Developing Yourself and Others

Studies by the Hay Group, Aon Hewitt, Towers Watson, Gallup, and other consulting firms have clearly established the important role leaders play in an employee’s well-being, engagement, and performance.

In its own research into employee work passion, The Ken Blanchard Companies has found significant correlations between perceptions of leader behavior, employee affect, and subsequent intentions to stay with a company, endorse the organization as a good place to work, and perform at a high level.

So why don’t more organizations invest in developing their leaders? What keeps them from taking steps in the right direction?

“For a lot of organizations, it’s just not part of their founding DNA,” says consultant and author Scott Blanchard. “Some companies don’t grow up with it.”

That can be a challenge for managers and individuals looking to grow and develop within those cultures. People who want to develop and grow will find themselves plateauing or hitting the wall early without a clear process for developing themselves and others. For these people, the only choices are to accept it or leave for something better.

Blanchard is on a mission to keep that from happening—at an organization level and an individual level.

“A lot of people don’t invest in themselves. They invest in their golf game, they invest in their skin complexion, they invest in their children’s braces and even their children’s development, but they don’t invest in their own. They’ll invest plenty in weight loss and wellness, but not much in leadership development.”

However, Blanchard knows that people want to grow and he points to the explosion in enrollment during the past 20 years at for-profit universities. There are hundreds of thousands of people looking to complete or further their education so that they can qualify for a better job.

“People don’t generally get advanced degrees to keep the same job. They do it so they can get a better job. And what’s interesting about leadership development is that while your company may give you opportunities, ultimately it’s your job as a professional manager to get the training you need.”

As Blanchard explains, well-intentioned people want to improve—and it’s important that they do; others are counting on them, but there are always competing interests. People are busy, but sometimes they’re just complacent and feel that they already know what they need to know.

“But you have to continue ‘sharpening the saw,’ as the late Stephen Covey always said. As a leader, you always want to be learning and improving—no matter how good your current skills are.”

Blanchard likes to use the example of your favorite doctor. “You might love your doctor, but you hope and expect that your doctor will stay on top of things. You hope that he or she is keeping up with the latest research, techniques, and treatments. The same is true for leaders—there are always new things you need to stay on top of. Standing pat actually means you’re going backwards because people always need to be learning new things. So if you’re not even moderately aware and aren’t investing in yourself, then you are basically getting worse.”

Start with a solid understanding of yourself

For leaders looking to take some steps toward reinvigorating themselves, Blanchard recommends four areas to focus on. The first is getting an accurate picture of yourself today. How are you doing? How do people perceive you?

“Warren Bennis, one of my favorite leadership thinkers, identifies that great leaders begin with a profound understanding of themselves. Bennis calls it ‘a positive self-regard.’ Good leaders understand themselves so well that they can leverage their strengths, mitigate their weaknesses, and manage themselves effectively to make sure that they’re not held up by one of their limitations.”

But Blanchard cautions that in order to get an accurate picture of yourself, you have to get input from others. Self-understanding can’t happen in a vacuum. To illustrate the point, Blanchard shares a story.

“I remember when traveling, I was at Chicago O’Hare International Airport with my young son. He tugs on my shirt and says, ‘Daddy, daddy, what’s on that man’s head over there?’

“I look over, and there’s this guy with a terrible toupee on his head. The toupee looked bad enough from the front, but it looked really bad from the back. So now he’s walking through the Chicago airport trying to look as good as he can and he thinks he’s doing okay. But if only he had checked it out with other people, he would have discovered something about himself that was obvious to everyone else.

“The best leaders do 360s so they can compare their self-perception to the perception of people around them. Inevitably, poor leaders are ones who either don’t care or who have an inaccurate awareness of the way they’re coming across to others. And that’s what Dilbert and the pointy-haired boss are all about. Don’t be that guy. Nobody wants to be that guy.”

Building relationships

As a next step, Blanchard recommends developing and constantly improving your skill in building relationships with people. If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that fundamentally, the art of building relationships centers on serving people.

In Blanchard’s experience, the reason this is so important is the different way that people perceive the actions of leaders who are focused on others instead of solely focused on their own agenda. When people perceive that their leader is coming from the right place and then buy in to that person, they feel safe, they forgive a leader’s mistakes, and they are more willing to put themselves out, try a little harder, and achieve more.

Blanchard points to the work of John Gottman, a renowned marriage counselor who identified a simple dynamic—when you turn toward people, they turn toward you.

As Blanchard explains, “You want to create a positive spiral where you are catching each other in the right mode more and more often. Being in any relationship is learning how to effectively turn toward people.”

Producing results

The first two action steps set the foundation and allow a leader to push people toward better performance. As a manager, you want to create a climate that allows you to multiply the talents of your people. So you are not just understanding yourself in order to be a navel gazer, you are not just building relationships to make people feel good, you are doing those things with the explicit intention of generating better results, which is the third area of focus.

And it is not in a manipulative way—leaders and direct report are working together toward accomplishing organization goals. As Blanchard explains, “Leadership is something you do with people—partnering with them in the accomplishment of goals—it’s not something you do to them.”

“You’re looking to leverage that interpersonal capacity to produce better results. Great people want to perform at a high level. They want to deliver more and they want to accomplish more in whatever metrics are being used.

“Performance and satisfaction are two sides of the same coin. And of course the first two parts—the softer parts of self-perception and relationship building—enable you to have the right to go to the next phase because you’ve already built trust and rapport and energy.”

Blanchard shares that from there you’re able to ask people to deliver more than they ever thought they could, and that ability comes as a natural result of great relationships and great leadership. Now people can deliver more than they ever thought possible. And when they do, they feel better about themselves because they’re accomplishing more than they ever thought they could.

“It can be tough at the time, but when you look back you are usually thankful for people who helped you achieve more than you thought you could. Generally when people talk about their best boss, they always talk about how they were able to produce more than they thought.”

Finally, you want to focus on career

In today’s work environment the opportunity to grow is more important than ever before. Growth is the currency of this new economy. People recognize that their ability to grow and learn new things is what keeps them valuable. In this fourth and final step, you—as a leader—must ensure that this is a part of your skill set.

Your goal as a leader is to let them know that you are a partner in their career journey,” says Blanchard. “It’s finding ways that people can grow by giving them a chance to excel in their present job but also looking at what you can do to provide them with opportunities for the next leg of their career.”

It’s a journey that begins with a better understanding of yourself and then expands to include a better understanding of others and how to work together to achieve common goals. This will result in benefits for both the individual and the organization.

Would you like to learn more about bringing out the greatness in yourself and others through better leadership practices? Then join us for a free webinar!

Leading Yourself and Others to Higher Levels of Performance: A Four-Fold Approach

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time / 12:00 p.m. Eastern / 4:00 p.m. UK and GMT

In this webinar, author and consultant Scott Blanchard shares a four-step process for bringing out the best in yourself and others. Drawing on his company’s years of experience creating executive development programs for clients across a wide variety of industries, Blanchard will share how higher levels of performance and satisfaction require a focus in four key areas.

  1. Understanding yourself. Learn techniques for assessing your temperament, beliefs, and values. You’ll also learn a quick exercise for making sure your self-image matches up with the image that others have of you.
  2. Building relationships. Take a look at the research on relationships and performance. Learn how to identify, map, and improve your important work relationships.
  3. Producing results. Learn about common mistakes in goal setting, diagnosing capabilities, motivation, and getting what you need to succeed.
  4. Charting careers. Learn how to develop a growth strategy for yourself and others.

View On-demand