What C-Level Leaders Need to Do to Develop Competent Successors

Aug 25

team-meetingDeveloping competent successors prepared to fill executive level and critical leadership roles beyond the C-suite continues to top the list of critical Human Capital concerns facing C-Level leaders looking to sustain business success now and in the long-term. In a recent research survey conducted by Deloitte, despite this priority, “52% of C-level leaders and 59% of leaders waiting to be promoted into a C-Level role do not believe that their Direct Reports have the skills to assume greater leadership roles within the organization.”

At first look, these findings would tend to support the need for broader leadership development. However, the report exposes a surprising gap between what these executives are saying and what they are actually doing. The report reveals that only “49% of those in the C-suite or those in waiting are personally committed to developing leadership skills at all levels throughout the organization even though a majority of them acknowledge that their organizations support these development opportunities.” Closing the gap between words and deeds becomes more critical as Millennials take on leadership roles and organizational structure flattens. Executives and those poised for the C-suite must immediately become more personally committed to taking the actions necessary to build a solid and sustainable pipeline of successors.

Toward that end, here are 5 actions that executives must do to close the gap between their words and deeds:

1.  Link What Your Organization Needs to Do To Sustain Growth and Success To Leadership Development Initiatives. Create the organizational strategy and plan it in a way that clearly identifies which roles, skills, and competencies are needed to bring about sustained growth and success. Focus on linking all development plans but especially those of potential leaders with the overall strategic objectives for the organization. Be clear and consistent in communicating that leveraging the powerful synergy between individual achievement and organizational success is your priority. The result will be results-driven, people-focused leaders ready to step into c-level roles and deliver bottom-line results.

2.  Broaden and Deepen Leadership Development Initiatives Beyond the C-Level and Senior Leaders. Extending leadership development initiatives and programs several layers below the executive level will support the creation of a solid leadership pipeline not only at the highest levels, but also in all areas that are critical to organizational success. Link all talent management initiatives together so that there is consistency across the organization with regard to recruitment and development.

3.  Expand and Diversify Assignments Across the Organization for Those in The Leadership Pipeline. Ask that future leaders and those in critical roles have the opportunity to have rotational assignments within the organization and participate in high profile projects. Rotational assignments support exposure to wide-ranging experiences that foster the building of knowledge and relationships, while providing the exposure needed to establish the credibility to assume more significant roles.


Letting Go of the "Why?" Will Change the "What?" of Your Life

Jun 04

When life disappoints us or becomes difficult, it is easy to turn inward and become just like a child asking “Why?” As adults we ask ourselves, “Why did this happen to me?”, or “Why does everything have to be so hard?” Trying to answer the question “Why?” erodes our self-confidence, leads to excuses—not explanations—and triggers the process of blaming oneself and others. The quest for the answer to “Why?” doesn’t change what is, or what happened, and the answers won’t give us the comfort we seek—they only crowd out the possibility of seeing what could be.

Seeing opportunity and possibility in disappointing or challenging times requires us to consciously seek to alter our mindset and shift the attention away from the unpleasant circumstances and unchangeable events that led to where you find yourself today.

Here are some guidelines to help you shift your focus to what could be:

Change the Questions You Ask Yourself

Give up the search for Why? and begin asking yourself questions like: “What can I do to gain the acceptance and sense of well being I need to move forward?” or “What do I need to change in myself that will best move me forward?” Questions of this type help us pinpoint our barriers and uncover our biases. Once your viewpoint changes from Why something happened to What can I do about it, you begin to stimulate new ways of thinking and being.

Accept and Let Go Of What Cannot Be Changed

Acceptance means embracing the pleasant and unpleasant realities of our lives, and being willing to view them in the context of experiences that serve as lessons learned, or guideposts for the positive behavior we want moving forward. Letting go of the past, your personal history, or blaming others even if it seems unjust or frightening is essential in being able to not let what was define what you become.

Set New Goals and Pursue Them With Gusto

As we embark on re-aligning our goals and our path forward, we become grateful for the lessons learned. The serenity that comes with acceptance inspires the trust, confidence, and resiliency that we need to bring about a new future. This newfound inner peace leads to a clearer mind and a more open heart. We readily set new goals and pursue them with gusto and focus, without constantly fretting or rebelling against the past.

Life will happen in its own time, and trying to control and speed up the outcome is how we lose our serenity and our way. Acceptance and serenity, however, are not about adopting a carefree attitude or living life irresponsibly. They require hard work and determination. They mean living with a sense of responsibility and a faith that letting go of the “Why?” will change the “What?” of your life. The next time difficulties and disappointment come your way, choose to respond differently and let your life be guided by what can be.


After Achieving A Major Goal – How Do You Know What Comes Next?

Feb 03

what-comes-nextWe all have major goals that we believe once achieved will lead to lasting success, happiness and fulfillment. We’ve committed to an action plan, dedicated our energy, time and resources and diligently pursued them over the course of years or even decades. These goals become the major driving force in our lives and are the basis for the framework for how we live. Achieving the goal, whether a long sought-after promotion, starting a business, a certain lifestyle, or a gold medal elicits in us an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and exhilaration. Seeing a dream fulfilled gives us a high and a sense of satisfaction – at least in the beginning. However, over time people who achieve long-term goals can often find themselves in a surprising and strange place of doubt and confusion. They no longer need the framework that got them where they are, and they are wondering: what’s next?

How do you find what’s next after achieving a major goal?

We won’t find the answer to what is next outside of ourselves. The journey starts by taking a lesson from the philosopher Socrates. Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living. There is much wisdom to be gained in examining your life, even a success-filled one.   As human beings we are hard-wired to reflect, contemplate, explore and examine what brings purpose, significance and meaning to our lives. By living a well-examined life we can discern the way forward, and create a new framework through which we can view our lives and start the journey anew.

Examining your life requires the courage to ask the big, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable questions. Through questioning we learn what is being asked of us and what we want to ask of ourselves.

Our willingness to engage in that level of introspection will make the world around us more understandable at the deepest levels. This new and deeper understanding will highlight and bring into focus things that were just outside of our view and obscured by our pursuit of the original goal. The traits that enabled you to succeed the first time can be built upon to bring you future and sustainable success in another aspect of your life.

Once you have taken the time to celebrate your accomplishment and have enjoyed the view from where you are, you are ready to begin to find out what’s next in your life.   Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Shift your focus quickly from the not knowing, step back from the rat race, and take some downtime. Taking well-deserved downtime will enable you to begin reflecting on your past, thinking about the present, and envisioning the future.
  • Enjoy the opportunity during the downtime to devote yourself and your time to things that are not immediately productive. This is not time wasted. By contrast, focusing on things that are not immediately productive can lead to higher pursuits.
  • Be willing to experiment with the most outrageous ideas you come up with. It is only an experiment, and the value is in the learning. Contemplate and examine life choices and ideas that always intrigued you but you never had the time nor the ability to try before. For ideas, go back to some of the dreams you had in childhood that were lost when you grew up.
  • Pursue things that lead you to develop self-awareness and challenge your mind and spirit.
  • Engage with others in ways you were not able to in the past. Share your talents and experiences and be open to learning from theirs.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, embrace the reality that achieving a goal – even one that fulfills a life long dream or ambition – isn’t meant to be the end. It is an opportunity to discover new dimensions of who you are and transcend where you are now.

There is not a set formula other than to be willing to undergo the process of creating a well-examined life. The success you achieve depends on how willing you are to challenge yourself and move beyond the success you have already earned. By embarking on this new journey, you remove the chance and randomness in discovering what your new guiding principle and framework is. Life will only get better and be more fulfilling when you find your new passion or way of enhancing the success you already have.

I invite you all on this journey, and look forward to hearing your thoughts, insights and strategies for discovering what’s next for you. By sharing these in the comment field we can all learn from each other.



Your Personal Mission Statement: A Vivid Vision for Success

Jan 13

personal-mission-statementEach of us posses a driving force in our lives.  This essential framework  defines who we are, how we approach life, how we set goals and make decisions. A vivid vision starts by envisioning what you see as the epitome of your success.  Once you have created the vision you can then begin writing your own success script.  What will your personal mission statement be?

The process of creating a personal mission statement, and our own vivid vision for success focuses us on something beyond a job title or salary.  It encourages us to consider and describe in detail every aspect of who we are and how we approach life.  It enables us to vividly shape our purpose and since purpose is at the heart of what leads us to accomplish goals and achieve success it is an essential building block of our values and beliefs. Our values and beliefs form the foundation of goal setting, and research has demonstrated repeatedly that goals that emerge from our most deeply held values and beliefs are the ones we are most motivated to accomplish. Organizations and businesses have known that their mission is what makes them so much more than just the products they sell or the services they provide. A clearly articulated purpose and clearly stated values and vision serve as a constant reminder to all about where they are headed and lets others understand who you are, how you approach life and how you make decisions. Mission statements are not just for large organizations or businesses; crafting and sharing a personal mission statement that defines who you are, how you approach life, your priorities for setting goals and the values that govern your decision-making can be an extremely effective tool. Knowing what lies at your very core and being able to share that with others can be the competitive edge you are looking for.

Writing a personal mission statement requires that you follow an inside out approach. It means that you need to take a hard look at your values, beliefs, and who you are at your core. You have to be fully open to the introspective work that can reveal your most deeply held beliefs and values. Personal mission statements do not have to be elaborate – they can be as simple as one word, a daily mantra or a favorite quote. It can be a simple sentence that brings into focus your core values, goals and purpose and can be a touchstone in difficult times and can help keep your focus on what is most important to you. Your mission statement helps you say no to things that distract you from carrying out your values, vision and plans. It becomes the roadmap by which you travel toward success and it conveys your values to those around you. Your personal mission statement should not be static and it should evolve and change over time as you do. Are you ready to begin creating or refining your personal mission statement?

 Here are a few ideas and guidelines to jumpstart the process:

  • Take an inside out approach – be honest with yourself and don’t hide from anything. Here are some questions that you could ask yourself to begin this process:
    • What are you most inspired by?
    • What motivates you to action?
    • What do you believe? What are your most important values?
    • What do you want others to think when they hear your name?
    • What is the core energy that drives you?
    • What lies at your inner core: the pursuit of knowledge, power, love, wisdom etc.?
    • What turns down the dimmer on your energy and leads you to conflict?
  • Ask those who know you well what they would say your deepest values are. Be open to their feedback and notice how you respond emotionally to what they share. Often our emotions give us clues to what we feel most strongly about.
  • Choose words and use word association to create a list of values. Choose words that are actionable, inspirational, simple and authentic to who you are.
  • Look at who you admire and the qualities that draw you to them. Ask yourself what phrases about them mean the most to you. See what matches your goals and beliefs and adopt them.
  • Look to historic figures, writings, poems, and quotes, and identify things that resonate and inspire you.
  • Begin to brainstorm and draft your mission statement. Remember, it can be a word, favorite quote, etc.
  • Once you have your mission statement make sure that it is:
    • Simple and easy to understand
    • Inspirational and motivating
    • Action oriented
    • Is an accurate representation of your authentic self
    • Expresses simply and clearly who you are at your core

Writing a mission statement is a little bit like trying on new clothes. If it doesn’t fit the first time you can always go back and try something new.  But once you finish writing it put it out there for everyone to see and make yourself a laminated copy that you can bring with you and pull out when you need motivation or to restore your focus.

I’d love to hear your personal mission statements and about your experience crafting or refining them. Please share them with me in the comments field below.

What Does a Cup of Coffee Have to Do With Accomplishing Our Goals?

Sep 30

Cup of CoffeeYale University professor and leading researcher John Bargh has focused a significant portion of his professional life researching and understanding how unconscious thoughts work behind the scenes to impact our behavior, judgment and perceptions. His research demonstrates how our behaviors, judgment and perceptions can be impacted by something as simple as holding an ordinary cup of warm coffee.

Bargh, along with his colleague, Lawrence E. Williams from The University of Colorado, designed and conducted a research experiment to understand how the temperature of a held drink influences whether we like or dislike another person. The experiment was designed as follows:

Students on their way to the lab “ran into” a lab assistant who was juggling several things including either an iced coffee or warm cup of coffee. The students were asked to hold the cup for a short period of time while the lab assistant regained control of the things they were juggling. The students were asked later to rate a hypothetical person on various attributes. The experiment revealed that the participants judged others to be more generous and caring if they had just held a warm cup of coffee and less so if they had held an iced coffee beverage.

Based on these findings Bargh and Williams decided to take this one step further and test the impact of “warmth” on the perception of adults. Both experiments led the researchers to conclude that “physical warmth can make us see others as warmer people, but also cause us to be warmer, more generous and trusting as well.”

Their research affirms that our unconscious mind is always functioning in the background making rational and irrational decisions that impact our judgment, perception and behavior. According to Bargh, our unconscious thoughts work as a type of “behavioral guidance system.” This guidance system offers us suggestions about how to assess others or what to do. We then act upon our unconscious thoughts before our conscious awareness can take over.

So what does our unconscious mind have to do with accomplishing our goals?

Goal research indicates that our unconscious thoughts can cue or trigger behaviors without the individual knowing about it or intending it.  They can impact our ability to pursue and accomplish important goals. The research shows that not only the goal itself is impacted, but that the incentives associated with the goal can be manipulated unconsciously as well. Researchers have concluded that unconscious thought therefore influences and impacts goal attainment as much as our conscious thought about achieving the goal does (Aarts, Custers, and Holland 2007).

When it comes to achieving our goals knowing that both unconscious and conscious thoughts influence goal pursuit and attainment can help us understand how or why we sometimes go off track despite our best conscious intentions. The current research and theories suggest that when you find yourself engaging in behaviors or making judgments that seem to differ from your intentional goals that your conscious mind is not the source of behaving that way. What is causing you to act out of alignment with your stated intentions is a response to your unconscious “behavioral guidance system” being triggered. The behavior or response is being cued up by your unconscious as a result of situational information, past similar experiences or environmental cues (i.e. a warm cup of coffee) or residual emotions. Our unconscious “behavioral guidance system” kicks in before our conscious mind can serve its function as gatekeeper and sense maker.

The next time you feel you have engaged in behavior that has taken you off course for achieving your goals; grab a warm cup of coffee and consider what unconscious thought is driving your behavior in the present. Understanding your unconscious behaviors, judgments and perceptions can help you right the course, and engage your conscious mind as sense maker to help you get back on track.

Are you willing to consider this the next time you get off track? Let me know what you think in the comments field below.

What is Grit and Why is it Important?

Aug 11

True GritAngela Duckworth left a job as a management consultant at McKinsey to teach math in public schools in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York. While teaching math to middle and high school students, she was intrigued by the lack of success she saw in students who appeared to have all of the advantages over their less intelligent peers. This intrigued her so much that she decided to leave teaching and attend the University of Pennsylvania to earn her Ph.D. in Psychology, and study what led to this outcome. Her research revealed that high achievers possess an essential quality independent of intelligence, self-discipline, and ambition that led them to success. She named this quality “grit”. As an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, she continues to study the concepts of self-control and grit and how they impact academic and professional success.

Grit as defined by Duckworth is “the perseverance and passion for long-term goals” and “the ability to stick with them until you master them.” Her research clearly shows that grit is a critical factor in overall long-term success, and how it corresponds to our ability to triumph over setbacks and conquer important long-term goals. Duckworth developed the Grit Scale Test to measure this quality. The scale is used at the United States Military Academy at West Point and has become the best predictor of which cadets would be successful, and which ones would drop out in the rigorous summer training program. Grit mattered more than intelligence, leadership ability, or fitness. Grit isn’t self-discipline, conscientiousness, perseverance, ambition, passion, or optimism— although these do play a role in grit. Instead, grit is that something special that makes all the difference between being smart and being successful, or being talented and being great.

Since grit is at the top of the list of qualities needed to accomplish many important goals in our lives, knowing our level of grit can go a long way in making a difference.

Do you know your grit score?

You can take the Grit Scale Test and find out your score by signing up for a free account at www.authentichappiness.com.

Once you have your score let me know in the comments how you plan to use this in your life.