BLOG: Extraordinary Leadership and High Functioning Teams

3 Ways Leaders Erode Trust Inside an Organization

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Wed, May 20, 2015

clearwater_leaders_009-resized-600Organizations know that teams are the lifeblood of how work gets done. And, it’s understood that highly effective teams where trust abounds produce greater results, higher morale and retain talent for the future. The field of positivity supplies vast amounts of research on the connection between trust, positivity and results and the impact they produce on engagement levels and culture. So what’s stopping organizations and their leaders from developing teams with higher levels of trust?

First let’s explore what comes to mind when you hear someone describe a trustworthy leader? In our work over the past ten years with over 2000 leaders, a leader is considered trustworthy when he/she:

  • Keeps commitments
  • Possesses integrity
  • Displays honesty
  • Has your back
  • Does his/her part
  • Is reliable
  • Has a code of conduct
  • Knows and lives his/her values

Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Behaviors’ of a Cohesive Team Model builds on this definition of a trustworthy leader, and tells us all those things are true but you have to have more. The intangible ability to be vulnerable is the “real deal” when it comes to building trust and creating the foundation of an engaged culture.CC_5_behaviors_team_01

Does your team trust one another? Do they trust you as the team leader? To understand what you need to do to build trust on your teams and across your organizations, you need to also grasp what you need to stop doing that is hurting your ability to build trust.

Trust Destroyer #1- A Leader Who Can’t admit To Being Wrong

Years ago, I worked for a leader who could never admit anything was his fault. He was always right, infallible. If we disagreed on something about the direction of the business, and things heated up between us, he came out swinging. The closest he ever came to saying he was wrong? “Next time, don't let things get so out of hand between us”, he’d say, as if it were up to me to control what would escalate between us. And, I wasn't the only person on the team that struggled with his self-righteousness. Never being wrong made people want to avoid him, or partner with others on the team instead of with him on projects. It was a real shame because he had a true knack for business, was wicked smart and great with client execution. He eventually left the company because when his business results started to slide, he couldn’t admit anything was his fault.

Sadly, those types of leaders are still roaming inside organizations today wreaking havoc on their own teams and the ability for teams to cross functionally work together. Despite what we have learned about engagement and empowerment and the value of learning from mistakes, many leaders continue to drink from the fountain of “I’m right and you’re wrong”. They simply don’t know how to be real—to be vulnerable, self-reflective and to own their own mistakes.

Learn to Embrace Vulnerability

You may be the team leader but that doesn’t mean that you have all of the answers. It’s okay to admit your weaknesses to your team. By being open to your team members, you can begin to build trust with them by modeling openness, transparency, and asking your team for feedback. Let your team members know that they should ask questions and provide input regarding the direction of the team. By embracing vulnerability as the team leader, you can help the rest of your team become more open with a willingness to share weaknesses, ask questions, and provide feedback. This is one of the key pillars for building trust on your team.

Trust Destroyer #2- A Leader Who Won’t Apologize

CC_leadership_006It’s bad enough when a leader can’t or won’t ever admit to being wrong, but layer on a leader who even when it’s known they screwed up not admitting that they did and you have a leader who is demoralizing the spirit of the team. A recent client experienced this first hand. Upon starting her new role, she was asked to focus on price when negotiating with suppliers, even when that meant putting pressure on the suppliers to take risks. She became alarmed when she discovered this pressure was causing the suppliers to take risks that would hurt the brand and put the company at risk. Sharing this news with her CEO produced a startling reaction. Instead of being pleased that she had uncovered news that could hurt the company, she was scolded and blamed for the pressure the suppliers felt to cut corners. Our client knew she was going to be blamed for this huge mess so she left the company. What hurt her the most? The CEO’s inability to apologize or acknowledge the role he played in the problem. High turnover and low morale remain persistently present in this culture, with the organization now looking for their 3rd leader over the past 5 years. It’s no wonder, the business is struggling and people are leaving the team and the company.

Learn to Apologize

Do you admit your mistakes to your team? Are you afraid to apologize to your team because you think they won’t believe your or want to follow you? Apologizing to your team for past errors, lack of judgment, behavioral outbursts, poor communication and other blunders will show your team the importance of taking responsibility for mistakes and learning from them. If you act like you never do anything wrong, then your team members will feel uncomfortable apologizing for faults. They will lack the trust needed to take accountability for mistakes and, instead, they will play the blame game to avoid feeling guilty and facing any consequences.

Trust Destroyer #3- A Leader Who Won’t Ask for Help

I hate to ask for help. It feels like a weakness. I led several teams over my 25 years at Federated (Macy’s) Department Stores, and this was really hard for me. It cost me a lot too. It hurt my ability to be open to new ways to do things. And it set high standards for myself and others, that were impossible to keep. It created a desire for me to just work longer and harder and to expect that from my team. And the thing is, others knew when I needed help, so when they would ask me about it, my rejection of their offer hurt my relationship with them. Today, I still struggle with asking for help, but I have realized the ability to be vulnerable about needing help or support from others is a great way to build a relationship that is very powerful and more authentic. Over the past ten years of working along side my partners in our leadership development firm, I have experienced the joy it gives to others and myself when I admit I need their help. It makes them free to also ask me to help them when their burden is too great.

Learn to Ask for Helpcc_coaching_skills_for_leaders_002

After embracing vulnerability by being more open as a team leader and apologizing for mistakes and admitting when you are wrong, take the next step and ask for help. Some leaders have a superman complex where they feel responsible for every task. Or they lack the time, knowledge and resources needed but are afraid to ask for help for fear of looking weak to their team or their boss. Great team leaders are not afraid to ask for help. They have a clear sense of their strengths and weaknesses, therefore providing them the confidence to know when they should look to others for help. Also, great team leaders know that soliciting input from their team members and articulating how much they value their team members’ contributions serves as a positive way to build team trust.

Do you lead by example? If you truly want to build trust on your team, then model trustworthy behavior by being vulnerable. Create a safe and supportive environment on the team by showing empathy towards your team members, give them the benefit of the doubt, and follow through on what you commit to achieve. Encourage your team members to speak up and share their ideas, recognize their hard work, and embolden them to solve problems on their own. By modeling how you trust your team, in return, they will develop more trust towards you and the entire team.

Today’s organizations need leaders who want to run teams built to be highly effective. It takes work and commitment to engender trust on your team and inside your organization. So are you ready to take the first steps to becoming a trustworthy leader? Download our free team leadership self-assessment to gain clarity about your trust behaviors.

team leaders develop trust on your team in the workplace

Tags: building trust, corporate culture, improve workplace relationships, high performing teams

Be a Great Team Leader: 4 Views on Accountability

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Mon, May 18, 2015

clearwater_office_002The two most popular downloadable documents on our website tell an interesting story about organizational needs and dynamics.

1. How to prepare for difficult conversations

2. Creating high functioning teams 

Teams, both functional and cross-functional, are the engines that drive most organizations. They are microcosms of how we collectively work together to achieve great things.

Where most teams struggle is accountability which is defined as holding each other accountable. That includes peer-to-peer accountability, not just accountability of an individual team member to the team leader. It’s about getting aligned - in alignment - with each other; coordinating who is doing what, when, why, and how in order to achieve some significant goal(s) in a determined period of time. Sounds so simple.

What gets in the way? Habits condoned by the organization. In your organization, do you have:

  •   Organizational silos focused exclusively on their own work and success?
  •   Performance reviews that emphasize individual over collective results?
  •   A culture that encourages politeness over directness?

What other obstacles exist?  

  •   Team leaders not role modeling holding others accountable 
  •   Lack of clarity and lack of directness.
  •   Team agreements, usually unstated, that allow for behavior that derails the team

When we “put up with” behavior that limits team success, for whatever reason, we are agreeing to be non-accountable. Which is why our form on preparing for a tough conversation and the material on teams have been downloaded hundreds of times.

In fact, when we ask clients what type of tough conversation they are preparing for, more times than not, it is with someone on their team. And based on research by Patrick Lencioni, 2/3 of 12,000 teams completing the team profile find that their lowest scores of the 5 areas (Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results) is: Accountability! Why is that? Because we don’t speak up when we believe someone is not doing the work. It’s a vicious cycle.


So, let’s go upstream and see if we can help your team and your organization put into place some practical elements that will help teams share the responsibility for each other, and in the process, help your organization build the culture that engages and sustains with clear communication and appropriate support. 

Let's use the DiSC profile to help us take a new view on accountability and shift the old habits to new practices on your team. Regardless of your natural work style, learn to borrow from other styles when the situation calls for it. Accountability comes in many shapes and forms. Learn to recognize the approach you need in the moment to build a team that thrives. DiSC_circle_with_descriptions

View #1:  Borrow from the “D”s drive for results

D’s are direct, results oriented, have a sense of urgency and while they can be blunt and impatient, they are also the drivers on the team who push for the next step that needs to be taken. On your team, apply a “D” mindset to the most pressing issues your team is grappling with today: 

  • What needs to be said (avoid the blunt and impatient part, go for clarity with facts and substance)? 
  • What needs to be clarified: goals, milestones, roles?
  • What needs to happen right now, today, in order to maintain positive momentum?

View #2: Engage others as an “I” would

“I” styles want to collaborate on the path to results, they want to co-create outcomes. Like “D’s”, they are action oriented, but in a different way. Their actions are about engaging team members, and while results are important, what matters to an “I” is the level of engagement and involvement with other members of the team in order to be effective.

  • Who are your allies in creating accountability?
  • How can the team celebrate success as it works together toward goals?
  • How can the team better tap into the specific strengths of each team member?

View #3:  Adapt the “S” style of listening

One of the strengths of an “S” perspective is creating safety so change can occur and tough conversations can be tackled. Borrow the “S” style of calm discussion in pursuit of understanding all the facts and bringing all voices into the discussion about accountability.

  • What questions need to be asked to bring clarity?
  • What can the team agree to in terms of behaviors of interaction that encourage positive outcomes?
  • Who needs to be involved in these discussions?

View #4:  Incorporate the “C” conscientiousness

One of the hallmarks of a “C” point of view is doing the right thing by applying logic and rational evaluation and disarming drama and high emotion that often escalate when accountability is not addressed.

  • What standards can the team put in place to help track agreements, expectations, and outcomes?
  • What assumptions need to be identified and addressed in order to create greater clarity and buy in?
  • What are some practical solutions to team issues around accountability?

So, which view would be most helpful today as you dedicate yourself to shifting the team dynamics toward greater accountability?

improve team accountability in the workplace

Tags: high functioning teams, team building and accountability, DiSC assessments

HR Leaders: Does Your Culture Offer Feedback That Gets Results?

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Thu, May 07, 2015

cc_coaching_skills_for_leaders_002"Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas." - Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

We were recently asked by an SVP of HR to help bring a feedback program inside a growing technology company. This HR executive was tired of having people leave because they didn't really know where they stood, or depart because they simply never heard anything positive about their performance. She knew feedback could be a tool that motivated and developed others. She was focused on 3 key things:

  1. Getting Senior Leaders to role model it—by not just delivering and receiving it well, but also by seeking it themselves
  2. Creating a program whereby people could learn how to deliver it well, and practice learning how to ask for it
  3. Finding a way to demonstrate how feedback creates a culture of accountability, transparency and hope for the future

Feedback? Just say the word to leaders and they cringe, or even roll their eyes. Ten years ago when we started training leaders on the benefits of feedback, we would here the groans, and wonder why does feedback get such a bad rap?

Just recently, we asked a group of 60 leaders in an all day training program, what do you think when your boss says “I want to give you some feedback.”

93% of the group said: “It’s going to be negative.”

Was it really this simple? Yes and no. Sure, most of the time people fear feedback because of the simple fact that it could be negative. But that’s not all, there are other reasons why feedback is feared and avoided. People have experienced the following:

  • Unjustified emotional hijackslots of leaders can tap into the time their boss missed the mark, was unjustified in his/her criticism, or even went on an emotional meltdown with screaming and threats
  • Clumsy, awkward delivery with vague tones that leave a person wondering what just happened? Am I on warning or was that a pep talk?
  • Lack of timeliness of feedback—so many people fear BOTH receiving and giving it that they delay it and by the time it’s delivered, its no longer relevant or the resentment is at the boiling point

Is it really all about just giving a receiving?cc_tough_talk_003

Much in the literature is built around how to give feedback well. When giving it, a person needs to:

  • Be prepared with specific behaviors and times
  • Be timely, and do not delay or wait until “performance review time”
  • Find time to deliver it informally and formally,
  • Recognize it does not have to be negativerecognition of a job/task that is well done goes a long way
  • Offer hope by focusing on the future versus mired in the past
  • Be clear so the person clearly understands the feedback
  • Takes into account the way the person would want to hear it, recognizing the difference in the learning styles of different people 

Giving feedback that produces new skills, better behavior, and sustained, positive results is not easy. It requires something from both the person delivering it and the person receiving it.

So how does a person on the receiving end of feedback, role model the behavior needed for positive reflection and growth? The best reactions usually include:

  • Effective listening and taking notes
  • Asking clarifying questions
  • Recognition that it may be hard to hear what is being said and asking for time to absorb is appropriate
  • Acknowledgment of one’s feelings is important—feedback can catch people by surprise
  • Appreciation—most feedback deserves thankfulness as it takes courage on both parties to have these conversations

Getting feedback right whether you are delivering it or receiving it is very important, but if organizations want to really create cultures of transparency, humility and accountability, they need to have leaders at ALL levels go out of their way to seek feedback for their performance improvement. For this reason, we add what we think is the single biggest way to truly leverage feedback in any organization. You create a culture where people want to seek feedback.

"Followers who tell the truth, and leaders who listen to it, are an unbeatable combination." - Warren Bennis

assess your feedback skills

Tags: building trust, Building a Leadership Bench, Feedback

HR Leaders: Is Your High Potential Employee Cupboard Bare?

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Tue, May 05, 2015

cc_2014_team_003-resized-600As an HR leader you are constantly on the lookout for talented, knowledgeable and dedicated employees. But do you feel that your “high potential” cupboard is bare? When you have a job opening and want to promote someone from within, do you see that your company’s talent pipeline is empty?

It makes your job easier when you already have in place a stable of high potential employees who are ready to lead at the next level. Begin to build your high potential talent pipeline by asking yourself the following questions:

How does my company define “high potential”?

Some companies typically define high potential employees as those in the top 5% of job performance. These are employees who consistently and competently achieve superior results, distinguish themselves with admirable behaviors, embrace the company’s cultures and values, and tend to learn and grow more quickly and effectively than their peers.

But focusing exclusively on performance can be a miss. Other elements key to hi-po success include a pattern of proactively seeking to problem-solve or lead through influence. Effectively creating trust on teams or work groups, and helping to establish group dynamics that underscore accountability and commitment. If your company focuses only on performance, which is who you promote; leaving out the high potentials who may be the exact talent you need as your company grows. 

What’s the definition at your organization? Has senior management discussed this to determine the characteristics that are most valuable?cc_mentors_001

For instance, high potential employees often take on new and challenging assignments. They seek out opportunities to develop new skills, leave their comfort zone, and make difficult decisions to show they have the drive to succeed and make the sacrifices necessary to get ahead. Fear is not a part of their vocabulary. They are ambitious, proactive, take calculated risks, and believe that good is never good enough. High potentials constantly pursue new avenues for higher results and strive towards an ever higher level of performance. Can you name 10 people in your company who fit that profile? Can you name 100?

For a clearer view of how your organization defines high potentials, get feedback from everyone at the senior and executive level regarding the list of traits and attributes they look for when deciding who to target for further development and future promotion. Leadership competencies, management milestones, goal setting and achievement all play a role in how companies talk about and measure potential. Gain agreement on this list of characteristics so everyone is aligned around the same standards.

What feedback does the company provide to employees?

Next, for an employee to truly be ready for the next level, they need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are so they can begin to work on improving them. In your culture, what formal and informal paths are available and encouraged to see and provide feedback to employees? How effective are these conversations?

Make assessments a part of your company’s plan to identify, develop and train high potential employees. While they should be working on improving their skills on their own, showing them that they are valuable to the company by investing in their development validates their efforts and provides additional motivation for their desire to develop their skills. Have a conversation with employees about what they can do to improve their opportunities for advancement and see who steps up to exceed expectations. These are your high potential employees.

How Does Your Company Communicate Expectations for High Potentials?

cc_clarity_001Without clear expectations and ongoing communication around feedback and development, many employees believe they are doing everything “right” in the workplace.  They consistently receive satisfactory job performance reviews and generally believe they are near the top of the list for promotion. But you may still not consider them as a high potential employee. How does your company communicate the expectations for becoming a High Potential employee?

Once you’ve agreed upon a list of character traits with senior leaders and implemented assessments to profile your employees, develop a clear plan of action or guidelines to communicate to employees what they can do to improve their chances for becoming a high potential. Explain how high potentials regularly seek feedback from their managers and peers, network with other departments within the company, learn about their industry and the direction it’s headed, and seek opportunities to lead others even outside of the company (i.e. volunteer positions). High potentials are determined to excel and succeed both professionally and personally. Their motivation to learn, grow, and achieve comes from within and usually burns brightly in every thought, action, and choice they make.

So are you ready to take the necessary actions to fill your high potential employee cupboard?

HR Leaders: Get FREE Help

Tags: corporate culture, Building a Leadership Bench, Feedback

Developing Leadership Skills: Is it a game in your workplace?

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Wed, Apr 22, 2015

cc_developing_leadership_skills_001Which card game best describes your company’s leadership development efforts?


There are so many different versions of poker that can be played and likewise, there are too many versions of leadership development programs at your company. You never know which one is being played, you’re never absolutely sure of the rules, and you’re completely confused how to best utilize the resources to your advantage. The only employees who get ahead with these programs, know how to bluff their way past everybody else and keep a straight face while doing it.

Crazy 8s

Crazy 8s is a simple game, really, and developing your leadership skills at your company seems simple too. All you have to do is follow what someone else did before you. However, at your company, you do as you’re told, follow what others do to develop their leadership skills and get ahead, yet you never seem to win by getting that promotion. Someone else always seems to beat you to it.

Go Fish

You’re constantly on the search for how to develop your leadership skills and everybody is telling you to “go fish”. Nobody seems to know what to do or have what you need, and trying to find someone to help you find the resources necessary is a lost cause. You’re lucky to stumble across any program that might help you win that promotion and when you do find someone who could help you, they seem reluctant to let you use their resources.


Developing your leadership skills and thus getting promoted at your workplace is like an all-out war. Everyone is looking out for themselves and offering no help of any kind to someone else. You have to be quick and ruthless to get ahead or risk getting dumped on by those who are faster than you. Winners who develop their leadership skills and move ahead in their careers are often loud, obnoxious and quick to rub your face in their success.


It’s lonely at your company. Leadership development is left to you to figure out and accomplish on your own. There’s no help from anyone, no written rules and few, if any, resources of any kind. You work hard to develop the skills necessary to advance at your organization, but you often find yourself at a dead end with nowhere to go and no idea what went wrong.


Just as in Euchre, nobody is playing with a full deck in your organization. Leadership Development efforts at your company are often incomplete and hard to understand. One time, Program A might help you develop your skills and “win” that promotion, the next time it’s a different leadership program. What’s popular and works to develop the people at your workplace changes rapidly, and when you ask for guidance or help, others often look down their nose at you for not keeping up with “the game”.

Tell us what leadership development efforts are like for you at your organization and download our free ebook on 3 steps you can take to launch your extraordinary leadership

Tags: leadership development, improve workplace relationships, Building a Leadership Bench

Inspiring Women at the WEN Conference

Posted by Alison Valli on Thu, Apr 16, 2015

cc_team_008Congratulations to the Women's Energy Network for organizing and hosting an OUTSTANDING and INSPIRING conference last week in New Orleans! WOW! My colleague Conni Todd and I were invited to contribute to the conference by leading an interactive leadership development workshop: Extraordinary Female Leadership—Vision is the Difference.

We also had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion around personal branding and networking: When Your Name is Your Bond—Building and Maintaining Your Bond in the Energy Space and Beyond. What an engaged and motivated group of women with which to spend 3 days! Not only did we have the opportunity to lead 2 sessions, we were incredibly inspired by other fabulous speakers like Peggy Montana, CEO and President of Shell Midstream Partners, and Marilyn Tam, CEO, Marilyn Tam & Co. 

The conference offered women in the energy industry four "tracks" of workshops, including: Energy Policy and Strategy; Career Game Changers—Operational Expertise, 2015 Industry Outlook—Insights and Trends; Energy Leadership—from STEM to the C-Suite. We elected to attend the Energy Leadership track precisely because of our work and our passion for leadership development. Despite the diversity in tracks and speaker’s topics, the following themes consistently emerged:

  1. Vision is a differentiator and the skill most lacking in female leaders.
  2. Confidence is KING in a predominantly male industry like oil/gas/energy.
  3. Self-Awareness is one of the most important components of career success—feedback is a must!
  4. Women have skills and brain trust that when included on teams positively impacts company performance OR women outscore men on numerous leadership competencies.Clearwater_vision_001

What was overwhelmingly apparent was the incredible power of leveraging the collective experience and wisdom of a group of dynamic women across multiple industries and organizations. Best leadership practices and a sense of hope and validation were shared, and owning one's femininity emerged as a competitive advantage to be embraced and celebrated!

We were thrilled to be able to further the leadership development of WEN conference participants not only at the conference but also moving the work forward into their businesses and workplaces by offering them a complimentary "Work of Leaders" assessment that will further their visioning, execution and alignment skills. We are looking forward to guiding them through their results in an upcoming webinar later this month.

We'd like to thank the amazing women of WEN, especially speaker committee chair, Emily Thomas, for giving us the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible forum for sharing and learning. We'd also like to congratulate Katie Mehnert, Founder and CEO of Pink Petro, on the recent launch of her business and website, "The business social channel for women in energy, where we unite, connect, develop and grow women." We were surrounded by visionary female leaders at the conference and we look forward to following the incredible journeys and success of these women in the years to come!

"Leaders of the future will have to be visionary and be able to bring people in - real communicators. These are things women bring to leadership and executive positions, and it's going to be incredibly valuable and incredibly in demand." - Anita Borg

Tags: leadership development, extraordinary female leadership, Career Development

3 Key Ideas for Consistency and Creativity in Leadership Development

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

clearwater_office_004In our recent survey “How satisfied are you with your organization’s learning & development”, the majority of first responders are only "somewhat dissatisfied." They express concern over a lack of consistency in learning & development approaches at their organizations and emphasize the need for greater focus on mid-manager development.

What most managers/future leaders react negatively to is the program du’jour—the periodic introduction of the next best idea for leadership and talent development. You can hear the groans and see the eyes rolling. One—More—Model that no one will apply or remember the day after tomorrow. 

Let’s cut to the chase. This is not rocket science, but consistency does take some creativity. Here are some methods for creating both in your organization:

1.  Be picky: Select one or two leadership themes for a period of time (one quarter, 6 months, one year) and consistently support their development. For exampleif great leaders are open minded, everyone works on listening skills for this period of time and it becomes not only a shared vocabulary, but a shared practice acknowledged in meetings, in performance reviews, with peers and customers. 

2. Offer multiple formats for engaging: We each have different learning styles—auditory, visual, experiential—but the most productive formats for learning combines elements and provide the opportunity for real world application in safe spaces beyond the classroom.

If you kick off the process in person, keep lecturing to a minimum (15 minute increments or less, interspersed with activities) and lay the path for discovery clearly—that there will be other opportunities for the participants to engage with the material and with each other including: CC_team_001-resized-600

a. Video Lecturing: If the instructor is engaging, the visuals are supportive and the content useful, video shorts can be a terrific way to revisit key concepts or take a deeper dive into material presented earlier. Keep it short (5 to 15 minute videos). 

b. Individual reflection or assessment: Anything that helps us understand ourselves better can be a useful tool and will keep us engaged (because it’s all about us!) On paper or online. 

In a recent mooc sponsored by MIT, we had daily access to an online questionnaire about our listening styles. It was extremely effective on two levels. One, keeping me aware each day of which style I was using (or over using!) and two, helping me track change over time in a super simple, creative manner. I still have the visual posted on the wall next to my desk at work as a gentle reminder. Am I habitually downloading information (reconfirming old opinions and judgements), am I listening for new facts (that could confirm or disconfirm what I think I already know), am I empathetically connecting with the speaker and topic, or am I listening for what is possible?

c. Group interactions: In the classroom, whole group or sub groups interaction can offer very creative and effective ways to explore the topic, discuss their current challenges or solutions, to share and engage with each other not only helps anchor in the learnings, but builds bridges across silos within organizations. 

d. Peer coaching circles outside the classroom: Give them the responsibility and creative opportunity to support each other; key to success her is to provide a set of questions and process that is easy to follow 

e.  Case studies on video: Offer 5 to 10 minute videos or 3 to 5 minute audio recordings that highlight individuals or coaching circles sharing insights, practice ideas, how they have applied the material and succeeded in some challenge specifically related to the theme you are focusing upon that quarter

f. Highlights: For text attentive participants, short emails with tips and ideas for implementation related to the leadership topic are effective, with links to articles or white papers or blogs that continue to build insight

cc_team_0103. Mind the Mid managers: If mid-managers have been ignored yet that is the pool for your future leaders, consider a Mentor Program that builds alliances between senior and mid-management in a very unique and personal way. It’s a double win. Senior leaders become more engaged in the ultimate goal of creating future leaders while making an immediate contribution to their development. And mid managers get exposure to senior leaders they otherwise would not and have a chance to show how effectively they can stretch into leadership opportunities. Pilot a program with a kick off session that sets expectations, defines roles and starts to introduce leadership training elements (topics you can later expand upon in a full blown learning and development program). While this is not traditional L&D, it is a creative way to start the conversation, the practice and the interaction.

Leadership starts with self-awareness and grows through action. What can you do today in your organization to forward consistent and creative leadership development? Who can be your allies? What small and immediate step can you take? It’s not too late to have your voice heard. Take our short survey and tell us how satisfied you are with leadership development at your organization.

Tags: definition of leadership, leadership development, Building a Leadership Bench

5 Keys to Building Leaders for the Future

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

"Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders." - Tom Peters

CC_leaders_diversity_003-resized-600It seems like every time we open an annual survey about the state of organizational development we see the same trends or headlines: disappointing news about the state of leadership. And, that is not surprising, nor is it new.Take our short, 2 minute survey and give us your opinion. Despite billions of dollars being spent to develop leaders, companies are still frustrated with the leadership capability of their future talent. Our work with several clients over the past decade has shown similar areas of concern:

  • Leaders in the pipeline are not ready to lead at the next level
  • Leaders do not know how to develop their talent
  • Leaders lack coaching ability
  • Leaders who don't seek, give or receive feedback
  • Companies who emphasize results at the expense of people produce cultures of burnout and low engagement levels

Case in point: We were recently brought in to help a company increase the coaching ability of their mid and senior level leaders. At one of the coaching practice sessions, one of the leaders told us he didn't really believe much in coaching because asking his people “what do they think” was not going to produce any earth shattering pieces of wisdom. In his opinion, he knew everything that anyone could serve up to him. He simply could not learn one thing from his direct reports that he didn't already know! Needless to say, this guy is certainly going to have an affect on his talent’s development down the road!

Deloitte recently released their Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report that shows "areas such as culture and engagement, leadership, and development have become urgent priorities." And, when looking at the report results in details, it shows the gap widening between what respondents listed as important and their feelings of readiness to face those issues. For instance, most people responded "important" or "very important to the issue of Learning and Development (up 3x from last year), but only 40% of respondents feel ready to face that issue which is down from 75% last year.

"In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Max de Pree

So what should organizations do to develop their talent and improve their bench capacity?Reactive_Proactive_Chalkboard1-300x199

5 Keys to Building the Leadership Pipeline

  1. Identify the level of leader you want to focus onsome organizations start with the entry level; managers or emerging leader, some start at the top with the senior leader ranks. Determining the level of leader can help build your content strategy. 
  2. Build the coaching capacity of ALL leaders in the companythis is the skill that all leaders need: the ability to develop people and help mitigate difficult conversations. Our work with hundreds of leaders shows us that although people think they know how to coach, they rarely know how to coach well. Build content that encourages regular practice of this imperative skill set. 
  3. Model feedback for everyone—make the case for seeking, giving and receiving feedback at all levels in the organization. Make it safe for people to leave feedback sessions with hope for future success. 
  4. Tie enhancement of leadership to results by creating case studies and tracking specific metrics like: retention, sales increases, productivity or engagement levels. 
  5. Create senior leadership ownership of the program by involving them through opportunities to teach the material, kick-off the programs, and modeling the skills. 

So how satisfied are you with your current leadership development efforts? How would you rate your company's efforts to build future leaders? Take our quick 2 minute survey to let us know about your efforts to build future leaders. We'll post the results in the next few weeks.

Tags: employee engagement, leadership coaching, Building a Leadership Bench

5 Types of Dysfunctional Teams

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Tue, Mar 10, 2015

clearwater_office_question_001-resized-600Are you a leader or member of a dysfunctional workplace team? Which one of the following reality TV shows does your dysfunctional team represent?

1. The Housewives of Any City

This team has strong personalities who believe they're the star and everyone else orbits around the sun of their presence. Other people exist only to stroke their ego, do their bidding and generally, make them feel like the most important person in the world. They excuse their own poor behavior but they're very quick to let others know when their feelings have been hurt or you've disappointed them, because they deserve better.

2. The Bachelor

You’re a nice team, really. Team members believe it’s more important to be sickly sweet and nice to get the leader’s attention. If someone asks for an opinion, team members are too bland and uninformed to offer a decisive perspective and besides, they wouldn't want to differ from the leader's opinions. Everyone would rather take the high road and revel in their sanctimonious behavior than actually do anything that might possibly cause them to lose their “nice person” moniker with the team leader.

3. Hell’s Kitchen

This is the opposite of #2. Yelling to get your point across is considered normal on this team. Dissention and differing opinions are unwelcome. It’s the team leader's way or the highway and anyone who doesn’t agree is automatically labeled an idiot. You secretly think you’re the only person on the team with any intelligence and demean anyone who makes the slightest mistake. Support and collaboration are foreign words to this team.

4. Survivorcc_collaborative_leadership_002

Everyone gets along on this team until it’s time to place blame and look for the sacrificial lamb. Then the finger pointing starts and how people really feel about each other is exposed. Back stabbing is common. Team members live on a diet of paranoia and distrust. You could receive a reward one day and be cut loose the next. Ultimately, people on this team look out for their own interests and use others to get what they want.

5. Amazing Race

This team is fun and adventurous, but ambiguous. You receive little direction or instruction. You’re expected to just figure it out on your own. All of your hard work and effort could go to waste because of someone who can't understand your simple instructions.Rewards are only for first place finishers and, if you're falling behind, you're cut loose so you're not a burden to the others on the team.

Is Your Team Dysfunctional?

Tags: high functioning teams, team building and accountability, DiSC assessments

Defining Success: The Meaning of Grit

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Mar 03, 2015

cc_collaborative_leadership_001It’s the first week of March. At the end of 2015 as you look back, what do you want to have attained or accomplished professionally? What's your definition of success? What are you driven to achieve? What matters so deeply to you that you are willing to dedicate time, energy, and emotion to its fulfillment? How do you stay motivated and engaged in the months ahead so that at the end of the year you are celebrating and smiling?

A recent TED (technology, entertainment, design) RADIO program on success highlights insights from several high achievers including:

  • MacArthur Genius award winner Angela Duckworth (“Is Having Grit The Key?")
  • The ever so intense Tony Robbins (“How Can Drive Make You a Success?”)
  • And Ron Gutman (“Can you Smile Your Way to Success?”) 

In every case, from slightly different points of view, the speakers all acknowledge internal motivation as a key to success, and they disarm the purported power external carrots have been said to have for changing our behavior from couch slouch to passionate producer.

In particular, I was fascinated by Angela Duckworth’s research on grit.

She defines grit as: "The disposition to pursue very long term goals with passion and perseverance.” Clearly requiring stamina. "Living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Some of her metrics include the questions:

  • I finish whatever I begin
  • Setbacks don’t discourage me
  • I am diligent

In her research, she found that grittier kids were more likely to graduate from school, even when matched on family income, test scores, or how safe they felt in the environment.cc_leadership_012

She found no positive correlation between natural ability and grit, contrary to our expectations.

She also found that “When kids read and learn about the brain and its growth in response to challenge, they are more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe failure is a permanent situation.”

Her advice to us all - learn to be excellent in the things you choose to do. To focus in areas that matter to you.

In our leadership development work, we use the work style profile DiSC and are often asked, are most leaders “D” style?  Driven, results oriented, challenging, direct.

Our answer: ANY style can lead; they just look different when they do it.  

  • “D” styles are more direct, like to dominate the conversation, are defined by “drive” and focus on results. 
  • “S” styles on the other hand, are the relative opposite of a “D". They take note of their environment and help create safety and stability for others, a particularly useful skill during dramatic times of change (merger/acquisition, economic unrest, etc.). They often appear to be more reserved than D’s and we could easily be misled to believe they do not have leadership qualities.

clearwater_disc_001So, perhaps this is where grit comes in to play - independent of the natural profile of behavior that describes us as D, I, S or C.  I recently met an emerging leader at a professional services firm. She is a blended style, combining “S” and “I”. The “i” style enjoys collaboration, working with others to solve problems, figuring out how to influence change (versus demanding it, which can be more of a “D” trait).

This young woman has a lot of grit. She moved here on her own from India, leaving behind her parents and 2 younger siblings, to go to college in a field dominated by men. She later brought her younger brother over so that he could graduate from high school in the United States and attend university here. When the company she worked for was acquired by a larger firm, and no one gave her direction for the first year at the new company, she proactively sought project work by going to every director and asking how she could help. She built the reputation as a dedicated, focused, hardworking, passionate professional, building strong relationships with her clients, and looking for opportunities to become even more successful. Her focus this year is on public speaking and presentation skills, which do not come easily or naturally to her. I have no doubt that with her grit and determination, she will excel.

One day she will lead a team, and then a department and then a company. She has grit. She has what it takes to succeed as a leader.

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Tags: leadership secrets, DiSC assessments, Emotional Intelligence, Career Development