Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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Fostering A Work Environment Where Leaders Can Thrive.


The long-standing debate: Are leaders “born” or “made”? We all can recognize some people who appear to be “born leaders”, but many leaders are made. If you have employees who have the potential to step up as leaders but haven’t done so, there are several things you can do to help them develop.

Provide employees with decision-making opportunities

Good leaders have the confidence to make decisions on their own. One of the best ways to build up this confidence for other employees with leadership potential is to give them the power to make some important decisions on their own. Not only does empowering employees to make decisions boost confidence, it allows them to think critically and in the best interest of the company.

When an employee is responsible for making decisions without relying on a manager, it requires them to weigh the best interest of everyone involved and become more in tune with the project or organizational goals. The responsibility of decision-making gives employees a greater sense of ownership and accountability over his or her work, which leads to better employee engagement. The next time an employee asks how he or she should move forward, instead of giving them the answer, ask, “What do you think we should do next?”

Encourage employees to pursue their passions

There is no better motivation to accomplish great things than loving what you do. Another way to shape employees into leaders is to talk to them about what they are passionate about and where they would like to see themselves, their department or the company. Allowing them to see projects through that, will help accomplish that goal demonstrates your interest in their vision and that you value their input.

Revealing what excites and motivates your employees and giving them the chance to follow through with those ideas can help them feel more fulfilled. Even if what an employee is most interested in is something that would occur outside of the office, such as participating in sports or volunteering, encourage them to organize these activities and get co-workers involved. Satisfaction with one’s accomplishments is not something that can be taught, but it is a feeling that can spread to and motivate other employees.

Facilitate learning

Knowledge builds confidence and empowers people. Good leaders are continually learning and questioning how things can be done better. By suggesting books, articles and blogs to read, employees can become motivated to learn on a regular basis. Encouraging employees to attend webinars, watch videos, go to networking events and workshops can also help emphasize the importance of learning. The more experiences and knowledge employees gain, the more they can contribute to the growth and success of ideas and their work.

Acknowledge accomplishments

Acknowledging your employees’ hard work not only builds confidence, it also fuels a sense of pride in what they are doing. Investing time and money into staff well-being and happiness will also strengthen the company culture and bring out leadership skills. Whether it’s public praise at a staff meeting, an award at a company gathering or a gift card, tokens of appreciation are encouraging ways to assure an employee that he or she is on the right track. Additionally, if your employees notice you praising others, they may be more open to peer encouragement, which will continue the cycle of positive reinforcement and the behavior you want to see in a leader.

Good leaders, whether they are born or made, are often at the crux of a successful company.  Whether you are a manager or an executive; it’s important to foster a work environment where leaders can thrive.

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How to Spot an Eagle

Aardvarks are really good at one thing: eating bugs — sometimes 50,000 in one night! No other creature on the planet can match their appetites. Star performers in their own corner of the
jungle, when they tuck a napkin under their aardvark chins, they produce impressive results, just like your hardworking employees can in their jobs.

Too often, however, in an attempt to do the aardvark and the organization a favor, a decision maker will insist the aardvark fly like an eagle. There are no flying aardvarks. You can certainly
throw an aardvark out of an airplane midair, but you won’t end up with a flying aardvark. Being destroyed doesn’t motivate your employees, not the one who just failed or those who witnessed the crash.

So how do you know the difference between an aardvark and an eagle? How can you recognize those who can and will engage in the critical but difficult work of creating strategy? Whether making a hiring or promotion decision, based on the individual’s proven record of success, ask yourself the following:

  • Does this person understand how to separate strategy from tactics, the “what” from the “how”?
  • Can this person keep a global perspective? Or does she or he become mired in the details and tactics?
  • Do obstacles stop this person?
  • Can he or she create order during chaos?
  • Does this person have the ability to see patterns, make logical connections, resolve contradictions and anticipate consequences?
  • What success has this person had with multitasking?
  • Can this person think on his or her feet?
  • Can this person prioritize seemingly conflicting goals — to zero in on the critical few and put aside the trivial many when allocating time and resources?
  • When facing a complicated or unfamiliar problem, can this individual get to the core of the issue and immediately begin to formulate possible solutions?
  • Is this person future-oriented and able to paint credible pictures of possibilities and likelihoods?
  • How do unexpected and unpleasant changes affect this person’s performance?
  • When in a position of leadership, does this person serve as a source of advice and wisdom?

The core competencies that drive a particular organization may differ, but the ability to think analytically and dispassionately remains constant. The overarching question is this: “When
acting in a strategic role, has this person typically performed as needed?” If the answer is “yes,” the person probably has the innate talent to be a strategic thinker and will just need to improve requisite skills to support the talent. If the answer is “no,” don’t gamble by putting this person in a more demanding position. As valuable as the aardvarks of the organization can be, virtually all organizations need more eagles, strong critical thinkers who can learn from mistakes and make bold decisions.

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Empowering HR drives business success

Cover of "Strategic Business Partner: Ali...

Cover via Amazon

A recent research study released by Bersin & Associates in January confirmed for me something I have believed and lived by throughout my career.  It’s not the quantity of your HR team; it truly is the knowledge and skills they bring to the table and the empowerment and support given by the organizations CEO and other senior leaders that makes it successful.  You can say I have been lucky enough to work for extremely dynamic CEO’s.  In some cases it’s true, I have worked with great leaders, but I have also had my share of the closed mindset CEO who doesn’t know or care what HR does as long as people get paid and have benefits.  It was up to me and my staff to demonstrate the value they were missing out on.  

This study looked at 720 organizations globally and found that the days of bloated HR organizations focused on administrative tasks is over.  This is great news for HR Leaders, who are often so tied to all those administrative tasks that they can’t look at technology and other options that will enable them to get to the business and people needs.  It proves that lean, technology-enabled, well-trained HR teams are able to take advantage of modern talent practices and partner with business leaders to drive impact.

These findings emerged from a two-year global benchmarking study that looked at 14 talent management and HR effectiveness measures across global businesses.  Among the measures examined include a company’s ability to:

  • Source the best talent.
  • Hire and onboard top candidates.
  • Identify and develop leaders.
  • Build a culture of learning.
  • Allocate compensation effectively.
  • Drive high performance through coaching and feedback. 

The research determined that Companies that empower key HR professionals to take on a strategic business partner role create HR teams that outperform the average HR organization by 25 percent or more.  This means these HR leaders are working closely with line executives on hiring the right people, coaching, leadership, succession planning and yes process improvement.  

HR still needs to continue to excel at the basics. Payroll, benefits, and administration are still critical factors in business success, and today these functions must be modified to be able to deal with a highly contingent workforce.

The report, The High-Impact HR Organization: Top 10 Best Practices on the Road to Excellence, includes benchmarks, tools, case studies, operational frameworks and proven service models that define best-practice human resources organizations.