Epiphany Consulting - Articles

Leading and Building Human Capital

Twenty-first century leadership is complex. Teams of people are needed rather than a few talented individuals working on their own. Leaders must possess superior people skills, aligning their strengths with organizational needs.

Why do we need highly evolved, effective leaders?

Our society appears to be crying out for people with soulful wisdom leading with both the head and the heart. Leaders of the past looked, or were perceived, to lead from the heart and the mind, only later to be exposed as superficial. However, being politically correct will no longer suffice in the high-demand world of leading in the twenty-first century.

True leaders organize people toward causes.

Today’s social and organizational ills resist yesterday’s best practices. What was seen as effective then is no longer what’s needed in today’s workplace. A great leader knows what their people need, going beyond what they want and what is perceived as needed. People want many things; however, listening to what they need is essential in gaining trust and respect, thereby leading to popularity in becoming a successful leader.

Why should succession planning be a part of your organization's plan?

Your people have been crying out for more leaders who lead from the heart and the mind. Those who practice transparency and honesty as opposed to a superficial leadership style are gaining in popularity. Working with clients in a multitude of industries with varying sizes, I see the obvious and understand what’s needed. As a trusted advisor and executive coach, it is my business to know my clients’ business. My job is to investigate what’s actually occurring, dig deep, and interpret the facts.

Many times it’s pure common sense to determine what needs to be done. Having a good succession plan is a best practice and makes good business sense. It’s like having a reserve in your bank account. It needs replenishing and managing while looking for healthy ways to reinvest. This is the same approach to building and investing in human capital. Succession starts at the recruiting and hiring phase. In the wise words of Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.”

Begin with the end in mind.

Recognizing the individual’s possibilities up front (for example, does the individual possess leadership acumen? Can he or she do the job you require them to do? Are they in alignment with the company’s core values and goals?) and keeping away from the ‘shiny objects’ will allow you and the company to focus on those individuals who are qualified for the position.

I see hiring managers and leaders who are part of the team conducting an executive interview, only to ‘fall in love’ with the candidate’s educational background, talent, or who they know, which reflects only a portion of what’s required for the position. Another critical element in this equation includes the candidate’s qualification to lead people.

Begin with the end in mind and see the bigger picture. Visualize the path of the right candidate. What are their values, strengths, opportunities for growth, the type of training, coaching, and mentoring they will need to evolve into their future, the leadership position you need them to fill, and the job they will be required to undertake. Ensuring that the investment your organization is making in future leaders will cultivate the kind of head and heart leaders people hunger for.

Highly effective leaders are not accidentally designed.

In my opinion, leaders are born. When we see a child who possesses a natural ability to inspire others, attract a crowd, or lead, we say “this kid is going to be a great leader someday”. As the individual matures and sets sail on the path of a potential future leader, he or she begins the journey of gaining experience, is compelled to take on tasks of managing others, take risks, and learns that relationships are the key to their success. The difference between a good leader and a great leader is that the great leader listens, inspires thought from their people, practices transparency, consistently shares the vision, leads with the heart and the mind, and uses his or her experience and wisdom to make decisions. Don’t misunderstand when I say ‘leading from the heart’ as a kumbaya method. If you’re listening, this is a good time to reassess your intentions and approaches. Here’s the paradigm shift: we are in a new world where people want to see their leaders display a more human approach to business. They want to know that their future leaders will recognize their participation and contributions are as important to the success of the company, period. So, even if the natural-born leader is created, they still need help in developing.

Mastering leadership habits.

As we keep our attention on carefully selecting and grooming our future leaders, there are some critical elements that need to be passed along while developing great leadership. Always have at least three strong rules and stick to them. Like any good parent, repeat yourself a lot and act in ways that are consistent with the rules. These are the keys to providing a company with a strong cultural foundation. Another critical component is ensuring that the company has good systems and structures in place to ensure stability and support as the organization grows. This is most dire for smaller companies. Regardless of the size of company, this final business practice is a big one: accountability. Accountability begins from the top-down. As goes leadership and their team goes the rest of the firm. Whatever strengths or weaknesses exist within the organization can be traced right back to the cohesion of the executive team and their levels of trust, competence, discipline, alignment, and respect.

Navigating the ship.

One afternoon while working with a client who is the founder and president of a Fortune 500 company, I said in frustration, “Jeff, you just need to get out of your own way!” He didn’t know what I meant by that statement. Like many decision makers, it is tough letting go of control, especially when the company is growing , shifting, and decisions are being made by other executives who are responsible for passing on the vision and goals of the company and making sure organizational goals and people are on target. As the captain of the ship, it’s your job to hold and communicate the vision consistently and effectively, over and over again in many different ways. As the organization evolves, your daily interactions with employees becomes less, and your priorities should be shifting as well. In my position, I see where business leaders (especially the leaders of smaller companies) find it difficult to let go and let the people that they hired do what they are and hired to do: their job!

So the next time you’re tempted to get in the way of productivity, don’t. Many leaders have the tendency to get sucked into the daily minutiae, and the distractions are just too much. That’s why we have a crew. We hire others and delegate responsibility to ensure that they are accountable and in control, making sure the ship is headed in the right direction while they consistently and effectively communicate the vision and direction.

Even though the goal of twentieth-century leadership is the same as that of their twenty-first century counterparts - to accomplish goals through groups rather than individuals - the process has changed. Long gone is the hierarchical-type setting: top-down, unidirectional leading is something of the past. Today, with the increase in the levels of education, people desire to participate. Educated people want to be collaborators. The role of the leader is to harness the brain trust and merge the cumulative experience, wisdom, and insights of the participants. In this age of the super highway and information overload, leaders cannot know everything they need to lead, and must rely on others. As leaders, it is our social responsibility to build and sustain human capital in our organizations. As we look for ways to continue to build healthy companies, we rely on people to innovate, solve our problems, and stay competitive. It is ultimately our people skills, relationships, and the ability to align our strengths and what we do best with the organization’s needs that let us all succeed.

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