Leadership Profile

 

A. Introduction.

1. The Meaning of "People." What does "people" mean to you; is it singular or is it plural? The answer is entirely relevant because the true tasks of the most successful leaders are both individual and collective in nature. Knowing what most people (plural) in your organization think on issues will certainly help forge a direction or create a policy that can develop synergy. Knowing what people (singular) think about a critical customer service issue can be of critical importance at any pivotal point in a customer relationship. The Leadership Profile gets at both an individual and collective "snapshot." If you are on the receiving end of Leadership Profile feedback, you have an opportunity that is seldom enjoyed - the opportunity to get information from those you invite to participate that will help you improve your career potential and add to the profitability of your organization. All you'll have to keep in mind are the faces of those people who potentially responded to your invitation so that you donít lose track of the individual nature of leadership.

2. The Leadership Platform. Leaders influence people to willingly follow a direction they may either propose or one formed through collaborative efforts. The important element in this equation is "influence." Leadership may be defined by one or more positions on the organization chart. Yet the best organizations cultivate leadership potential at all levels and among all members of the organization because the interests of the organization and its customers, and other stakeholders can best be served when everyone's best talent is threaded through the fabric of the workforce. Everyone must be able to influence others in a positive way regardless of their position.

3. Asking for Feedback (the "subject" invites responses). Genuinely asking for feedback is uncommon. More typically, people would like to provide feedback to individuals they believe desperately need it but likely don't want it. The mere gesture of asking someone for feedback for the purpose of improving their relationship will actually go far to improve the relationship just in the asking. Additional gains may be achieved by doing something about the feedback and letting people know what actions you are taking.

Initially, few people will know how to respond easily. The feedback will more often be positive than critical. As the process cycle is continued, the feedback will become richer in its content and more useful (although potentially less positive). The best it can be is that feedback will be requested on a regular schedule so that comparisons can be made and so that providers will become more adept at providing the information needed to really make improvements. An annual or semi-annual cycle is recommended Ė often scheduling these events between official performance reviews.

4. Use of the Leadership Profile Results. Those receiving feedback always have a choice to make - to consider the feedback credible or to discount it. We always encourage those who have invited feedback to consider it credible. If the tone and content of the feedback seems malicious, consider putting it into a healthy perspective, but refrain from discarding what respondents may be trying to tell you, even if their means are somewhat irritating. Commit to doing something to make an improvement, even if it is as little as a commitment to continue to ask. But at least, thank those who responded. They extended themselves to reinforce your positive behaviors as well as provide potentially value information that will enable improvements.

5. Creation of Leadership Profile Items. There are three major means of creating items for a profile: selecting from a pool of pre-designed options, creating items from a pool of standard items, or creating items from organizational literature. The latter is most effective. Progressive organizations create a clear image of what the organization stands for and how it ought to operate (vision, values, governing principles, acceptable norms, etc.). Profile items are best extracted from these documents.

6. Methods of Data Collection. A cardinal rule is that responses ought to be collected by a third party rather than given directly to the one who has invited feedback. An ideal scenario would allow respondents to use the Internet to send responses to a third party provider who would input the data and prepare it for delivery to the individual. This protects anonymity when that is often a paramount consideration. It also puts the results in the hands of an independent facilitator who can help put the results into perspective during the feedback delivery phase.

7. Accuracy of the Data. Our thoughts about the accuracy of the data are from an organization development perspective, not from a statistical perspective. Nearly everyone is concerned about the accuracy of data acquired in any data collection effort - not just from a Leadership Profile effort. Normally, users want some assurance that their decisions will be based on reliable and valid data. First, we'll talk about these considerations in comparison to the level of reliability and validity of the response methodology formulated based on the data. Second, we'll address the statistical issues of Reliability, Validity, and Norms.

a. Data Results versus Response Methods. Those who are interested in the reliability, validity, and normative value of data must also be interested in the reliability, validity, and normative value of the response to that data as corrective action is taken to achieve improvements. If the two variables don't generally match, the anticipated changes that result are likely to fall short of expectations. The two variables rarely align well without a great deal of coordinated effort. This is especially true when follow-through activity is highly decentralized.

b. Three Statistical Measures. The three concerns normally addressed have to do with reliability, validity, and norms. Reliability helps determine if the same instrument for collecting the data will achieve the same results with the same respondents if used repeatedly. There are several methods that can be used to assure high reliability; all require the use of standard forms used repeatedly with large numbers of people. Validity helps determine usefulness. There are many aspects to validity; the most common are: "face" (how credible is the assessment on the part of your raters), "content" (the extent to which the assessment covers the subject comprehensively), "correlative" (the degree to which the instrument agrees with other, more established measures of the same thing), "criterion-referenced" (the ability to predict future performance from the data off the instrument), and "construct" (what the instrument actually measures). Validity will always be dependent upon the purpose for which the data is collected. If the data collected is to be a part of the equation through which informed decisions are made that lead to improvements, then are the other factors meeting equal or superior demands in terms of rigor - that is to say, if intuition plays a part in accepting or rejecting priorities, then one must also determine the statistical validity of the intuition being used. This is rarely done. Norms are expressed as averages or percentiles of a specific population. The population may be "internal" to an organization or "external" - as in industry, regional, national, or international populations. We always favor the use of "internal" norms because only internal norms are based on germane issues advanced by members of the organization.

8. Use of CapacityWare™. CapacityWare™ is a "Change Management System" that does three important things. It helps the user find priorities that need attention, it helps the user design actions that will bring about change, and it helps the user track results to make sure expectations are met. There are ten different types of diagnostic options that can be engaged - Leadership Profiles (360o Feedback) being one option type.

 

B. Self Assessment.

1. Creating a Context for Response. Most people are of the opinion that they do a good job. Many would like us to believe the job they do is far superior to everyone else. A reality is that the overwhelming majority have areas of improvement that would result in increased organization capacity. If they took the time to identify those areas, made the effort to design and implement effective plans to make improvements, and engaged a mechanism to measure progress, organization capacity would increase. When completing your own Leadership Profile, or reflecting on the initial results, challenge your thought process to the most realistic image possible. Acknowledge that your best "on average" performance may not always be the stellar performance you'd like it to be. The resulting trends will help you focus on what is really important. The resulting comparison between your own image and the image of others will create a "virtual" image that you can realistically make a commitment to improve.

2. Recognition of Bias. When any data collection effort is initiated in an organization there are natural biases that can be assumed to be reflected in the data. As the organization continues to use and become comfortable with the use of measurement mechanisms, those biases will decrease. At first, for example, respondents will be unsure of their anonymity and respond cautiously, sometimes more favorable than they might otherwise. If people fear/hope that Leadership Feedback will play a part in their career advancement, caution will be exercised in selecting the people to respond, and scores may be inflated. It is imperative that initial data collection efforts anticipate these biases and that a long-term commitment to data collection of this nature be made.

 

C. Invitational Groups and Individuals.

1. Organizational Superiors. Members of this group may or may not be in a direct line of supervision or management over the subject inviting a response. It may be advantageous to invite response from several individuals who may be superior in the organization. This is especially true if management "assignment rotations" are expected or if mentorship options provide for other-than-rater mentors. If the organization has a management accession plan, it is always a good idea to consider future assignments when inviting responses.

2. Organizational Peers. Individuals of the same status or nearly the same status in the hierarchy ought to be invited to respond. If the organization culture fosters competition among peers for scarce advancement, care ought to be exercised in inviting comments that may reflect adverse criticism and lower scores based on that competition. If competition is a part of the organization culture it is important that the Leadership Profile be used totally apart from official performance appraisals.

3. Subordinates. Most subjects in multi-rater systems, such as the Leadership Profile, are most interested in their "followership" opinions based on Profile results. An adverse implication of this is there also tends to be a reluctance to actually take correction action based on subordinate feedback, and subtle retribution is always possible. Those who invite responses must be committed to taking action and viewing the results with a "no fault" lens.

4. Networks. Networks extend across organization boundaries and even outside the organization structure. These individuals are part of an informal partnership that allows the organization to function successfully and may often determine the success of the individual inviting response.

5. Customers. When customers are invited to respond their results must be considered carefully and there must be an advance commitment to taking actions when actions appear warranted. It is also important that actions taken be shared with the customer group so they know that their message was heard, understood, and that appropriate actions are being taken to remedy conditions which may have otherwise jeopardized the relationship.

6. Vendors/Suppliers. People who supply the organization with the raw materials they need to do the job are important "partners" in the organization's success. The relationship with vendors and suppliers is often critical and extends the leaders influence outside the traditional organization boundaries. In many cases these relationships are as important as many "peer" relationships and sometimes require even more attention.

7. Extended Relationships. Outside the organization are many potentially important extended relationships that influence the success or failure of the organization, its image in the community and with local government, or with labor unions representing the workforce. These individuals ought to be considered for invited responses when the health of the relationship needs to be confirmed or potentially strengthening.

8. Family and Friends. An often-forgotten source for feedback is family and friends. Family members and friends know the subject from a different perspective and can be invited to provide information critical to effective change strategies. Only the subject can make a realistic appraisal concerning whether to invite participation.

 

D. Feedback.

1. Reports. CapacityWare™ will produce a variety of reports for the subject. These can be produced in hard copy or created on the system for viewing. It is always recommended that the system be used extensively for viewing reports, creating action plans, and for tracking performance follow-through. We firmly believe that what gets measured gets accomplished.

2. Accepting the Objective and Subjective. When feedback is received, it normally contains both objective information (without being distorted by personal feelings or emotions) and subjective information (perception based on personal views unimpeded by the facts). The subject, with some assistance from a facilitator, must be able to separate the two. In reality, if the subject wants to influence those with highly subject views, these offerings must be considered as viable.

 

E. Action Planning.

1. Outcomes. Clarify what is really desired as a result of engaging in a change effort. It is best to reduce this to written form. The outcomes must be sufficiently "lofty" that it will withstand the rigorous examination of anyone who might be asked to assist in this process. "Improve my potential for promotion," might be too parochial; "Improve my value to the organization," or "Align my leadership style with the organizational culture," might be closer to the mark.

2. Methods. Design a set of methodologies that will achieve this outcome. Some might be dependent upon funding (such as special training) while other methods may be no cost at all. CapacityWare™ best practice modules may be useful in developing specific action plans. Put the methods on a timeline and create "events" on the timeline that will demonstrate progress. Use the CapacityWare™ event module to track progress and results.

3. Resources. Determine what it will cost to make the desired improvements and determine if the return on that investment will be worth the time, effort, and involvement of others. When the answer is "YES - The effort will be worth the return-on-investment!" proceed to achieve those results as quickly as possible.

4. Resistance. Expect resistance from others and from your own work habits. Think of creative ways to overcome the resistance you expect to encounter and always expect to have to contend with a wildcard that you had not foreseen.

5. Magnitude. Be prepared to "gear down" or "gear up" to achieve your results as you shift to overcome resistance. Never let the availability of adequate resources be an excuse to abandon your ultimate goals. Stretch the timeline rather than abandon it if necessary, but never give up.

6. Ownership. Be committed yourself and enlist the commitment of others in developing your capacity and the capacity of your organization to meet the demands being placed on it now and those anticipated demands that will emerge in the future.

 

F. Implementing New Behaviors.

1. Developing a Confidant. Whether a mentor, facilitator, or other individual, we recommend that a confidant be engaged in this process to assist with behavioral change. The process is a difficult one and is eased considerably if undertaken with another committed by-invitation individual.

2. Comfort Level. Expect that part of the resistance to new behaviors will be self-generated. Most undergoing this process-of-change will report that their comfort level is challenged while trying to meet some outcomes. The following model may assist in understanding the stages one goes through to acquire new behaviors:

a. Unconscious Incompetence. Most people are unaware that some behavior has a potentially negative impact on their career and on their organization. When this first becomes known, an initial reaction may be to discount the feedback. Resist this impulse. Most incompetence is unconscious until it emerges through some self-discovery process such as the one described here.

b. Conscious Incompetence. Review your behavior once you become aware of the potential incompetence. You may find that you are uncomfortable every time you engage in the dysfunctional behavior now that your awareness of it has become heightened. Discomfort in this stage may cause you to backslide into old habits and dismiss the initiative altogether. Be aware of this possibility and fight the urge to do nothing.

c. Conscious Competence. By implementing the Action Planning process outlined above you will begin to act differently. This out-of-the-ordinary behavior will likely be awkward at first. If coworkers are uninformed about your intentions, the new behavior may even be confusing or disruptive to those relationships you are attempting to improve through this effort. Informing people of your intentions and actions will assist with this stage of development. Continuing to engage the new behavior until it becomes second nature will be an imperative. Positive feedback from those around you will be welcomed. Your confidant can assist.

d. Unconscious Competence. Over time, your new behavior will become less awkward and more a part of the new fabric of your work life. Before long the changes will have formed a new more productive habit and it would be uncomfortable for you to regress to the old habits. Congratulations! But beware. Lurking in your behaviors will be another unconscious incompetence for you to find and adjust to become even more effective and valuable to your organization.

3. Creating and Formalizing a Timeline for Specific Events. Using the Event Module in CapacityWare™ formalize the timeline with specific events that will allow the demonstration of a new behavior (people need to have evidence that the new behavior is engaged). Include in the timeline new data collection events that will measure the progress being made. Also, be sure to invite previous participants, although the addition of new participants is encouraged.

4. Broadcasting Intentional Shifts and Results Achieved. Few things demonstrate commitment better than making it widely know what your goals are and what you are doing to achieve them. This does not have to be broadcast in the company newsletter - but is can be repeatedly put in writing and handed out or discussed at periodic staff meetings.

 

G. Evaluating the Leadership Profiling Process.

1. Comparison of Current and Previous Results. Compare what has worked and what has not worked and document this in the Event Module of CapacityWare™ to assist others who may want to make the same or similar behavioral/process changes. Note those parts of the process that have not worked well and create suggestions for improvement when appropriate.

2. The Search for Realistic Evidence. If real changes occur, there will be evidence apart from the "numbers" on surveys and Leadership Profiles. Look for the evidence that you, your coworkers, and the organization have achieved benefits.

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