There were 25 managers in a recent leadership program I facilitated. Part of the program included a pre-work assessment where each manager and their direct reports assessed the manager’s leadership behaviors and overall effectiveness.
For many leaders around the globe today, such feedback is unusual — and a bit threatening. Most organizations don’t provide leaders with this kind of feedback very often.
These managers had never received such feedback in their company. I walked them through the data, helping them understand where their team members see them doing well and not as well as needed.
One manager blurted out, “I’m a great engineer. I’m clearly a lousy manager!” (His terminology for “lousy” was, um, colorful.) The whole room laughed and a number of heads nodded.
I hope — and believe — I helped these managers learn from their assessment and “get past” the critical feedback they received.
What is obvious is that this company has been somewhat casual about defining leader effectiveness. Bringing in a proven leadership-development program certainly helps, but they have a ways to go. Unless an organization has been intentional with how they want leaders to lead, leaders and managers are left to their own devices. They have to figure it out by themselves. There will be more trials and errors than successes, which isn’t any way to create effective leaders.
Here are three steps a company can take to create a clear roadmap for leader effectiveness.
First, formalize your company’s leadership philosophy, expected behaviors, and outcomes. “Lead well” is a nice bumper sticker but it’s not specific enough to help leaders understand what a good job looks like. If you want leaders to inspire teamwork, top performance and innovative solutions to customer needs, state that clearly. If you expect leaders to model behaviors such as “keep your promises,” “treat everyone with dignity and respect,” and “praise progress as well as accomplishment daily,” state that clearly.
Second, mentor and coach leaders so they can get better every day. Once your leader-effectiveness standards are defined and communicated, you must implement practices to align leaders to those standards in every interaction. Assign mentors and coaches to every leader. Ensure those mentors praise aligned behavior, promptly. Ensure they redirect misaligned behavior, promptly. You’re creating new fundamentals and coaching needs to be frequent to break old habits (and build desired new habits.)
Third, provide feedback regularly so leaders know where they stand. In the absence of feedback, we can convince ourselves that “everything is fine.” We must honor team members’ daily experiences by asking for their perceptions of how their team leader is doing and on how their team is operating. Conduct these assessments twice annually. Praise aligned behavior and redirect misaligned behavior. Don’t rely exclusively on performance data — that’s only one facet of leader effectiveness.
Don’t leave leader effectiveness to chance. Create a clear path for it — and help keep leaders on that path daily.
What do you think? Does your company have formal expectations for leader effectiveness? How often do leaders receive feedback from their direct reports? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.
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