Posts Tagged ‘The Wall Street Journal’

Managers Need Training to Meet Expanding Expectations

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

A survey reported in “The Wall Street Journal” yesterday discovered that, while companies are adding responsibilities to managers’ already heavy workloads, they aren’t providing training that helps those managers handle their expanding responsibilities. Standard approaches, such as relying on “loaned executive” programs to nonprofits, company-developed formal training, or support from HR, were rated as the least helpful forms of training.

The most helpful training, according to managers surveyed, were provided by external leadership programs, encouragement from family and friends and support from peer networks. Leadership training for people who are promoted is the main exception.

However, the author and conductor of the survey, Herminia Ibarra, quickly adds that fewer people are being promoted, so the overall benefits of such training are not as far-reaching as previously. One of her conclusions is that continual training should be the standard, especially for “promising” managers, who will have the opportunity to learn from their peers over a long period of time as they all develop their skills. Ibarra also recommends that organizations facilitate more cross-departmental collaboration so that individuals get to know co-workers in other areas and gain better understanding of the roles and operations across the company.

Another recent survey found that soft skills training is the greatest needed in the corporate world. Individuals who lack so-called “people skills,” including the core component of communication, are unable to collaborate and that inability results in diminishes productivity and overall organizational effectiveness. Corporate Storytelling training provides the tools not only for clearly informing, directing, and supporting others, but also teaches the importance of listening–an often overlooked necessity in today’s constantly “plugged-in” world.

How are your storytelling and listening skills?

Communication Skills Among Top 10 Tips for New Executives

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

A top executive recently wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal listing the top “10 Tips for New Executives”, and two important communication skills were among them. Fay Vincent rose to the top of three distinctly different enterprises, demonstrating that he knows what he’s talking about. He’s the former president and CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., executive vice president of Coca-Cola Co., and the eighth commissioner of Major League Baseball. He’s the kind of person we’d all like to have had advice from in the early stages of our careers, and his 10 Tips are insights he wishes he had known sooner.

The two communication skills he included on his list are

  • Listening for advice
  • Explaining your strategy frequently, stated in different ways

Why are these two skills important? Vincent explains that regular interaction with employees at all levels and listening to what they’re talking about is essential for effective leadership. You need to know what’s important to the people you’re asking to follow you. If anyone wants to talk with you, take time to listen to their views and if it’s a criticism, consider the person’s position and respond thoughtfully, even when you disagree.

Repeatedly explaining your core strategy will ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction and maximizing productivity. By rephrasing the strategy periodically, people at all levels, who may have different communication skills and vocabularies, will be sure to hear your meaning. In other words, let there be no doubt what success looks like in your organization. I would add to this that telling stories of “people caught doing things right” is a proven way to make your goals clear. People understand a story and can apply the lesson to their own jobs much more easily than they can “translate” a high-level mission statement. Are you listening?

Jack Welch on Leadership Communication and Performance

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Reacting to the recent announcement that Microsoft would stop force-ranking employees, a practice often referred to as “rank and yank,” former GE CEO Jack Welch delivered a strong case for another approach. Calling the “rank and yank” approach to performance evaluations”a media-invented, politicized, sledgehammer of a pejorative,” he said that it “perpetuates a myth about a powerfully effective real practice called (more appropriately) differentiation.”

Much has been written about “rank and yank” approach used by companies in recent years. It can, and often does, result in the firing of excellent employees who happen to be on an exceptionally high-performing team. Under the system, the bottom-ranked employees have to go, even those who are strong contributors. If it seems self-defeating, that’s because it is!

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Welch states a strong case for differentiation, which, he says, is “about building great teams and great companies through consistency, transparency and candor. It’s about aligning performance with the organization’s mission and values. It’s about making sure that all employees know where they stand. Differentiation is nuanced, humane, and occasionally complex, and it has been used successfully by companies for decades.”

Welch clearly articulates the need for leaders to clarify mission (where we’re going) and values (how we’re going to get there)–a goal achieved through storytelling, as emphasized in my Corporate Storytelling® workshops. Aligning performance with mission and values is crucial. To achieve that goal, Welch advocates for honest, supportive performance evaluations that let employees know where they stand, where they excel, and where they need to improve.

With this approach, everybody wins! And everybody wins when someone is let go. That’s because only those who aren’t performing well enough are let go–after they’re given help in identifying where their strengths would be a better fit and supporting their efforts to find another job.

Leadership communications based on consistency, transparency and candor are the keys to building and retaining high-performance teams and building strong, enduring companies. The most powerful tool for clear communication is storytelling.

Four Kinds of Corporate Culture

Friday, February 10th, 2012

There are four distinct types of corporate culture, according to a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, and the one preferred by employees surprised researchers. Also, the firm’s study confirms that a mismatch between the culture and the CEO is often the cause of a CEO’s “flame-out.”

LeadershipIQ says the four types of culture are

  1. Hierarchical–built on tradition, rely on clearly defined roles
  2. Dependable–focus on process, slow to change
  3. Enterprising–value creativity, competition and meritocracy
  4. Social–emphasize collaboration, trust and relationships

Which one do employees prefer? Not the one LeadershipIQ expected, as it turns out. The firm thought employees would favor a social company, but instead, they’re most engaged in an enterprising culture.

Understanding the type of culture you’re joining is important for any employee’s satisfaction, and it’s especially important for a new CEO. Otherwise, the leader is working at cross-purposes with the rest of the company. How good is the match between you and your company’s culture?

 

Trust Matters

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

No doubt about it: trust matters! The most-trusted companies produce better results, including

  • lower employee turnover
  • higher revenue
  • profitability, and
  • shareholder returns

The Wall Street Journal reported these findings of recent research and, even more importantly, went on to explain the behavior that engenders a high level of trust. Essentially, managers whose employees and shareholders trust them  are skilled communicators. (No surprises there; many top management gurus agree that communication is the key skill required to be a great leadership.)

Specifically, here’s what high-trust managers communicate skillfully: 1) They make it clear that shareholders share the company’s interests, 2)  They show concerns for others, demonstrating that they will do what’s right despite the consequences, 3) They deliver on their promises, clearly exhibiting competence in doing so, 4) They “walk their talk,” demonstrating integrity and taking responsibility for any mistakes.

As The Journal’s article concludes, “The ability to align interests, show benevolence, accurately communicate one’s capabilities, and practice what one preaches all require strong communication skills.”