5 Top Leadership Articles Week of 12-11-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of December 11, 2017

Each week I read leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. Click on the title of the article to read the full text. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

When Leadership Demotivates Employees by Mary Kelly, PhD. US Navy Ret.

I was part of an organization that loved conducting employee surveys. As an economist and leadership author, I love data that yields results. However, surveys need to be properly conducted, or the intention can backfire.

The leaders dutifully distributed survey after survey about work conditions, corporate culture, and ways to improve the workplace.

The problem was that the senior leadership didn’t share the information collected, nor what they planned to do with it. It was simply busy work for the sake of appearing to do something that looked like leadership, but clearly was not.

As employees realized that they were spending time on surveys that didn’t matter, their attitudes shifted. Employees felt that their time, their inputs, and their jobs didn’t matter. Worse, it was rumored that the survey was actually intended to pinpoint unhappy employees to get rid of them.

My Comment: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen scenarios like this play out with employee morale taking a nose dive, leaders frustrated, and at a huge waste of time, money, and energy.

If you’re going to gather information of any kind, whether through a survey or just asking for feedback, it is critical that you plan and commit to responding before you get the information. Don’t ask questions you’re not prepared to address. Asking a question and then ignoring the answers makes you look craven or manipulative. In contrast, when you Channel Challengers and productively respond to feedback, your credibility soars.

How Leaders and Their Teams Can Stop Executive Hubris by Jonathan Mackey and Sharon Toye

If an organization has just one or two people whose power has gone to their head, it can demoralize subordinates, cause valuable talent to flee, disempower teams, and lead to foolhardy strategies. Whether you are a board member, a CEO, a senior executive, a high-potential employee on the rise, or an HR leader concerned about culture, you need to understand how such hubris works so you can head off its destructive effects on careers and on your company.

My Comment: This is an excellent article to help you address excessive confidence in both executives and to prevent it from happening to you. As the authors point out, this hubris is often acquired over time as leaders encounter fewer peers and people who will tell them the truth. You can counter these influences with intentional strategies to leverage doubt in decision-making, Own the UGLY, and Channel Challengers.

10 Questions to Ask Your Employees Every Quarter by Michael McKinney

Most leaders (the less than great ones) can become afraid of learning their employees’ true feelings towards the company and its overall structure. In turn, they shy away from even initiating such conversations and asking the important questions.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, happily ask these questions with an eye on making things better for their team. When everyone is heard and acknowledged, only then can a leader make the right decisions and give each employee what he or she needs. If you don’t ask, who will?

My Comment: WOW – there is definitely a theme this week – three articles in a row focused on getting feedback from your employees. McKinney’s questions will help you assess your team’s health and how the individual employee is doing. In order to make questions like these to work, you’ll need to have built relationships with your people (so it feels like a conversation, not an interrogation). In addition, be sure not to react or punish people for the feedback they share.

Are You a Micromanager or a Macromanager? By Julie Giulioni

Micromanager. It’s one of the least flattering labels one can be tagged with in business today. It connotes an unproductive level of involvement in the work and work products, excessive need for control, nit-pickiness, attention to unnecessary details and a generally unpleasant overall workplace experience. Nobody wants to be a called a micromanager.

Question: But, what’s the alternative?

Answer: Become a macromanager!

My Comment: There are some great suggestions in this one to help you get out of the weeds, stop micromanaging, and focus on what matters most. One of the things I appreciate here is Julie’s acknowledgement that many managers micromanage because it’s all that they know. They know how to do the work. They know the individual contributor role very well. It’s uncomfortable to learn a new set of skills and to view the world differently – from the view of a macromanager. One additional way to avoid micromanaging is to focus on how you delegate. Focus on the outcome. Don’t delegate the “how”; delegate the “what”, be clear about the finish line, and schedule a mutual appointment to receive the project back from your team member.

The 8 Best Interview Questions You Could Ever Ask by Jim Haudan

I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my career for all kinds of positions and from many backgrounds. Most people have favorite interview questions to ask and some believe certain questions can quickly reveal what they need to know about a candidate’s cultural and positional fit.

The leaders with the greatest success in hiring the right talent often like to point to the exact questions that made it clear that a candidate would or wouldn’t work. I’ve made it a hobby to consider the questions that really made me think and to experiment with the ones that make it hard for interviewees to prep for, as those are the ones that reveal the most.

I often ask people from different walks of life about their “go to” interview questions and why are they so important. Here’s what I’ve collected.

My Comment: I’m a fan of behavior-based interviewing. If you only have 20 minutes with a candidate, start there. This is an interesting list of interview questions for the times when you want to go deeper. Most of them provoke thinking and may give you insights into a candidate. They may be most useful when you’re looking at a deeper partnership with someone. Some of these questions, however, I’d have to see in practice before I would recommend them. In particular, #3 is absolutely not mutually exclusive and I’m curious what is behind this one.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite leadership article this week? Leave us a comment and let’s hear from you.

One Common Interviewing Mistake That Will Cost You the Job

My phone rang. Colin was exasperated. “Karin, I thought I NAILED the interview. The owner seemed pleased with all my answers, and I had great stories for all his behavior-based interview questions. But I just got an email from him saying that although I was qualified,  he was worried about my passion for training!!! You KNOW how passionate I am about training– it’s my life! I was energetic throughout the whole process. Where could this have gone wrong?”

I had an inkling, but probed further. Sure enough, Colin had made one of the most frequent and well-intention mistakes that so often tank a solid interview.

He appeared desperate.

When asked if the training job was not available, if he would be willing take a call center manager job for a few years. Wanting to appear flexible and interested in learning the business he said, “sure.”

A similar problem plagued Joe, a Director level succession planning candidate who came to me for coaching.

He had applied for several VP jobs: VP of Care, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing and always made the last round, but never got the job.

When I conducted interviews with key stakeholders to get underneath what was going on, everyone had a similar taste in their mouth about Joe.”He doesn’t seem to know what he really wants to do–besides have the title VP behind his name. When he interviewed for the care job, he gushed about how passionate he is about customer service, and how this is his dream job. He almost had me convinced, until I heard he was equally zealous about the sales role. We need a leader with a passion for the role, not just a passion for power.”

Yikes.

4 Ways to Let Your Passion For the Position Shine Through

Of course you want to appear flexible in an interview. But too much flexibility makes you look desperate–like the guy working his way down the bar trying to land a date. “I’ll settle for this one” doesn’t make you an attractive match.

  1. Know What You Really Want
    This might sound really obvious, but trust me, I’ve asked “Why do you want this job?” in so many interviews–and it’s a surprising stumper. If “to make more money” or to “be promoted” is the answer, even if you say something different, any interviewer worth their salt will see right through. Know why this job matters to you and be able to articulate your reasoning well.
  2. Have a Plan
    Of course it’s perfectly possible that you’re equally qualified for several positions. Before starting LGL, I made a career of dramatic cross-functional moves within Verizon, but I didn’t apply for them all at the same time. If you are highly interested in several roles, be able to explain the strategic value holding each of these positions now (or later) will help you contribute now, and in the future to the company. If you’re interviewing externally and your answer to “Where else are you applying?” looks as random as the fruit on a slot machine, you had better find a way to connect the dots.
  3. Do Your Homework
    The key is to really do your homework and be able explain why your skill sets add the most value for THIS job at THIS company. You can’t do that without really knowing what THIS job and THIS company is all about.
  4. Be Authentic, But Have a Filter
    I had another millennial call me to tell me he was in jeopardy of not getting a role because of how he answered the question “Where do you want to be in 15 years?” Well, the fact that he wanted to own his own business in 15 years was TMI (too much information) at this point for his interviewer who got all worried about “loyalty.” The sad part was, this guy WAS TOTALLY PREPARED to work there for 10 years. “Well, I’m not sure about 15 years, that’s a long time. But I would love to talk more about what the next decade could look like for our partnership.” Authentic AND intriguing.

There’s nothing more frustrating that watching the good guys lose the opportunity because of a communication breakdown. Avoid this common mistake and let your passion for the position shine through.

Winning Well Karin Hurt and David DyeIf you have not yet checked our David Dye’s and my latest book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide To Getting Results–without Losing Your Soul, you can download the first few chapters for FREE here, as well as take our online assessment. We also have a recently released our new Winning Well online course. Please contact me at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com to learn more about how we can help your team through keynotes, workshops, or online programs.