Leading to Leadership
Your thinking skills can be considered directional skills because they set the direction for your organization. They provide vision, purpose, and goal definition. These are your eyes and ears to the future, allowing you to recognize the need for change, when to make it, how to implement it, and how to manage it. You find a vision by reaching for any available reason to change, grow, and improve. Just as you perform preventive maintenance on your car, you must perform preventive maintenance on your organization. Do NOT believe in the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," for the people who do, go broke! Treat every project as a change effort. Treat every job as a new learning experience.
Good organizations convey a strong vision of where they will be in the future. As a leader, you have to get your followers to trust you and be sold on your vision. Using the leadership tools described in this guide and being honest and fair in all you do will provide you with the influence you need in order to gain their trust. To sell them on your vision, you need to possess energy and display a positive attitude that is contagious. People want a strong vision of where they are going. No one wants to be stuck in a dead-end company going nowhere... or a company headed in the wrong direction. They want to be involved with a winner! And your followers are the ones who will get you to that goal. You cannot do it alone!
When setting goals, keep these points in mind:
- They should be realistic and attainable.
- They should improve the organization (morale, monetary, etc.).
- As many people as possible should be involved in the goal-setting process (they will feel a sense of ownership that will drive them to achieve it).
- A process should be developed to achieve each goal.
There are four characteristics of goal setting (U.S. Army Handbook, 1973):
- Goal Difficulty: Increasing your employees' goal difficulty increases their challenges and enhances the amount of effort expended to achieve them. The more difficult goals lead to increased performance if they seem feasible. If they seem too high, employees will give up when they fail to achieve them.
- Goal Specificity: When given specific goals, employees tend to perform higher. Telling them to do their best or giving no guidance increases ambiguity about what is expected. Employees need a set goal or model in order to display the correct behavior. Knowing the person will guide you in the amount of specificity that is required.
- Feedback: Providing feedback enhances the effects of goal setting. Performance feedback keeps their behavior directed on the right target and encourages them to work smarter to achieve the goal.
- Participation in Goal Setting: Employees who participate in the process, generally set higher goals than if the goals were set for them. It also affects their belief that the goals are obtainable and increases their motivation to achieve them.
Although finding a vision can be quite a creative challenge, the process of getting that vision implemented can be fairly easy if you follow the six steps of:
Vision —> Goals —> Objectives —> Tasks —> Timelines —> Follow-up
Step 1 - Vision
The first step in setting goals and priorities is to personally develop what the organization should look like at some point in the future — this is a vision. A junior leader, such as a supervisor or line manager, will mainly be concerned with a department, section, or small group of people, while senior leaders set the vision for the entire organization. However, both types of visions need to support each other and the organization's goals.
The mission of the organization is crucial in determining your vision. Your vision needs to coincide with the big picture. The term “vision” suggests a mental picture of what the future organization will look like. The concept also implies a later time horizon. This time horizon tends to be mid to long term in nature, focusing normally on 1/2 to 5 years in the future for visions affecting the entire organization. However, leaders such as supervisors or line managers tend to have shorter time horizon vision, normally a few weeks to a year.
The concept of a vision has become a popular term within academic, government, defense, and corporate circles. This has spawned many different definitions of vision. But, the vision you want should be a picture of where you want your department or organization to be at a future date. For example, try to picture what your department would look like if it was perfect, or what the most efficient way to produce your product would look like, or perhaps if your budget was reduced by 10 percent, how could you still achieve the same quality product.
Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule)
Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th century economist, theorized that most effects come from relatively few causes; that is, 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the possible causes (Juran, 1988). For example, 20 percent of the inventory items in the supply chain of an organization accounts for 80 percent of the inventory value. This is known as the Pareto principle or the 80-20 rule.
Some leaders fall into the time wasting trap of going after the 80 percent of items that only have a value of 20 percent of the total net worth. Your visions need to picture the 20 percent that will have the greatest impact on your organization. Although it is nice to have small victories every now and then by going after that easy 80 percent, spend the majority of your time focusing on the few things that will have the greatest impact. That is what a good leader does.
Once you have your vision, it needs to be framed in general, unmeasurable terms and communicated to your team. Your team then develops the ends (objectives), ways (concepts), and means (resources) to achieve the vision.
Step 2 - Goals
The second step involves establishing goals, with the active participation of the team. Goals are also stated in unmeasurable terms, but they are more focused. For example, "The organization must reduce transportation costs." This establishes the framework of the your vision.
Step 3 - Objectives
Definable objectives provide a way of measuring the movement towards vision achievement. This is the real strategy of turning visions into reality. It is the crossover mechanism between your forecast of the future and the envisioned, desired future. Objectives are stated in measurable terms such as, “By the end of the next quarter, the shipping department will use one parcel service for shipping items at or under 100 pounds and one motor carrier for shipping items over a 100 pounds.” In addition, strive for ownership by the entire team.
Step 4 - Tasks
The fourth step is to determine the tasks. Tasks are the means for accomplishing objectives. Tasks are concrete, measurable events that must occur. An example might be, "The transportation coordinator will obtain detailed shipping rates from at least 10 motor carriers."
Step 5 - Timelines
This step establishes a priority for the tasks. Since time is precious and some tasks must be accomplished before another can begin, establishing priorities helps your team to determine the order in which the tasks must be accomplished and by what date. For example, "The shipping rates will be obtained by May 9."
Step 6 - Follow-up
The final step is to follow-up, measure, and check to see if the team is doing what is required. This kind of leader involvement validates that the stated priorities are worthy of action. For the leader it demonstrates her commitment to see the matter through to a successful conclusion. Also, note that validating does not mean micro-managing. Micro-management places no trust in others, where as following-up determines if the things that need to get done are in fact getting done.
Supervision is keeping a grasp on the situation and ensuring that plans and policies are implemented properly (U.S. Army Handbook,1973). It includes giving instructions and inspecting the accomplishment of a task.
There is a narrow band of proper supervision. On one side of the band is over-supervision (micro-management); and on the other side is under-supervision. Over-supervision stifles initiative, breeds resentment, and lowers morale and motivation. Under-supervision leads to miscommunication, lack of coordination, and the perception by subordinates that the leader does not care. However, all employees can benefit from appropriate supervision by seniors with more knowledge and experience who normally tend to see the situation more objectively.
Evaluating is part of supervising. It is defined as judging the worth, quality, or significance of people, ideas, or things (U.S. Army Handbook,1973, p304). It includes looking at the ways people are accomplishing a task. It means getting feedback on how well something is being done and interpreting that feedback. People need feedback so that they can judge their performance. Without it, they will keep performing tasks wrong, or stop performing the steps that makes their work great.
Use checklists to list tasks that need to be accomplished. Almost all of us have poor memories when it comes to remembering a list of details. List tasks by priorities. For example, "A" priorities must be done today, "B" priorities must be done by tomorrow, and "C" priorities need to be followed up within a week.
Double check on important things by following through. Strange things can happen if you are not aware of them. Paperwork gets lost, plans get changed, and people forget. If you have a system of checks and double checks, you will discover mistakes, have time to correct them, and minimize any disruptions. Following through may seem to be a waste of your time and energy, but in the long run, it pays off. You will spend less time and energy correcting mistakes and omissions made long ago.
Getting people to accomplish something is much easier if they have the inspiration to do so. Inspire means “to breathe life into.” And in order to perform that, we have to have some life ourselves. Three main actions will aid you in accomplishing this:
1. Be passionate: In organizations where the is a leader with great enthusiasm about a project, a trickle-down effect will occur. You must be committed to the work you are doing. If you do not communicate excitement, how can you expect your people to get worked up about it?
2. Get your employees involved in the decision making process: People who are involved in the decision making process participate much more enthusiastically than those who just carry out a boss' order. Help them contribute and tell them you value their opinions. Listen to them and incorporate their ideas when it makes sense to so.
3. Know what your organization is about!: The fundamental truth, as General Creighton W. Abrams used to say in the mid-1970s, is that “the Army is not made up of people. The Army is people. Every decision we make is a people issue.” Your organization is the same. It may make a product or sell a service, but it is still people! A leader's primary responsibility is to develop people and enable them to reach their full potential. Your people may come from diverse backgrounds, but they all have goals they want to accomplish. Create a "people environment" where they truly can be all they can be.
As a leader you must view coaching from two different viewpoints: 1) coaching to lead others and 2) being coached to achieve self-improvement.
Training and coaching are two different things, although some people use them interchangeably. Training is a structured lesson designed to provide the employee with the knowledge and skills to perform a task. Coaching, on the other hand, is a process designed to help the employee gain greater competence and to overcome barriers so as to improve job performance.
You might picture it as when you were in school. During physical education, the gym teacher (trainer) taught you how to play basketball. Next you went out for the school team. You had a basic understanding of the game and its rules, but the coach personally taught you (coaching) the finer points of the game.
Training and coaching go hand-in-hand. First you train people with lots of technical support, and then you coach them with motivational pointers.
Both training and coaching help to create the conditions that cause someone to learn and develop. People learn by the examples of others, by forming a picture in their minds of what they are trying to learn, by gaining and understanding necessary information, by applying it to their job, and/or practice.
Both coaching and training have a few points in common:
- Evaluate to determine knowledge, skill, and confidence levels.
- Define objectives that can be measured periodically. It helps to break them down into step-by-step actions (action steps).
- Clarify direction, goals, and accountability. To foster accountability, involve the person or team in the decision making.
- Encourage peer coaching by reminding them that everyone has a stake in each other's success.
- Coaching is more than telling people how to do something, it involves giving advice, skill-building, creating challenges, removing performance barriers, building better processes, learning through discovery (the aha method), etc.
- Deal with emotional obstacles by helping them through change, reviewing and pointing out ways that they hold themselves back, comforting them when they become confused, etc.
- Give feedback by pointing and hinting towards solutions; try to stay away from critiquing errors.
- Lead by example! demonstrate the desired behaviors.
Another powerful tool for helping people to learn is mentoring.
The first condition of learning is that the person must be motivated to learn. You cannot teach knowledge or skills to people who are not motivated to learn. They must feel the need to learn what you are teaching. Most employees are motivated to do a good job. They want to be able to perform their tasks correctly. Their motivation is being able to perform their job to standards in return for a paycheck, benefits, challenges, job satisfaction, etc.
The next condition of learning is to involve them in the process. Keep their attention by actively involving their minds and emotions in the learning process. Have them participate through active practice of the skill or through discussion. You cannot keep their attention with a long lecture. Normally, people pay attention for a short time — less than 30 minutes. They need to use what is being taught or their minds will wander. If you lecture for an hour, very little will be remembered. Instead, give a brief lecture (less than 10 minutes), demonstrate, and then have them practice. Provide feedback throughout the practice session until they can do it on their own. If it is a large complicated task, break it down into short learning steps.
Al Capone once said that “You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” However, while almost anyone can use power, it takes skill to use leadership. Leadership power is much more than the use of force. Leadership is influencing others to truly WANT to achieve a goal, while power forces others to achieve a goal.
Power refers to a capacity that a person has to influence the behavior of another so that he or she acts in accordance with the his or her' wishes. This power is a capacity or potential as it implies a potential that need not be actualized to be effective. That is, a power may exist, but does not have to be used to be effective. For example, an officer in the Army has certain powers over enlisted personal, but that power does not have to used to be effective. The mere knowledge of an officer's power by an enlisted person has some influence over him or her.
A person has the potential for influencing six points of power over another (French, Raven, 1959; Raven, 1965):
- Coercive Power — Power that is based on fear. A person with coercive power can make things difficult for people. These are the people that you want to avoid getting angry. Employees working under a coercive manager are unlikely to be committed, and more likely to resist the manager.
- Reward Power — Compliance achieved based on the ability to distribute rewards that others view as valuable. Able to give special benefits or rewards to people. You might find it advantageous to trade favors with him or her.
- Legitimate Power — The power a person receives as a result of his or her position in the formal hierarchy of an organization. The person has the right, considering his or her position and your job responsibilities, to expect you to comply with legitimate requests.
- Expert Power — Influence based on special skills or knowledge. This person earns respect by experience and knowledge. Expert power is the most strongly and consistently related to effective employee performance.
- Referent Power — Influence based on possession by an individual or desirable resources or personal traits. This is often thought of as charisma, charm, or admiration. You like the person and enjoy doing things for him or her.
- Informational Power — Raven (1965) later came up with a sixth power, Informational: Providing information to others that result in them thinking or taking acting in a new way.
The points of power allow you to determine the influence you and others have available in order to achieve full negotiation skills.
Next chapter: Direction
French, J., Raven, B.H. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies of Social Power, (pp. 150–167). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.
Juran, J.M. (1988). Juran's Quality Control Handbook. New York: Mcgraw-Hill.
Raven, B.H. (1965). Social influence and power. In I.D. Steiner, M. Fishbein, (Eds.), Current Studies in Social Psychology. pp. 371–382. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.
U.S. Army. (October 1983). Military Leadership. FM 22-100. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.