Tag Archives: facilitation

Building a successful leadership pipeline – 7 things I learned the hard way

In 2010, I was hired by a European multinational company. My initial task: to engineer a program to develop their top 100 leaders and give rise to a more pronounced performance culture within the company.

It was a personal and professional challenge, and I grabbed it enthusiastically.

The company was growing and expanding both organically and through M&As, and the European economy was still doing fairly well. We had firm support from the board and senior leadership team. The leadership development program quickly took form, building on a framework of existing initiatives and programs and using both internal and external resources.

I was expecting that it could become difficult to implement a truly universal leadership program for the entire company, which employed staff and leaders in about a dozen European countries. Operating a program for leaders from such diverse countries, with different histories, cultures and languages – I knew there would be things that I would have to figure out under ways. And I was prepared for having to adapt parts of the program as it progressed and as we learned more about the effectiveness of the individual learning segments.

I was not prepared for having to completely rethink important elements that I, until then, had held to be more or less universally true and effective.

In retrospect, this was of course a good thing to have happen. I learned quite a bit over the following months. And I was reminded of several things that I already knew about leadership development, but that I at the time had come to neglect:

  1. It’s vital to have good support and buy-in from senior management, but it’s not enough.  In order to create a successful program, it is equally or more important to get the support and buy-in from local leaders at an early stage.
  2. A top-down concept and approach can work well, but can never be unilateral. An ideal leadership development program can (and arguably should) be centrally run and funded, but needs to be locally owned and operated in key aspects to be fully effective.
  3. It’s important to have accurate maps of the landscape before launching the program. It’s great to have a well-designed, well-funded and logistically sound program, but you will likely fail if you don’t include the understanding and perspectives of people on the ground regarding the learning topic. Take the time to observe and learn from the people who actually do the job and who know your processes, products, people and customers. In the case of leadership development, make sure you have a firm understanding of what leaders on the ground understand with key terms such as “leader”, “leadership”, “delegation” and “accountability”, and of what a leader “can and cannot do” as part of their corporate role and function.
  4. Make sure that all important stakeholders have the same understanding of program goals, benchmarks and timelines. You will need this whether the program is successful or not, and you will likely not be able to renegotiate this once the program is operational.
  5. Make sure you have a firm value base for the program, its benchmarks and operational goals. The likelihood of success (and program sustainability) increases significantly if your program is firmly grounded in a highly visible and operationally meaningful mission, vision, and set corporate values. This will answer the important questions that will be voiced from all levels and parts of the organization as the program unfolds – notably why, how, when and who. You need to be able to answer these question well and with legitimate conviction.
  6. It’s personal. Make it part of your schedule to visit and network with your stakeholders and constituents locally and centrally throughout the organization. Spend as much time as you can doing this, and it will always be worth it. But you should always do more. It is not the program in and by itself, but the relationships you build that will determine whether the program will be effective and successful.

Recent key indicators show the economy starting to exhibit new signs of life. That’s good news. The bad news is research shows many organizations in the US and across the globe cite bolstering leadership bench strength as a major workforce challenge.  As business begins to accelerate and companies rapidly expand their product and service strategies into neighboring countries and emerging economies, they often falter when it comes to constructing a solid leadership pipeline.

At Corporate Elements, we have considerable experience developing internal and external leadership development programs – locally, regionally, and globally. We partner with you and your organization to strengthen your existing leadership pipeline.

The Leadership Challenge® is our flagship leadership development program. It is based on The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® discovered through intensive research into the leadership competencies essential to getting extraordinary things done in organizations.

Contact us at (218) 329-0836 or by email at ole@corporateelements.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

Senior Leadership and the Catalyst Effect

Your effectiveness as a leader and executive is inextricably tied to your ability to lead and motivate your team. You know it, and your organization knows it. The responsibility for growing and developing the organization ultimately rests with one person – you.

Are you proactive in developing your own interpersonal and leadership skills?  Do you have a strategy for managing your own professional focus and development?

An executive coach can provide the catalyst you need to sharpen your skills, maintain a healthy life balance and good boundaries, and stay focused and on top of your game. Retaining and executive coach represent an investment in yourself, your team, and the sustainability of your organization.

The virtues of executive leadership are different than those of supervision and management. In the words of Jack Welch:

Being a leader changes everything. Before you are a leader, success is all about you. It’s about your performance, your contributions. It’s about getting called upon and having the right answers. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. Your success as a leader comes not from what you do but from the reflected glory of the people you lead.

Those who ascend to the level of senior manager or executive do so on the basis of work they have conducted beforehand. Yet, the moment you set foot in your new office, that in itself is no longer sufficient.

As an executive you have to be skilled and knowledgeable on the operational aspects of running an organization. You also have to be visionary and provide the strategic leadership the organization needs to grow and develop. And you have to be able to maintain healthy relations with board members, members of the leadership team, and externally to shareholders and other important stakeholders. This takes significant time, skill, and energy.

As you advance to the senior or executive level, developmental feedback becomes increasingly important. Yet, in most cases, effective and objective feedback also becomes more infrequent and more unreliable. As a result, you run the risk  of slowing down or regressing in critical interpersonal and leadership skills. This can lead to serious difficulties and risk, for you and the organization as a whole.

Executive and leadership coaching is an effective tool to manage this risk. An experienced coach can provide the perspective and support you need to further develop your skills, balance priorities and achieve fast and measurable improvements.

Most leaders and executives benefit greatly from receiving direct and relevant feedback in a confidential and professional setting. By providing feedback and guidance in real time, executive coaching develops leaders in the context of their current jobs, without removing them from their day-to-day responsibilities.

Great leaders know that their personal and professional effectiveness and satisfaction help them to maintain their “edge” and be more successful. And great leaders know that they must continually develop themselves if they wish to effectively lead, develop their teams and grow their business.

Independent studies, including those done by the renowned International Coaching Federation, have consistently shown the average return on investment for coaching to exceed 500%. Coaching is an investment – not only in yourself, but also in your employees and the future of your organization.

Corporate Elements is a leading provider of executive coaching, leadership development and talent management solutions. We use our experience from working with organizations, leaders and executives in Scandinavia, Northern- and Central Europe, and the USA to act as a catalyst and deliver effective and practical business solutions that work for you and your organization. We offer confidential, convenient and cost-effective ways to accelerate success, giving you and your organization a major competitive edge.

For more information on our coaching services, or to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact us!

The Speech

“So, what do you really do?” has become a  frequently asked question since Corporate Elements was launched less than two weeks ago. My elevator speech is still evolving, but here is the original version:

I primarily offer coaching and development services. But the essence of my job is to partner with you to make you and your organization successful!

When it comes to working with individuals, I do this through assessment, coaching and leadership development. In situations that involve more than one person I provide facilitation, investigation, conflict resolution and training. When it comes to organizations, I offer a partnership to either:

a)      set or define a direction through services such as strategic planning or defining a strategic foundation (mission, vision, values), or

b)      develop or implement systems, processes or projects to execute on the existing strategy. This can be the researching or implementing technology such as an LMS or HRIS, supporting developing and implementing leadership development programs, conducting a comparative culture analysis, supporting M&A or a staff reduction, or developing and implementing a succession plan.

I tested this approach at a Chamber event earlier this week and, as you may already have guessed, quickly realized that my elevator speech will need some refinement. There are far too many words, and I struggled to hold people’s attention after the second sentence. Words like “successful” and “partnership” are too vague and may be perceived to be somewhat pretentious, despite the earnest intent that lies behind. So I will need to put some more thought into how I present myself.

The value in my work lies in recognizing what you, the customer, are concerned about and to help you grasp, rephrase and develop your thoughts, concerns, and goals into something that can be acted on, implemented, managed or achieved.

I would much rather listen to you talk about what concerns or excites you, than give you a speech that supposedly encompasses all that I can do.

So when we meet next time and you ask me what I do, maybe I will limit my answer to “coaching and development. So what do you do?” I would love to hear more about it.

Help, we’re acquiring a company! Now what?

No, Corporate Elements has not entered M&A mode. But this is a fairly common scenario when an executive team of a small to medium sized company “realize” they have been successful in their quest to acquire another entity. Most of the efforts up until this point has been focused on the financial side of the equation, combined with gathering business intelligence and building vital relations and buy-in from stakeholders.

Now the scary reality hits you – how do we make “them” part of “us”?

This is a defining moment – one where a number of things can begin to go “wrong.” Or it can mark a point where the foundation is laid for a successful outcome  – building synergies, expertise and human capital, increasing market share, or improving productivity and the bottom line. The stakes are high, and everyone’s eyes are on you, their leader. Here are ten things you can do to dramatically increase the odds of a good integration process:

  1. Be clear on what you want to accomplish, as outlined in your vision and strategic plan. You’d be surprised how many companies don’t have a comprehensive strategic plan for the coming one, three, and five year period. The number of companies that don’t have a plan that includes acquired entities is of course even higher. If you don’t have a working plan, you need to act fast.
  2. Be clear on what the existing and future strategic foundation is, i.e. your corporate mission and values. Be ready to express this in clear and simple terms, and to exemplify what the specific operational impact of key principles has in the various areas and levels of the organization.
  3. Assemble a truly great integration team. This needs to be the best of the best, representing every critical operational area, and they have to be able to commit for the duration of the integration period. Make sure the team members fully understand their mandate and operational goals, the resources they have available to them, the timeframe for accomplishing the defined KPIs, and the executive team/ steering committee’s role and responsibility in helping the team accomplish their mandate.
  4. Conduct a comparative culture analysis showing where the similarities and differences are greatest between your organization and the acquired entity. This may seem like a utopian goal to many, yet it is an invaluable tool and completely realistic if the professionals you select have the required foresight and experience.  The initial weeks of the post-merger integration will often seem chaotic and confusing, and having a model that provides guidance and helps you provide focus and prioritize your goals and resources will be extremely helpful.
  5. Brainstorm a clear and effective communication plan and get the commitment from all main stakeholders to stick to it throughout the integration process. Why can’t you  just “wing it”? Review any study of mergers and you will find that this is one of, if not the most important reason why integration processes derail. A poorly designed and executed communication plan will in many cases cause unnecessary delay and frustration, not to mention unforeseen cost. The worst case scenario is that it can threaten the integration process altogether.
  6. Know the critical work streams and tasks before setting foot in the door (or, have a “don’t get caught with your pants down” plan). Have a Day-1 readiness action plan that will secure smooth business transactions in critical areas. Know what you will need to have operational on day one and have a plan for how to make that happen before entering  the building. Focus solely on take-over day, align with key stakeholders onsite.
  7. Be ready to tell them who to turn to within your organization to get things done. Make a list with the names, contact information and detailed responsibilities of the people within your organization who have the role and authority to resolve issues and keep things flowing. Don’t give anyone any excuse for sitting on their hands instead of working because they don’t know who can get their computer or email up and running, or answer benefit questions regarding a dependent who is sick, or who can authorize the purchase of a new office chair because the old one broke.
  8. Be prepared that nobody is going to hear what you are saying, at least not during the initial time after you come onsite. People will be confused, stressed, and they may feel threatened or angry. They will not be ready to hear how the integration process will bring great things. But don’t be misled to think that communication is a waste of time, on the contrary. Be ready to over-communicate like you have never done before. Provide the same important information in as many ways you can – in person, in emails, on their intranet, in frequent briefings and town-hall meetings, by using posters or stickers, or by any other way you can imagine. Do what you can to fill any possible void where disinformation and rumors may find fertile ground. You will not be able to prevent the rumor mill, but frequent and persistent communication literally to the point where people get sick of listening to you will keep it to a minimum.
  9. Stay focused on item number one, your vision and plan for what you want to accomplish. Never lose sight of that, and resist the temptation to compromise or lower your expectations! Remember to use the managers and supervisors within the organization to spread the message and resolve issues. If you are effective in getting them to see your vision and understand their role in it, they will be are your greatest allies. Ignore them or treat them unfairly, and they will be your Achilles heal throughout the process.
  10. Be understanding and merciful towards all employees and managers during the stressful integration process, but hold everyone accountable for being adult human beings who are themselves responsible for building their new future. Be a good listener, but don’t allow negative behavior and opinions to fester. Maintain your authority and focus in a gentle, yet professional and effective manner.

Corporate Elements has the experience and expertise to be your partner and help guide your organization through the M&A process. This will allow you and your employees to focus more of your time and energy on making sure that the integration does not disrupt critical business operations  and existing customer relationships.

M&A RELATED PRODUCTS AND SERVICES:

  • Comparative cultural assessment
  • Strategic planning
  • Mission, Vision, Values
  • M&A planning and project management
  • Leadership development
  • Coaching
  • Training
  • Performance management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Group facilitation
  • Investigation
  • Personality and professional assessments
  • Succession management
  • Learning and development systems and design
  • HRIS/Learning/Talent Management system implementation
  • Organizational Assessment
  • Lean/continuous improvement
  • RIF/Career transition

CORPORATE ELEMENTS WILL:

  1. ASSESS the current situation, the impact it has on the organization, and the desired outcome.
  2. DEVELOP a proposal for further action and work with you to determine reasonable and specific outcome measures.
  3. IMPLEMENT the course of action that was agreed upon
  4. SUCCEED in meeting or exceeding the outcome measures that were agreed upon.

OUR GUARANTEE:

The mission of Corporate Elements is to deliver quality products and services that optimize the performance, productivity and profitability of your organization. We guarantee that we will consistently meet or exceed your expectations and the outcomes we have developed together.

Turning conflict into performance

Conflict. How does the word make you feel? Does it make you feel slightly uncomfortable? Does it make you think of certain unpleasant situations or people?

Now instead think of your favorite soap opera or drama series – what is it called, who are the main characters, and can you tell me what happened during the last episode?

Does thinking of the show make you feel the same way as the word “conflict”? No?

Nobody enjoys conflict, at least not when they are personally involved in it. Conflict drains your energy when you’d much rather focus on other more important things. Nevertheless, conflict is widely present in any workplace, every day.

“Work” is one of the few places where people literally have to coexist and get along on an ongoing basis, whether they want to or not. You can’t choose your coworkers. Modern society and technology has allowed us to limit the times and situations where we have to be codependent on people who are different from us in their backgrounds, beliefs, behavior and perspectives. We avoid people who are different and who irritate us, and seek those who we feel comfortable with and want to be with. Except at work, where we have to deal with coworkers, team members, supervisors, customers and vendors. So many of us are out of practice on how to deal with conflict in a positive way!

Conflict surrounds us everywhere we go. Getting the kids ready for school, your feeling of anger when a driver cuts in front of you on your way to work, or when you have to work late because someone else hasn’t finished their work as promised. So how do you deal with it? What ticks you off? How aware are you regarding your own behavior, how it affects the people around you?

I have worked with conflict for quite a few years. As an outsider, I am able to help people find solutions that allow them to move on and focus on their work. For example when I mediated a conflict between two coworkers who shared an office but who reported not having spoken to each other for the last three years. I was called in because their manager wanted to terminate them both, but he wanted to try to find a solution one last time. Can you imagine working in such an hostile environment every day for three years? It took a few minutes of me asking them questions and facilitating an exchange of information before we discovered that the conflict was based on a misunderstanding. One person was thought to have prevented the other from receiving a promotion. They were both embarrassed to find out this was not what really happened, but relieved to be able to move on.

It is gratifying to be allowed to work with conflict. Conflict provides fertile ground for making positive change. As an outsider, I am able to bring the authority needed to create a safe environment and bring people to the table, allow them to share information and listen to what the other has to say, and assist in the discovery of how each party has something to gain from moving on and finding ways to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.

Instead of having a situation where everyone loses in the end, I am able to turn it into a win-win.

Corporate Elements has the experience and expertise to resolve conflict situations within your organization, allowing precious time and resources to be devoted to the future and success of the company, its employees and stakeholders. It saves you time, money, and energy, making for a much more enjoyable time at work – for everyone.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION RELATED PRODUCTS AND SERVICES:

  • Mediation
  • Coaching
  • Training
  • Group facilitation
  • Investigation
  • Organizational Assessment
  • Leadership development
  • Performance management
  • RIF/Career transition
  • Succession Management

 CORPORATE ELEMENTS WILL:

  1. ASSESS the current situation, the impact it has on the organization, and the desired outcome.
  2. DEVELOP a proposal for further action and work with you to determine reasonable and specific outcome measures.
  3. IMPLEMENT the course of action that was agreed upon.
  4. SUCCEED in meeting or exceeding the outcome measures that were agreed upon.

 OUR GUARANTEE:

The mission of Corporate Elements is to deliver quality products and services that optimize the performance, productivity and profitability of your organization. We guarantee that we will consistently meet or exceed your expectations and the outcomes we have developed together.