Is Leadership Without Passion Really Leadership?


Let me start this post with a few questions:

  1. Are you a passionate leader?
  2. Is it possible to lead without passion?
  3. Will people really follow you if you are not passionate about what you are doing?

When I reflect on my personal experience as a leader my response to the first question is sometimes.  There were times throughout my leadership career when I was very passionate about what my group was charged with accomplishing.   During my periods of passionate leadership I would wake up in the morning looking forward to starting my day with excitement and anticipation.  The day would be one interesting challenge after another and I would lose track of time.  It was truly a “flow” experience.  I also noticed during those times that most of my team was equally excited because I was always communicating my vision and they would witness my passion throughout the day.

There were other times in my leadership career when I wasn’t a passionate leader.  I would wake up at my usual time and drive into the office out of a sense of obligation and self discipline.  I worked just as hard, but each day dragged on, and I couldn’t wait to get home.  As you can imagine, this impacted my team as well.  They were not as excited, or passionate about what they were doing either.  You may find it interesting to note that a number of times I had the same team, both when I was passionate, and when I wasn’t but due to shifts in responsibilities our roles had changed.

I had the good fortune over the years to have worked for organizations that were dedicated to leadership development.  I had the privilege of going to many leadership and management workshops.  As a result of these experiences I became dedicated to my own leadership development and applied much of what I was learning.  However, the success of my application of what I was learning was not consistent.  I didn’t know why until I read this quote:

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.”

The proverbial light bulb went on and I gained some valuable insights regarding leadership:

  1. Leadership without passion is not leadership, you are simply going through the motions with very few followers.
  2. With passion, you can be a very effective leader even if you have not yet developed leadership skills.
  3. The answer to the age-old question of, “are leaders born or developed?”, is that it is both.  We are all natural born leaders when we align what we do with our passion.  We all can become better leaders through training and coaching.
  4. Leadership development in the absence of passion will only make us better managers.
  5. Sometimes we can find our passion in our current roles with nothing more than a change in mindset.

Please share your thoughts on passion and leadership by commenting below.  If you would like to learn more about finding your passion and passionate leadership please complete your contact information below.

Should Leaders Fly Solo On The Change Management Journey?

Pixton_Comic_Classic_Change_Mangement_by_BillAccordino(click image to view)

We all know that driving change, preferably strategic change, is one of the primary responsibilities of leaders in all organizations.  One could argue that if a leader isn’t driving change they are not leading at all, they are managing the status quo.  There are countless books on change leadership and change management.  Typically the change leadership books are providing insights and guidance to leaders on how best to drive change.  Much of the advice to the teams of those leaders focuses on how best to accept change and “to become comfortable being uncomfortable”.

The challenge both the leaders and their teams have can best be described by one of my favorite quotes on change management:

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” – Peter Senge, Author of The Fifth Discipline, MIT Professor

What can leaders do to reduce the likelihood that their teams feel like they are being changed?  Common sense would suggest that leaders should involve their teams in the change process as equal partners.  However, as is often the case, common sense isn’t commonly practiced.  The approach I have used successfully with multiple clients is what I call, Team-Based Change Leadership.  The process has six simple steps:

  1. Strategic Clarity–make sure everyone is on the same page, you need to breakdown the business strategy to the department and team levels.
  2. Identify the Future State–leaders and their teams need to identify what the organization will look like when the change process is completed.  The strategy mapping process needs to include the unique customer value proposition, internal processes and organizational structure, the talent and the organization culture.
  3. Assess the current state–this would include assessing all the areas referenced above.
  4. Develop a plan to close the gap
  5. Perform 80/20 analysis–you will not be able to change everything overnight. Prioritize required changes and determine the 20% that will provide 80% of the desired change.
  6. Execute Your 20% Flawlessly 

The most significant difference between this process and many change management processes is that the teams are involved upfront and actively participate in both the planning and the execution.  However, it is important to assess the readiness of the team to be an equal partner in this change process before starting.  If they are not ready then the leader may have to fly solo in the early stages.   The team assessment that I have used successfully with my clients is The Five Behaviors Of A Cohesive Team.

The bottom line is that the best way to get your teams to do what you need them to do, the way you need them to do it, and when you need them to do it, is to involve them in the change process upfront.

In future blogs I will drill down on the steps in the Team-Based Change Leadership process including The Five Behaviors Of A Cohesive Team.  If you would like to receive more information about this process in advance of future blogs, please complete the information below.

What Do You Do When You Have 37 Strategic Change Initiatives?


What do you do when you have 37 strategic change initiatives?  Nothing!

This was the challenge facing a client attempting to execute a significant change in strategy.  This client was stuck!  The solution was to focus on those initiatives that will have the biggest impact.  The challenge was, how do we choose the right one to three initiatives.  The process used was applying the 80/20 Principle to choose the right change initiatives.

Business owners and leaders driving change need to live and breathe this principle.  Here is the Wikipedia definition:

“The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

Quite simply, leaders need to focus on the 20% of their personal activities, and 20% of their team’s activities that will provide them with 80% of the desired change results.  The question I always ask leaders and their teams is, “Do you know your 20%?”.  What actions, activities and change initiatives will get you closer to achieving your strategic goals?

Here are 7 steps a leader can follow to make the 80/20 Principle part of their change leadership toolkit:

  1. Strategic Clarity–Make sure that your entire team understands your business strategy and has determined the impact it has on their day to day work.
  2. Identify the Future State–How does your organization need to change to be better aligned with your strategy?  What kind of talent do you need?  What internal processes are needed to better support your strategy?  How about your infrastructure/technology?
  3. Assess the Current State–Assess your current talent, review your processes and technology in comparison to your identified future state.
  4. Determine what needs to be done to close the gap
  5. Perform 80/20 Analysis–You will not be able to change everything over night.  Prioritize the required changes and determine the 20% that will provide 80% of the desired change.
  6. Choose you strategic change initiatives
  7. Align your entire organization to those initiatives

Always remember, the planning process has more value than the plan itself.  You need to stay flexible and always ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?”  Or in 80/20 lingo, what is my 20%?

If you would like to receive a complementary 80/20 Worksheet, please complete the information below.

Coaching For Breakthrough Performance Vs. Performance Reviews

BreakthroughLeadership  Performance coaching is a key change leadership tool and essential to achieve breakthrough performance.  Performance reviews are a key management tool.  My experience as an executive coach, leadership development consultant and HR professional would suggest that there is general agreement that performance reviews are needed as an important component of the overall performance management process.  That is not to suggest that managers and leaders enthusiastically embrace performance reviews, but they do begrudgingly agree that they are needed.

However, when the subject of coaching for breakthrough performance is brought up in my conversations with clients I very often get a blank, or confused stare.  They either view performance reviews as synonomous with coaching, or they just don’t understand what I am suggesting.  Allow me to start this discussion by providing you with my definition of coaching for performance and how it is different from performance reviews.

Coaching for performance is a development process.  Its primary objective is to help employees grow, learn new skills and competencies.  It is either focused on doing their current job better, the proverbial taking it to the next level, or helping them prepare for another job.  Performance reviews on the other hand, are designed to evaluate the individual performance compared to expectations, provide them with a performance rating, and ultimately provide the basis for compensation decisions. Coaching is focused on the future, while performance feedback is focused on the past.  It is really a question of the primary objective of the process.  Ken Blanchard, famous author and leadership expert, is quoted as saying, “People want help getting an A (coaching), they don’t want you to grade their papers! (performance feedback)”

If you agree that coaching for performance is an important part of your overall performance management process, here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Invest the time to help your employees develop specific development goals, separate and distinct from their business goals.
  2. Each employee should have a maximum of three development goals, too many goals are not sustainable.
  3. The concept of SMART goals is certainly applicable with development goals.  Each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
  4. Be sure to keep your coaching discussions separate from your performance feedback discussions recognizing that there is overlap.  You need to demonstrate that you are sincerely interested in helping them grow, not just evaluating their performance.
  5. Performance coaching should be viewed and practiced as a process, not an event.  Coaching should be done throughout the year, and often will be no more than a brief and focused discussion for 5-10 minutes.

Stay tuned for more on SMART Goals!

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