Edward wasn’t happy about the pressure he was getting to perform at a different level. He felt that the large strategic project he was leading was progressing adequately and he should be allowed to run it as he saw fit. He laid out a lot of rationale for his position. But the truth was that Edward was in a leadership slump and not owning up to it. And the more pressure he received, the more defensive he got.
But one day, he got surprised. The owner of the company, Lou, took Edward to lunch and told him he was concerned, as a colleague, that he might be seeing Edward struggling. “Edward, I’ve known you and admired your work for many years. You’ve always attacked it with vigor, and always sought out the tough challenges. Nothing got in your way. But it seems like you may be feeling overwhelmed by those challenges now. I don’t want to see you berating yourself, or feeling unappreciated by me. I know you have what it takes to get back to where you were. What I don’t know is the best way to give you support and encouragement to do that.”
Whether it’s a retiring CEO, or a company reorganization, or a promotion to a new role that creates a need for a leadership transition, the word ‘seamless’ can rarely be applied to what happens during these changes. At best, the seams may fray once the handoff has happened; at worst, the two pieces of fabric never got stitched together before the handoff took place.
Even in a well-planned transition, it’s a tough time. In one very well-orchestrated transition we observed, the new CEO put a lot of effort into assuring the new CEO was brought in months early and was well-educated about the organization and his role. The retiring leader introduced her successor to people who would be customers, staff and peers; she explained carefully both the work and the strategy that was behind it; she described what some of the known challenges were. Yet when the new leader took over, it still took him a long time to be as effective as was needed, even though he was working 12-hour days. And the Board wondered why, after all the careful transition planning and salary overlap they had authorized, it was taking him so long to get up and running.
For almost every leader, delegating work to others is a significant challenge. It is frequently avoided because to do it well usually requires up front time and effort. If avoiding delegation is your tendency, you are limiting your options, as well as your leadership responsibility of providing opportunities and coaching others to learn and grow. Continue reading →
Leaders in organizations willingly spend large sums of money to assure that the people in their organizations continue to learn new skills, better methods, and even healthy habits. But how much do these same leaders reflect on their own learning? A particularly perverse phenomenon is that as people climb the ladder of success, they believe they’ve reached the pinnacle of learning, and they fail to practice daily the continued learning habits that will enhance their own leadership success. There are six themes we see in those leaders that just keep on growing in their skills, insights, and abilities.