Category Archives: Leadership Development

Ground Hog Day

Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray kept reliving Groundhog Day? “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

It has now been a month since many of us have made some commitment to creating a change in the new year. How is it going now that you’re 30 days into it? Does it feel like 2014 … deja-vu all over again?

If you feel like 2015 is feeling the same as 2014, consider the effect that accountability can have on your goals. In my work with leaders, no matter the industry or stage in life, I see the greatest change happen for those who pick one item and institute a strict follow-up process involving an accountability partner or coach.

You’ve got 11 months left in 2015. If you want to avoid another “Groundhog Day” next February, now is the time to choose a goal and an accountability partner who will help you work toward it.

Start by answering these 5 questions:

1. What do I want to change?

a. It seems each year when people think about making a commitment to change they focus on weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking or something related to their health. All admirable choices but what got you here in the first place? Why not think of a change that could impact you and those you live and work with for a lifetime? Why not pick a behavior? What might happen if you became the Black Belt in “listening, giving positive recognition, thanking people more often, looking for what’s working with those who report to you, putting your cell phone away when watching your children play sports or during their music recital. Try picking a behavior this year!

2. Why am I focused on changing this behavior or characteristic?

a. Yes- good question! Pick something you want to master, not something others think you should master. If you own it you’ll change it! Pick something that’s doable where you can have some early success.

3. What will be the benefits of making this change, both short term and long term?

a. 70% of my clients want to master the skill/behavior of “listening”. One client was told of his poor listening habits by his staff, colleagues, boss and wife. How many of you had a course in listening during all of your schooling? We are not good listeners as a society yet Fred spent 9 months mastering this behavior. Results: Fred’s team reported feeling more engaged, less rework, better sales results, their opinions were more valued and instituted. Fred was promoted to CEO of the company. He has given 5 Key Note Presentations across the country on Executive Listening. Fred has contracted to write a book on Listening. Each of his direct reports have also picked one behavior to master. We are now watching the cascading effect of changing one behavior in an organization.

b. In the short term Fred became more engaged in the performance of his team and the connections with family and friends. Long term his team and organization developed important skills and key results resulting in superior performance!

4. What will be the impact on me, my family, my work, and my community?

a. Jose decided he needed to become more positive at work, home and his community. We agreed that he would look for ways to recognize and compliment others. As a technical expert in his field he was always looking for problems and what wasn’t working as a way to solve problems. His staff and family felt criticized when in fact he was using his problem solving skills to get results. He didn’t realize the impact his behavior was having on those around him. Jose practiced by thanking people, looking for ways to compliment his direct reports and recognizing people for their good work at home and at the office.

b. Guess what? He began feeling better about himself, his family enjoyed spending time with him and his workforce became more engaged, more of a team and more willing to go the extra mile for Jose. Just because he decided to become more positive in his thoughts and comments.

5. What will I be feeling, sitting in my rocking chair at age 90, having NOT made this change?

a. I have just turned 60 this year. I turned to my wife the other day and told her that I wished I had learned how to play a musical instrument. Of course her response was, “it’s not too late to start.

6. Keys to making a change that sticks!

a. Pick ONE behavior
b. Follow-up: Pick 3-5 people and tell them what you’re working on improving.
c. Check in every 30 days and ask them:

  • What changes have you seen?
  • What has been the impact on you and your team based on my changes?
  • What one tip do you have for me as I continue to master this behavioral change?

Are you ready to commit?

d. Once mastered write down all the positive changes that have occurred with those around you because of your change!

If you are committed to making a behavioral change contact Whit for a complimentary behavioral DISC Talent Report. Discover your behavioral style with tips for how to master your 2015 change for life.

Yogi Berra: It’s deja-vu all over again. Make sure 2015 is “The Year of Change.”

if you’d like more information on addressing the upcoming Leadership Drought, click here.

Whit Mitchell is an Executive Coach and Team Dynamics Expert. He is the author of: Working In Sync-How Eleven Dartmouth Athletes Propelled Their College Sports Experience into Professional Excellence.

Taking Leadership Development to the Next Level: How to be a Complete Leader with Ron Price

Investing time and money in leadership development is one of the best investments an organization can make, says Ron Price, Founder and CEO of Price Associates and author of the book The Complete Leader: Everything You Need to Become a High-Performing Leader. IBM recently completed a study which found that companies with 80% or more of their managers involved in ongoing leadership development programs have triple the profit of organizations that do not.

But despite the clear benefits, why is it that some organizations are still hesitant to invest in leadership development? (Hint: it usually has less to do with finances and more to do with time.)

Are there certain kinds of leadership development programs that make for success?

Today Ron answers these questions and more, telling us how to overcome the time barrier that keeps us from effective leadership development, explaining the components of a successful program, and letting us in on the details of his new book.

Ron also invites us to learn more by attending his private New Hampshire Premiere of The Complete Leader, which will be held on June 26th and June 27th in Lebanon, NH and Bedford, NH – click here to learn more and register to attend.

A Discussion with Ron Price, Author of The Complete Leader

price_photo_borderQ: How did you come up with the idea for your book, The Complete Leader, and the corresponding 18-month leadership development program?

Ron: The book grew out of the my executive coaching work, along with co-author, Randy Lisk. We were both working with senior level executives and helping them fine-tune their leadership capabilities. Our book and program have been designed as something that takes people beyond an MBA. In an MBA program, you go through case studies and you learn about finances, marketing and operations and all those things. We understand that you need that foundation, but how do you go further in developing how you think as a leader? How you get things done day in and day out with an increasingly complicated and overwhelming world around you? And how do you connect more effectively with people and create synergies on your teams so they perform at higher and higher levels?

We wanted to create a curriculum that helps leaders grow faster in practical, relevant ways. This is necessary due to two main shifts we see happening today. These changes are happening at both an organizational and a personal level. First, in talent management circles, there has been quite a shift away from looking at current competencies and instead looking at potential. Part of what’s driving that is a significant leadership shortage that’s emerging globally within organizations. It’s driven by demographics: the largest percentage of the work force in the United States is the baby boomers with 45%, but that number will decrease to 23% by 2020.

With the baby boomers retiring, we have to bring new leaders into significant roles. Gen Xers, those born between 1964-1983, will remain between 20-23% of the workforce between now and 2020. They are much smaller in number, so we have a many more leadership positions opening up than we have mature leaders to fill them. Therefore, organizations are starting to dig deeper into the millennial generation, who will represent 55% of the workforce by 2020. This creates the leadership shortage that most organizations are either experiencing or recognize is just around the corner.

At a personal level, there’s something that exists which I refer to as a leadership “gap.” This more personal “sensing” is the distance between who I am as a leader today and who I want to become in the future. It includes the natural desire for promotions within my organization, but it goes beyond earning a new title. It is the intrinsic hunger to become more expert in my field, or the natural awareness that I need to learn to make better decisions, to achieve greater results, and to build stronger teams tomorrow than I have today.

This gap creates a very healthy, creative tension that is the fuel for growth. If leaders think they’ve already mastered all the relevant leadership skills, they won’t see any need to grow. This complacency almost always manifests itself in decreasing performance and lost engagement at work.

These are the dynamics that led Randy and me to think about writing this book. The book then expanded to the website, thecompleteleader.org, and to the development program, which is an 18-month program.

When we wrote the book, we didn’t necessarily expect someone to read it cover to cover. We wrote it more like a reference manual that leaders will keep nearby throughout their careers. They can go back at any time and look at any of the 25 leadership competencies, developing a relevant application to advance their leadership effectiveness in the moment. We write about why each competency is important, how it will help someone become an effective leader in tomorrow’s world, and how an individual can continue to each competency over time.

Q: What components make for a great leadership development program?

Ron: For a leadership development program to have long-term success, it has to have three components: first, you have to have relevant, applicable content. This means having content that fits with where a person is in his or her leadership journey.

Secondly, you have to have program engagement in a way that deepens the impact so that  the growth “sticks”. And last, a great program should also facilitate building strong relationships. In the great MBA programs, people gain more than knowledge. They also build a network of people that they will stay engaged with throughout their careers. They find ways to work together and leverage these relationships with each other for a long time.

So a great leadership program gives you those three things: great content, engagement that deepens the impact, and meaningful relationships that you can leverage into the future. That’s what we thought about as we developed The Complete Leader Program.

Q: Can you tell us more about the specifics of the program?

Ron: Every applicant starts with a one-on-one, individualized assessment of his or her current talent, strengths and mastery. Our diagnostic baseline measures 55 different traits of leadership. We think this is an important starting point because, not only does it show us their current level of mastery, but it also shows us their future potential.

Next, the program is made up of quarterly sessions with groups or cohorts. Most cohorts are 15-20 people and they get together for 1 or 2 days every quarter. While working on leadership competencies individually, they also learn to present as teams. They learn specific competencies to advance their leadership as clear thinkers, such as futuristic and conceptual thinking, decision-making, creativity, and innovation. They develop a deeper mastery of competencies around self-management, such as setting priorities, achieving goals, personal accountability, resilience and flexibility. Finally, we focus on competencies that will help them improve how they lead others. These include understanding and evaluating others, negotiation, persuasion, conflict management, presenting skills and employee development and coaching.

We finish by working together on being authentic leaders. We talk about courage, being open to and seeking feedback, expanding self-awareness, and how each leader can grow to become the best possible version of him or her self. You can visit www.thecompleteleader.org for more detailed information and to see our blogs, articles and podcasts.

Q: What are the current roadblocks to leadership development and how can a company overcome them?

Ron: I think the biggest roadblock is overwhelmed employees. Over the last ten years organizations have asked their leaders to do more and more with less and less. A lot of people are carrying much heavier workloads than ever before. Candidly, the financial cost of leadership development isn’t the toughest commitment for a company to make. It is the commitment of time it takes to achieve real professional development. A good guideline for the time commitment is 10 – 20% of a leader’s working hours. Of course, this should not all be classroom development. We follow the formula that 70% should be spent learning on the job, 20% should be through mentoring relationships, and only 10% should be made up of classroom training.

We find that companies with world-class development programs also set aside 5-10% of their annual payroll for training and development. If a company is willing to make an ongoing financial AND time commitment to developing their leaders, the evidence is clear that it will generate greater profit.

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To learn more about what it takes to become a high-performing leader, you’re invited to attend Ron’s New Hampshire Premiere of The Complete Leader, which will be held on June 26th and June 27th in Lebanon, NH and Bedford, NH. Click here to learn more and register to attend.

How to Attract and Retain Top Women Leaders

Imagine your team standing in front of you right now.

Now imagine that each one of them is similar to the other: Each person is of the same age and sex and has similar perspectives, skills, and talents.

How would this affect your team’s ability to see different perspectives and to come up with unique and creative solutions?

How would it affect their ability to work with synergy, purpose, and to achieve the best results possible?

Likely, these things would be difficult to do.

This is why it’s important that women are well represented in leadership roles, points out Mary Hughes, founder of Close the Gap CA, an organization committed to increasing the number of women in the California legislature. After all, women make up half the talent pool: If they’re underrepresented in leadership positions, then your company is undoubtedly missing out on a unique and valuable set of viewpoints, skills and priorities that only women can bring to the table.

In today’s conversation with Mary, we discuss the critical importance of women leaders and what companies and individuals alike can do to help recruit, attract and retain the talent necessary to bring their performance to the next level.

 A Conversation with Mary Hughes, Founder of Close the Gap CA

mary-hughes2Q: Can you describe your background and how it led to the work that you do today?

Mary: I’ve always been interested in and active on behalf of women’s rights, stemming from my time at Mount Holyoke College. I departed from that slightly through my years of law school and practicing law, but I was very much drawn to elections and campaigns and the strategy behind them. When I left law school to pursue political work full time, it was really to work on behalf of women. Like many people’s paths, mine was not a straight one, but it makes complete sense when I look back on it.

Q: What drew you to this kind of work initially?

Mary: Women are incredibly smart, productive, able, purposeful and high-minded. Whether it is taking care of a family, running a small business, or being part of the larger working world within someone else’s company, not enough of these qualities are present generally in our economy, in our businesses, or in the leadership of the country. I’d love to see more of that, and I’m motivated to see such traits and contributions get their just due.

Q: Can you elaborate on why it is so important to have women in leadership roles?

Mary: I’ll answer from a women’s political leadership perspective. In that context, it is very clear that we have big, challenging issues, including dealing with a changing economy, global competition, and setting standards and meeting those standards for a world-class education. It takes a lot of smart people to figure these things out and they don’t happen overnight. These are evolutionary, iterative processes. We try something, we make it a little better, and we try again.

When you are in a position of changing big systems, you need as much talent and perspective as possible. There are many different ways to look at an issue. Women approach issues differently, and in doing so, we have different priorities, different life experiences, and bring a whole new set of skills and potential to the table. Without women at that table, those perspectives and solutions would not exist, and it would take twice as long to get it done.

Essentially, women make up half of the talent pool in the country. We need 100% of the talent working on these big issues, so we need many more women participating and leading.

Q: What has kept us as a society from “closing the gap,” and what is needed in order to continue to do so?

Mary: There are signs that some gaps are closing. More women are coming out of graduate schools and more women are competing in the work place with all of the right credentials. But invariably, women’s lives are different from men’s: Women take time out to raise children and/or to take care of parents and in-laws. Women are the primary keepers of families, and most institutions and businesses, in particular, do not accommodate the flexibility required to do that on a day-to-day basis or the woman who takes a career time out” for these responsibilities. When someone chooses to be a mother, there is a penalty that accrues to that. It is both unintended and unfortunate, but there hasn’t been a real willingness to make significant changes to accommodate real life.

If you look at the biographies of many women who hold top corporate positions, many of them have lived like men. They do not have children, and if they have partners, they share domestic responsibilities. We’re a society that says we value family, but we do little to bring our institutions into line with that priority. These barriers are tough to knock down. For women, being single-mindedly focused on work is not the definition of a full life.

Q: As “ordinary people,” what can we do to help close this gap?

Mary: As more women ascend to top positions in government, the private and nonprofit sectors, expectations will rise and more women will follow. To speed up the process, we can all do something.

Look around the board room and ask: where are the women? Always recommend and nominate women: for promotions, appointments, commissions, boards and to run for office. Encourage women colleagues to pursue advancement and when women succeed, celebrate success. Point to these women as examples of success and of what we’re missing when we don’t allow talent to rise to the top.

It’s also important for people to recognize when companies do make adjustments, whether it’s flexible time, sabbaticals, or whatever it is that makes it easier to be someone who is both satisfied in work and producing, but also who has responsibilities for the family. We need to make sure that the adjustments that are made are not solely for women, but for men as well. We raise strong families when we have both maternity and paternity leave, not just one of those.

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Visit the Close the Gap CA website for more information on Mary Hughes and her work with women in politics.

The Top 4 Myths That Keep Leaders From Hiring An Executive Coach

If you talk to executives or CEOs who haven’t yet worked with a coach, you’re likely to hear the same pervasive myths repeated again and again:

“Coaches are remedial. They’re brought in to help fix poor performance or to address a problem.”

“Executive coaching is too ‘soft’ to produce measurable increases in performance.”

“It’s my people who need fixing, not me.”

“Executive coaching places an overarching focus on fixing peoples’ weaknesses rather than playing to their strengths.”

Talk with someone who has worked with an effective, high-powered coach, however, and you’ll find that none of these statements are entirely true.

Today’s article features valuable insight on executive coaching from Ron Price, who is an internationally recognized business advisor, speaker, and author, and the President and CEO of Price Associates, a leadership performance consulting firm.

A Discussion With Ron Price, Founder and CEO of Price Associates

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Q:  To start off, can you tell us a little bit about your background and your transition from leading a large company to running Price Associates consulting practice?

Ron:  Sure.  I had a great, really wonderful experience in a leadership position from 1989 to 2000 in a company called AIM International.  During that time, we grew from about 30 employees to over 200 and opened business in a total of eight countries.  It was a time of great growth, a lot of learning, and lots of opportunities to work in different cultures and with diverse groups of people.  One of the things that was important to me while I was in that company was to get some good counseling and some good coaching myself.  I saw the value in having an outside coach who had the ability to help me process my thinking.  So as part of my profession, I hired several coaches while I was running the company.  Unfortunately, I had a mixed experience with coaches.  Most of the coaches I ended up hiring had a fixed program they wanted to run people on, or they had a bias of what they thought their clients should be focusing on.  The biggest gap I saw was that most of these coaches didn’t take the time to really get to know you and find out what you really wanted and the different reasons you wanted to have a coach.  They were all skilled people and I learned something from each of them, but there was not enough focus on empathy and understanding— they tended to assume a lot.

After leaving the business and thinking about starting Price Associates, one of the services I thought would be really valuable to owners and business leaders was executive coaching that was built on seeking first to understand and to really get to know the client, and then building a program around what his or her unique needs are.  That was really the passion that got us started with Price Associates.   It’s grown because of the number of wonderful coaches I’ve met— like Whit— who share common interest and common values. It’s also grown because of the other kinds of services that we provide beyond coaching.

Q: Some people view executive coaching as “soft” and have the idea that it won’t produce measurable, tangible results.  What are your thoughts on this?

Ron: One of the things that we recognize is that leaders inside an organization don’t get judged based on their efforts; they get judged based on the results that they create and on their performance.  So we focus on helping our clients not just demonstrate strong efforts, but demonstrate performance.  At Price Associates we call ourselves a leadership performance firm, which means that we execute our entire strategy based upon tangible, measurable performance goals for each client.  We have the responsibility of evaluating all of the factors internally and externally and putting together a strategy to create results.  We use a lot of different tools and methodologies for doing that.  We go through a process with new clients where we help them design what performance means to them.   What does superior performance look like to them and what are the results they’d be achieving?  We turn it into a more systematic or scientific approach with clear metrics.  A lot of the time when people think about coaching, they may think of the results as intangible— a lot of self reflection, introversion, a lot of “ahas,” etc.  Although we recognize the value of soft skills, as a part of our coaching we try to lead clients back to a tangible, measurable result so that at the end of our coaching they can say that they truly do perform at a higher level.

Q: I recently read an article in Business Week which mentioned that almost all top athletes have coaches, but that nearly two-thirds of CEOs don’t.  I’d be interested to hear your opinion on why some executives can be resistant to hiring a coach?

Ron: First off, another study indicated that even though two-thirds of CEOs don’t receive executive coaching, almost 100% said that they’d like to.  So the question is, if they’d like to get coaching but aren’t, why is that the case?  I think there are number of reasons that can happen.   Sometimes I think they have a misunderstanding of what they can get from a coach— they think of executive coaching as merely an activity to fix somebody who has a problem or something that has fallen apart.  Certainly there are those kind of situations, but today, there’s much more emphasis on executive coaching that’s built around developing a person’s potential.  It’s about helping him perform in a similar way that we approach coaching with athletes: a coach is helping an already high-performing athlete to perform at the highest possible level.

I also think sometimes that CEOs want the executive coach for their people.  They’re frustrated with their senior leaders or with the lack of cohesiveness or cooperation among their leaders.  They will often think, “I need an executive coach to fix these people.”  But it’s always easier to see what needs to be fixed in others than it is to see what needs to be fixed in yourself.

I think one of the biggest things that CEOs miss out on when they don’t use executive coaching is the development of deeper levels of self-awareness.  Whit is fond of saying that the number one cause of failure in an executive career is the lack of self-awareness.  This one of the great benefits of a good coaching relationship— the coach is going to help the executive to become much more aware of both his (or her) intent and impact.

Leaders hire a coach because a coach is an outside person: he is not part of the organizational structure and he has a special relationship with the executive in private.  He can have conversations with an executive or a CEO that cannot be handled by anybody else.  I think a lot of executives don’t have that kind of an experience and they don’t have that kind of knowledge, so they think of coaches as “fixing” people rather than helping take them to their highest level.  I think those are the main reasons why many CEOs don’t get coaches.

Q:  Thank you, Ron.  Lastly, to end our conversation, I’m curious to know what new trends you are seeing in developing leaders?

Ron:  That’s a great question and I have a number of responses to it.  The first is that I see a lot more focus on guiding the formation of leaders for performance rather than just generic leadership development.  There’s the ability to be a lot more focused on specific skills that will help a leader advance— more and more customization, if you will, in developing programs for leaders.

Another trend I’m seeing, which is a huge improvement over the past ten years or so, are the kind of assessments, or instruments, that are available to help people develop their self-awareness exponentially and to gain a much, much deeper understanding of what they do, how they do it, and why they do it, and then to be able to leverage that knowledge for greater performance and leadership effectiveness.

A third trend focuses on how important it is to organize and develop around a leader’s strengths and neutralize his or her weaknesses.  Still in America today, more training money is spent on trying to fix people than on trying to develop their strengths.  What we see is there’s more and more of a move to recognizing that uniqueness and developing according to the strength and the talent that a leader already has instead of trying to put something in there that’s not there.  If somebody is a quick decision maker and another person is a deliberate decision maker, instead of trying to change them and say that the fast decision maker has to slow down and the slow decision maker needs to speed up, we’re saying that, no, their tendency is what it is.  If somebody is a deliberate decision maker, how can we make him the most precise, the most analytical, the most comprehensive deliberate decision maker?  How do we help people to leverage those tendencies, because we need all kinds of decision makers?  Instead of trying to change people, how do we help them become the very most accomplished according to their natural style?  So that’s another one of the transitions— is organizing leadership development around strengths rather than trying to change people so much.

The fourth trend is a problem with succession.  A lot of organizations, not just in the United States but around the world, are having a difficult time finding the next generation of leaders.  This is because of the demographics— we have fewer people in the workplace as Baby Boomers retire— and this is also because of some of the generational tendencies that exist:  What the millennials value and want to get out of work compared to what the executives are thinking that they need and want to get out of work are very different.  There’s a tremendous war for getting the best talent and holding on to it, and it’s only going to intensify in the next ten years.  Companies really need to think about how they can build loyalty with their top performers if they’re going to hold on to them, because there are a lot of companies and organizations that would be quick to offer them a better deal or better package, so to speak.

The last trend in leadership that we see is the awareness of how important personal accountability is to leadership effectiveness.  This kind of personal accountability touches not only on character, but also on the leader’s commitment to continually learn and to continually develop his or her expertise— she recognizes that she has to get better and better every day and can’t just rest on her laurels because of an advanced degree or because of some past job somewhere else.  The constant learning and growing is an important part of the accountability. All our research points to personal accountability as being one of the most important skills or competencies that companies or organizations are looking for in their top leaders.

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Want to learn more about working with an executive coach? Contact Whit Mitchell, a Price  & Associates affiliated coach and team dynamics expert, today.