As you move up in an organization, people increasingly look to you for answers.
But the best leaders don’t provide all of the solutions — they inspire curiosity, creativity, and deeper thinking in their employees. And that starts with asking the right questions.
Encourage your employees to slow down and explain what they’re proposing in more detail by saying something simple and to-the-point, like “Wait, what?” You could also use phrases like “I wonder why…” to encourage curiosity. And then follow up with “I wonder if things could be done differently.”
Another question to try: “How can I help?” – this question forces your colleague to define the problem, which is the first step toward owning and solving it.
Curated by Trevor Lee
If you are working on launching or accelerating a push for more gender balance in your company, you need to focus on the opportunity – not the problem – to engage others. Approach the conversation by first laying out a set of future objectives, targets, and milestones. Then describe how gender balance is a key lever to help you reach those goals.
It helps to consider a two key questions:
1) Are you using language that accuses or language that invites people to build skills and enhance leadership impact?
2) Are you engaging with managers on things they understand are central to both their individual success and the company’s goals? Or are your efforts being perceived as politically correct, tick-the-box exercises?
Remember: the final goal isn’t just about balance. It’s having more engaged employees and more connected customers.
by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox
Curated by Trevor Lee
It’s not always easy to get the most from your employees.
If you’re struggling to inspire the people on your team, look to your past.
Think about your own experience and what motivated you when you were in the lower levels of a company.
Who was the best boss you ever had?
What did that person do to make you want to perform at your best?
Reflect on what made your boss’s motivational strategies so effective for you.
What specifically did they do to earn your trust and admiration?
Now think about how you can apply those lessons to your own team. Which motivational tools will work for them?
Be fearless in examining your own behavior and curious about how your employees respond to you. Re-purpose your favorite boss’s techniques and make them your own.
Curated by Trevor Lee
When your top team fails to function, it will likely paralyze the whole company.
Few teams function as well as they could. But the stakes get higher with senior-executive teams: dysfunctional ones can slow down, derail, or even paralyze a whole company. McKinsey in their work with top teams at more than 100 leading multinational companies, including surveys with 600 senior executives at 30 of them, they identified three crucial priorities for constructing and managing effective top teams. Getting these priorities right can help drive better business outcomes in areas ranging from customer satisfaction to worker productivity and many more as well.
1. Get the right people on the team . . . and the wrong ones off
Determining the membership of a top team is the CEO’s responsibility—and frequently the most powerful lever to shape a team’s performance. Many CEOs regret not employing this lever early enough or thoroughly enough. Still others neglect it entirely, assuming instead that factors such as titles, pay grades, or an executive’s position on the org chart are enough to warrant default membership. Little surprise, then, that more than one-third of the executives they surveyed said their top teams did not have the right people and capabilities.
The key to getting a top team’s composition right is deciding what contributions the team as a whole, and its members as individuals, must make to achieve an organization’s performance aspirations and then making the necessary changes in the team. This sounds straight-forward, but it typically requires conscious attention and courage from the CEO; otherwise, the top team can under-deliver for an extended period of time.
2. Make sure the top team does just the work only it can do
Many top teams struggle to find purpose and focus. Only 38 percent of the executives McKinsey surveyed said their teams focused on work that truly benefited from a top-team perspective. Only 35 percent said their top teams allocated the right amounts of time among the various topics they considered important, such as strategy and people.
3. Address team dynamics* and processes
A final area demanding unrelenting attention from CEOs is effective team dynamics, whose absence is a frequent problem: among the top teams McKinsey studied, members reported that only about 30 percent of their time was spent in “productive collaboration”—a figure that dropped even more when teams dealt with high-stakes topics where members had differing, entrenched interests.
Correcting dysfunctional dynamics requires focused attention and interventions, preferably as soon as an ineffective pattern shows up.
Finally, most teams need to change their support systems or processes to crystalize and embed change.
Each top team is unique, and every CEO will need to address a unique combination of challenges.
Developing a highly effective top team typically requires good diagnostics, followed by a series of workshops and field work to address the dynamics of the team while it attends to hard business issues. The best top teams will begin to take collective responsibility and to develop the ability to maintain and improve their own effectiveness, creating a lasting performance edge.
© McKinsey & Co • Michiel Kruyt, Judy Malan, and Rachel Tuffield
*To build strong teams I recommend:
The Gabriel Institute
Curated by Trevor Lee
By which I mean …
Do you demonstrate and deliver on these five key leadership traits:
W = Warmth: Simple human kindness
E = Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling
T = Teamwork: The bias against ‘I can do it all by myself’ toward:
‘Let’s work together to make this happen’.
C = Conscientiousness: Detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion.
O = Optimism: The ability to bounce back and internalise challenges.
And not just leaders. These traits are human qualities and essential to ‘making a difference’ in your workplace and society at large.
All workplaces need ground rules, but they’re particularly important for remote work.
When a team is spread out among branch offices, coffee shops, and hotel lobbies, people may have wildly different ideas about what’s expected of them.
Make clear what kind of latitude and independence team members can expect, what resources will be available to them, and how much team members will be expected to travel.
If people work in different time zones, it’s critical to set ground rules around working hours, too. Managers should think about these questions:
What times of day are team members expected to be available?
How will you schedule meetings to accommodate each person?
What should people do if they find their responsibilities require them to work overtime or outside their scheduled hours?.
Giving the team this kind of guidance up front will help them work more effectively.
There is a lot of expertise in any organization. It often remains within the individual and rarely gets to benefit others in the peer group.
When newer Managers encounter difficulty, they usually don’t know whom to approach.
They are hesitant for various reasons but mainly out of fear of appearing dumb.
There is a need for an informal setup in the organization that promotes collaboration by encouraging the (expert) Managers to coach the (novice) Managers. An internal network if you will.
Problems are a constant for any Manager – how does she solve them? She most often seeks the help of a peer or a senior Manager within the organization. What happens if the senior Manager has a problem?
She asks another one and so on via their internal network (of trust). All it takes to start such a network is for one Manager to help another. Reciprocating help then becomes the normal. In this way all the Managers in the organization will coalesce in a way that no formal roles or hierarchies will. The camaraderie between Managers will be infectious, thanks to this small gesture. It just takes one person to start the process – could that be you?
• Increased goodwill between Managers within the organization
• Best Practices sharing by an informal network
• Problems get solved as quickly as they arise
Bureaucracy is the biggest obstacle. As long as there is no sign of this being an official initiative, the network will become self-sustaining. It may take a while for it to evolve – but once established, it will be very effective in binding the whole management team to a common purpose.
As C-suite leaders you should prompt, even start, such an initiative. Just watch it grow – it will be truly empowering both wide and deep within your organization.
Executive Search & Interim Management since 2001
Connecting you with the best certified executive talent on the planet