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The Strategic Value of Teams

February 12th, 2016 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Leader Development, Team Effectiveness

ID-100332409Senior leadership, reacting to changing demands from the marketplace, is looking for faster, better ways to solve problems, open new markets, and grow business. One effective strategy is to tear down silos within the organization in order to be more responsive to clients and new prospects. Working on a team isn’t easy, but it beats working alone, both for the individual and for the organization. Cohesive teams increase employee morale, happiness, and retention—and offer additional benefit as well. Here are just five reasons why investing in team cohesion and effectiveness builds the bottom line.

  1. Teams negate the “bus factor.” The bus factor applies to any project that could come to a complete halt because of illness, turnover, maternity leave, vacation, etc.—in other words, the equivalent of being “hit by a bus.” With teams, projects can still move forward when setbacks occur; nothing stops if one person drops out for any reason. Work can be redistributed and the deadline is not in danger.
  2. Teams learn more. If one person learns something “in the forest” of a project, and no one else knows what he or she learned, does it matter? Clearly, it can matter very much to the individual learner, but does the organization benefit? That is less clear. If an entire team learns new skills while working on a project, however, there is a very great opportunity for the organization to benefit as many people use the new skills again and again going forward. Efficiency is a bottom-line builder.
  3. Teams can complete more projects. When an individual works on a project the equivalent of two months over a year it takes a long time to complete, which can lead to disappointment and lower morale. A team working on the same project can generate excitement and higher engagement because of the opportunity to complete the work more quickly and to take on additional projects.
  4. The highs are higher and the lows aren’t as low when working on a team. Working alone in a “project bog” can drain the energy out of an individual. That same “bog” may spark innovation on a team or at least may drive support for one another to get through to the next project phase. Patting yourself on the back works for a few people, but not many. High fives and cheers are heard frequently as teams accomplish smaller milestones on the way to the ultimate project goal. Teams can more easily keep momentum going both on good days and bad.
  5. Teams increase individual accountability. Long projects, or even short but difficult projects, affect day-to-day motivation whether you work alone or on a team. For many people, working alone provides a too-easy excuse to delay, cancel, or otherwise avoid the less pleasurable aspects of a project. Peer pressure is a powerful force that can get team members to press on, make one more call, push through bad weather to get to a meeting, or stay in a meeting until disagreements are ironed out or a new approach is developed.

The fallacy of ideal team size is that there is no such thing as the ideal team size. Teams can be as few as two people or as many as seven. Most organizations keep teams to single-digit numbers but that depends on the complexity of the project and length of time available. In any event, a cohesive team will outperform a hardworking individual any day.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is Business Development Consultant for FlashPoint, a global talent development consulting firm.

Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn/

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Developing the Middle: Three Ways to Assess and Grow “Middle” Employees

February 5th, 2016 by Sean Olson in Leader Development

Action TeamIn 2001 President George W. Bush presented the commencement address at Yale University and delivered these classic lines: “To those of you who received honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, ‘Well done.’ And to the C students, I say, ‘You too can be President of the United States.’”

This brought laughter and applause, of course, but it raises good points to consider if you’re leading an organization: what do you do with your average employees—those in the middle of the pack? Is there untapped potential there that you should be exploring? Can some of them move into influential roles?

When you’re leading teams, it’s common to focus on the best and the worst performers. You know the employees who are not carrying their weight, and you likely have them on a short leash. Maybe you’re just waiting for the next fail before you let them go. On the other hand, you celebrate the all-stars. You’ve likely put them on the fast track and are providing them with ample development opportunities.

Don’t overlook the middle, though. This is where the majority of your employees fall, and in most cases these are hard workers who keep their head down and get the job done. If you settle for letting them pass under the radar, you might miss out on a true superstar.

With that in mind, here are three quick steps to begin assessing and potentially growing these “middle” employees:

  1. Plant Seeds. Go out of your way to ask these employees questions about the business, even if it has nothing to do with their particular role.  Ask them hypothetical questions: “If you had 30 minutes to share transformative ideas with the CEO, what would you share?” “What would you do differently if you were in my job?” “How do you see our market changing in the next two years?” Planting seeds by asking business-related questions will allow you to see how rapidly they process information and how well they think creatively on their feet.
  1. Apply Pressure. Give them a work-related assignment and ask them to turn something around by tomorrow morning.  Ask them to shadow and assess another department . . . tomorrow.  Applying pressure with quick activities will show you their drive and creativity, and you may end up with some insights that you can incorporate into the company.
  1. Evaluate and DecideOnce you have some preliminary ideas about how your middle employees think, act, and respond, dig deeper. If an employee shows promise, ask others about his or her performance. Explore options for further assessing the employee’s skills and strengths. Talk to the employee about interests and career goals. If the feedback is positive, make a decision and start moving. Look at ways to provide the employee with appropriate development opportunities, give him or her with more challenging work duties, or move him or her into a role that will offer growth.

We celebrate in our culture stories about the superstar who came out of nowhere, the common person who rose from the ranks to do great things. We don’t often think about this in the workplace, though. As you lead your team, keep your mind open to the possibility. In the vast pool of middle employees you likely have strong talent, and you’ll benefit from sifting through to find the gold.

Sean Olson is a business development consultant at FlashPoint. In his role he works to understand client needs and help them find the answers that move their organizations forward.

mage courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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Using Measurement to Ensure High Impact Training Outcomes

January 28th, 2016 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Leader Development

ID-100291553If there is one thing that we have learned about Millennials and Gen Xers, it is, ”If you don’t train them, they will leave.” Or worse: they will stay and our organizations will fall behind the competition. One of the strategic goals of training is to solve business problems by optimizing employee and leader talent. But what if your organization is one of those that already invests in their employees and leaders, and sets aside days for training only to have the attendees continue doing what they have always done? How can you ensure that the skills and behaviors needed to take the organization forward are being implemented and will solve a specific business problem?

Best practices used to be sending employees for one, two or three days of training and waiting for the transformation. Today, we know that classroom training alone doesn’t work. Not only is there no accountability built into the process, but business is moving so fast that leaders and employees taken out of their environments for one or more days are immediately so far behind that even practical learning is forgotten in the vortex of catching up.

What are high impact learning organizations doing to enable their employees and leaders to integrate new behaviors and skills, and to make the new learning part of the culture and expectations of everyone? It all starts with the business strategy and the goals the organization is charged with achieving. To align training with the strategy, we must first determine what skills or behaviors (competencies) are needed to meet the new goals. Once we know the needed competencies, we can proceed with five steps to develop high impact training.

  1. Define the outcomes and success measures. Too often, this step is skipped. We need to know in advance how success will be measured. We need to know what “great performance” looks like so we need definitions for the competencies. Measurements might include a greater percentage of individual goals achieved, higher revenue per employee, fewer customer complaints, etc. Share the measurements with the participants.
  1. Conduct a needs analysis to understand whether the skills required actually exist. Are there skill gaps? Is there is a need for training or learning? Or is a different intervention more appropriate? What is driving this need for training/learning? Has anything been done in the past? What are the possible learning solutions? Are there logistical considerations or constraints? In this process, you might use interviews, focus groups, questionnaires or follow up surveys from previous training participants. In some cases, observation of specific tasks will provide needed information.
  1. Develop an outline of the learning objectives, program parameters, participant selection criteria and more. Also consider your options for development activities: assessments, case studies, action learning, coaching, mentoring, classroom, e-learning, etc. How will key components of the program be reinforced after the initial classroom training is completed? Will action learning, renewal sessions, virtual learning or group or individual coaching be used?
  1. Build the curriculum and program content and determine the most effective delivery method for each component. Today, effective learning is almost always “chunked” into manageable amounts, and the length of training might be six to nine months of monthly half-day sessions with assignments to practice skills between sessions. While the classroom might be the primary delivery method, some information might be “gamified.” Other information might be learned from the group solving a real business problem. When developing the initial learning methodologies, complete the process by building the reinforcement processes: webinars, group or individual coaching sessions or online quizzes. Many organizations re-assess the participants to determine progress.

Successful learning organizations involve their executives in critical training whether they kick off sessions or actually facilitate content. When participants understand that their implementation of new skills and behaviors is critical to the future success of the organization, it becomes more of a priority. When the measurements of success are known in advance by all, goals are more likely to be achieved.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is Business Development Consultant for FlashPoint, a global talent development consulting firm.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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Ethical Leadership: How to Lead Authentically

January 18th, 2016 by Tracy Puett in Leader Development

ID-100236331The ability to lead authentically and ethically is instrumental to long-term personal, organizational, and (ultimately) societal success. To assume positions of leadership and power, it is simply untenable to go in rudderless without a sense of who we are, what we stand for, and in what direction we are headed. This sort of authenticity can come only from within.

As Bill George (former CEO of Medtronic and professor at Harvard Business School) states in True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, “The reality is that no one can be authentic by trying to be like someone else. There is no doubt you can learn from their experiences, but there is no way you can be successful trying to be like them. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not an imitation.” In our work developing leaders at FlashPoint, whether through training or coaching, we engage leaders in exploring their values, principles and leadership philosophy. We engage leaders in leading authentically.

So how do you find your moral compass and authentically serve others? Here are some approaches we find helpful on the journey:

  1. Identify your values. Values are a prioritized set of what we hold dear in life—what is essential and important to us as humans. Our values help us determine, implicitly and explicitly, what we choose to do in any given context. Values exploration and identification for many people is best accomplished through an organized, facilitated process such as in a workshop or through a dedicated coaching engagement.
  2. Explore the ethical implications. It’s one thing to know your values. It’s a whole different game to live them through ethical action. This is difficult as it is not always clear what a values-driven, ethical choice may be in a particular situation. It may be helpful to explore scenarios privately and with your team. Run a series of “thought experiments.” If we have situation X, what would we do? What else could we do? If we did that, how does that align with our values? How does it not? What could we do that best exemplifies what we stand for as leaders? As a team? As a company?
  3. Talk with others. It’s been shown in recent research that leaders who isolate themselves make worse decisions than those who talk it out with their peers. Don’t try to go it alone. Talk with at least two other people you respect—I call it triangulation. And rather than presenting the situation and your thoughts as if you need validation or support for your decision, try and approach the conversation with real interest in other perspectives. After all, ethical decisions are at least in part founded on uncovering our biases and blind spots. What are yours?
  4. Conduct a year in review. Ask yourself: What decisions did I make and actions did I take this year that were well aligned with my values and ethics? Where did I fall short? What can I learn from this year in order to do better going forward? Ethical decision making is not usually black and white, so what are the shades of gray you can learn from and lean into?

By stepping back from the fray on occasion and looking within, we can better understand our motivations, our underlying principles, and the values that drive our decisions. And by engaging the people we lead, our peers, and our leaders in conversations about our values, decisions, and actions, we can truly become the servant leaders we are called to be. We can be authentic, even when the stakes are high and the decisions are challenging. We can lead authentically.

Tracy Puett is a consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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Teamwork: How to Make It Your Competitive Advantage

January 8th, 2016 by Kristi Gaynor in Team Effectiveness

ID-100125481You’re committed to achieving business results in an increasingly challenging market. Where do you look to grow? What’s going to set you apart from the competition? One important element to focus on is developing your teams.

According to research by the Korn/Ferry Institute, teams are increasingly being used to drive business.  As jobs get bigger, organizational structures get more complex, and companies become multi-national in scope, the importance of work teams is strengthening. Author Patrick Lencioni acknowledges this right from the start in his best-selling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He opens by stating that it is “Not finance. Not Strategy. Not Technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

But successful teams don’t just happen. Team cohesion, which drives success, takes effort and time. You’re a part of a team—probably several. You may lead a team. Whatever your role, you can take steps to ensure the team performs well and that you achieve success. Here are a few ideas:

  • Clarify the common objectives. Your team must have a clearly defined purpose. If you’re the team leader, take time to ensure that everyone knows what the team’s goals are and how the team’s work contributes to the company’s success. If you’re a member, be sure that you understand this.
  • Define each person’s role. Clarify the job each person plays in the group. Roles need to be specific. Whether written or verbally communicated, make sure that everyone understands the part he or she plays.
  • Provide necessary resources. Access is critical. Resources may include access to decision makers, to intellectual knowledge, to tangible items—the list goes on. If a fellow teammate’s role requires additional resources to succeed, make these accessible and assist as necessary.
  • Hold one another accountable. Every member of the team is 100 percent accountable for the team’s success. Acknowledge this and do your part. Check in regularly with other team members. If you’re a team leader, encourage members to communicate both within and outside of team meetings to drive accountability.
  • Resolve conflicts. Conflict can be healthy. If it takes place in an open environment where members provide input in a respectful way, the process of resolving conflict can drive trust.
  • Be open. Avoid “group think” by encouraging diversity of opinion. Ask for other viewpoints.  Inquire, “What else do we need to consider here?”
  • Recognize accomplishments. Recognition for both small and large successes drives engagement. Incremental successes are as important to the team as the final accomplishment, and acknowledging them can help motivate teammates who may be stuck. Celebrate team wins, but remember individual successes too and recognize them in a way that’s meaningful to the team member.

As you carry out your teamwork, ask yourself—Are we effective? Are we enhancing relationships? Is our work driving business outcomes?

Recognize that this takes dedication—even teams that have been together a long time may require further time and effort to achieve successful outcomes.  Consider the role you play and how you might contribute to ensuring your team is high functioning and cohesive.  Your work toward building an effective team will have short and long-term benefits and will likely give your company a competitive advantage for driving outcomes.

Kristi Gaynor is business development manager at FlashPoint. She directs FlashPoint’s clients toward outcomes-oriented systems and processes that drive accountability.

Image courtesy of nongpimmy/

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How to Build Trust on a Team

December 11th, 2015 by Tracy Puett in Team Effectiveness

ID-100215709When you hear the word “trust,” what comes to mind? For many the word evokes images and memories of interactions with other people. It’s a word that we typically use to describe our ability to predict behavior based on past experiences with another person.

This may not be the strongest form of trust, however. In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni defines trust as an element of relationship where two people can be vulnerable with each other. Vulnerability-based trust is the ability to be honest, open, and unprotected, believing the other person’s intentions are good and honorable.

So, how do we build vulnerability-based trust on our teams? Here are some ways to get you started:

  1. Define trust explicitly with the team. Vulnerability-based trust means we can say, “I don’t know,” “I need help,” “I’m not sure,” and “I’m frustrated.” It means we don’t have to put up our guard; we can have faith that other team members will not attack us for our weaknesses or gaps in knowledge. It means we can trust one another’s intentions no matter what.
  2. Get to know one another as people. Lead a conversation in your team where everyone has a chance to share about their backgrounds: Where were they born? How many siblings do they have? What was challenging about growing up?
  3. Make time to be together and catch up as colleagues. Our lives are not defined just by our roles at work, so why treat one another solely based on those roles? When team members know what is happening in one another’s lives, they’re more inclined to empathize and trust others’ motivations while on the job.
  4. Leaders go first. This means that if you want people to trust you more, you’ve got to take the first step. Model the way by admitting when you don’t know something. Ask for help when you need assistance. Tell people when you’re disappointed. By going first, you enable others to follow your example. In this way, we “model trust” vs “earn trust.”

Trust is a foundational element to grooming and leading successful teams. Without it, it’s almost impossible to solve problems, get at the root issues of challenges, or innovate. Trust is so critical that it’s where FlashPoint starts with teams when we facilitate the workshop The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team based on Lencioni’s work.

By incorporating some of the above recommendations into your workplace, you’ll be a step ahead in creating trust in your team. You’ll be two steps ahead in building a cohesive team that gets results and one that people want to be a part of. And creating winning teams is what great leadership is all about.

Tracy Puett is a consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels.

Image courtesy of franky242/

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Mind the Gap

November 23rd, 2015 by Sean Olson in Leader Development

12329159165_a12a8df2ca_qI originally heard the expression “mind the gap” from a British business mentor. He shared that in the United Kingdom there are signs placed throughout the subway stations cautioning riders to “mind the gap”—that is, the space between the platform and the train door. “Mind the gap” so as not to fall through or get stuck.

My mentor went on to share how the idea of “mind the gap” applies to managing talent. Many companies find that there is often a chasm between the capabilities they need and what employees actually offer. Their teams don’t have the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the challenging business environment. In the war for talent, many organizations are misstepping and taking nosedives.

As you manage your talent, it’s important that you avoid this—that you’re aware of where your own talent gap lies and that you take steps to bridge it.

How do you do this?

First, you have to define your organizational strategy and determine the competencies that your employees must demonstrate to achieve it. In other words, you need to identify the combination of skills and knowledge your employees need in order to be successful.

As you establish your competencies, make sure they link to your vision, mission, and core values. They should establish priorities for management and staff around the behavioral standards for your success and therefore should be unique to you. They’re the differentiator for your company and will set you apart from the competition.

Once you’ve identified where you need to be in terms of competencies, next assess how your employees measure up—where they don’t match is where you have your gap. Your job, of course, is to figure out how to get across it.

One way you can do this is through your talent acquisition efforts. The competencies you identify will help you determine the skills and knowledge you need to bring onboard. Another way to mind the gap is to develop your current employees so they gain the competencies you’ve identified. On-the-job training will help, but increasingly this development will come through hands-on, interactive approaches such as coaching, mentoring, action learning, job rotations, and similar tools.

As you mind the gap, you’ll find that you benefit in multiple ways. First, you’ll positon the organization to achieve its strategic outcomes. In addition, you’ll also create a better work environment where employees have opportunities to grow, understand how they contribute to the organization’s success, feel engaged, and want to stay and contribute.

The talent gap you face in your organization poses a threat. But with care you can navigate it, and when you do—like the rider on the London subway—you’ll be on your way to reaching your destination.

Sean Olson is a business development consultant at FlashPoint. In his role he works to understand client needs and help them find the answers that move their organizations forward.

Image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan.

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The Power of Recognition (and Simple Steps You Can Take to Harness It)

November 12th, 2015 by Bill Mugavin in Leader Development

ID-100346640Praise is powerful.  According to philosopher and psychologist William James, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” In fact, giving praise and recognition is the single most powerful activity a manager can do. It’s the key to successful employee development and growth.  Recognition reinforces behaviors that help move people closer to achieving their goals, both personally and professionally, and it encourages them to keep moving forward.

Recognition is not a complex process, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the simple things. As a reminder, here are key things to keep in mind:

  1. Be immediate. Feedback and positive reinforcement are most successful when given in the moment. Waiting to provide feedback can hinder action, as many employees need affirmation that they’re contributing to their organization’s success.
  2. Be specific. Explain what you appreciate and why. Doing so shows a greater and more genuine interest in your employees’ It helps them know what exactly they’re doing well and shows that you do take notice of their work.
  3. State your feelings. Express a deeper level of appreciation.  Opening up and expressing emotion helps to create trust. When trusts exists between an employee and his/her manager, employees will feel more comfortable discussing issues with their manager as they arise (versus hiding them).
  4. Reaffirm your support. Let employees know that they have your full support and show confidence in their abilities.  It can go a long way in helping them feel as though they’re providing meaningful contributions.

From a managerial perspective, what can you do to further create a culture of recognition to drive results?

  1. Establish clear standards. Creating clear expectations for goals and providing direct feedback keeps people engaged and focused. Feedback is a type of encouragement and is fundamental to helping employees achieve goals.
  2. Believe the best about people. Having positive expectations of others will create positive possibilities. People act according to expectations, so through words, body language, and tone make it clear that you expect the best from those around you, and chances are they’ll produce the results.
  3. Be attentive to what your people are doing. Take the time to get out and observe those around you and take notice when people win. Listening to others with your eyes and your heart helps to build relationships and foster an environment of trust.
  4. Personalize recognition. Recognition isn’t nearly as impactful if it’s not personalized. It must feel sincere. Further, understand when and how individual employees respond best to recognition and provide it in the way that’s most meaningful to them.
  5. Celebrate team accomplishments as well as individual accomplishments. Recognize teams and celebrate together. This helps to create bonds, build a culture of recognition, and to drive the achievement of common goals.

Regularly  praising and recognizing can do a lot for engaging employees and encouraging them to keep moving forward toward their goals. It’s a relatively easy state to achieve, and the small investment you make is multiplied exponentially in terms of outcomes and rewards.

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He has worked with top-tier Fortune 1000 global organizations to improve leadership and management effectiveness.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/

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The Impact of Emotion on Decision Making

November 9th, 2015 by Tracy Puett in Leader Development

ID-100342222Emotional and social skills are turning out to be core competencies for all leaders. Research over the last 15 years has shown it is our ability to recognize and manage our emotions, as well skillfully respond to the emotions of those around us, that differentiates us as highly respected, successful leaders.

FlashPoint regularly facilitates a workshop on emotional intelligence built around the Emotional Intelligence Skills Assessment, published by Pfeiffer. The workshop explores how our emotions impact the way we function in five essential areas: perceiving, managing, decision making, achieving, and influencing. The assessment measures the participant’s level of emotional and social functioning in each of these “five factors of emotional intelligence” and provides feedback on how he or she can improve.

If you’re a leader, this is important to know. Your emotional and social functioning has great sway in the organization and plays a significant part in achieving results. You need to be aware and able to adjust and adapt your emotions to the situation at hand.

As an example, consider the decision-making factor. Decision making is of critical importance for leaders at all levels, of course, and it clearly affects outcomes. Just think of what a series of bad decisions can do for a business.

As rational as we think we may be, our emotions play a key role in how we make decisions. Our emotions are primarily driven and influenced by a part of our brain called the limbic system. The limbic system quickly reacts to external stimuli, provoking either a “moving toward” or “moving away from” response. Then both “nature” (biology) and “nurture” (our life experience) kick in, helping shape how we ultimately respond to the primal “fight or flee” phenomenon.

It’s important for us as leaders to understand how this process works and then learn skills to control it—both within ourselves and with others. When we successfully manage emotions and decision making, we’re able to:

  • Process all relevant environmental, interpersonal, and intrapersonal cues.
  • Generate appropriate emotion within ourselves and in others given the situation at hand.
  • Modify both positive emotions and negative emotions as the situation warrants.

To illustrate the importance of managing emotions and decision making, consider a leader who’s very excited by an opportunity to enter into a new business partnership. An emotionally intelligent leader is able to recognize the impact of her initial emotions, control them, and minimize their influence on her thought processes. A leader who’s less in touch with his emotions may very well become overly enthused, let the positive emotions overtake him, fail to examine the risks involved, and make the decision to enter into a bad arrangement. Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how emotional intelligence can have a tremendous impact on outcomes.

Every day, leaders make dozens of decisions, both large and small. Some decisions are driven by moving away from an undesirable or uncomfortable situation—perhaps avoiding an interpersonal conflict that has gotten out of control. Other decisions lead us to take action in the direction of our goals—a “toward” response in the case of committing to work through a conflict for the good of the team. In either case, the stronger our skills are in attending to emotions, generating appropriate emotions, and attenuating both positive and negative emotions, the better equipped we are to make high-quality and timely decisions in the pursuit of our individual and collective goals.

Tracy Puett is a consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/

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How Top Companies Develop Their Leaders

October 30th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Leader Development

ID-10095534In a marketplace with rapidly changing business requirements, where quality, service and innovation have become mere “tickets to play,” and disruptive technology, global competitors, and the rate of change itself create powerful and conflicting pressures for business leaders, how are organizations addressing leadership development needs? How are those companies deemed the “Best Companies for Leaders” generating 200 percent growth over ten years?

First, they’re taking a serious look at the competencies their leaders need to demonstrate. These include:

  • “Adaptability to change.” This the most important quality for a leader according to a global survey of 300 CEOs and senior HR leaders conducted by the Chally Group Worldwide.
  • Communication, vision, and strategic thinking (also highly rated skills in the Chally survey).
  • The ability to balance short-term needs (e.g., communicating among customers, senior leaders, and employees) with long-term goals (e.g., optimizing employee engagement, shareholder returns, and long-term competitive sustainability). This has become a differentiating competency for top-tier companies.

As they define the leadership competencies they need both today and down the road, these high-performing organizations are also considering the most effective ways to develop the competencies. Here are some of the tools they’re using.

  • According to the Chally survey, the most widespread leadership development practices are “high-touch, hands-on coaching and mentoring” (including the use of professional coaches, peer-to-peer coaching programs, and informal as well as formal mentoring programs). Fifty-six percent of companies surveyed had the same response four years in a row as part of this ongoing survey.
  • The survey also indicated that 49 percent of respondents favor action learning and developmental assignments, while 45 percent use assessments and feedback. Larger organizations tend to more frequently use exposure to senior executives and high-potential development programs. Smaller firms report using cross-functional team projects, external learning opportunities, and tuition reimbursement as development tools.
  • One of the keys to successful leadership development is CEO involvement. CEOs can take part in a number of ways: by sharing insights at training events, serving as a sponsor for action learning teams, communicating to employees about the value of leadership, and more. The Chally survey reveals that large-company CEOs spend an average of 29 percent of their time on employee development and 18 percent of their time on their own development. Altogether, CEOs spend approximately half of their time on development activities—and those from higher ranked companies spend even more of their time.

Does such a significant investment in defining and developing leadership competencies pay off for the company? Yes! In a study of shareholder value created by the companies in the Chally survey, data showed the Best Companies for Leaders generated greater market value between 2003 and 2013 than their peers, growing by 200 percent. They also did a better job of retaining talent; the average tenure of CEOs in the highest-performing companies was 4.1 years versus 3.5 years.

The best of the best companies do not depend on old rules for success or silver bullets to grow their bottom lines in unpredictable times. Instead, they look ahead and prepare their leaders and successors with the competencies, experiences, and resources they’ll need in order to succeed at whatever the future holds.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is Business Development Consultant for FlashPoint, a global talent development consulting firm.

Image courtesy of chanpipat/

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