Leadership Update is a free monthly newsletter by David A. Weiman, Psy.D. and www.leadershipfirst.com. In it, you’ll find strategies for helping you realize your full professional potential. Please feel free to forward unedited copies of this newsletter.
- Quotable: The Pundits Speak
- Leadership: Succession Planning
- Communication: Who’s Thinking What?
- Diversity: Management Communication Workshop Combines Psychology and Law
- Readers’ Forum: Your Observations
- Subscription Information
Quotable: The Pundits Speak
“Never give an order that can’t be obeyed.” – Douglas MacArthur
“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.” – Groucho Marx
LEADERSHIP: SUCCESSION PLANNING
Over the last few months, there have been changes at the top of a few of America’s largest companies. And regardless of the size of your firm or organization, there’s a lot to learn from how the boards of those companies handled the succession process.
An example of a smooth succession occurred at McDonald’s Corporation. After Chairman and CEO Jim Cantalupo died unexpectedly in April, Charlie Bell, who had been President and COO, was quickly named to the CEO post. In press releases, the company emphasized that Bell would continue along the course that Cantalupo had set in managing the company’s recent turn-around.
In contrast, when Coca-Cola was faced with a change at the top, the process was anything but smooth. It wasn’t clear if they would replace from the outside or the inside, and rumors swirled in the media about who would eventually lead the corporation. In fact, the process was so poorly managed that Fortune magazine referred to it as a “crisis” at the soft drink giant.
What’s interesting is that McDonald’s was able to respond quickly and effectively in a tragic situation, and Coca-Cola – with the luxury of time to plan – appeared to have problems managing the change. The company that had no notice appeared strong and decisive at the top. The one that had time didn’t seem to have a plan.
Regardless of the size or type of your firm, succession planning for senior executives and management is smart business:
- The process of putting together a succession plan encourages regular review of the organization’s talent.
- Succession plan reviews can help company leaders manage the development of key players.
- A good succession plan ensures that at the time of change, there is no loss in leadership continuity.
- A good plan will also help you avoid or minimize the expenses and labor involved in an executive search.
Here are some suggestions for effective succession planning:
- Make succession planning a strategic issue. Develop a plan now and review it twice a year. This won’t protect you from an unexpected vacancy, but being prepared will lower individual and collective anxiety about what to do.
- Ensure that your company’s values are considered when you’re working on succession issues. It’s critical that the process takes place in accord with those values, and that new prospective leaders share those values.
- Create and regularly update a company hierarchy chart. Software packages exist that let you easily set up a chart that includes notes, prospective moves and organizational needs.
- Identify high potential employees early so that they can be developed into leadership roles. Some companies do this through formal programs, and others use informal means. Either way, you optimize your resources.
- Leadership places unusual demands on you, so you may have put off succession planning for some other time. But, planning in advance can help ensure that when inevitable changes occur, you’re prepared.
DIVERSITY: MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION WORKSHOP COMBINES PSYCHOLOGY & LAW
Diversity workshops usually focus just on the federal laws that protect certain groups and how to avoid being sued for violating those laws. But they haven’t addressed the subtle psychological factors that impact how supervisors communicate with their staffs. Until now.
When your managers are aware of the correct way to instruct, motivate and manage their staffs, your entire organization is strengthened. Dr. Weiman and labor attorney Mignon Groch recently introduced their new workshop, Management Communication in a Diverse Environment, and it’s available to your company. For a PDF file that shows the benefits to your staff of this outstanding presentation, just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT DR. WEIMAN
David A. Weiman, Psy.D. is a psychologist who specializes in executive assessment, development and consultation. For information or a confidential consultation, please call 610/642-3040.
333 East Lancaster Avenue, Suite 202
Wynnewood, PA 19096-1929
(610) 642-3040; Fax (610) 642-3041
COMMUNICATION: WHO’S THINKING WHAT?
One of the challenges of business leadership is keeping your finger on the pulse of the organization. And no matter how hard you try to learn what your employees are thinking, if you’re like most leaders, you feel blind-sided from time to time by highly relevant information that you came across either through informal means or by accident. For example, a new policy seems to be accepted by the core staff, but someone inadvertently copies you on an e-mail in which employees are critical of the policy and the way it was implemented.
The fact that there’s an informal network of communication in companies is just one of the realities of organizational behavior. And those informal networks (including “water cooler” talk) are often the source of destructive rumors and the creation of subgroups that can work against the organization.
Although these networks can’t be eliminated, you can reduce the need for those networks — and improve the information that flows to the top — by proactively and creatively soliciting feedback from employees at various times and using different methods.
Here are some tips:
– Smart leaders are truly open to bad news as well as good news. When you adopt an accepting attitude, staff members will be more open about sharing information more fully.
– Adopt an open-door policy. And mean it. Once the door is closed and the conversation begins, keep confidential conversations confidential.
– Create an environment where constructive feedback is appropriately given and valued. If people who provide feedback are made to “pay” for speaking up, valuable information goes underground.
– Make the process of soliciting feedback about different areas of company functioning a norm. Create a questionnaire that covers the essential aspects of company life (e.g., things about the job that the employee likes/dislikes; satisfaction with their office or workspace; thoughts about supervisors, peers and direct reports; overall satisfaction with the company; what would raise their satisfaction). Use the questionnaire with each employee on a regular basis. When providing feedback is part of the rhythm of company life, there’s less to talk about at the water cooler.
– Follow up. Use employee feedback to create a list of action items to be handled by the employee’s direct supervisor or your HR department. Make sure the employee knows that action is being taken, and keep them informed about progress and the result.
If you have improved the flow of information in your own organization, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com and tell me about it!
Reader’s Forum: Your Observations
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