Commit To Building New Leadership Habits

What is it you want to accomplish in 2015? What steps and actions will you take to achieve your goals?

Chances are your first thought was about improving your direct work product, productivity or domain skills rather than improving your competencies as a manager. However, if your goals include a career and performance leap, improving your leadership skills may be the decisive factor in your success.

Most managers and executives work hard, but hard work isn’t the same as leading the way. Harvard Business Review, McKinsey and Gallup cite how managers spend their time as the root cause of many terrible employee statistics – too much time is spent on low-level tasks like getting and reporting facts and not enough is spent communicating goals, holding people accountable, and providing coaching and feedback.

A giant career and performance leap requires a real leap in leadership and management practices because achieving truly remarkable results requires a team of people wholly aligned and committed to ambitious shared goals coupled with management discipline to drive transparency and high-velocity execution.

Assess Your Current Management Practices

Well-understood goals and metrics, clarity on the specific actions required to achieve those goals, progress accountability and feedback and reward practices are the hallmarks of good management. Assess your current management practices with these questions:

  1. When was the last time you communicated goals to the team, and how frequently did you communicate them in 2014?
  2. When was the last time you communicated specific feedback to each member of the team, and how frequently did you in 2014?
  3. What are your top priorities and strategic initiatives for the first half of the year? How well can you articulate them yourself?
  4. What are your top 10 deliverables in the next 30 days?
  5. How long does it take you to get execution status from team members on goals and how frequently do you get it?

How would your team members answer similar questions? Do you know what their career aspirations are, and how your feedback helps them achieve those goals? How effective are the managers and leaders on your team?

People can’t achieve goals they don’t understand or care about, can’t get motivated when they don’t feel appreciated, won’t follow through if no one is accountable, and can’t improve without feedback.

Resolve to Manage Better To Achieve More

Building new management competencies and leading your team to remarkable achievements means developing new habits and practices.

The framework and infographic below can help you create new habits that will you accomplish more in 2015.

Baseline: Establish systems of transparency on goals, priorities, committed actions, and progress to plan to create accountability and the capacity for better leadership.

Anchor on Mondays: Anchor your week and your actions with your intention to lead your team to great achievement (versus muscle it yourself). Get centered on strategic goals and assess what’s needed to achieve them.

Mission on Tuesdays: Reinforce the goals and metrics that matter for your team. Ensure team activities wholly align with goal achievement through direct engagement and assess goal gaps early in the week.

Coach on Wednesdays: Invest time in enabling your team members to succeed. Rather than asking for status, ask what you can do to help. Listen to the answers and work to provide the help requested.

Execute on Thursdays: Allocate the full day to executing what you need to achieve personally. Guard against diversions on misaligned or reactionary activities (e.g., ignore email missiles!) so you spend a full eight hours accomplishing priority work.

Invest on Fridays: Tune into your team and reflect on your top, mid and bottom performers and their unique needs and contributions. Allocate time to advancing their careers by providing direct feedback, support for training or skill-building programs or opportunities to excel.

Rejuvenate on Saturdays: Don’t work, not even a little. Renew your energy with exercise and enjoyment. Give yourself permission to set work aside for the day to give your mind the day off.

Reflect on Sundays: Bring your inspirations and aspirations consciously to mind on Sunday evening; reconnect with your resolution to drive remarkable achievement. Drop all doubt about your ability to achieve.

The daily themes will help keep you from sliding back into old habits and reacting to what comes at you.

Week by week, habits will align more closely to intentions, the mission will be clearer to the team, the quality of coaching will get better, execution more consistent and your ultimate results will be stellar.

About the Author: Deidre Paknad is currently the CEO of Workboard, Inc. Workboard provides apps for managers and their teams to share goals, action items, status and feedback and to automate status reports and dashboards, and is free for teams.

photo credit: ErinBerzelPhotography-4390 via photopin (license)

Lemonade Stands And The Cadence Of Two Easy Steps

“So Beatrice, what are you going to make today?”


“And what’s the first ingredient?”


“And what’s second?”


“And then what?”


“Yes, ice, but also water, right?”

“Yes, and water!”

And that’s how it went on my oldest daughter Beatrice’s final Pre-K share and leader day recently – three easy steps – just like Special Agent Oso from Disney Junior teaches toddlers to do. Actually, four easy steps in this case, only because when Bea makes lemonade, it’s always too warm for her and so she wants to add ice to cool it down, along with adding the water.

Three (to four) easy steps to learning something new. In a fun way. A way you’ll always remember and that helps the learning stick, without much inhibition and a full-throttle curiosity of how things work that can be insatiable. To know is to do, again and again and again.

And the kids, well, that’s where they have us beat. Us being the adults in the room. According to a recent Freakonomics podcast titled Think Like a Child, Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of California-Berkeley and the author of The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, has done some fascinating research on children’s cognitive processes and development. In this podcast, Gopnik describes how modern research shows that kids are much more than just underdeveloped adults:

Think of the kids as being the research and development division of the human species. And we’re—adults—we’re production and marketing. So from the production and marketing perspective, it might look like the R&D guys are really not doing anything that looks very sensible or useful. They sit around all day in their beanbag chairs playing Pong and having blue-sky ideas. And we poor production and marketing people, who are actually making the profits, have to subsidize these guys! But of course, one of the things that we know is that that kind of blue-sky, just pure, research actually pays off in the long run.”


Those are my girls for sure. But first, there’s a goal. There’s always a goal.


“Beatrice, do you want to learn how to make lemonade?”

“Yes, I do. It’s yummy.”

There you go. The goal. To make lemonade. Mercy, all we gotta do next is put a lemonade stand together out front and we got ourselves a lil’ business. It is nearly summertime, you know.

The main goal. The three easy steps to reach that main goal, and the goals around completing the three easy steps. A baby-steps business model. A cadence that includes reaching said goals, establishing new ones, and learning something new each and every time that leads to growth and success.

To know is to do, again and again and again.

Unfortunately, this ain’t the case for many companies. Unhappiness and employee turnover are still all too common challenges for organizations of all shapes and size and industries. It’s an overgrown and thorny path that leaders and HR teams walk bare foot daily, with no compass to guide them, no “where the wild things are” curiosity driving the cadence of learning and growing (personally, professionally and monetarily).

This unruly, wild west “talent cycle” can create poor climates and cultures where your people are forced to scramble and hire reactively each time an employee makes a move toward the door.

Listening to Andre Lavoie, CEO and co-founder of ClearCompany, talk about how companies and business leaders need to establish values and primary goals (or reestablish them), aligning cascading goals and developing and managing a cadence to get all the business at hand done successfully and continuously, certainly inspired me to share the lemons-to-lemonade backstory.

Us adults in the room have killed the childhood R&D, and in the same last gasping breath, talent management strategies of the past no longer work. Today people work differently, are motivated differently and are engaged differently, and want their performance measured differently. Millennials may have pushed all the employer flexibility buttons, but now every generation is demanding more.

For example, employees want ongoing growth opportunities, workplace flexibility, tools and systems that encourage collaboration, and commitment to a reciprocal climate of support and encouragement, all of which lead to payoffs in employee retention, satisfaction, and overall business performance. Organizations can no longer afford to simply “manage people,” because the people demand more – they want aligned business goals that they’re part of and that are attainable and evolve collaboratively over time.

We want lemonade stands and the cadence of two easy steps:

  1. Recognize. Organizations need to provide attractive corporate and employee cultures that recognizes the individual, while promoting innovation, learning, collaboration and connections. They need a visionary talent engagement experience that is orchestrated around people and people goals, not processes. The key now is to drive a higher level of contribution, deeper engagement through a better “people management” experience.
  2. Experience. These attributes – the aligned goals, the learning, the development, the sound business model, the full-throttle curiosity of how things work – all culminate in delivering an amplifier effect on talent contribution and success. Organizations that provide a more engaging experience can better gain adoption of the talent initiatives throughout the company, and align individual objectives to business goals to improve performance, retention, and productivity.

This “amplifier effect” of people’s contributions upon aligned, accomplished goals has a rapid and lasting impact over time. Positive business outcomes become the norm.

Just add sugar and ice, right? It’s yummy indeed.

photo credit: InspirationDC via photopin cc