January 22

I Am Their Leader – Which Way Did They Go?


Yesterday I had the opportunity to join a full day meeting with many of my friends/clients. These are owners of companies that are successful. I was asked to provide insight into what is new in the assessment world, hiring in today's employment market, and in leadership development. I have worked with many of these owners for years.

Common Ground

As the day progressed, it was interesting to see the things that emerged as common concerns. Here is that list:

  • How do we lead when change is moving at such a rapid pace?
  • If we are struggling with leading as owners, how much are our leadership teams struggling?
  • How do we navigate uncertainty?
  • Stress levels and burnout appear to be more prevalent than ever.
  • "The big secret" that most owners will not tell you - we may look like we have it all together but the reality is we are struggling with the same emotional drivers everyone else does.
 It became clear very quickly that leadership was the main focus. To be fair, several said that hiring was under leadership, and I agree. Hiring right is a skill good leaders have developed.

The Question

So after several minutes of discussion, I asked what I thought was a simple question. Where do you think the gaps are for your leaders? Crickets. Really? Did they not know what the gaps are? Then someone said something that turned every head..."I don't know what I don't know." Everyone stopped to consider this. And then it was like the flood gates opened:

  • "I don't know how to measure what good leadership is for my organization."
  • "I know we have gaps, but I have no idea where to start to identify the root causes."
  • "I am not even sure I am doing a good job of leading."
  • "How do we know a leader is having the impact they should have?"

For once, I did not jump right in with "all the answers". This was not a time for jumping to solutions, it was a time to listen. I was fascinated by the passion each owner had when it came to several things:

  • How much they wanted to be good leaders themselves.
  • How much they wanted to support and grow their leaders.
  • How attuned they were to the culture in their workplace.
 I am very glad I experienced this moment with them. They were being transparent and sharing their hearts.

What can we do?

This conversation went on for a while. Then I was asked to give them an update on what I had been doing recently. Most of them knew I have been developing a leadership development program that could be easily implemented. This is where the conversation got truly interesting. Here is the short version of that conversation:

Me: I am launching our Leadership Development program and calling it LifeThrive University. Here are the specifics:

  • Every participant starts with a diagnostic and predictive assessment process
  • Then we create a custom development plan for each person
  • They enter into a 12-month program specific to their needs
  • Included in this program are assessments, online learning, online group coaching, workshops, an online community for collaborative learning, certifications, a project specific to their organization, online resources, and an annual conference.
  • Pricing is a flat fee for the entire year that covers everything.

Owner 1: STOP! Too much!

Owner 2: I love what you do and what I am hearing but I don't understand.

Owner 3: Customize? No! You are the leadership expert, you tell us what a leader needs to learn in a year to be a better leader.

The comments went on in a similar fashion for some time. Then lots of suggestions on how to simplify. Here is where we ended up (what they are willing to invest in).

  • A 12-month program at a flat fee per participant
  • Assessments are great if they help the leader understand themselves and others better
  • I set the curriculum based on what I know a leader needs to be more successful
  • 4 areas of focus, one per quarter
  •  Built in accountability

What Does A Leader Need To Learn

This part of the conversation became very fruitful. I put a list of leadership skills on the board and asked these owners to pick the top 3 they believed their leaders needed the most. As usual, being owners, they took it in a different direction...but we ended up in a good place. As a matter of fact, they provided the insight needed to define the 4 quarter program:

  1. Foundations for Success - A data driven approach to understanding people and performance
  2. Building a safe and engaging culture - Cultivating trust, accountability, feedback, and navigating conflict
  3. Building healthy and vital teams - Leadership skills: motivation, coaching and mentoring, hiring right, team development
  4. Leading with empathy and excellence - Transformational leadership - Decision making and problem solving

Granted these need a little refining, this is simply the place we landed.

 What became clear to me is that the term, "leadership development" means so many different things to different people.

The Leadership Journey

As the day wound down, we had a nice time to simply catch up with each other on a personal level. As direct as they were with me earlier about SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY...they were very insistent that I get this up and running asap. I had at least 4 owners come to me with a comment like, "I have X number of people that I would like to get into this program." That was encouraging!

What I am doing is not new, but the neuroscience I am using is. The human brain learns and retains information in a very specific way, and 1 day seminars or workshops is NOT it! People need a journey to learn and retain critical information and develop new skills. My journey as an Advanced Trainer has taught me that successful learning and skill development has to fit into busy schedules and:

  • Engage the person with the learning in bite size portions
  • Allow people to practice while they learn
  • Reflect on what worked, what did not work, and what they could adapt
  • Repeat this cycle
By the way, one of my beliefs is that we are all leaders. We learn to lead ourselves well and then lead others well. Whatever your leadership role, at home or at work, give yourself the time to learn and grow in a way that best suits your learning and development style. If you do not know what that is, we have a dedicated package of assessments that will provide that insight. We are more than personality, more that IQ, more than the sum of our experience. We are complex creations with a multitude of dimensions. That is why I love the work I do!


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