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Seven Questions You Can Use to Move from Manager to a Leader

Posted by rstapholz on
Seven Questions You Can Use to Move from Manager to a Leader

This week’s article is provided by Jonathan Reitz as part of the World Business and Executive Coach Summit (WBECS) interview series.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Management Vs Leadership: How Coaching Skills Make a Difference that aired on Tuesday, May 25th.

Many careers get built around the mysterious difference between a manager and a leader. Don’t believe me? Google how to become a leader some time. But what IS that difference?

Both get things done. Each produces on strategic initiatives and business outcomes. Execution is a priority no matter what your career trajectory, especially coming out of COVID-19. The entrepreneurial view requires the action-reflection cycle to move an organization forward. It’s not accidental that action leads to that combination.

Leaders follow a vision that they see and communicate to their followers. Understanding where you and the organization are going is the first step to having others follow. How a leader develops that vision and owns it is another article.

But mixing in another slight mindset shift sets leaders apart: Leaders intentionally look for opportunities to unlock/develop the people around them. When you follow or work for a true leader, full potential is within reach for both the individual and the organization.

Bringing that future to life challenges even an excellent leader. And taking people with you as you move toward a vision requires handling changing conditions and expectations.

How can an effective leader release the people around them to reach their potential? Here are seven structured, systematic questions that you can use to challenge the people around you in developmental conversations:

  1. What progress have you made?

Right out of the gate, a leader has to decide: will it be more helpful to track progress by measuring back from the starting point? Or is the distance to the goal more compelling? Looking back to where you started roots the progress conversation in tangible outcomes. Keeping your eyes on what’s in front builds ownership of the vision. Both have solid reasoning behind them.

  1. How on track are you?

This second question invites an assessment of the progress from the perspective of the client/team member. Leaders who develop people gain insight into how well their team evaluates their progress, a key growth area. You’ll not only measure progress but also understand and improve strategic skills. Sharpening this area equips individual contributors to level up to leadership.

  1. What’s working?

Now we move from the strategic to the tactical. This question focuses on the practical actions that have produced beneficial results in the recent past. For example, the conversation might focus on the results produced since the last you spoke. You can target these areas later in the conversation.

  1. What’s not working?

This practical corollary to the last question explores actions that produced unhelpful or useless results. These items can be shut down or cut back.

  1. What are you learning?

The client describes their discoveries out loud. The process of forming their learning into clear thoughts and then pushing the words out of their mouth reinforces the insight. The client hears their words and gauges their reaction to them, which further confirms the moment. This question drives discoveries more often than any of the others, so don’t miss the opportunity to ask it!

  1. What needs to change?

Adapting or developing a client’s thinking becomes the goal here. Learning that gets named but not acted on slows development. Be sure to connect the change with the realizations identified previously. Even a few moments of reflection may inspire new connections and actions.

  1. What now/next?

Splitting the last step into two questions helps team members focus and order their commitments.

– “What now?” points to the first thing the client will do after the conversation ends. This action grows out of the last two questions and should move the client toward the critical outcome.

– “What next?” carries a less clear priority. As long as what the client names in response to this question moves them toward their vision/goal, the timeline can be more open-ended. A good rule of thumb expects completion of this action before the following conversation or next team meeting.

These seven questions shift a manager from directing the actions and priorities toward being a leader that invites team members to make meaningful contributions daily. The mindset shift requires the leader to depend on team members and work to bring out the team’s abilities. Team member growth AND bottom-line outcomes indicate how well this is working.

Important note: This seven-question framework only works if there is an existing goal, vision, or destination. The leader and the team member focus together toward specific outcomes. Clarity wins. Ideally, the client names the target as the conversation begins. If that target isn’t clear in the client’s mind, the leader/coach becomes most effective by asking open-ended questions that become specific about what they want to accomplish.

Whether you or the team member identified the future target isn’t the point. Clarity about what you want is the multiplier. It’s potent if you can specify how you’ll know you’re getting what you want in the moment.

One unintended side effect is that this approach can make your team more prone to turnover. BUT it’s the kind of turnover that comes from team members being promoted or taking on more responsibility. The converse of this side effect is that you will become the leader in your organization that helps people advance their careers, and that is a decisive recruiting advantage!

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author:

Jonathan Reitz, MCC is CoachNet FLUXIFY’s Director for Training/CEO. Jonathan holds the Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential in the International Coaching Federation.   He’s also the co-founder of the Team Coaching Global Alliance, and has been featured multiple times on the World Business and Executive Coaches Summit (WBECS).

He wrote Coaching Hacks:  Simple Strategies to Make Every Conversation More Effective.  Jonathan is a member of the faculty in the Weatherhead School of Management Coaching Program at Case Western Reserve University.  Jonathan Reitz lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Joy and daughter Julia.   Find him online at www.jonathanreitz.com

Be The Boss Everyone Wants To Work For By Maureen Metcalf

Posted by Editor on
Be The Boss Everyone Wants To Work For By Maureen Metcalf

This blog is a companion to an interview with Bill Gentry on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on January 17, 2017 discussing Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For, his recent book for new managers. This interview is one of the interviews conducted at the International Leadership Association Annual Conference.

Do you remember the first car you ever had? Go back and think about it. Was it a 2-door or 4-door? A hand-me-down or brand new? A small car? A truck? I bet you still remember the feel of the steering wheel and how your body sat in the driver’s seat. The pre-set radio stations. The stories behind the dents or scratches it might have had. Maybe even the smell it had. All the intricacies that made it your own. My first car was a 1990 Chevy Blazer, 2-door, red. My high school and college buddies would pile into it. I named it “The Major General” and I loved that car.

It’s funny how “firsts” make such an indelible, unforgettable, deep-rooted impression on our lives. And for many of these “firsts” there is usually some sort of course or training to introduce you to it and get you accustomed to it. With that first car you had, I’m sure your Mom or Dad or some other licensed adult taught you, or maybe you went to a driving school or took er’s education course.

Being a leader for the first time in your life can make that same indelible, unforgettable, deep-rooted impression on your life too. It can set the course for your entire career and build a foundation and reputation for the type of leader you will be. And like driving a car, everyone gets training and development for such an important “first” in their working career, right?

Well, no. According to a CareerBuilder survey, nearly 60% (1) of new managers reported having never received any training on how to be a leader when they got that promotion into leadership. And those who actually get some sort of training or development get way less – two-to-five-times less in development resources – than mid- to senior-level executives (2) who are much more seasoned with much more experience.

That might not be that big of a deal. But think about who these new leaders are. So many of them are managing at the entry-levels of leadership. They are your frontline managers, supervisors, and directors. They lead a majority of the workforce, directly manage more people than any other level of the organization, and have the biggest impact on crucial HR metrics like employee engagement, team productivity, and customer satisfaction. They are your key indicators of how strong your leadership bench is for the future. And the statistics show that at least 60 percent of organizations reported increased turnover, and one in four organizations reported a profit loss due to poor frontline leadership (3). If these new leaders are not set up for success from the beginning, organizations suffer, as well as the morale and even health of the workers who directly report to them.

And that’s why I have become so passionate about helping new leaders (and those who have been leaders for a while, but never got the time, attention, training and development they should have gotten in the first place). Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders is a way to help people go from superstar individual contributors to rock star leaders.

The one key theme throughout the entire book that all leaders should know: “flip your script.” The “script” that made you successful as an individual contributor is all about “me, myself, and I” – my talents, my skills, my abilities, my technical savvy, my smarts, my motivation. All of that brought raises, bonuses, promotions, and there was nothing wrong with that script. It even got us promoted into leadership. But so often, new leaders fail to recognize that the “all about me” script does not work when we become leaders. You must “flip your script” and understand “It’s not about me anymore.”

Based on my research of nearly 300 new leaders, my time spent training new leaders, and being one myself, I detail in the book 6 ways for all new leaders to flip their script:
1. Flip Your Mindset. Successful new leaders have a different motivation for learning and development. It’s not about drawing attention to ourselves anymore. Now, it’s about learning because it’s fun, engaging, and intrinsically pleasing. Even the way successful new leaders talked to themselves – their “mindchatter” – was different.
2. Flip Your Skill Set. New leaders can no longer rely on the technical skills that made them great individual contributors. They must develop key skills like communication (particularly the ability to read, interpret, and display the right nonverbal communication) and influence.
3. Flip Your Relationships. Peers one day, direct reports the next. And new leaders aren’t just a member of the team anymore; they now lead the team.
4. Flip Your “Do-It-All” Attitude. Leaders can’t do all the work anymore. They must now define, think about, and conduct work differently by delegating, developing (i.e., coaching and mentoring) others, supporting others, creating goals, and providing feedback.
5. Flip Your Perspective. Leaders must look beyond their work and the team they lead, and now understand how it all fits within the organization. Become politically savvy, manage up and manage in a matrix organization.
6. Flip Your Focus. Realize the importance of integrity, character, trust, and doing the “right” thing.

Leadership isn’t easy. It’s frustrating, confusing, and at times thankless. But leaders can have such a huge impact on the engagement, health, and well-being of every individual they lead and serve, and the bottom lines of organizations. So let’s support new leaders to flip their scripts and be the boss everyone wants to work for.

About the Author
William A. (Bill) Gentry Ph.D. is currently the Director of Leadership Insights and Analytics, and a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). He trains CCL’s Maximizing your Leadership Potential and Assessment Certification Workshop programs. In addition, Bill is an adjunct professor at several colleges and universities. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, first-time managers and new leaders, leader character and integrity, mentoring, derailment, organizational politics and political skill, communication, and empathy.

[1] CareerBuilder Survey, March 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?id=pr626&sd=3%2F28%2F2011&ed=12%2F31%2F2011
2 O’Leonard, K., & Loew, L. (2012, July). Leadership development factbook® 2012: Benchmarks and trends in U. S. leadership development. BERSIN & ASSOCIATES FACTBOOK REPORT.
3 Wellins, R. S., Selkovits, A., & McGrath, D. (2013). Be better than average: A study on the state of frontline leadership. Development Dimensions International

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