Organizations that successfully increase diversity provide leadership development opportunities, particularly for employees at the lower levels of the organization. For example, one company’s two-year “CEO Program” offers candidates intensive training and significant exposure to senior executives. The program includes external candidates and young candidates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds already in the company – and, while it’s a hefty financial commitment, it’s also a significant investment in the rapid advancement of promising members of the organization as well as recruitment.
You can also offer high-potential employees opportunities for external education and development, and pay attention to who’s embracing these benefits. Keep in mind that diversity training cannot be hived off from the rest of the operation. It has to be woven into the culture.
Adapted from “Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work,” by Boris Groysberg and Katherine Connolly.
As a manager, you play different roles at different times – but the job of a manager, just like that of a coach or teacher, is to inspire people to be better. Most people respond better to encouragement than to criticism, so give praise when you can. According to Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most successful coaches in sports history, nothing is better than hearing: “Well done.” He says, “Those are the two best words ever invented. You don’t need to use superlatives.” At the same time, giving clear criticism is important when your team members don’t meet expectations.
If you are too soft in your approach, you won’t be effective – but showing your anger all the time doesn’t work, either. There’s no point in harping on criticism; pick your moment, do it right away, and consider it done. Your timing and tone matter.
Adapted from “Ferguson’s Formula,” by Anita Elberse with Sir Alex Ferguson.
When our brains concentrate intensely on one task, we miss what is happening around us. This means that when your team diligently focuses on a task, they’re likely missing something.
Here are two ways to identify those blind spots:
Assign the task of speaking up.
Every time your team meets, include an agenda item that reads: “What are we missing?” Rotate responsibility for answering that question so everyone eventually contributes.
Get an outsider’s perspective.
Bring people in from other parts of the organization to analyze your project. They might not know about the progress, methods, or solutions being worked on already, but they may see something your team doesn’t.
Adapted from “Why You May Be Blind to a Good Idea (and What to Do About It)” by Cathy N. Davidson.
If you’re like most team leaders, you probably make more statements than you ask questions – and some of your “questions” are in name only. When you are genuinely curious, you want to learn what others are thinking – but when you aren’t, you ask rhetorical questions; not for a real answer, but to make a point. For example: “You don’t really think that solution will work, do you?” This communication style leaves team members feeling insulted or defensive. They will trust you less, withdraw, and withhold information that you need to make good decisions. If you already know the answer to your question or you could easy tack on the phrase “you idiot” to the end of it, it’s rhetorical.
If this is the case, change your inquiry to a transparent statement that shares your view, including your reasoning and feelings. Then add a genuine question that helps you learn more about the situation and helps increase your team’s curiosity in the answer.
Adapted from “Increase Your Team’s Curiosity,” by Roger Schwarz.
Being too emotional can create problems, but it can be far less of a problem than holding back all of your feelings. You may hide emotions in an attempt to stay in control and look strong, but doing so diminishes your control and weakens your capacity to connect and communicate with others.
If you struggle with sharing your true feelings, it might help to know that people often don’t show emotion because they’re not aware of what they’re feeling. You might suppress your anger or temper your excitement without even realizing it. So pay attention to your emotions.
At least a couple of times a week, ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Write it down if you can; keeping a regular journal can help you understand your moods and what changes them. Then let loose a little: Let your emotions out, and let people in. Both are critical to effective leadership.
Adapted from “Good Leaders Get Emotional,” by Doug Sundheim.
When you have a great idea, don’t assume that others will share your enthusiasm for it. Whether a recommendation or proposal is approved is often less about the value of the idea itself than how it is presented.
Here are three things you can do to give your next proposal a fighting chance:
Meet with stakeholders before you need their formal approval to generate interest and pre-sell them on the idea.
Keep it simple.
Don’t weigh your proposal down with tons of data and analysis. Too many details can distract an audience. Be straightforward and concise.
Highlight the benefits.
Your audience will want to know what’s in it for them. Be sure to position the idea in terms of the benefits they stand to gain.
Adapted from “How to Get Your Idea Approved” by Amy Gallo.
An effective coach meets people where they are. As you coach your employees to develop their skills or improve their performance, set them up for success by understanding how they learn best and adjusting your methods accordingly. Some people may prefer learning in the moment, through intense experience and goal-directed action. Others may favor retaining information reflectively, through sustained meditation and analytical thinking.
Coaching will likely involve some combination of these two approaches. With people who prefer an active style of learning, for example, communicate dynamically and encourage on-the-job experiments. With reflective learners, communicate thoughtfully and allow adequate time for them to rehearse quietly on their own.
By tapping into their preferred styles, you will engage employees more deeply and find an approach to learning they feel motivated to follow. As a result, they’ll make greater—and faster—progress toward their goals.
Adapted from The HBR Guide to Coaching Your Employees.