Your Leadership Stand

I am a genuine, high-powered and visionary leader, the source of energy and hope achieving successful transformations.

In 2007, I was privileged to participate in the Executive Challenge Course (ECC) organized by Gap International. The course is a nine-month process during which you engage in transformational activities with peers guided by excellent coaches. “The Executive Challenge Course is designed to deliver extraordinary business results, accelerated executive growth and substantial value to an organization. The program offers a proven pathway for executives, leaders and entrepreneurs to produce a breakthrough in their results. It is built to accelerate executive growth by enabling leaders to achieve an extraordinary outcome in their business”. This is what Gap International promises and stands behind. They are not kidding. Five years after the training, and on the road to leadership excellence, I am still using most of the skills learned in this training. I have also sent many of my executives to breakthrough intensive training and to ECC.

One of the activities of the program is to define a personal and powerful leadership stand. Here is my leadership stand:

“I am a genuine, high-powered and visionary leader, the source of energy and hope achieving successful transformations”.

I talk, walk, live and breathe my leadership stand.

Now, this is not a walk in the park. During the training process, the coaches teach you about the power of words and how to use words to convey powerful messages and meanings. Each word in this leadership stand is precisely selected, thoroughly discussed, and mindfully weaved with the rest of the words. During the design process, Gap International coaches help you define it by asking transformational profound questions of who you really are and what you aspire to achieve. That stand is a representation of yourself, your values, your aspirations and your leadership goals. If crafted carefully and mindfully, it can follow you for the rest of your personal and professional lives. Ii is a reflection of what you want to accomplish in life whether at home, at work, in your community or anywhere else.

I have framed this stand and it speaks loud and clear wherever I go. I discuss it with people and engage them in personal conversations during my coaching with compassion sessions. I talk, walk, live and breathe my leadership stand. I strive to be a source of energy and inspiration for people. I generate hope in them by showing a patch to success and to greater achievements. I help individuals and organizations achieve successful transformations by acting genuinely, by being decisive and by designing powerful visions. I care about their success.

I recommend you define your leadership stand. Check the ECC program as well. It will change the way to think, act and lead.

The Case for Stability in a Fast Changing World // John Jacko

Published by John Jacko

Stephan’s Introduction

As a new cycle starts, many people and organizations are thinking of resolutions and change priorities. Change is everywhere and our world is becoming more dynamic by the day. But, while adopting change is beneficial, there are things that might need to stay constant. It is a privilege to share with you this guest post by John Jacko on the subject. John is the Chief Marketing Officer at Kennametal and a thought leader in marketing and leadership. 


The Case for Stability in a Fast Changing World

We all exist in a very fast paced world these days, with free flow of information, instantaneous access and global reach. Companies talk about how they need employees with agility – being able to respond rapidly to change, and adaptability – being able to adjust to new circumstances. There are numerous consultants willing to teach us all about change management to make sure we have the tools and techniques for the future. Innovation and speed is the subject of academia and research papers, and is often referenced as a requirement for company survival. I almost forgot to mention the need for resilience, another buzzword, as well as digital strategies. I can’t help but wonder, with all that is moving so fast, is there anything we need to make sure we keep constant?

There are a few things that I think we need to consider not changing too frequently for companies as we negotiate within this increased pace.

One is these is our focus on ethics and values.  These are foundational for employees, leaders and families.  Knowing who and what we can count on is extremely important in this fast changing world.  Understanding what people stand for and how we can work together, provides the trust and collaboration needed to take advantage of diverse populations moving quickly.  I have seen organizations under pressure in good times or bad times begin to waver on their ethics and values.  I could name the companies but fear it would be a pretty long list of well-known companies that had lost their ways in the midst of all the other changes going on in their organizations.  A wise man once suggested that traders should “value company ethics and values over recent performance when analyzing stocks for long term investment”.

As soon as we move to a new message, we are resetting the clock for people to relearn a new message and its intent.

Another topic to consider remaining stable is your personal or company brand.  This is tightly linked to ethics and values mentioned above but also provide a signature for a company or an individual.  Reminding people what we stand for as a company, reinforcing our brand expression, both visually and in writing and emphasizing its importance is critical to employees and people who interact with your brand.  The graphical depiction, the standards, the words, the colors, the usage and the boundaries for usage are important.  I think of the consistency of the brand as a safe understanding of boundaries for execution.  Your brand message should always reinforce what you stand for.  For example, there are some people who feel that Apple is recently losing its brand feel and its way forward.  While the Apple brand trade dress is consistent, the messages are changing from a cool brand that was going to change the world to one of products and features.  This change could potentially hurt its company brand image and what it stands for, that originally attracted a loyal following of customers.

Lastly is the consistency of communications.  Companies can find it hard with changes in leaders and styles to maintain a consistent message throughout an organization.  We need to remain vigilant to our mission, our vision and core messages.  We often forget that even though we are tired of hearing these messages, that there are other people who are still hearing them for the first time at the periphery of the organization.  As soon as we move to a new message, we are resetting the clock for people to relearn a new message and its intent.  That does not mean we never change but we should pause and think whether the timing is right; how many people understand the current message and how long will it take for the people at the edge of the organization being able to inculcate the new message.  We often lose people with too many messages or too many changes to messages such that the next message is not even listened due to the belief that another new one will be coming tomorrow.  We should only change the message if the company strategy has changed and a repositioning is underway of the brand.


The Power of Feedback

Leaders at the top also need to get feedback. Chances are that, if they embrace true leadership concepts, they spend a lot of time coaching and giving feedback to people. But who is able to give candid feedback to them so that they can learn and improve on their blind spots? The Power of FeedbackCEOs might get feedback from the board of directors but most likely they do not have the chance to go through deep and candid feedback sessions. Besides, if they do get feedback from the organization, it will be mostly positive feedback and it will be difficult to sort between genuine feedback and feedback from “cronies” or other career-driven employees.

No leader is perfect because humans are not perfect. They may have strengths in the areas of business and leadership but top executives also face periods of stress, uncertainty and have personal issues that may impact their leadership performance at times. In order to stay grounded and to continuously improve, leaders need to hear from their subordinates, from their peers and possible from their customers.
No leader is perfect because humans are not perfect.
One way to do this is to conduct 360-degree surveys and to survey as many people as possible in the organization. I have done such surveys every year in my past positions and have used them to test the leadership culture, to get feedback from my leadership style and to gage employee satisfaction levels. There are things you can do to make your survey more impactful.

1) Get a wider sample of respondents: consultants recommend between 12 and 15 respondents. I have invited over 120 people and have gotten over 80 responses. I used this process as an opportunity to get real survey data and to derive significant scores.

2) Invite people who like you and people who you think do not like you as much: do not bias the survey process by selecting only those who see you in a positive light. Use this process as a real opportunity to get feedback and to learn from it. Be genuine in your invitation letter and remind them that the process is highly confidential and that you are serious about improving as a leader.

3) Share your results with your direct reports: after receiving my 360-degree survey results, I have shared the full report with human resources and my superior. I have circulated the survey executive summary to my entire leadership team. I also prepared a short PowerPoint presentation with key findings and an action plan on how I intended to improve. This presentation was discussed during a management steering team meeting.

4) Finally during employee meetings, thank people for participating and shared highlights of the findings including both positive and negative insights. I reiterated my desire to learn as a leader and to continue on the leadership journey.

5) Encourage your direct reports to go through the same process and to share feedback with others. You cannot force them but you can strongly encourage the process.

CEOs need to get feedback and need to continuously improve. Leadership is a journey and not a destination.

The Role of a CEO

What is the role of a CEO

So what is the role of a CEO? What is the top leader supposed to do day in and day out? I have been at odds with some of my previous superiors on this point and I wanted to share my view to the world. In my career, I was fortunate to be leading teams through good times and very bad times. During these periods, I was able to develop amazing relationships with people and to coach them personally with compassion and love. The role of a CEO is not to control, to micro-manage and to coach for compliance. The role of a CEO is to lead with charisma, to inspire others to follow and to create long-term sustainable value for all stakeholders. A CEO must ensure that he/she surrounds himself/herself with the best team in the world. As a CEO, I had three main priorities: People, Strategy and Innovation.

Most of my time was spent to engage, lead, and develop people. I must say I spent over 50% of the time doing this. For some in the organization, it appeared that I was doing trivial things but most of my actions were prepared, calculated and had a specific objective. I truly enjoyed designing and implementing talent development programs, coaching my direct reports with compassion, engaging the high potential employees, visiting plants and connecting with valuable employees, laughing with people in the hallways, kicking the tire at the coffee machine or joining a fun social media team discussion. A CEO must make it a priority to be approachable, to connect with people every day, to train and coach them, and to inspire them emotionally. That implies openness, mindfulness, humility and a great sense of humor. That also implies that a CEO does not take himself/herself too seriously and that he/she truly wants people to be successful, learn and enjoy their work experience.

A CEO must make it a priority to be approachable, to connect with people every day, to train and coach them, and to inspire them emotionally.

Strategy and innovation are pretty self explanatory. The role of a CEO is to lead the design of an impactful, customer-focused, and transformational strategy. This strategy then becomes the roadmap for the organization and the focus can shift to execution. CEOs also need to make sure enough innovation gets injected at all levels of the organization. My definition of innovation includes product and service innovation, strategic innovation, process innovation and cultural innovation. The CEO becomes the agent of change making sure that the organization learns, adapts, experiments, interacts, and transforms itself.

Focusing on these three critical business dimensions and being surrounded by the best team of leaders in the world was the best combination for me. A CEO cannot do it all. The best micro-manager in the world cannot do without delegating and empowering people. There is just too much to do. Many of you reading this short essay might think that there is nothing new in it. But many of you also work or have worked for micro-managers and many of them are CEOs.

The Leadership Journey

Leadership is a journey. To become a true people leader, it is a personal and professional journey that integrates failures, successes, changes, experiences, emotions, value, etc. Your leadership maturity level clearly depends on how you approach these events in your life and how you manage to learn from them. Leaders are good listeners but also good learners. By listening, I refer to the ability to listen to what life brings to you, analyze signals, recognize patterns, listen to your failures and their lessons, and understand the triggers that generate your potentially negative behaviors.

Humans are very complicated and they do not leave their complex problems when they show up at work.

This level of mindfulness is not something that comes naturally. It requires an ability to open up, to accept failures, and to be willing to improve oneself. This is hard work. That is why many managers prefer leading their business and burry themselves in tasks, goals, spreadsheets and other irrelevant business metrics. They lead their business very well but they do not lead people. Annual reviews turn out to be another business update that does not address the reality of human interactions in business.

There are three main things that leaders have to do:

    • Be mindful
    • Be compassionate
    • Bring hope to people’s life

I borrow these elements from Richard Boyatzis’ book called Resonant Leadership. Before one can lead mindfully, coach with compassion and bring hope to people, one must first go through a process of understanding their personal issues, their triggers, their “files” and preconceived notions. It requires a strong commitment to continuous improvement.

I have learned from every positive and negative events in my life. I am now again at a crossroad and I have to make the right choices for the future for both my personal and professional lives. But before making these choices, I am trying to learn from the recent positive changes and breakdowns from both facets of my life. I have to be able to recognize the patterns and the triggers that led to this year’s difficult changes. This is the way I learn and progress in life, and this is why I am becoming better and better at leading people. I still have a long way to go.

Humans are very complicated and they do not leave their complex problems when they show up at work. To understand your people’s personal or professional issues, you first need to be able to understand yours. You can then lead and coach them with compassion and help them see hope for the future. Are you dedicated to the development of your people? Do you help them become more mindful and open-minded? Do you truly care about their success both at home and at work? If you answered yes to these questions, you are ready for the leadership journey. This is no easy task but it is very rewarding.

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