Welcome to the September edition of the Leadership Development Carnival!
For this month’s edition, I asked an all-star cadre of leadership development bloggers, authors, and consultants to submit an answer to the following question:
“We all know that individual development plans (IDPs) need to be tailored for each leader. However - if you had to recommend ONE THING that every leader should have in their in IDP, what would it be?
Here are their responses:
1. S. Chris Edmonds, from Driving Results Through Culture, says that every leader needs to have "Serve my employees" as their #1 target in their individual development plan. Here’s why:
“Most organizations see leaders' as drivers of results - exceeding sales quotas, deepening market share, boosting profits, etc. This is an important facet of what leaders do but it's not the only thing leaders need to do. They also need to serve employees, creating a safe, inspiring work environment that helps each unique employee thrive, every day.
Just as performance metrics are closely scrutinized, leaders must gather data from employees to gather perceptions of the leader's service to employees. Do employees believe their leader acts with integrity, doing what they say they will do? Do employees feel that their boss honors their career aspirations, building needed skills that serve their organization now and in the future? Do employees speak up, challenging the leader's plans, decisions, and actions if they see a gap?
I raise these and other questions in my blog post, Get Your Reality Checked.”
2. John Hunter, from Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog, says “One item I think every leader should have in their IDP is to continue to improve coaching their staff. Everyone can improve their coaching, exactly what form "improve coaching" takes could vary for every individual: be more encouraging, be more challenging, focus on building an understanding of the organization as a system, spend more time coaching - less time reading and writing reports, etc..
One book, I would have anyone who worked for me read is the Leader's Handbook. I recommend it for others but whether it belongs in an IDP would depend on if the organization committing to the type of Leadership presented in the book. Unfortunately many organizations don't practice those ideas so it wouldn't make sense to include it in employee's IDP; it would just frustrate them when they are blocked from improving systems in the organization.”
3. Mary Jo Asmus, from Mary Jo Asmus, says “It’s rare for me to work with a leader who listens deeply; even the best have room for improvement. If I could recommend ONE THING for every leader to have in their IDP, it would be to learn to listen better. Listening for understanding, context, new ideas, etc. is foundational to great leadership, yet many leaders miss opportunities because they don’t listen well enough to hear those things.
Beyond those benefits, great listening has some other advantages that aren’t immediately apparent for a leader. I describe some of those in a post called “Three Surprising Benefits from Better Listening”.”
4. Joel Garfinkle, from Career Advancement Blog, says “Improve Your Perception: A reputation that took decades to build can be threatened by a single event. Improving your perception is a key skill to work and include in your IDP. Read more at this blog post How Your Shoddy Reputation Could Destroy Your Budding Career.
5. Frank Sonnenberg, from FrankSonnenbergOnline, says “All great leaders need work on how to reinforce the beliefs and values of an organization. They know that once internalized, these beliefs and values affect the norms that influence day-to-day actions, determine what’s important, reinforce appropriate behavior, and change attitudes. Here's a post that explains more why this is so important: Promoting Beliefs and Values”.
6. Jim Taggart, from Changing Winds, says “Every leader, whether in a management or staff role, entrepreneur or small business owner, should incorporate in their individual development plan (or learning plan as it’s often called) a clear statement on what they are passionate about, and what they see as their central purpose in life. A recent trip through New England illustrated for me what happens when passion meets purpose. My latest post Do it Right…and They Will Come: Where Passion Meets Purpose draws on some personal experiences in the hospitality industry.
People who truly love what they do and who excel in doing it exceptionally well separate themselves from their competitors. In an organizational setting this applies equally, where people empower themselves through creativity, innovation and superior customer service.”
7. Jennifer V. Millerof The People Equation offers this advice for an IDP: “I would recommend that leaders build in one action item that relates to learning an aspect related to the organization’s operations that is outside of the team member’s area of expertise. Examples: an accounting manager could shadow HR for a day or an person in operations could learn more about the sales process. The more “opposite” the functions are, the better because not only will it increase business literacy, but it will also reduce the “us/them” tensions that sometimes naturally occur within different business functions.”
8. Dana Theus, from InPower Consulting, says “We talk a lot about "integrity," but most of us don't understand the true power of it in it's simplest form. If every leader made the effort to do what they said they would do, and only say what they commit to doing, every time, every company would be better run overnight. It requires a level of personal awareness, humility and courage to actually practice integrity in the microcosm of our daily actions, but great leaders are masters of this simple skill. Practicing this level of integrity will begin to reshape your life - at work and at home. It will change the relationship you have with your employees, subordinates, colleagues, spouse and family. This kind of integrity, I believe, not only shapes a powerful leader, but can cure a toxic corporate culture as well.”
9. Mary Faulkner, from Surviving Leadership, says “All leaders should undergo a 360 feedback survey. The higher one ascends in a company, the less likely it is he/she will get honest feedback...to his/her face. A 360 might enable the leader to gain some much needed self-awareness about how actions are perceived by others. Note: This can backfire in a culture of fear - worst case scenario, everyone is so scared that they give the leader GLOWING reviews, and now the leader has "proof" he/she doesn't have to change.”
10. Julie Winkle Giulioni, from juliewinklegiulioni.com, says “Today's most critical leadership competency is talent development. Given the pace of change, complexity of business, ever-shifting markets, and escalating expectations (just to name a few), the only sustainable advantage an organization has is its people. Helping them to constantly grow directly affects engagement, retention and performance.
11. Tanveer Naseer, from Tanveer Naseer Leadership, says “In the current climate of prevailing uncertainties and continual change, one competency today's leaders need to develop is how to deal with failure and in particular, how to help their employees to use them as teachable moments to gain a better understanding of the current realities. To learn more on this, check out my article How Can We Learn To Value Failure?.”
12. Karin Hurt, from Let's Grow Leaders, says “I would recommend every leader include a deliberate plan to build deeper connection with their teams. This is particularly important as leaders grow in scope and scale of responsibility. I share a bit of my journey in Leadership Development Made Easy.”
13. Linda Fisher Thornton, from Leading in Context, says “Every leader should have proactive steps for learning and improving ethics - including their moral compass, their interpersonal behavior, their global thinking, their community impact and their environmental sustainability.”
14. Dr. Anne Perschel, from Germane Insights, says “Leaders who aspire to achieve a broad vision for change that extends beyond their own needs and desires, should be concerned with the development of their own ego. People can sense when someone is a leader in title only, who is more focused on advancing their personal agenda than on leading for a more universal purpose. A recent post, Transformational Leadership's Dirty Little Secret, addresses becoming such a transformational leader by way of achieving advanced stages of adult ego development.”
15. David Burkus, from LDRLB, says “Creativity. We give a lot of lip service to creativity and innovation, in particular how leaders can "unleash" creativity in their organization. But before you can roll it out in an organization, you have to learn (or rather re-learn) it yourself. Leaders face big problems and need BIGGER thinking to solve them.”
16. Tom Walter, from The Serial Entrepreneur, says “You can’t get“there” on your own. Leaders can reach self-actualization faster through engaging outside influencers. These can be advisors, peers or coaches. Most importantly, they must be people who have achieved success beyond the current level of the leader.”
17. Tacy Byham, Ph.D. and Linda Miller, from Talent Management intelligence, say“Traditionally IDPs focus on skills, knowledge or experiences. Yet, one of the most overlooked and fatal areas of developmental focus for leaders is personality. News stories continually scream with executive derailment due to negative personality characteristics, hurting not only themselves but the people they lead as well.
As leaders progress in their careers, the complexity, ambiguity and pressure results in rising stress levels creating a perfect storm for leaders to capsize. For example, it’s easy to cross the line from confidence to arrogance and from passionate to volatile. The most effective leaders make a conscious effort to control their susceptibility towards the triggers that can derail them. Gaining control requires self-insight, active monitoring and a willingness to change.
Since personality is often the ’make or break,’ DDI wonders why more IDPs don’t include personality. Why not help your leaders avoid being part of tomorrow’s leadership derailment headlines?”
18. Art Petty, from Management Excellence Blog, says “One of the consistent gaps I see in many leaders is a lack of experience with and understanding of the concepts and tools of project management. While the mention of project management conjures images of schedules, charts, documents and process, my encouragement is to consider it from a slightly loftier altitude. Strategy is executed in projects; much of our world of work is a world of projects, and effective prosecution of projects requires focus on team development, decision-making, risk management, ideation and innovation and learning. The definition of organizational health put forth by Keller and Price is: the ability of a firm to align resources and renew itself faster than competitors. This is all about project work, yet many leaders aren't experienced in leading projects, have no clear template for serving as an executive sponsor and aren't accustomed to coaching project teams to success. In too many cases, the discipline is viewed by a firm's senior leaders as an administrative process and one that generates costs in terms of people, process and time. Thorough exploration of and some immersion in the discipline will open any leader's eyes to the remarkable potential for learning, growth and development of competitive advantage that comes from the proper and rigorous pursuit of projects. “
19. Anna Farmery, from The Engaging Brand, says “My dad always taught me that the best tool for a leader to keep in their top drawer was a ....mirror. He said that you could tell a bad leader as they looked into it out of vanity, a great leader looked into it to 'reflect' on themselves. Self development is about being honest about what you have done well and what you need to improve upon....it is not always about courses, learning is as much about listening and watching to how people are reacting to you. So my development tip is this....keep looking in that mirror...not or vanity but to see the leader you really are! Here are some more principles that my wonderful Dad taught me about leadership:My 6 Leadership Principles. “
20. Neal Burgis, Ph.D., from Practical Solutions, says “In tailoring an Individual Development Plan for Leaders, the one item I recommend every leader should have within their plan is that of understanding their self-awareness & strengths. They both go together, so I combine them as I look at self-awareness as a strength a leader must have in their role.”
21. Tim Milburn, from Developing Lifelong Leaders , says “I believe every leader benefits from intentional mentoring. Mentoring widens our perspective. It allows someone else to speak into our lives. It helps us to develop humility. If I could only recommend one thing it would be for every leader to walk through their leadership journey with the assistance of trusted mentors.”
22. Lisa Kohn, from The Thoughtful Leaders Blog, says “ONE THING every leader should have in their IDP – an understanding of Chris Argyris' Ladder of Inference. The Ladder of Inference helps us understand the stories we're making up, about ourselves and others, that get in the way of communicating and working together effectively. Without realizing it, we often make assumptions about others, based on what we've observed and the reasons we've attributed to others' actions, and without realizing it, we only see evidence that supports our beliefs. By becoming aware of when we "walk up the ladder," we can lead more effectively.”
23. Mary Ila Ward, from The Point: Sound Advice for Career and Leadership Development, says “Every leader in their Individual Development Plan should have "Developing Others" in their plan. Our view at Horizon Point Consulting is that the primary responsibility of leaders is to make more leaders. Developing others is the key competency that distinguishes "leaders" from "managers". IDPs should challenge each leader to set goals and action items related to developing others and leaders should consistently be seeking feedback from others on the progress they are making in this area.”
24. Lolly Daskal, from Lead from Within, says “Every leader should cultivate the foundations of how to LEAD FROM WITHIN. If we want to be better leaders, do better work, enjoy better relationships and make our mark wherever we go, we must start with the basics. We begin with ourselves, with trusting the heart enough to regain control of the mind and quieting the mind to make room for the heart. In my Huffington post I ask IS YOUR HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE.”
25. Wally Bock, from Three Star Leadership, says “Every IDP should include lots of review. Regular review and after-action review. Review with/by another person and your own assessment and review. For a bit more see my tip on Making Reflection a Habit."
26. Mike Henry Sr., from Lead Change Group, says “The one skill you should have is the ability to let the other person win. No one will ever trust you if you can't let them win first. Check out Give Win First over on Lead Change Group.”
27. Chery Gegelman, from Simply Understanding, says “For an uncommonly effective vision and tools for leadership success every IDP should include: Reading the books First Break All The Rules and Now Discover Your Strengths These two books lay a powerful foundation that can be greatly enhanced by studying individual learning styles and Situational Leadership. “
Thanks to all of the authors for submitting such outstanding recommendations! As you can see by the diversity of the responses, there really is no “one right answer”. A development plan needs to be tailored for the unique needs of each individual leader.
However, if I had to pick ONE thing to include in any development plan, I’d have to go with the advice offered by many of our experts:
28. Get some feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. We are generally clueless when it comes to how we come across to others, so increasing our self-awareness is a safe bet for any aspiring leader. As Anna's Dad used to say, "keep looking in that mirror!".