Leadership: Cheerleader, Coach, Dictator & holding people accountable

By Eric Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  November 16. 2014

Takeaways: Compare three common leadership styles. Coaching as a leadership skill for business leaders. Eight “Be Attitudes” to help you maximize your ability to hold your team accountable.

Sometimes leaders display confusion about some very basic ways to be a leader. One we often encounter is an individual who consistently focuses on cheerleading-type activities, often ignoring other types of reinforcement, both positive and negative. They praise their team for their hard work and mention how much they appreciate them, but the leader is not working off any sort of plan with measurable results. How do you think the team members really feel about how they are being treated? Truly valued, or perhaps just being snowed? Granted, cheerleading is important since it ensures both the leader and the team members are reminded that celebrating successes is very important. But imagine a sports team that consistently has a losing record and is constantly being told what good job they did when the results say differently. At least in sports there is a scoreboard clearly identifying measurable results. What measurable results and programs for celebrating success do you have for your team?

Coaching skills are valuable

Coaching skills in business leaders have become one of the most valuable traits we can employ in leading teams. Coaches facilitate the team’s individual and collective success by first understanding very deeply what drives the team and ensuring the team is extremely clear about the desired outcomes of their work. Coaches also facilitate the maintenance of a shared set of values. There have been many very visible sports team coaches over the years whose success is legendary, as has their toughness with their team members. When we look closely at their styles in leading their teams, it’s clear they leaned much more toward facilitating their teams’ success instead of commanding or demanding it. Their toughness comes through more as having an uncompromising commitment to a system of values that helps keep the team members focused on their outcomes. This also distinguishes successful business and government leaders.

A dictatorial style of leadership has historically ended both abruptly and badly, for the dictator and the team being led. Regardless of whether a leader was leading a government, a non-profit, a commercial enterprise or a sports team, we consistently see a pattern of the team coalescing in support of the leader, high levels of energy toward the objective set by the leader and uncompromising pressure toward objectives set primarily by the singular leader. This is later followed by some thoughtful sub-leaders naturally questioning their direction, then external pressures rapidly growing against the leader and finally a relatively complete destruction of the organization and often the leader. Consider short lived sports teams, athletic teams and whole leagues involved in unsportsmanlike activities, many leaders of nations and yes, many leaders of large and visible businesses. Companies like Enron and Lehman Brothers, Arthur Andersen and Washington Mutual all displayed many of the characteristics of dictatorial leadership, straying from best practices in management and pursuing unrealistic and massively exaggerated objectives. They also knowingly violated generally broadly accepted tenets of law and human behavior holding team members accountable to very narrowly defined results and little accountability to a shared set of values.

Holding people accountable and leading them to achieve mutually desired and measurable objectives may just be one brief way to describe a successful leader. Of course, it’s not necessary that simple. I am reminded by the eight “Be Attitudes” of holding people accountable put forth by Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, a respected Fortune 500 senior executive, author and CEO of Leadergrow, Inc.

He lists those attitudes as:
•    Be clear about your expectations
•    Be sure of your facts
•    Be timely
•    Be Kind
•    Be Consistent
•    Be Discrete
•    Be Gracious
•    Be Balanced

Bob Whipple of LeadergrowIf you would like to gain more insight on these attitudes you can do so at the Leadergrow, Inc. website.

Developing and applying successful leadership skills are keys to succeeding in any type of managerial endeavor, but in leading strategy and change these are even more critical. How good are you at practicing the eight “Be Attitudes”?

Engineer Success Up Front-Include HR

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   10/4/2011

Takeaways: It’s important to include HR in the planning process to engineer success up front. Doing so makes it possible for them to address the people issues when it comes time to implement the key strategies. Many HR professionals have to learn to be strategic thinkers. They are trained to be tactical and thought of only as need in the tactical implementation process.

Frequently when organizations work on their strategic plan, they forget to include Human Resources (HR) early in the process. Why is this?

Perhaps it’s because HR is considered unimportant until it’s time to implement the plan. The challenge with that is if they haven’t been involved up front during the planning creation, there may be some critical issues that weren’t addressed early on that now need to be considered.Book Author 2

Another reason may be that HR people generally aren’t or haven’t been strategic thinkers. A friend and colleague, Timi Gleason, wrote a book about how to be a strategic thinker, called Coach as Strategic Partner: a Survival Guide for Leaders and Their HR Business Partners.

In it she shares her personal stories of learning to be a strategic thinker in a Fortune 200 company when she was thrust into a position as the head of HR – with no background or training in that field.

Apparently, this has been a common theme among many HR professionals who have found themselves in that position not through pre-planned training, but by accident. Thus, learning to think at a higher and broader level did not come naturally to many who were focused on the daily tasks of learning the HR function. This may be why at the executive level in many organizations, HR is not considered a member of the planning team, but rather part of the implementation team later on.

This needs to change

HR must be present at the table early on to represent the employees who will actually “do” the implementation of the plan. This is part of “engineering success up front” by including every detail up front of how the plan will be communicated and executed when the time comes. The organization may find it needs to make changes in facilities and workplace environments, for example, that only the HR executive would think about.

In her book, Timi mentions, “A big mistake that we make as leaders and strategic partners is when we don’t share the end game with our employees and colleagues. In our own inability to articulate our vision and needs, we expect smart people to be able to read our minds, and most of the time they can’t. It is in this exact moment that we have the opportunity to help each other. “

That is what’s happening when HR is left out of the loop at the onset of the planning process.
To order her book click here.