Posts Tagged ‘human resources’

There is no truth to the belief that great leaders are born that way and that you can’t really develop or acquire the competencies for leadership. This belief stems from a self-limiting, fixed mind set. The first leadership principle—to achieve professional competence—tells us what to achieve, the second leadership principle—to appreciate one’s strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement—tells us how to achieve it.

The growth mind set is essential for learning, growth, and development in any field of endeavour, and certainly this is the case for leadership. We grow by challenging ourselves and overcoming resistance and obstacles. The growth mind set as applied to leadership consists of what I call the Four Pillars of Leadership Excellence. These encompass the goal of development (objective standards), the power of example (role models), the understanding of objective performance and behaviour (self-knowledge), and the subjective awareness of performance and behaviour in action (self-awareness).

One of the most powerful concepts for leadership development is the “learning curve.” Learning occurs over time as we invest resources and effort in acquiring and honing new knowledge and skills. Learning starts when we become aware of a need for improvement or the potential to move to a new level. Learning itself is a cyclical process based on feedback. We need to act in order to generate results that we can then observe and assess against indicators. We therefore need objective standards and role models to emulate and to measure our progress. Prudent, calculated risks are the fuel of development. If progress is to continue on the road to development, then the learner must jump to a higher learning curve.

Just like an army on the offensive, you need a clear objective and mission. You also require a deep appreciation of your strengths so you can leverage them to the hilt, complemented by a realistic appraisal of your limitations so you can overcome or mitigate them. Your most powerful strength is your personal center of gravity. From the perspective of leadership, strengths can be any particular skills, attitudes, or elements of knowledge. Personality or character traits can also be strengths, as well as natural proclivities or talents, such as intelligence, visual and spatial abilities, and sociability. Strengths come at the intersection of things you do quickly and easily, you’re trusted and recognized for, and you’re passionate about. Once you’ve identified your center of gravity, you must then exploit it as much as possible, in concert with your other strengths, so you can achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness as a leader.

It’s not enough however to play offence. You must also be able to manage your limitations and weaknesses so they don’t overwhelm your strengths and make you ineffective. I talk about managing limitations, because it’s probably impossible to eliminate them completely. All we can realistically do is contain them and mitigate their effects so they don’t hinder us excessively. I call this playing defence, because we don’t always have the initiative or the luxury to concentrate on all areas at once.

Techniques to Energize Your Leadership Development

  1. Adopt and nurture the growth mindset.
  2. View your successes and failures as feedback for learning.
  3. Study the objective standards of your field, profession or organization.
  4. Observe and emulate positive role models.
  5. Acquire self-knowledge to assess your leadership against objective standards.
  6. Develop self-awareness so you can witness your behaviour, thinking, and performance on a moment-to-moment basis and adjust these accordingly.
  7. Create a vision of how you wish to lead in the future, and then determine what competencies and traits you will need to achieve that vision.
  8. Assess your past performance as a leader so you can draw lessons learned for now and the future.
  9. Identify where you are on the learning curve for the particular competencies you need in leadership. Are you at the initial awareness stage, making rapid progress, reaching diminishing returns, plateauing, or in decline? What is needed to move to the next stage of leadership competence?
  10. What is the next learning curve for you? What are the most likely risks and opportunities you face when making the leap to the next curve?
  11. What are your top leadership strengths and your center of gravity? Develop a strategy to exploit your center of gravity.
  12. What are your top leadership limitations and vulnerabilities? What is your strategy to manage these limitations, depending on the situation and the people you are leading?

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

This is my review of Talent Magnetism, by Roberta Matuson, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2013

This is the book any strategic business leader needs to position his or her organization to attract, select, and keep the best people possible. As a consultant myself, I work on a daily basis with companies and organizations that struggle with finding and retaining excellent employees. In fact, human capital is so important that it can actually make or break strategy and other business plans.

Matuson has taken a great tack. Instead of just throwing money at the challenge of attraction and retention, she has created an entire framework of strategies and tactics for positioning a company or organization as an employer of choice. Think of how Apple, Google, and other global success stories have become a magnetic pole of attraction for top-flight talent around the world. The author shows business leaders how to do the same thing for themselves.

This book isn’t just for HR types however. Senior executives, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other core business operators will want to read this book so they can start applying their business savvy not just to their customers, but also to their employees. The chapters on branding and leadership as key attraction factors are fascinating and go well beyond the usual bromides about happy work places. People want challenge, advancement, and — YES — great leadership!

I recommend this book to anyone struggling with building great teams and human capital. I will also be recommending it to my own clients who are looking at ways to raise their employer brand.

© 2014 Richard Martin

We are all engaged in a fight for talent. Not only do we need to recruit the right people but, as my friend and expert in human capital strategies Roberta Matuson points out, we also need to keep the right people. The notion of ‘rightness’ is key. It is a question of attracting, working with, and associating with people who are appropriate given our goals. This plays out in our personal, professional, social, and political lives.

On a personal level, whom we associate with is critical. Anyone who has children, particularly adolescents, knows that their circle of friends is a key element in determining their activities, attitudes, and beliefs. The same goes with adults. We need to be careful about whom we associate with, whom we listen to, where and how we seek advice, what and with whom we learn.

On a professional level, companies are increasingly fighting to attract and retain the best people possible given their objectives, values, and strategies as organizations. The same goes for non-profits, associations, charities and foundations, governmental agencies, institutions of higher learning, etc. Any organization that is trying to provide value to others in society must have the optimal mix of the right people to get the job done. Consider the following:

  • A CEO client of mine points out that since 2010 they have put a few excellent performers in key positions of power and decision-making in her company and this has made a major difference in how they all interact, the quality of their decisions, the performance of the whole company, as well as customer satisfaction.
  • Another client of mine, who owns a small company, points out that he has a hard time finding individuals with the same drive and determination he does to grow the business they way he wants it to grow. He has created a business model around a certain type of employee and partner, but he now realizes that he needs to find a different type of person who is willing to be an employee but who is also entrepreneurial, willing to take risks, and also share in rewards. In other words, he can only attain his strategic objectives if he gets the right type of person.
  • Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Good to Great noted that companies that made a transition to spectacular growth after decades of puttering along had two key characteristics. First, they were led by CEOs who had a kind of low-key transformational leadership they call “Level-5 Leadership.” Second, these companies were able to first “get the right people on the bus” and only then figure out where the bus needs to go.
  • My own considerable experience in organizations, first in the military, and now as a business consultant, is that nothing happens without sound leadership, management, and the right people.

Finally, on the highest level, entire societies and polities need the best people to function properly. Countries are competiting for talent like never before. Canada has always been a nation of immigrants, even to the point of now having the highest level of non-native born citizens in the world. However, the Canadian g0vernment has recently begun revamping immigration laws and regulations to make the country even more attractive to talented indidivuals from around the world. When questioned about this, Canadian Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney pointed out that Canada is in competition with Australia and New Zealand for talented immigrants. It takes 6 months for a highly-qualified university graduate in India to be accepted in Australia, whereas in Canada it can take years. Moreover, Canada has persistent structural unemployment in many areas of the country while simultaneously experiencing labour shortages in dozens of specialist trades and professions. Meanwhile, highly qualified immigrants are stuck in low-paying unskilled jobs while their considerable talents and qualifications go unrecognized. The time to act is now and that is what the government is doing.

In 1981, economist Julian Simon wrote a book called The Ultimate Resource, updated in 1996 as the The Ultimate Resource II. In these books, Simon congently argued for the fact that the ultimate resource is not mineral wealth or any other type of material resource, but rather human ingenuity. I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

Sorry, but I don’t buy this “we’re all leaders” stuff. The job of HR, finance, IT, supply, etc, is to support the operational core of the business, because they are the ones getting the strategic results with the customers. That’s the core’s job. Sure, they can provide advice and influence decisions and culture, but they would be better leading themselves and their functions properly than giving advice to operators. Besides, if they want to be in charge of operations or strategic leaders in organizations, then they should transfer to the operational side, get the experience there, and answer for results.

© 2010 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes authorized with proper attribution.