rate is well over 50%. Given the precariousness of job transitions, careful advance preparation for the new entrant is always encouraged by executive coaches like me.

Contrary to popular belief, technical skills are not the primary reason why new hires fail–poor interpersonal skills dominate the list.  26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills.  Once again, EQ outshines IQ as a predictor of success.

There are four essential steps (GLAM for short) for preparing for and operating during the first 3-6 months of a new role.  The first is Get Curious–have a truly open mind about what you are walking into and what is expected of you.  Use internal as well as external sources to ask naïve questions (there are no dumb ones for the first several months) and dive into published records and articles about the organization to glean its history.  Are you facing a start-up, turnaround, realignment or sustaining success situation?  What is the formal structure (the official org. chart) and what are the informal coalitions, cliques and power dynamics (the unofficial one)?  What values are espoused and which are really in operation?  What external trends are adding pressure now or will likely be in the future?  Answers come later–ask deeper and deeper questions to get to the roots of this new, live system early on.

The second step is Launching your Reputation—lead a process that integrates you into the new system.  One of the most liberating aspects of starting a new role is being able to create a fresh reputation.  What do you want to be known for?  What descriptors would you like people to use about you?  What legacy do you want to leave with?  Remember, what got you to your last position may not help you be successful in your new role.  What do you need to stop doing, keep doing and start doing?

The A in GLAM stands for Activating Alignment to create alliances with key opinion-makers.  Peter Block writes about allies, enemies and fence-sitters in The Empowered Manager.  There are effective ways to influence all three stakeholder categories by figuring out what currency drives each person toward mutually beneficial goals.  This takes time and careful observation.  Resistance to change is a clue you are onto something sacred.  How have you successfully collaborated with resistors?

The fourth step is Manage Yourself! One of the most common mistakes new leaders make is rushing in for quick wins to justify their salary before they understand the landscape.  Unless it’s a crisis turnaround situation, best to take the time to ensure your first decisions are vetted properly, on point, and executed flawlessly to ensure success.  Flailing in many directions creates disruption and distrust.  Further, instead of arriving early, staying late and working weekends to get up to speed, transitions actually require leisure time to take exquisite care of oneself to stay positive, focused, and energized.  What helps you stay centered when the environment is foreign and the ground beneath you is constantly shifting?

Actually, 100 days is not a fair on-boarding yardstick.  Most leaders will tell you it takes six to nine months to get a true handle on how to move forward in a new organization.  What is crucial is how new leaders behave during the first few months on the job.  Are they listening before acting? What is their early reputation?  Are they actively creating strong alliances?  Do they come across as positive, focused and calm?  If not, everyone is in for a very bumpy ride for a lot longer than the next 100 days!

 

Crucible def.:  A situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new. Oxford Dictionary

Problem or Polarity? Come Learn the Difference and Why Polarity Thinking is a MUST for your Facilitation Toolkit

Just wanted to let you know about an upcoming presentation I am giving in Wicker Park for the International Association of Facilitators.  The title is Problem or Polarity? Come Learn the Difference and Why Polarity Thinking is a MUST for your Facilitation Toolkit and everybody interested in the topic is most welcome (we are all facilitating something to happen!)

It’s going to be in a brand new/old cool space, the Bath House Cultural Center at 1019 N. Wolcott, near Division, from 6-9PM on Thursday, November 19.  So, please register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chicago-iaf-november-event-problem-or-polarity-tickets-19244811750 and/or spread the word to other potentially interested folks.

Why Polarities?  Organizations today are facing expectations that are seemingly at odds or paradoxical—to be more centralized or decentralized?…financially driven or mission driven?…for the benefit of stock holders or benefiting communities?…promoting directive leadership or collaborative leaders?  Communities are struggling too—more law enforcement or community engagement?…focus on individual interests or neighborhood interests?   Competing options like these–also called polarities–cause tensions that can either be destructive or highly energizing for individuals, organizations and communities.

Facilitators and coaches can play a key role in learning to tell the difference between a problem to solve and a polarity to leverage.  In this interactive session, you’ll discover how polarities effectively manage complexity and reduce conflict.  The research is clear–those leaders and organizations that leverage polarities well outperform those that don’t.

Don’t miss out…come discover this transformative phenomenon!

Benefits:

  • Understanding what a polarity is and why it is important professionally and personally
  • Gaining new methods for managing complexity, conflict and change
  • Experiencing some polarity tools to take away for future exploration

Presenter: Elizabeth Olson, MSOD, is President of Preferred Futures, Inc., www.preferredfutures.net.  She is known for enhancing leadership effectiveness through strategic thinking and emotional intelligence, diplomacy and frankness, care for the individual and care for the organization, and an appreciation for stability as well as change.  With over 20 years of business experience and extensive training in facilitation, organization development and executive coaching, Elizabeth shares her understanding of how to navigate the complexities facing leaders today by leveraging paradox/polarities.   She was introduced to Polarity Thinking 20 years ago and has been applying the phenomenon in coaching, team effectiveness, and organization transformation engagements ever since.

PLEASE VISIT: www.iaf-chicago.org for more info about the Chapter!

 

 

Learn to tell the difference between a problem to solve and a polarity to manage

Organizations today are facing expectations that are seemingly at odds or paradoxical—to be more centralized or decentralized?…financially driven or mission driven?…for the benefit of stock holders or benefiting communities?…promoting directive leadership or collaborative leaders? Competing options like these–also called polarities–cause tensions that can either be destructive or highly energizing for both individuals and organizations. The HR function can play a key role in learning to tell the difference between a problem to solve and a polarity to leverage.

In my upcoming presentation for HR Executives, attendees will learn how to see, map, assess, learn and leverage polarities for effectively managing complexity through practical, engaging activities. The research is clear–those leaders and organizations that leverage polarities well outperform those that don’t. Don’t miss out…come discover this transformative phenomenon!

Leave with:

  • Understanding what a polarity is and why it is important to organizational health
  • Gaining new methods for managing complexity, conflict and change
  • Experiencing some polarity tools to take away for future exploration

Open to all – register here for Leadership Polarities for HR Executives – A Strategic Advantage on February 10 in Oak Brook, IL :

http://hraoakbrook.org/meetinginfo.php?id=35&ts=1421426009

 

 

 

Mindfulness—New Age Fad or Key to 21st Century Success?

Having just returned from the Mindful Leader Summit in Washington, DC, I have lots of hard data suggesting the latter. There was overwhelming agreement from the presenting CEOs, non-profit leaders, scientists, academics, elected officials, lawyers and entrepreneurs, that leaders who are practicing meditation are experiencing the proven benefits of reduced stress, greater clarity of thought, deeper listening, enhanced creativity, self-awareness, more productivity, and even feelings of being a better human being. Too good to be true?

A few striking data points:

  • Accenture claims that “managing attention is the most important factor for business success”
  • 9% of the time, our minds are wandering
  • 280,000 books have the word “mindfulness” in the title on Amazon
  • The number of funded clinical trials looking at the effects of mindful practices on the body went from 0-454 in a few decades
  • The Huffington Post declared 2014: The Year of Mindful Living

Many definitions of mindfulness were offered from the simple: managing your attention, to the more complex: practices that focus on attention, intention, acceptance and compassion. I know that since I began a daily practice of 30 minutes of meditation each morning I’ve noticed that I have a greater attention span and that my patience and empathy for others has risen. I may not be a better human but I feel more humane which is a good thing. Clients to whom I teach mindfulness techniques report similar benefits.

We are in good company with luminaries such as Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn), Adriana Huffington, John Mackey (Whole Foods), Bill Ford (Ford Motor) and Eileen Fisher — meditators all. As leaders they encourage those around them to do likewise to reap the healthy benefits. I wonder when business foursomes will be meditating together instead of playing golf?!

It’s paradoxical that, at a time in history when we are barraged with texts and tweets and have phones attached to our ears, more and more people are abandoning multi-tasking and training their minds to quiet and focus. Or perhaps this is the most predictable response.   Please share your experiences with mindfulness techniques.

The Commons

Welcome to our new website, blog and e-newsletter. We are thrilled to have a vehicle to interact with more people on a regular basis and look forward to a highly participative site. Tell us what adds value for you and what doesn’t…what you agree with and what you don’t. All viewpoints are invited and respected as there is not one truth but many different truths given the lens of our experience.

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