Why Leaders Should Be Learners

By Steve Graham

View original publication on www.cornerstone.edu

What comes to mind when you think of a leader? You may think of certain characteristics or personalities that good leaders tend to have.


A key characteristic for leaders to have is the willingness to learn and grow in their own professional development. This readiness to learn may not always come easy. You may think you know the right answer and unwilling to hear of other perspectives. Here, we share four steps in the value of having the willingness to learn as a leader and how it has an influence in your company culture.


The Commitment

Leaders set the tone for an organization. As a leader, you must be agile in your responses to the ever-changing marketplace and business climate. You’re charged with growing organizations. Learning is a huge part of this growth process.

This growth-focused learning can take various shapes within an organization. It can be organic, formalized, personalized or on-demand. Whatever the shape, learning needs to be part of a leader’s commitment to improving both personally and professionally.

One big lesson of learning is how to use failure. Sorry, but the old saying, “failure is not an option” is not realistic. Even though failure is not something we desire, it is always a reality.

Part of the commitment for leaders to be learners is being comfortable with vulnerability. As a leader, you don’t have to have all the answers. Being able to admit that you don’t know, with confidence, makes you more of an authentic leader.

Leaders must lead the way in this commitment to vulnerability. You’ve got to go first. According to Patrick Lencioni, in his book, “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business”: “The only way for a leader of a team to create a safe environment for his team members to be vulnerable is by stepping up and doing something that feels unsafe and uncomfortable first.”

Take the first step and be comfortable with vulnerability.


The Example
n addition to showing a commitment to learning, it’s important to remember that as a leader, you act as an example in your organization.

Leaders who value the impact of learning on growth and talent retention drive an organization where learning is part of the organizational DNA. When you set the example in your commitment to learning, you create organizations that are serious about learning. How you are able to use failure to learn can set a good example for others to use these important lessons for improvement. It’s about how you view failure is what can either encourage progress or hinder future success.

In the field of academic medicine, M&M conferences (morbidity and mortality conferences) are used to examine failures and medical errors. These are powerful sessions in being able to learn what went wrong in a particular situation and find practical answers to correct problems and improve medical care. The key objective of a well-run M&M conference is to identify adverse outcomes associated with medical error, to modify behavior and judgment based on previous experiences and to prevent the repetition of errors leading to complications.

If the medical field can find immense value in learning from failures, shouldn’t more organizations do the same? Yes! Leaders who are learners set an example and establish the value of learning within an organization.


The Investment
There’s a reason we call it “lifelong learning.” Learning should never end. It is an investment in time and money.

Many leaders give excuses of why they cannot take time to learn. Learning should be a priority, not an option. Professional development is an investment that successful leaders embrace.

According to Dr. Brad Staats, associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business says, “Today’s fast-paced, ever-changing, global economy requires us to never stop learning or we risk becoming irrelevant. Savvy leaders recognize this means investing in their own learning journey, so they can develop the processes and behaviors required for ongoing success.”


Learn to Listen as a Leader
Like showing commitment and being an example, coaching is also an important part of the learning process learning. It enhances your ability to be a better active listener as you lead others.

Listening is a fundamental part of success as a leader. In his bestselling book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” well-known executive coach Marshall Goldsmith states: “80 percent of our success in learning from other people is based on how well we listen.”

But there’s a difference between hearing the words that come out of someone’s mouth and actually listening and understanding what he or she says. Are you hearing more than listening? Listening takes practice. Listening is a skill to learn and focus on to become a better, more successful leader.

When looking for ways to become a better listener, executive coaching can be a great practice to begin. Executive coaching is part of sound leadership development and can help you become a better leader. Coaching can be incorporated to help you become more self-aware and learn to be more approachable and authentic in your influence in your professional and personal life.


Learn to Lead
When coaching is used with other learning initiatives, it helps to develop a deeper purpose for you as a leader. Developing the complete leader involves being committed, setting an example and making an investment in self and others. Focus on learning as a strategic resource in personal and professional development.


Millennials, Professional Feedback and the New Performance Review Model

Designed by Freepik

by Warren Wright

If Millennials had their way in the workplace, the “annual performance review” would go the way of the fax machine and punch clock.

Millennials grew up with “Google” as a verb, as in “to google” virtually any answer to any question. More recently, services like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and other digital concierges make finding information even more effortless.

But technology is not the only catalyst that has conditioned Millennials to receive instant and frequent feedback: Ever since they were young, Millennials were tested and graded at an alarming frequency, all to track their short and long term goal attainment.

Millennials are uniquely conditioned, more than any other generation, to expect speed and frequency– especially as it relates the their performance goals. The dreaded Annual Performance Review, which was never very popular, is fast becoming an antiquated relic, especially for Millennials who crave real time feedback.

Studies have shown that Millennials appreciate hands-on guidance and direction from their supervisors on a more frequent basis, unlike employees from older generations. In a recent LifeCourse Associates’ survey, “69 percent of Millennials say they like their supervisor to provide them with ‘hands-on guidance and direction.’ Only about 40 percent of Boomers and older Gen Xers said the same.”

Providing frequent and tight cycles of honest and open feedback will more-than pay off in productivity and employee engagement. Engaged employees feel valued and have more professional satisfaction, tend to be more motivated, more likely to meet their goals, and more likely to stay with a company in the future.

Some of the top-rated companies and best places to work for have all but ditched the traditional, top-down annual performance evaluation in favor of more frequent, 360-degree reviews. These includes GE, Adobe and Deloitte.

Expert Advice for Gen Y Managers

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By Lindsey Pollak

View original publication on www.lindseypollak.com


As members of Generation Y (a.k.a. Millennials) continue to enter the workforce in droves, plenty is being written about how to manage these young employees.


I’d like to take a different angle and talk about the fact that Gen Ys are now starting to do the managing. More than a few workplaces — from start-ups to nonprofits to Fortune 500 corporations — are promoting twentysomethings into management roles every day.


To help this new cohort of Gen Y managers, I reached out to some of the best managers I know — from all generations — and asked them what they wish they’d known when they first became leaders. Here are some of their answers:

“I wish I had realized the true impact I could make on people’s careers versus being concerned about whether I was ready for the challenge of managing others. [The people we manage] expect our best efforts, so focus on the needs of the individual you are managing and use the skills that have gotten you to this point. You will always be a work in progress.”
Robert Daugherty, Retired HR Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers
“The key to managing others is to put yourself in their shoes. Make sure you understand what their long-term goals are, so that you can structure the day-to-day tasks to support the person’s career development. If you can do that effectively, the person working for you will do a great job and be more willing to go the extra mile.”
Lauren Porat, Co-Founder, Urban Interns


“I wish I had spent more time getting to know my employees and what motivates them. Playing into different people’s motivations is the best way to manage them to success.”
Evan Gotlib, SVP Advertising Sales & Creative Services, blip.tv


“It is sometimes difficult to ask others to perform when you have never done it before. Don’t apologize for asking people to do what they are paid to do. Be clear about expectations and what constitutes a job well done.”
Susan Phillips Bari, President Emeritus, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council


“I wish I had known how important it is to get to know everyone you can in an organization, not just stay clustered with your specific team. Relationships drive so much of business, so the more authentic relationships you can make across departments, the more effective a manager you’ll be.”
Manisha Thakor, Personal Finance Expert & Author


“I’ve managed people who were 20 years younger and, in some cases, 30 years older. I never focused on their age, but rather sought to tap their passion, a particular experience or skill as a means of engaging them and forging a strong relationship. I don’t get threatened by how much someone may know on a particular topic. I’m willing to listen and learn from them.”
Linda Descano, CFA, CEO, Women & Co. (a service of Citibank)


“I wish I had known about the ‘praise sandwich’ — delivering constructive criticism between two pieces of positive feedback. No one wants to work for a boss who is hypercritical or insensitive. By acknowledging the good things as part of a difficult conversation, it makes negative feedback more palatable.”
Meryl Weinsaft Cooper, Co-Author, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Hired, Noticed & Rewarded at Work


“I wish I had not been is such a rush. Listening to your team and observing their behaviors before determining how to lead them is really critical.”
Joan Kuhl, Associate Director, Managed Markets Training, Forest Laboratories


As an avid reader, I also asked my expert panelists for their recommendations of the best books for new managers. Here are a few of their selections:

The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

You’re In Charge — Now What? by Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin


What’s your best advice for new managers and what books would you recommend? Please share your comments!


Skills Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Have

By Jennifer Dawson

View original publication on Leader-Values.com

There are essential leadership skills every entrepreneurs must have to succeed and fortunately you may already possess them thanks to your hobbies and skills. Read on to learn more.

Focus and Discipline

These are perhaps the most important skills any entrepreneur must have. It takes drive and motivation to succeed, and you need focus and discipline for both. If you think you’re lacking, think again. Do you enjoy chess? Do you get up at 4 am every day without fail to work out or run? Perhaps you enjoy hobbies like jigsaw puzzles, are good at saving money, or have lost a significant amount of weight. All these things take focus and discipline, so don’t sell yourself short.

Another important skill is to be detail oriented. In business being sloppy can mean costing your company big bucks. It pays to pay attention to every detail and not overlook the small stuff. Your customers and clients will appreciate your extra attention to detail, and it can help your company accumulate greater profits. If your hobby includes things like putting models together or planning a garden, or if you’re a stickler for proofreading and never forget a face, you’re definitely detail oriented.

Teamwork and Competitiveness

Presumably, you intend to surround yourself with a team of employees that will work together to help the business grow and succeed. If so, you’re going to need a lot of experience in teamwork and competitiveness to ensure employee engagement and success. It’s important to see yourself as part of the team, not just the boss, and to treat your employees with respect and empathy. Happy employees are employees that feel listened to and valued.

Having a competitive spirit is important too, but there has to be balance. Over competitiveness alienates people and drives morale down. Make sure you inspire people to challenge themselves and the competition, don’t make them feel like they have no choice. Again, your personal skills and hobbies come into play here. If you’ve ever played on a sports team, in a band, or led a club, you’ve already been nurturing and growing these important skills.

Being a successful entrepreneur may seem daunting, but in reality, you may already have many of the skills you need to excel and grow your business. Focus, discipline, teamwork and attention to details are all things we use in our personal lives and while enjoying our hobbies, so take a look at yours and see what you’ve learned!

Old School Professional Advice for Millennials

by Mitch Gordon

View original publication on Chelsea

When Mark Zuckerberg was 22 and declared, “young people are just smarter,” I was not offended.  As a right-smack-in-the-middle GenXer, I knew that he’d come around.  I was confident that he’d eventually see some inherent value in us more mature folks who may be: (a) slightly distracted by our pesky families; (b) irresistibly cynical from past mistakes; and/or (c) a step behind the practical applications of the latest social trends.

Now that Zuck is a wiser 30-something and has relied so much on 45-year-old Sheryl Sandberg’s yin to his yang, I think he’ll agree that there’s still a few good nuggets that millennials can pick up from their elders.

I have hired and fired, advised and criticized, dozen of GenYers throughout my career. Many of them are much smarter than me, including my wife, a young attorney who patiently tolerates my frequent old school rants.  But even the next billionaire genius can benefit from momentarily taking a break from their ADHD to heed the following seven old school professional tips:

  1. Use proper grammar and punctuation. I know it sounds crazy, but you can practice it in your social media posts since that’s where all the world’s grammatical bad habits began. Would it be so bad to put commas between your emojis?
  2. You can function perfectly well without energy drinks, lattes or organic liquid concoctions. Don’t blame what you have or have not ingested for being so unproductive.  You binge watched Game of Thrones last night, that’s why you’re tired.
  3. In interviews or meetings, don’t try to build credibility with your academic pedigree. We can read your LinkedIn if we care about your schooling.  And just because we went to the same school does not mean we are automatically bros.
  4. Show up to phone or in-person meetings on-time and well-prepared and be responsive to everyone, no matter his or her position.  Reply to email, messages or texts promptly even if it’s just to say, “I don’t know the answer but will have one by EOW.”
  5. Never turn down a networking opportunity. Skip your pilates or spin class and have dinner with your client or colleague, even if it’s after hours. In fact, there is no such thing as after hours when it comes to building professional relationships.
  6. Don’t expect your first few gigs to be your dream jobs. Embrace being a grunt for a while doing something that you don’t love.  Be really good at it and then leave on your own terms with the valuable wisdom of knowing what you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.
  7. Paying your dues and putting in the hours is not passé.  Yes, work-life balance is very important, but you also have to earn that privilege if you want to build the business or have the career that you believe you are destined to have.

It may surprise you millennials to hear that not everyone gets a trophy in the workplace. Just showing up to work does not make you special. But if you stay humble and hungry, your generation will certainly continue to change the world.  The ones in my life have profoundly changed mine.