Monday, July 27, 2009

Leadership: "Hard Hats" Not Required Here

In our last couple of entries, we have been talking about the relationship between leadership and emotional intelligence. In our last blog we noted this rather shocking statistic:

95% of your long term success at the executive level will not be the result of how smart you are, but rather of how well you manage your own emotions and the emotions of those around you.

I state that this statistic is shocking because, for many of you, your career development has been the direct result of your "technical" talent and skills, or hard skills. The more you know, the more you have succeeded. As you face challenges, you have used your own technical knowledge and skills to overcome these problems. As a result, this idea of your success being tied to managing emotions (your own and those of other people) seems completely foreign to everything you have experienced in your career.

Take a look at the graph below. This graph represents the type of skills required (technical vs. people) to be successful at the various levels of leadership. As you can see, the higher you go up the leadership ladder, the less technical (or hard) skills you require and the more people (or soft) skills you require. This is a lesson that many young leaders (including yours truly) don’t pick up on right away. After some thought it might become more obvious, but when you are constantly rewarded for your performance, the tendency is to do more of the same.
Let’s ponder this concept for a few minutes. Could the VP of your organization do some of the technical things that you or your staff do day in and day out? For that matter, would you want your VP even trying to do some of these tasks?

Probably not.

You want your VP focused on strategic concepts, focusing on the future and preparing your organization for its newest challenges. This type of work is not done in a vacuum, but rather in conjunction with other leaders both inside and outside of the company. For your VP, building relationships and getting along well with others is the key to their success. That doesn’t mean that they have to like everyone that they deal with, but they must learn to deal with disagreements and conflict in a way that builds teamwork and does not damage it. And while they certainly have to understand the technical concepts of the business, they won’t be applying them on a day to day basis.

The metamorphosis from technical expert to expert in human behavior is the critical point in the development of any executive. It starts when you begin to use your knowledge of human behavior to get the most from your team. That means:

  • understanding what your team members do best
  • knowing that everyone is motivated by different things
  • figuring out what motivates those team members
  • communicating beyond the facts to touch each person
  • not trying to teach a pig to sing (i.e. enhancing team members' strengths, not trying to develop their weaknesses)

And the more you progress up the leadership ladder, the bigger the role these elements play in your success.

We will have more on this next week.

Until next time......

ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, July 20, 2009

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

In last week’s blog (The Single Most Important Leadership Lesson Ever) I introduced you to the concept of Emotional Intelligence. In short, I demonstrated that those bosses who had the most positive impact on your life were usually not the most technically brilliant or even technically competent bosses, but those that touched you in an emotionally positive way.

When I introduce the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) to executives in workshops, I’m often met with a series of chuckles and guffaws. “I never thought I’d see the words emotional and intelligence used together in the same sentence” they say. “Aren’t those a contradiction in terms?” is another common retort.

So what is Emotional Intelligence?

In short, Emotional Intelligence is your ability to understand and manage yourself and others around you, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, identifying what you do well and don’t do well, and relating to the world around you through your emotions.

In other words, how well do you know yourself? How well do you manage yourself? How well do you understand others? How well do you manage the emotions of others?

Here is a rather shocking statistic: 95% of your long term success at the executive level will not be the result of how smart you are, but rather of how well you manage the emotions of those around you.

The primary reason for careers stalling on the way up, or for executives failing in their roles, are directly related to Emotional Intelligence. When an executive possesses these skills (knowingly or unknowingly) they are taking full advantage of themselves and the talented people around them. When they don’t possess these skills, they are limited by their own intelligence. And while they may be highly intelligent, none of us is as smart as all of us.

Let’s take a brief look at how and why this happens.

As you start your career you are an individual contributor. As an individual contributor, you have a certain amount of control over your destiny. The smarter you are, the better you perform your job. The better you perform your job the sooner you are promoted to a higher level position, including that of a supervisor.

As a supervisor, you are somewhat dependent on those around you to accomplish their tasks and complete their assignments on time and with the appropriate level of accuracy. But should they fail, you have the personal expertise to understand what went wrong, why it went wrong, and you can even fix the problem yourself. So even as a supervisor you have a lot of control over your future. If your team performs poorly, you can often make up for it through your personal efforts. Ideas for improvements and changes may come from the team members, but more often than not, they come from the supervisors themselves. Hence your ability to control your fate is still largely in your own hands. And, if you do well, you can and will be promoted to manager.

This is where things begin to change.

More on this next time.....

ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Single Most Important Leadership Lesson Ever

When it comes to leadership, there are basically two kinds of people in the world. Those that study leadership and work constantly to improve their leadership skills, and those that think leadership is a given. For this second group of people, if you are the boss, you are the leader. It’s really that simple.

Of course, the truth is far different from that. As many eventually discover, being the boss has nothing to do with real leadership because the title of “boss” is given to you by someone higher in the organization, while the role of “leader” is bestowed on you by your followers. As John Maxwell says, “If you think you are a leader but no one is following, you are just out taking a walk.”

Those people who study leadership and spend a lot of time reading about leadership concepts and techniques, often focus on such things as Vision, Intelligence, Risk Taking, etc. And while these are certainly important concepts, they overlook the key quality of a leader that creates followers.

Take a few minutes now and think back to the one person in your life that you personally experienced and believed to be a great leader. It may have been a boss from one of your jobs, or maybe it was a scout leader from your youth, a minister from your church, or even a sports coach or teacher from high school. But my guess is that there is someone tha you looked up to and admired as a leader and who you would, if you could, model yourself after.

Visualize this person in your mind’s eye and immerse yourself in the thoughts you had when this person was such a huge influence in your life. Go as deep as possible in recreating the feelings and thoughts from that time period.

Now, get out a piece of paper and quickly write down the first 5 attributes that come to your mind about this person.

Let’s take a look at your list and mark each item on that list with the following codes:

1. If the attribute had something to do with their technical skills, knowledge of the subject matter or expertise, or quick decision making, mark those items with a “T”.

2. If the attribute has something to do with the “softer skills” of leadership (like the way you felt listened to or appreciated by this person, or maybe the way they inspired you with their vision and made you feel included), mark those items with an “E”.

3. If the item doesn’t fit into either of these two categories, mark them with an “O”.

If you are like 98% of the adult population of this country, at least 3 of the 5 items on your list are now labeled with an “E”. For many of you, all 5 will be labeled with an “E”.

What is the message here?

Those people who we view as outstanding influences in our lives, those people we look up to and admire, are held in that esteem not because of how “smart” they were, but because of the way they made us feel about ourselves, our jobs, and the world around us. The same will be true of you. It’s not how smart you are that will make you a great leader, but how you invest in others and how they invest in you.

This concept is called Emotional Intelligence. We will talk about this more next week.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Sunday, July 5, 2009

If Leadership is Easy, Why Aren't There More Great Leaders?

A few weeks ago I posted my “10 Things Every Leader Should Know” ( and as I mentioned, that list generated a lot of interesting off line discussion. In one such discussion a reader made the following observation.

“This really is a simple list. The things on here are important, but there’s nothing here that really is rocket science. So if leadership is this easy, why aren’t there more great leaders?”

That really is a great question, especially in a society that really seems to be screaming for leadership in business and in politics. As a result, we spent quite a bit of time discussing this issue, dissecting various leaders that we knew and trying to determine if they were great leaders, good leaders, or even bad leaders.

She brought up her current boss as an example and described him as someone who was not nearly as good a leader as he seemed to believe he was. What was he missing? “Trust” she replied “and listening; he pretends to listen but he really doesn’t.” Those were the two things that really jumped out at her. The other items on the list were things he did really well, but without these two key ingredients he was someone that she only followed because he was the boss.

We discussed other examples of people that seemed to miss the mark on leadership.

One cared only about results and not about the people, another person wanted to be the smartest person on the team and hired people that would never challenge her or make her stretch and think. Another boss tended to horde information and left most of the team in the dark.

There were more examples, but you get the idea.

The point is that leadership is not complex or complicated, but it does require a variety of skills and ALL of these skills have to be present or the leader may fall short, far short of the kind of leader that they want to be. If you can't do all of these things, then you aren't a good leader, much less a great one. And so many leaders fall short in one or more of these areas.

Here’s the worst part. Most leaders who fall short don’t realize that they are falling short. Like most people, leaders do not see their own blind spots. And since they can't see what they are missing they assume that they really are doing what needs to be done.

How does this happen?

One example would be a leader who has a vision and believes that he/she is communicating that vision to the team. But for a variety of reasons, the team is not getting the message. And since the team is not receiving the message, it is not really communicated. Hence the leader is falling short without realizing it.

What are some ways for leaders to discover their blind spots?

There are a number of ways. Ideally someone can point out theblind spots to them. But that requires that the leader be open to honest feedback and has someone in their inner circle who is willing and able to communicate with them. If not, coaching can be a great way to uncover weaknesses. But even then the leader must be in contact with the coach and be determined to uncover any blind spots. Another alternative is a professionally administered 360 degree assessment. Done by a professional, 360 degree assessments are a powerful tool. Done by someone who is untrained or unqualified, a 360 can lead to false results and a loss of trust in the organization.

If you are interested in taking the next step in developing yourself and becoming the leader that you truly want to be, contact ECI Learning Systems today.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC