The real ROI on leadership is impact

By Dr. Teresa Ray, PCC

Organizations spend a lot of time discussing the return on investment for every effort they undertake, and rightfully so. Being a good steward of your resources is important.

The difficult truth, however, is that some initiatives like leadership, development and growth don’t have a measurable return on investment.

Measuring leadership investment is like attempting to catch the wind in a jar — you can’t. However, you can see, feel and measure the impact the wind has on the surrounding area. When you consider what it means to be a leader, you shouldn’t be looking at the return on investment but, rather, the return on impact.

Understanding Your Impact

What would those who work with you really say about their experience? Would they describe you as a good leader — or a great one? Would they spend more time and energy talking about you, or talking about the impact and influence you’ve had on others?

Good or bad, leaders always leave something behind, but it’s my experience as an executive coach that most leaders struggle to answer even the most basic questions about the impact they have. Often, this is because they’re unsure about the legacy they hope to leave or they misjudge the scope of their impact. Published in the journal Organizational Dynamics, a review of multiple studies “consistently found that women leaders under-estimated (i.e., predicted lower) how others viewed their leadership behaviors.”

Without knowing what you hope to leave behind, you fail to give yourself a target. So how do you define your target? It requires self-reflection, self-awareness and an understanding of the type of impact you want to have on others.

Type 1: You impact people on an individual level.

One leader I worked with described her passion for helping others to grow. She strives to add value to the careers of those around her by identifying skill gaps and then invests time in influencing, coaching and growing others. If you asked those around her, they would each tell you exactly how they are better at their jobs and on their teams because of her influence. The key to this type of impact is that it’s individual. She isn’t simply hoping people share her vision. She looks at an individual and determines exactly how she can help them.

Now, you might be thinking that this type of impact requires quite the time commitment. Here’s where I’ll challenge you: Leadership isn’t about you. If you’re leading others, it’s all about them. If you can’t find time to connect, you should examine what’s getting in your way.

Type 2: You impact your team by sharing your unique skill set.

A lot of leaders fall in this category. They focus on growing others in very specific areas, usually defined by what they themselves are skilled at. Examples include effective communication, client or project management, sales, meeting or presentation skills and ethics and integrity.

These leaders are known for their own expertise in these areas and they are always watching for ways to influence and impact others in the same areas. When I talk with the colleagues and employees of these leaders, they each describe how the specific skill they gained by working with their leader has impacted their career.

Type 3: You impact the overall company culture.

In this case, the leader demonstrates the power that comes with remembering there is a heartbeat behind every name tag and a person behind every employee ID number. These are the leaders that influence and impact organizational culture. These leaders show kindness and are considered great listeners. They lead with a coaching style of leadership and carve out time with others. These leaders are beloved by their colleagues and employees. Even after they’ve retired or moved on from the position, employees will describe how they carry the behaviors forward. As one employee I encountered put it: “I stop and listen to my people now and avoid jumping to conclusions because my former boss was a great listener and always had time for me.” Another said, “I learned to ask great questions and allow my employees to think through problems and solutions because I worked for someone who allowed me the space to problem-solve and think out loud without judgment.”

Leaders always leave something behind, good or bad. So, if you haven’t spent time thinking about your legacy as a leader, please do. Sit down in a quiet place, consider the type of impact you want to have and write out your goals. In other words, define your target, so you can achieve a positive return on impact.

Source: Forbes

WHAT IS TOP TALENT AND HOW IS THAT IDENTIFIED?

As a part of our talent acquisition engagements, we ask our clients how they define “top talent” and how they would assess those traits in the interview process. Reflecting on the insightful comments we hear every day, we thought there would be great value in a new blog in which senior executives/thought leaders share their “Take on Talent.”

This is the twenty-second in a series of blogs/interviews with senior executives who are thought leaders in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Career Development and Leadership who will share their perspectives on this ever present question.

 

Kevin Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, Syniti

As CEO, Kevin drives the growth agenda of Syniti with poise and at ease. With a solid track record in driving growth at scale, Kevin joined Syniti, formerly BackOffice Associates, as president, global consulting and services April 2018, and was named as CEO in February 2019.

During his 20+ year, 2-term tenure at Accenture, he was Group Chief Executive for Outsourcing and Group Chief Executive Technology where he drove double-digit growth. Kevin was also CO-COO for Bridgewater Associates and COO for Oscar Health based out of New York.

As CEO, Kevin’s leadership remit here is simple: Inspire and empower those around him to deliver on the business’ vision and purpose. He oversees all aspects of our operation while also taking every opportunity to engage with customers, partners, and employees on the ground around the world.

At home and in relaxed mode, Kevin devotes himself to family life and the resulting bike rides and activities that come with such a commitment. He also coaches his children’s sports teams and can often be found at various sports fields hurling encouragement. This has even been turned in to a group activity when they attend Atlanta United FC as season ticket holders. Go five stripes!

Please share with us the top five characteristics (in priority order, first to fifth) of the most talented people you have encountered during your career, and your definition of each.         

 

  1. Self Aware and Humble – A former mentor told me early on, “Kevin what will confound you is that the people who need the most help don’t ask for it, the people that don’t need as much help,  ask a lot”.  Over the years I have learned that this is a combination of people knowing that they don’t know everything (self aware) and people always seeking input from others to make sure they have checked their thinking (being humble) .  One of the questions I like to ask in an interview is what are your weaknesses?   Some people want to try the “I care too much or work too hard”, but you can gain insights to the person if they say things like “I often get so excited with my ideas, that I get carried away” or “I have a blind spot when it comes to certain capabilities”. Ray Dalio, the legendary investor,  whom I worked for says, know and embrace your weaknesses, that is the key to being successful.
  2. Team/Customer First – I have worked with a lot of great talents over the years, but teamwork is a force multiplier and people who know how to collaborate and both lead teams and be part of teams is a key to success. When talking to people I like to note how many times they use “I” vs “we” when discussing accomplishments.  I also like to challenge people with providing examples where the team’s idea was better  than their own (or the majority thought so)  and how they supplanted their thoughts and committed to the team direction and what was the outcome.  I have also found that team- first people understand that serving the customer/client is priority.  As another mentor once said, last time I checked all our revenue comes from our customers. And on the other hand all of us have examples of brilliant people that couldn’t work with others.
  3. Stretch/breaking through barriers – every successful and talented person has encountered difficult situations in his/her life.  It’s how you deal with it that is key and the strengths you gain from those times . One example for me was when at Exult our stock went from around $8 to 1.52 in 12 hours after we were forced to change auditors.   Who rallied, who were friends in the time of crisis, that sticks with you vs. the people who were Eeyore’s (Character from Winnie the Pooh). Asking people for examples like this or when they had a problem like nightly processing taking 72 hours to run and learning how they thought about the problem, what resources they brought to bear and what they learned. Learning is a big part of breaking through barriers and in today’s world being a life long learner is absolutely required so exploring how people learn new things and what their thirst for learning is, provides additional insights.
  4. Integrity/Transparency – Living our word, saying what you will do and doing what you say is critical.  While very few people will ever say they lack integrity, but  if you ask them for examples where they had ethical dilemmas or they promised to do something  either individually or on behalf of their company and  then had a challenge doing it, you will get some insights into the person’s morale compass.  Also It’s critical  that people are transparent.  You will notice successful people, sometimes contrary to what people think, seldom play politics with their boss, spend little time tearing down those around them and often have little tolerance for not doing the right thing.
  5. Enjoy the ride, have fun, family –  Universally, the most talented people I have worked around, know that everyday might be our last, realize that there is more to life than just work, genuinely care about others and are fun to be around.   I like to know about the people I work with, what makes them tick, what gets them out of bed in the morning, challenges they have in balancing family commitments, etc.  I find that the most talented people aren’t afraid to say, hey I got an event at my kids school so can we move that meeting and they are also genuinely care about others, and pick up on clues when someone is down (hey you don’t seem yourself or you seem stressed). So when talking to people about joining our team, I like to know what they do to relieve stress, what they like about their current teammates, and examples of how they ensure bring their whole selves to work.

 

How do you communicate these characteristics to your HR and senior management team?

At  Syniti, we are fortunate to have gone through a rebranding exercise and as part of that we got input, discussed and debated and established our values.  Not surprisingly our values represent what I and the leadership team think is important to have in each of us and our people. Customer First, Enjoy The Ride, Innovation/Breakthrough, Integrity and Teamwork.

I also have had a couple of hiring principles that I find helpful in communicating what I look for. First, when hiring anyone that is a direct report to me, I do the early interviewing, often the first interview. I learn what is available in the market, and get the chance to see first impressions and establish the hook of the candidate.  I don’t communicate what I think of the candidate only if I want to stop further interviews.  After others of my directs have interviewed the candidates, we discuss what our impressions are and what we see as the person’s strengths and areas of concern.   It helps to make sure we don’t have group think and my views don’t influence others. I will also always have some members of my board interview any of my directs.  I will then spend two more times talking with the person and when I conclude the right person, I communicate why I thought that person was the right candidate.

Second,  I also request that I interview any of direct reports to my direct reports.  I am open to when in the process I do this but I want to make sure I understand why we are hiring the person, what we are looking for and how their success will be judged.  It’s also a chance for me to establish a skip level relationship.  We use the same principles when transferring or promoting people into a role that is a direct report to one of my directs.  Even though the person is already within the company, its good hygiene to ensure same standards are applied as with a new hire.

 

How do you handle challenges to the existing culture by talent you have brought in?

In my view, culture in today’s world cannot be stagnant, it needs to reflect an evolution that mirrors how a business is evolving and what is needed to get to the next stage in a company’s growth.  As a leadership team we sat down shortly after I became CEO and did a design thinking exercise around the type of company we wanted to be, both in terms of objectives and feel and characteristics. It included our values and also included our purpose.  All of this to say that, we defined what we wanted our culture to evolve to and set about making it happen.  As with any move forward the power of the past is a challenge to change.  The forces of resistance can stop the evolution. To counteract the resistance I ask HR and my leadership team to demonstrate the values we want, to recognize people that are demonstrating our values and retrain or replace people following  counter behaviors.  Ultimately, culture is about performance and values.  People,  new or long timers, have to perform and demonstrate the values of the company. If they don’t do both, they are not a good fit and have to leave.  Otherwise, our values and culture are compromised, becoming words.

Leadership assessment: Do men and women influence differently?

By Darleen DeRosa

Do men and women lead differently in the workplace? Based on much of the research, the short answer is “yes.” Although the gender leadership differences often align with the stereotype that women lead with a more interpersonal style and men with a more task-oriented style, it appears that gender does play a role in leadership style and preferences.

Because a leader’s success often depends upon their ability to gain the support and cooperation of people who frequently have competing priorities or conflicting goals, OnPoint Consulting wanted to understand what gender differences, if any, exist in how leaders use influence. To help answer this question, we used a 360° feedback questionnaire to collect data on the influencing skills of 223 leaders (116 men and 107 women) across organizations and industries.

While the data pointed to some significant differences in the approaches men and women use to gain others’ buy-in and support, we also uncovered some surprising similarities. The following is a summary of our findings.

Most Effective Influence Tactics
Our previous research on influence identified 11 influencing tactics used by the most effective managers. We then grouped these tactics according to their effectiveness in gaining others’ support and commitment—most effective, moderately effective, and least effective tactics. The four tactics that are most effective in gaining commitment from others are: Continue reading

Are You Pursuing Your Vision of Career Success — or Someone Else’s?

by Laura Gassner Otting

You’ve checked all the boxes. You’ve graduated from the right college, held the right internship, flourished in the right graduate program, and landed the right job at the right company. You’ve followed the path that everyone else told you would be the one to lead to success — to your dream job — only to find that your dream job doesn’t feel so dreamy after all.

The good news is that you aren’t alone. Across each generation, the realization that success hasn’t brought with it the expected happiness has created a zeitgeist moment where conversations about purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction reign supreme. In fact, a 2015 study by Gallup showed that only one-third of the American workforce feels actively engaged in their work.

Each generation is experiencing its own work identity crisis, trying to determine why their work isn’t working for them. Millennials — social media natives who have never lived separate lives at work and at home  —  don’t look for work-life balance, but rather work-life alignment, where they can be the same person, with the same values, at home and in the office. Boomers are turning the standard retirement age of 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day, but are not ready to put their hard-earned toolboxes on the shelf to gather dust. One-third of Americans over the age of fifty —nearly 34 million people — stated that they were seeking to fill their time with some professional (paid or unpaid) purpose beyond just the self. GenXers, finding themselves caught between raising children and nursing aging parents, are looking for work that contributes to managing these demands rather than working against them.

While these generations may differ in terms of what’s most meaningful to them, across each generation, meaning matters. Continue reading

Women Chairs: The Time Is Now

By Helen Pitcher OBE, Chair of Advanced Boardroom Solutions

 

With more women as board chairs, business can better serve society.

Companies should benefit all their stakeholders. This is increasingly on the minds of regulators, activists, politicians, pension investors and individuals of this world. As Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of Blackrock, wrote in his 2019 Letter to CEOs, “society is increasingly looking to companies, both public and private, to address pressing social and economic issues”.

If we want boards to deliver benefits for a wider stakeholder group – and stop focusing on short-term profits – we need to shift the dial on women becoming chair of these boards. Failing that, the corporate landscape won’t change.

While there are excellent male chairs, too many are products of the old boys’ network. These men pay scant attention to their increasing accountability towards stakeholders beyond their shareholders. In the United Kingdom, the days of the Financial Reporting Council (the watchdog for auditors, accountants and actuaries) are now numbered after it was embroiled in one controversy too many.

Why more women chairs is a game changer

McKinsey & Company has a long history of published reports that have established the business case for diversity. Organisations with greater gender diversity outperform others, typically have a healthier risk profile and make better investment decisions. All of this generates greater client and customer satisfaction.

Based on peer-reviewed research, surveys and anecdotal evidence, we now know what makes an effective board chair. Beyond the obvious group of traits including integrity, personal strength, courage and intelligence, the critical skills are:

  • an ability to influence others without dominating
  • an engaged vision of the future
  • strong emotional intelligence
  • coaching skills.

If we schematise the skills of an effective chairperson, it may look like this:

At the base of the pyramid lie the rules-based, measurable hard skills. While they are necessary, they can be taught and learnt.

At the top of the pyramid, we find the intuition-based soft skills that require a high emotional quotient (EQ). Those skills can only be developed through experience, practice and internal focus.

EQ & soft skills are more often associated with women than men. Though differences between ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ traits have little bearing on the attributes of individual men and women, research does not support the notion that men are somehow better suited to the chairperson role.

It should be clear that women are just as capable as men in directing and chairing our companies. Furthermore, they have as much right to succeed, and fail, as their male counterparts do. Our reservoir of chair talent is not so great that we can afford to ignore 50 percent of the potential candidates.

Time to accelerate the pace of change

As the leaders of our companies are called upon to strengthen their engagement with society and all stakeholders, we need to better understand and articulate what a chair role entails. The “job description” must move beyond the domineering CEO stereotype, with its descriptors of drive, ambition and ruthlessness.

The soft skills of facilitation, collaboration, listening, synthesising, defusing conflict and ensuring consensus are the hallmarks of a successful chair. At the other end of the spectrum, directive, overly assertive and antagonistic are the traits of an ineffective chair.

By acting as role models, women chairs can provide additional societal benefits. For instance, they can act as a driving force for empowerment and to promote the inclusion of a broader talent pool. In the UK, advocates of increased acceleration of women in chair roles are multiplying. They include existing female directors, the Women on Boards network, the International Women’s Forum (IWF), Men as Change Agents (MACA), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the 30% Club.

While the positive pressure for more diverse boards does show results, the action on women chairs is far behind. Too many active resistors – including old-style chairmen and nomination committees – continue to reinforce the false idea that chairs must have at least a decade of board work under their belt. Head hunters tend to say that female chairs are difficult to find, repeating a narrative they used before national targets were established for women on boards. The statistics show this is not true.

Stopping the erosion of trust in business

We need a strong push to free boards held hostage by reductionist thinking. According to research by INSEAD Professor Stanislav Shekshnia, only 20 percent of boards in the UK will be women-led by 2027. This is not enough. It is time to take action to accelerate the acquisition of more female chairs, right across the public and private corporate environment.

In the UK, the new Combined Code with its cap of nine years of service on a single board will create more churn. Investment companies must start asking mediocre chairmen to step down. Women need a greater number of enthusiastic sponsors and more board-level development. I challenge more female directors to aim for the top role.

Having more women chairs will help rebuild the trust in our corporate environment and foster businesses that deliver performance mixed with social and environmental benefits. It may just be the key to a new era of sustainable long-term profit.

Helen Pitcher OBE (IDP-C) is the chair of Advanced Boardroom Excellence, which works with board effectiveness, board evaluation reviews and coaching chairs, CEOs and NEDs. She is a graduate of INSEAD’s International Director’s Programme.

Source: INSEAD