Tag Archives: Stephen Covey

Leadership Is About Teaching

Upward EdgeWell, it’s the Fifth Tuesday of the month and that means Quadrant II time in my division. If you are familiar with Stephen Covey’s book “First Things First” you would be very familiar with his Time Management Matrix. Most leaders and managers are very familiar with the matrix and of Covey’s insistence on finding quality time for “quiet focus” but they just don’t practice it. I make it a habit to practice Quadrant II time in my division; it is my way to “force” my managers to focus, to plan and to learn.

Quadrant II is the quadrant of personal leadership and for personal growth and yes, team growth. It is one of the most important things you can do for your managers and your organization. It’s a critical time to “force” your key players to pause, to re-create, to plan, to build relationships and above all to learn.

So during our Fifth Tuesday of the month, I teach, or someone on the team teaches or we bring someone from the outside to teach us how to relax, to learn new information, to think strategically so we can stay competitive and to improve client services.

So, today as we were doing our Fifth Tuesday thing, it hit me: a good leader teaches. The leader teaches to sharpen the skills of his staff; to prepare the staff and the organization for the future; to improve customer service, service outcomes and above all to teach his staff how to relax, to reflect, to re-create and remind them of the sacredness and importance of this time. My managers love it.

So carve out a time for yourself and for your managers to focus on and to spend quality time building your team and growing your organization.

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Executive Supervision, Part VI, Managing Oneself

Upward EdgeTo be successful at the highest level, the executive leader must learn to managing oneself. Managing people is hard, but a more difficult task is managing oneself. In this article we will discuss some invaluable tools that help the executive leader to manage oneself.

Tool number 1: Perseverance/Resiliency. We all are familiar with the phase, “don’t let them see you sweat.” The executive leader must learn how to deal effectively with pressures. Pressures from the job and pressures from outside the work world; both will have an impact on how the executive leader will treat his or her employees and perform his job. To be resilient the executive leader must find ways to maintain interest and focus on the task or tasks before him or her.

The executive leader must find a way to balance his/her personal and work life. That balance is often hard to come by in today’s world. Our many “successful role models” today spends an inordinate time on the job, away from the family and for some even overlooking their own health. The most recent example is the successful Florida football coach, Urban Meyer. In his drive for success, Meyer compromised his health to the point that he contemplated leaving the job he really loves.

Having confidence in your staff can help you persevere in a tough job environment. Delegate what you can and hold your staff accountable. You will be surprised how much your staff can and will do to protect you and relieve of your some of your stressors. And yes, they will complete the task. In these ways, you will find balance, stay focused and “never let them see you sweat.”

Tool number 2: Practice Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. Most of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits; if you are not, I recommend that you go on the FranklinCovey’s website and order the book. Most importantly, the executive leader must find some quiet time (quadrant II) to think, to re-create, to re-energize, and to empower himself. In her Pathleader’s blog dated December 29, 2009, Laurie Beth Jones writes that a Fortune 50 company conducted a survey of “Emerging Leaders” to ascertain what the emerging leaders wanted for their CEO and for themselves. The answer was time to think. “These leaders from tomorrow wanted their leaders of today to have, and MAKE, the time to think.” Therefore, as an executive leader find time to think and allot time for your chief managers to think also. I often sat aside, at least, 1 Friday afternoon/month to think. I also set aside quadrant II time with my managers quarterly to think and to re-energize and I explore with them in their individual supervision time with me methods they use to think. It is encumber of the executive leader to also practice good time management skills. A good source again is the 7 Habits, but you may want to explore other time management books and seminar. One of I would recommend is Harold Lloyd’s book entitled “It’s About Time.”

Tool number 3: Identify your strengths and core values. Your strengths are what got you to your high level job in the first place; so those strong skills and attributes are what you need to focus on to enhance job performance. Too often executives focus on their weaknesses to the detriments of the strong points that have, in the past, helped their company and their career.

A number of Gallup Research studies have concluded that “Strength Based Development” is a key in improving and accelerating job performance. A part of identifying your strengths is being yourself and being aware of your core values. What are you not willing to compromise as it relates to your company achieving its mission and/or making a profit? Therefore, tool 3 is being aware of your strengths; utilize those strengths to improve your performance and finally know your ethics. What are those things that are important to you that you are not willing to compromise even when the going gets tough?

Tool number 4: Appreciate your work style. You are most effective when you appreciate your own work style. Again this goes back to knowing your strengths. How do you get things accomplished; what do you need to make informed decisions and how does your work style mesh with others around you to accomplish the company’s mission? It’s also critical to know and appreciate your managers’ work styles. What flexibilities will they need to accomplish their tasks; when is it the better time to meet with your managers to get the best out of them. The key here, is not to be someone else or try to replicate someone’s work style; but to be confident in your own your abilities and focus on your strength to lead.

Finally, Tool number 5 is Look at all challenges as an opportunity. My email tagline is “Turning challenging opportunities into remarkable successes.” I have often said in other settings that challenges are a gift from God. “An opportunity to grow; to soar like an eagle; to be the leader that you know you are; to be the leader God has called you to be” (Upward Edge, October 7, 2009). Challenges give you opportunities to stretch and to improve services and/or products for your customers. It is important not to take on challenges all alone. Seek advice from your peers, from your customers and from your lieutenants. The bottom line is that we all improve when we are forced to change and are challenged by opportunities.

So now you have it. Managing oneself is about finding quiet time to build on the tools above. It’s about prevention, preparation, planning and building relationships to not only manage, but to sustain oneself in highly competitive and stressful positions.

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Executive Supervision, Part V: Coalition Building & Effective Communication

Financial and human resources will continue to be at a premium in the foreseeable future. Therefore the executive leader needs to use all available resources to meet the organization’s mission. Building coalitions with other organizations and utilizing effective communications are necessary competencies during these economically lean times.

The Federal SES (Senior Executive Services) guidelines define coalition building as the ability to influence and negotiate. Influence and negotiation requires a person who has the ability to persuade others and to build consensus; to establish cooperation from others to accomplish desired goals and to facilitate “win-win” situations (January, 1998). This definition embraces several of Covey’s principles, such as, “begin with the end in mind,” “think win-win” and “seek first to understand then be understood.” Simply put, the leader must envision what he or she wants out of a mutual agreement and that the desired outcome will result a win-win resolution. A successful outcome can only happen if the executives “seek first to understand.” This will require the executive leaders to genuinely listen to each other and to instinctually know that if genuinely listened to they will have the opportunity “to be understood.” If these competencies are genuinely practiced, more often than not, the negotiating executives will facilitate collaborations and form partnerships that align with each executive organization’s mission and bottom line.

Another competency necessary for building coalitions and moving an agenda forward is “political savvy.” This will require executive awareness of “politics” both in the executive’s organization and in the community at large. In other words, the executive must approach each problem situation with a keen understanding of the politics in his or her organization as well as the political reality of the community at large. Political savvy requires sensitivity to timing. No matter that something is the right thing to do, it must not be hurried; there is a right moment for implementation. It is my impression that President Obama is doing this with “the don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as it relates to gays serving in the military. Although the president intends to change the current policy; he has not yet acted. I believe the president will fulfill his promise, but he is waiting for the right time. Just like the president, all executives must be able “to identify the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization….approach each problem situation with a clear perception of organizational and political reality…and recognize the impact of alternative courses of action” (Guide to SES Qualifications, p. 36, January, 1998).

Although rarely mentioned as a tool for effective coalition building, marketing and promoting of the organization’s services is invaluable. Many governmental and nonprofit organizations often see this as an unnecessary waste of limited resources because the people they serve will come anyway. However, I have learned that marketing and promoting are keys to building coalitions. When other organizational leaders are aware of your organization’s accomplishments they will want to be part of the success. In my experience, marketing and promoting your organizational services builds influence, collaboration and resources. Often, the resource gained comes in the form cash money because the community is excited to contribute to your organization’s mission, but more importantly to your organization’s success.

The second competency to discuss is effective communication. Without good communication skills, both oral and written an executive will have a difficult time articulating the needs of the organization and the wonderful things it does for its customer and the community. The executive must be aware of his or her communication strengths:

  • are you better and more persuasive as a public speaker, or
  • are you more persuasive with the pen?

Regardless of the communication format, the executive must be comfortable and use personal style to his or her advantage. Communication, especially written communication, must be convincing, well organized and expressed in a clear concise manner. Effective oral communication will require the speaker to facilitate dialogue, to be an effective listener, to come across as genuine and to clearly articulate and to clarify information.

To be effective and successful the executive must be an effective communicator and have the willingness and the competency to build coalitions. The executive cannot do this alone. It is imperative that the leaders’ lieutenants are also skilled communicators and competent at collaborating and coalition building. As I said at the beginning of this post; collaboration with others in this economy may be the only way an organization can survive and thus, the organization leadership team must do their part.

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Executive Supervision, Part III: Execution

This article is an expansion to a presentation that I gave to doctoral students at Old Dominion University on October 16, 2008. The presentation related to administrative supervision in a community mental health center. However, the principles outlined in this paper are useful in any organization.

Today’s discussion is about execution. It’s about getting results. This is a challenging topic to write about. In fact, this topic humbles me because successful execution is difficult to do. However, the effective Executive must know how to execute and to challenge his or her team to do likewise. Results are often delayed or never reached because the Executive and his or her team are caught in the “whirlwind” of their daily jobs. According to Franklin Covey, “The whirlwind is all the work you do every day just to keep things going. It is all about urgent priorities that come at you and demand your immediate attention” (p.4).

Let me say it again. Execution is about results. Leadership knowledge and skill mean nothing if the Executive cannot execute or produce results. According to Peter Drucker, effective Executives focus on results and work “to produce sustained results” (The Effective Executive in Action, p.40). Peter Drucker also believes that “direct results of an organization are clearly visible…. In a business, they are economic results such as sales and profits. In a hospital, they are patient care, and so on” (p.45).

The Franklin Covey Group asserts that to effectively execute, a plan must be in place. Franklin Covey believes that the plan gives the executive controls to help move the organization to its desired results. The plan is what you want to accomplish and the execution of the plan gives the Executive a road map to reach the goal or desired result. Without a plan, and understanding of how to execute the plan, obtaining the company’s desired results will be lost in the daily “whirlwind.”

Even with a plan, execution gaps are still possible. The Franklin Covey Group asserts that there are four reasons for such gaps. The first reason is that people don’t know the goal. The goal can be as simple as seeing 5 billable clients per day. The problem, however, is that 5 billable clients are not coming in on a daily basis. So, what should the plan or revised plan be to make that happen. That leads to execution gap 2: people don’t know what to do to achieve the goal. In fact, the Covey Group writes, “whenever a new goal is set, someone somewhere must do something they’ve never done before; and until they do that, there is no execution. They must change their behavior (p.1).” Harold C. Lloyd in his book, “Am I The Leader I Need to Be” argues why try to “solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions… come up with new answers…don’t let great ideas wither on the vine…develop an action plan and see it through the end” (p.36).

Execution gap number 3 happens when people do not keep score. Measuring what you do is critical. However, in many nonprofits and small governmental agencies, “real time” data are hard to come by. These agencies either don’t have the expertise, the will or the right software to collect lead indicators or measures. Data is still collected the old fashion way. “We do it by hand.” This method takes time away from other critical tasks. “We rely on someone else to give us the data.” The data received are often lag measures and the results often are too late to make the desire execution changes needed to have an impact in a given funding year.

You need to know your numbers. Lloyd asserts that an effective Executive or a genuine leader will find a way to measure, know their numbers, and then effectively manage the numbers. Effectively managing the numbers provides information to fix, re-adjust or revise the execution plan. Lloyd writes, “Any organizational endeavor’s success is best measured with numbers. Although a leader doesn’t have to know how to perform every function within his/her span of control, he or she must be able to read and understand the performance indicators of each of those functions. A leader must also be able to detect impending problems and spot wide-open opportunities before they slip away to the competition (p.76).”

Lloyd goes on to say that “Genuine Leaders are capable of making decisive and calculated decisions based on facts and figures rather than on feelings and emotions (p.76).” The Franklin Covey Group also strongly believes that everyone should know the score; not just management alone. I agree. I encourage and explain to my managers why it is important to know their targets and I encourage them to help their direct/front line employees know their targets as well. When we know our score and then achieve our score or target—the customer wins, the employee wins and the company wins.

Even with the knowledge of where we need to get to, breakdown in the execution may continue. The Franklin Covey Group argues that execution breakdown happens because people are not held accountable. The Covey Group asserts that accountability must happen at all levels in the organization; from the very top to the front line. Holding someone accountable is not necessarily a negative outcome; especially if the person or the team did their best to obtain the desire goal or goals. In their book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, the Franklin Covey Group advocates having weekly accountability sessions. These accountability sessions are conducted after the organizational unit has set “wildly important goals” (WIGS) and have agreed on the measurements and the winning score to achieve the company’s desired result. Team members in each session make a commitment to each other to achieve the “winning score” and if barriers arise other team members often will offer suggestions and in some cases, assist in removing the barriers so each individual and therefore the overall team accomplishes the desired outcome or target score. The bottom line is to be able to measure your production, provide and review measurements on a set schedule and assure that all team members know what is being measured and what the target score is.

We cannot end our discussion without addressing decision-making. Execution requires the Executive to be decisive. Although decisiveness is not simple, it is attainable and there are some key things an executive can do to help in decision-making. One key is to be observant. An executive cannot be observant if he is chained to his office. Therefore, an effective Executive must move around the plant. This allows him or her to interact with the employees, the stakeholders and the customers and practice active listening with each of them.

Another step in being decisive is having critical information to review. Often this information will be known by examining your own facts and figures (know your numbers) as we explained above; gathering information by reading and reviewing trade journals from both inside and outside your industry and again talking to key stakeholders (staff, customers, board members, etc.) within the company. Finally, it also helps to seek out the advice of your peers or colleagues. Your colleagues may have had to wrestle with the issues before you now and can offer invaluable insight and direction from their own experiences.

After a decision has been made, take the time, if possible, to explain to those who are impacted by your decision why you chose one course of action over another. This extra step of explanation empowers the team and offers a way to mentor your team on leadership execution.

In conclusion, if you cannot execute or obtain the desired results, you will eventually lose your own compass and your team’s attention and focus. The reverse of that, effective execution, is a motivated team who has identified targets and is equipped to reach them.

In part IV, we will discuss some necessary business acumen an effective executive needs to move his or her organization to the next level.

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Executive Supervision, Part II: Leadership

This article is an expansion to a presentation that I gave to doctoral students at Old Dominion University on October 16, 2008. The presentation related to administrative supervision in a community mental health center. However, the principles outlined in this paper are useful in any organization.

In Executive Supervision, Part I, I pointed out that Executives plan, organize, integrate, motivate, measure, lead, teach and support. For an Executive to do those functions successfully, the Executive must have several administrative competencies. These administrative competencies that I will discuss over several weeks strongly correlate with the functions discussed in the first article. In fact, the competencies outlined throughout this series are required qualifications for anyone applying for a SES (Senior Executive Service) position with the federal government. The competencies are as follows:

Execution/Results Driven
Business Acumen
Coalition Building/Communications

In addition to those competencies listed above, I will share with you other management tools an Executive will need to be successful. These additional tools will look at management do’s and don’ts as well as offer tips on providing self care (managing oneself) as you try to effectively lead and mange people. But today’s topic will be about leadership.

Leadership requires the Executive to be pro-active. As a leader, the Executive must mentor, coach, teach and direct. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I believe we all have the potential to be leaders. It’s a matter of getting people to believe in you and follow through on your ideas. People will follow through on your ideas if you are a strategic thinker and can provide a vision for your team’s future.

To be strategic and visionary, the Executive must stay abreast, and in many instances, ahead of the learning curve within his or her given industry. This continuous learning requires the Executive to read the industry’s various trade magazines, a variety of books, fiction and nonfiction, attend workshops, conferences and yes even to listen to all the debates and discussion in business meetings. It is also a good idea to read articles and books outside your given industry; this helps with “out of the box” thinking.

Strategic thinking and visioning requires “planned quiet time”. My recommendation is that you have “planned quiet times” for yourself, but also plan quiet times or quadrant II times for your team. My scheduled quiet time is based on Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In his book Covey’s discuss his time matrix. The time matrix has 4 quadrants. Quadrant II is the quadrant of productivity and balance. Activities often associated with this quadrant are considered important, but not urgent. These important activities include preparation, prevention, planning, relationship building, re-creation and value clarification. To learn more about these activities, Covey’s time matrix and the other 3 quadrants, I recommend that you read Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or attend one of his many workshops.

Personally, I schedule several private quiet times. I have scheduled quiet times for meditation with my Creator, which varies from 30 minutes to an hour. I then schedule additional quiet time when I arrive at work. The time varies accordingly; if I am planning for the entire week, my planning time is about 20 minutes. If daily planning, the time varies from 5 to10 minutes. I also try to find time during the weekend to have quiet time, which I spend reading a book. Unfortunately, I do little reading on weekend during football season (September-February). In his book, It’s About Time: A Time Management Tool Chest for Retailers, Harold C. Lloyd shares that to assure a productive day at the office, the Executive needs to disappear for the first 20 minutes of his or her workday. He states that the first 20 minutes will allow the Executive to get organized so that the Executive can provide direction to the team that depends on the Executive for leadership. He writes “the key to a successful “20-Minute Disappearing Act” is to use that time to get your thoughts in order, decide what your priorities are, review important appointments, and figure out what you want to accomplish today” (p.11).

For the team that I lead, the quadrant II time is scheduled quarterly. We primarily use this time to re-educate or educate ourselves. It may be reviewing and discussing an article in a trade magazine. There may be discussion about a workshop that someone had attended, discussion and overview of new service that one of the program managers have started or plan to start. It may be a topic about leadership. This quiet time may also be used for strategic planning. Regardless of what is discussed, this time builds team spirit and energizes the team to strive for excellence.

This quiet time, both individually and collectively as a team, allows the Executive and the team to be creative and innovative. For an Executive to be successful he or she must also be creative and innovative. Creativity and innovation come about when the work environment is ripe for it and it is the Executive’s responsibility to create an environment that encourages creativity and innovation.

One method for creating an innovative environment is to allow your team to be the experts. Your team members are on the front line and have more direct contacts with the customers. Often they know how to improve service for the customers but need permission to offer new ideas or new processes for delivering services. Your job as the Executive is to listen to the experts, ask clarifying questions, guide the experts, encourage the experts, suggests measurable outcomes for evaluation purposes and to provide the resources needed by the experts to do their jobs and/or to try new things. Once you are satisfied with the team’s reasoning for trying something different, support them in putting the processes or service into action. It has been my experience that many of the ideas put forth by the team experts will increase efficiencies and benefit the customers. Of course this requires the Executive/Leader to be flexible and open to change. Yes, be open to trying something different even when it appears to be a little risky. As the leader you must trust the process and as the Executive you are the one who create the environment where trust is possible. Again this will lead to creativity and innovation in your team unit.

A part of leadership is motivating and team building. Motivation comes when team members understand and believe that they are providing a meaningful benefit to their customer and often the Executive must remind the team about the organization’s purpose and the efforts of the team in fulfilling the purpose. Keeping the vision in from your team along with genuine praise, recognition and yes, compensation when it is merited will go a long in providing motivation to staff and building team spirit.

Team building is important. It inspires, motivates and guides your staff members toward a common goal. It also fosters commitment, pride, trust and a spirit of camaraderie. Needless to say a united team fosters a pleasant work environment. An Executive can build his or her team by emphasizing team work. I often tell my team, that the team solves problems; not me or any one individual. This is important because in today’s work environment interdependency is often the norm and should be encouraged.

Since interdependency is the norm in most industry, conflicts are guaranteed to occur. Therefore, the Executive must be skilled at conflict management. It would behoove the Executive to try to resolve conflicts quickly and to seek a wi
n-win approach for all involved. If a win-win approach is not an option then a resolution must be reached that will have minimal impact on the organization and its customers.

Open communication is a key to minimizing conflicts, but also building and motivating the team. Therefore, the Executive must have excellent communication and listening skills. This means being clear about your message; being repetitive with your message and having an open door policy that team members feel comfortable coming to you with critical issues and problems. If you offer a trusting environment, team members will often come to you prior to an issue or a problem becoming a crisis. It is advisable not to solve the problem or issue brought to you by a team member since part of your goal is to build internal leaders. It is recommended that you put on your mentoring and coaching cap to help guide your team or staff to a resolution on an issue or problem. It has been my experience that team members know how to resolve a problem, but need confirmation from you as the leader before they are ready to move forward.

This concludes the section on Leadership. In the next series, we will focus on Execution.

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