65 Chapters
Medium 9781605093451

50 Welcome the New Guard

Arneson, Steve Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Write a Letter to Your Successor

ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING things any leader can do is to take on a new role, be it in your current organization or in a new company. It’s invigorating to apply your leadership skills in a new situation, develop relationships with new people, and craft a fresh strategy for a different set of challenges. Talk about development! Every manager should have the chance to move through a series of new challenges; in fact, that’s what a career is all about—tackling a collection of different experiences.

When your chance comes to move on, there are a couple of things you should do before you leave your current role. One of them is to say thank you to everyone who has helped to make you successful. Do this in two ways: First, take the time to personally reach out to those who made a difference in your work life. Then, follow up with a handwritten note (a lost art these days) on attractive, professional stationary. The handwritten note is a classy gesture and reflects well on your leadership brand. The other thing you need to do, of course, is to prepare your successor. Be sure to brief this person on the team’s strengths and opportunities as well as the key performance goals and challenges facing your group.

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13 What does she think you need to improve?

Arneson, Steve Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Have you ever considered that your boss doesn’t think you’re perfect? That you’re not finished developing? It’s a safe bet she feels your skills could use a little polish. Since we all have development opportunities, what does she want you to work on? Has she told you? Even if she has, do you really believe that’s all she feels you need to improve?

This question can’t be answered by looking at your performance appraisal or development plan. Sure, you both agreed upon some growth areas in your most recent review, and those may be legitimate development opportunities. But what else does she want you to work on? Think about her motives and preferences. Is there anything she’s not telling you because it reveals too much about what she wants from you?

Kevin is in this situation. At his mid-year review, Kevin’s boss suggested he work on his coaching and delegation skills (Kevin agreed these were opportunities). However, he also suspects the boss wants him to work on listening and taking direction more effectively. Why? Because whenever Kevin doesn’t follow his boss’s specific direction, she gets upset. She wants Kevin to do exactly what she tells him to do, and whenever Kevin follows his own path, he feels the boss’s wrath. Why doesn’t Kevin’s boss just come out and tell him to improve these skills? Because she knows it will sound silly; the only examples she can give Kevin are times when he’s not done precisely what she wanted. She’s savvy enough to know it looks petty to suggest a development need that really isn’t there. Still, if Kevin is right, how long should he ignore this unspoken development suggestion? My recommendation was to start demonstrating deeper listening behaviors now, to get ahead of what may well become a career-derailer if the boss’s perceptions don’t change (after all, Kevin can always use improved listening skills). The idea is to infer what your boss wants you to improve, even if she’s not telling you directly.

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45 Your Most Precious Resource

Arneson, Steve Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Set Priorities for Your Time

HERE’S A SERIOUS QUESTION: Do you know how you spend your time as a leader? Many leaders that I work with can’t answer this question accurately. They are unable to precisely account for their fifty or so work hours a week. Typical responses include: “I spend a lot of time in meetings” or “I’m fighting fires throughout the week” or “I don’t know; I get interrupted a lot.” Yes, but what meetings, and why? Where are the fires originating, and what can be done to reduce their frequency? Why are you interrupted so often? If you want to break out and move up as a leader, you need to face this question now, while you still have time to develop good work habits.

Do you realize that time is your most precious commodity? Let me repeat that. Your most prized resource is time—specifically, your time and the way you spend it. Here’s the simple truth: To be effective as a leader, you need to spend your time efficiently. Think of the ultimate leader: the president of the United States. The president’s entire day is carefully planned, down to the minute. If it weren’t, it would be chaotic and unproductive and not half as much would be accomplished. Effective time management is essential to your performance as a leader. You need to know where the hours (and minutes!) are going and feel confident they’re being put to productive use.

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8 Where does he have influence?

Arneson, Steve Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

At first glance, it might seem that studying your boss’s reputation and level of influence would yield the same insights. Actually, they’re quite different. He might have a reputation as a difficult colleague to work with, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have impact across the organization. Reputation has to do with people’s perceptions; influence has to do with getting things done. Influence is gained by demonstrating a track record of success, having great ideas, and being able to execute. So, does your boss have influence? Does he have the power to get people to do what he wants? Is he a thought leader in the company?

Your homework assignment for this question involves two insights: 1) with whom does he have influence, and 2) what issues or decisions does he successfully impact? Let’s start with the senior managers he’s able to influence. Look at his track record and consider his success and failures. Is there a pattern? Does he have more success with male peers than female colleagues? Does he have more sway with new leaders or long-tenured executives? Does he have more influence with line leaders or staff leaders? Does he have impact in the field, or is it mostly in the home office? Take the relationship map that you created for question seven in Step 1 and highlight those leaders your boss tends to successfully influence. Where are they in the organization? What do they have in common? Is there any way to help him expand this list?

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1 Where Have You Been?

Arneson, Steve Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Document Your Leadership Journey

“IF YOU DON’T KNOW where you’re going, any road will take you there.” I love this quote, not only because it’s supposed to get you moving if you’re stuck, but also because it screams, “Get organized, and have a plan!” This is great advice whether you’re planning a trip or your own leadership development. Any significant journey worth taking is worth planning. Let’s pretend you’re taking a six-month sabbatical to climb Mount Everest. You wouldn’t dream of tackling this adventure without a lot of planning, right? You also wouldn’t plan this trip without looking back at what you’ve learned from other high-peak ascents, both successful and unsuccessful. You’re going to need every bit of that experience to make this climb, so you better take stock of your lessons learned. The fact is that looking back can help you see the next adventure more clearly.

The same is true when it comes to planning the next step in your journey of leadership self-discovery. One of the first things you should do is reflect on where you’ve been as a leader. Are you doing this on a regular basis? Are you reflecting on your lessons learned? You should be; the leader who doesn’t learn from his or her mistakes is doomed to repeat them. What were the critical moments that shaped you as a manager? How did you react? What did you do well, and what could you have done better? How did others respond to you? When did you start to feel like a true leader? Most important, what did you learn from these moments?

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