Are you a leader who gets rave reviews from your team but feel like something is missing?
Are you a leader looking to go to the next level but feels “stuck” in your current position?
Are you interviewing for leadership positions and having trouble getting the job?
I have seen great leaders struggle with 3 key areas. By being unaware of these areas, or failing to act on them, they are holding their careers back. Reflect on these 3 areas and get curious about how you answer these questions.
1) Can you point to 3 key mistakes you have made in the last 6 months and speak to the insights you have gained from these mistakes?
Most leaders are able to speak to their “strengths and weaknesses” in at least a superficial manner. Often, they reframe the weaknesses as strengths – for example – “I care too much.” or “I work too hard”. For some reason, it is much more difficult for leaders to speak to real and recent mistakes they have made and what they have learned. Many leaders feel that claiming mistakes would make them look weak, ineffective, or stupid. Quite the contrary! The ability to really understand your mistakes, articulate them, learn from them, and share them with others is a mark of a self-aware leader. It also shows team members that it is OK to make mistakes, and that you will help them learn from their mistakes.
2) Do you have at least 10% of your team on written performance improvement plans?
Leaders and managers really struggle with PIP – performance improvement plans – and tend to procrastinate them, waiting until the situation is dire and they are writing the PIP so they can fire the team member. I see the main reason for this as conflict avoidance and wanting to be liked by your team. However, everyone on the team knows who is the lower performers, and by failing to put people on performance improvement and coaching them, you send a message to others that you a) don’t notice the low performer, b) you don’t care if they are a low performer, or c) you are afraid to confront the problem. You are also missing out on opportunities to coach your team member in a structured way and allow them to see their own improvement. A written PIP doesn’t have to go through the formal HR channels, it can also be a coaching tool that you use with your team member to help them improve their performance. Leaders who actively use PIP and coaching with their teams really shine within organizations.
3) How would you drive outcomes from a staff member who does not report to you?
Most leaders have a system for managing direct reports that they can easily articulate. However, in most organizations “dotted-line’ relationships or “matrix” leadership is becoming the norm. How would you manage a dotted-line report? Or manage a group of people within a matrix? This can be extremely challenging but likely you have had some successes with this in the past. Think about what has worked well for you and look at your colleagues who do this well. How can you do a better job of managing within a matrix? How would you describe it in an interview situation? Often managing these complex group dynamics helps leaders accelerate their career path faster than through the traditional hierarchical direct report system.