Skill Gaps ~ Guest Post by Mark Miller


ME:  Mark Miller is one of my favorite authors on all things leadership.  For a quick taste of his writing style, read the article below on skill gaps, originally published on GreatLeadersServe.com, and then for a bigger dose, check out his new book Leaders Made Here.

 

 

Skill Gaps

Today, I’ll speak to a question that great leaders ask a lot. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t ask it often enough: How do I identify and close skill gaps?

First, anytime I think about skills, I delineate two different types of skills – individual and team skills. Both are critical, but they are fundamentally different. You can work on individual skills alone; it takes a team to master team skills. I’ll offer a few thoughts today on both.

Individual Skills

I think three questions are particularly helpful when addressing individual skills.

What do I need to improve? Sometimes we can get this answer with rigorous self-evaluation. Other times, it will require an outside perspective. Those closest to you can be most helpful when trying to identify gaps. A supervisor, a friend, a spouse, or even a 360 survey can be helpful. Focus on closing critical gaps – those activities required of you to be successful where gaps are evident.

What will help me grow? Identify people, activities, resources and experiences to accelerate your growth. Whether you’re trying to close a gap or leverage a strength, get help.

Where am I already strong? I believe we add the most value in our area of strength. It is where we are strong; it’s also where we’ll have the greatest upside potential for growth. We challenge our staff to close critical gaps if they have any, but we want them to invest most of their time advancing their strengths.

Team Skills

Here are a few questions to help you think about team skills…

What is the work we’ve been asked to complete? The work should ultimately drive the required skills. If your team needs to develop new products, skills around design thinking, creativity and innovation will be critical. If you’ve been asked to sell widgets – prospecting and closing a sale will be much more helpful.

What skills are missing from our team? In light of the work your team has been asked to do, are there obvious gaps? Perhaps you need to hire new talent with a different skill set. Or, maybe you need to cross-train someone on your existing team. As an example, if your team has been asked to manage a Profit & Loss statement for a business, someone on your team needs to know how to read it and interpret it.

How will we work together? This is where a team begins to understand the less obvious skills they’ll need to master together to be successful. Skills such as goal setting, problem solving, conflict resolution and even having effective meetings, and other skills like these will ultimately determine the success of the team.

Skill development is a life-long pursuit. Don’t try to finish it – if you think you’re done – you’re done!
Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

“Leaders Made Here” Book Review


I believe this is the fifth book review I have done for one of Mark Miller‘s “short and sweet” leadership titles.  While the perspective and the details shift from book to book, the universe which Mark shares with us remains consistently reality-based and believable.  

This time around, a leader once again faces  significant personal challenges, at the same time as they are tasked with the responsibility for creating a leadership culture in an organization.  The premise is compelling and I was reminded once again of the role of compassion in the workplace, especially since we have started to focus more and more on the diverse personalities we find in our workplaces, each with their own stories and their own personal and professional challenges.

As in life, everyone does not use the same approach or come to the same conclusions, other than a few shining principles featured toward the end of this short book.   Actually, we notice regularly throughout that everyone does not have to and should not agree to the same approaches or tools.   We are different from each other in many ways, and each person has to decide the ways that work best for them.

As always, Mark uses narrative style to effectively describe both people, places, and processes.  I have not always been a strong fan of narrative style, but Mark is steadily making a believer out of me.  He manages to pack quite a bit of learning and thought-provoking activity into each short chapter.  A few examples of his pithy  and direct phrasing are also sprinkled around this post.

My personal favorite section was the slow uncovering of the essential principles from the primary character’s exploration of effective leadership development at several different workplaces.   Rather than jump directly into the final list, we see  the “messier” work of a group of intelligent people grappling with how best to organize their learning and convey the core of that learning to others in a clear, simple, and effective way.

This is how real teams create outcomes, but many leadership books tend to treat this part of leadership like a miracle … the finished statements just magically appear.  Not so in Mark’s book and we are the better for it.

I could say many other positive things about Leaders Made Here, but at this point, you get my message:  This is another in a hopefully never-ending series of short and easy-to-read leadership books that brings great value in an attractive and engaging fashion.

Don’t believe me?   Read the book and draw your own conclusions … I’ll wait:)

 

Disclaimer:  I have received a copy of this book for promotion, just like all the other times.  I have also purchased extra copies to distribute to others, just like all the other times.

ABOUT MARK MILLER (from his website)

Mark Miller began writing over decade ago when he teamed up with Ken Blanchard on The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. In 2011, he released The Secret of Teams, outlining the key principles that enable some teams to outperform the all the rest. Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life came next in 2012, followed by The Heart of Leadership in October 2013, the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Secret in September 2014, and Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game in April 2016.

This spring, his latest book, Leaders Made Here, tackles the issue of creating a leadership culture in a company. Readers will again follow Blake as he encounters some of his greatest challenges yet — making sure he is growing leaders who can take the company into the future. With more than 700,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

TO read even more about Mark and his remarkable journey, click here …

 

Serving Well Is A Covenant …


“To kalidescope-by-chip-bell-02-2017serve well is to enter into a covenant with a customer that guarantees worth will be exchanged for worth and in a way that keeps central the customer’s best interests.” (pg. 35)

So says Chip Bell and I could not agree more.  In his latest book, Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles, Bell uses the analogy of a child’s toy, a kaleidoscope, to illustrate some solid principles of effective customer service.  As in his earlier books, Chip’s words and phrases are pithy and colorful, with many easily memorable statements that just beg to be quoted and digested by those of us who care about such things.

I see several valuable points in that sentence at the head of this post, each of which guides us beyond the common and tired sayings about customer service, while helping us aspire to a much higher level of involvement:

SERVING INVOLVES COVENANT …

I have only worked in one organization where this word was regularly invoked to describe our relationship with each other and with those we served.  That non-profit provided help and comfort to the aged, families, and people in need.

To me, covenant indicates more than a promise, more than a guarantee … Covenant is a sacred duty to honor commitments and to treat others in an honorable way as you offer services and goods to them.

Covenant is also a relatively equalized relationship between you and another

WORTH EXCHANGES FOR WORTH …

Since we are talking about a relationship here, it makes perfect sense that we consider the values involves.  Most businesses run on a transactional model:  You give me something and I give you something in return.  Nothing wrong with this, as long as each person receives what they expected to receive.

Worth is another word that pushes us toward a higher level of engagement.  Worth goes beyond the mundane or trivial.  Worth means something of real value.   I offer my dollar bill and you give me an ice cream cone … we have completed a transaction.   I give you my dollar bill, and without being asked, you add sprinkles (yes, a nod to another Bell book), a genuine smile, and a cheery “Have a great day!“, and now we are talking worth.

THE CUSTOMER’S BEST INTERESTS ARE PRIMARY …

Not “The customer is always right” because they are not, and not that the customer can ask for or do anything, but here we have a clear reminder that we are in our business to serve the customer’s best interests.

As a realtor, I sometimes serve customers who have a well-designed list of needs and wants, price range, and vision for their ideal house … then  they fell in love with a fire pit (not on the original list) and all else goes away.  Their best interests are served by helping them move beyond the emotion of the moment to reconsider all the other things they said they had to have in the house they buy and to look at their decision from the financial perspective as well.  

Adding perspective to their decision may mean losing a higher commission, but I am serving my customer’s best interests.

Look at what I gained from reading just one page of one chapter in Kaleidoscope, and you might well think “Wow, if he can do that, I could gain so many more valuable insights from reading the whole thing” … and you would be absolutely right.  

Enjoying another great book from one of my favorite authors in the Heartland ….

John

chip-bell

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books.  Global Gurus ranked him both in 2014 and 2015 as the #1 keynote speaker in the world on customer service.  He has appeared live on CNN, CNBC, ABC, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, and NPR; and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, Fast Company, Money Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Businessweek.

Images reposted with permission

Caveat:  I received a copy of this book for review prior to publication.  I now have a great stocking stuffer for family and colleagues this Christmas.

Guest Post: Serving It Forward by Chip Bell


Kalidescope by Chip Bell 02 2017.jpgAny post which starts with a lesson from one of my favorite films is sure to be full of thoughtful insights.  Any post by Chip Bell pretty much meets the Excellent Customer Service Thinking standard, whether he mentions a favorite film or not.

Chip’s latest book is Kaleidoscope – click the image to the left to learn more.

Chip is one of my most trusted sources of solid and engaging leadership thinking … enjoy the following slice, which provides my claim nicely:

 

Lawrence of Arabia won the academy award in 1962 for best picture. Given the current conflicts in the Middle East, I recently watched the four-hour movie to learn more about the cultural history of the area. Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (played by best actor winner Peter O’Toole) was a British intelligence officer assigned to investigate the revolt of the Arabs against the Turks during World War I.  He embraced the culture and dress of the Arabs and organized a guerrilla army that for two years raided the Turks with surprise attacks.

In the early part of the movie, a poor Bedouin guide is hired to escort Lawrence across the desert to meet with Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness), the leader of the Arab revolt.  (Faisal would ultimately become King of Syria and King of Iraq pushing for unity between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims).  It was customary then for desert guides to be paid at the end of their assignment.  Instead, at the beginning of their journey, Lawrence gave his military pistol to the guide—a gift of great value and pleasure for any Bedouin.

What followed was a powerful example of “serving it forward.” The guide instantly gave Lawrence some of his food, provisions better suited to desert survival than the military rations Lawrence carried.  The guide then assumed a mentoring role revealing valuable desert survival secrets.  The timing of Lawrence’s unorthodox gift completely changed the dynamic of the relationship, with the Bedouin transforming him from “compliant servant” into “resourceful partner.”

Customer service is a reciprocal act.  Customers exchange money, time and effort for goods and services.  There are unwritten norms about how this mutual undertaking is performed.  Customers are expected to communicate their needs; service providers are expected to indicate whether they can meet those needs.  There are generally stated or implied expectations around speed, quality, cost, and so forth.  Both parties assume a modicum of respect; both assume the exchange will employ a measure of fair play.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started getting a lot of publicity after their decision to sell single slices of pizza for a dollar. But it didn’t have to do with the price of the slice; it was about a customer-suggested idea for how to fund pizza for the homeless. It works like this: when customers buy pizza for themselves they put a dollar in a container, write a message on a Post-it note and stick it on the wall.  Any homeless person can come into the store, take a Post-it note off the wall and get a slice of pizza. Rosa’s has given away thousands of slices.

The principle of abundance is about giving more than is expected.  It is a proactive attitude of engulfing a relationship with emotional plenty without concern for reciprocity. An attitude of abundance is more the belief that if we employ a giver mentality, the customer will take care of the bottom line.   It is leading with an orientation of selflessness—of focusing on the customer first, not on the bottom line.  “Generosity,” wrote Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, “is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”

Chip Bell.jpg

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books.  His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.  He can be reached at chipbell.com.

 

 

Guest Post: Leaders Ready Now


Leaders Ready Now bannerAnother launch week, another useful and well-written title on effective leadership development …  

This post is an excerpt from the chapter 1 of Leaders Ready Now.

 

Whom Should You Accelerate?

Of course, acceleration can dramatically energize a culture, but that’s not its principal purpose. As we mentioned at the outset, the goal of making more leaders ready now is most urgent for those businesses imperiled by inadequate or insufficient leadership. For that reason, the fear that a new system will damage the culture must be answered with a clear business case and a strong communication plan to counter perceptions of exclusion. Leaders Ready Now will outline how to make that business case and how to make choices about whom to accelerate in a way that creates positive energy in the organization. Meanwhile, having gained a consensus that acceleration is a business necessity, you can anticipate at least some of the following general acceleration needs:

CEO and C-level acceleration: Naturally, having replacement plans in place for the CEO and members of the senior team is essential; nearly every organization with more than a handful of employees has considered the issue of succession, at least at the very top. But the replacement pool may be shallow, and again, the best way to ensure a strong succession plan is to set up an Acceleration Pool to develop and prepare potential replacements long before a position becomes vacant. Accelerating the growth of a small cadre of executives who can develop readiness for these critical roles is crucial to organizational stability and success.

Executive acceleration: The most common crisis that acceleration addresses is the absence of leaders capable of taking on executive level roles. Because the responsibilities and required skills in these roles increase so dramatically, the transition represents one of the most significant and challenging jumps in the career of any leader. And because the feeder pool for these roles is often stocked with individuals several levels below the necessary levels of capability and experience, failure is common, heightening the need for effective acceleration.

Mid-level leader acceleration: Some organizations also create pools that prepare individual contributors and frontline leaders to fill mid-management roles, where much of the organization’s execution energy resides and where many organizations have trouble building strength. Because population sizes are larger, these pools tend to be built and managed somewhat differently than executive-oriented pools, often with more cadre-based learning and growth options that equip leaders with core skills to apply to the challenges of mid-level leaders.

Global/Regional/Business unit acceleration: Multinational, multibusiness, or multidivisional organizations often establish pools for each unit to meet the needs of the separate groups. In some instances these disparate pools are managed totally independently of one another; others build in review sessions to create insight into talent across boundaries and to find opportunities to share and grow leaders who have awareness and capability across the enterprise.

Critical role-acceleration efforts: Not all acceleration efforts should focus on traditional leadership roles. Many key positions are technical or functional in nature or require a unique brand of creativity or insight that gives the organization a competitive edge. These positions might require special project leaders or innovators of new concepts, products, or methods. They might have typical leadership responsibilities, or their leadership might be more nontraditional (such as thought leadership) or lateral. Acceleration efforts should target these roles as well and take a pool or individualized approach based on the nature of the role and size of the group. For example, one global social services organization established an Acceleration Pool for its Country Manager position. In another case, a technology firm cultivated the development of three high-potential players for the role of Product-Design Executive—a highly creative role without traditional leadership responsibility

Given that not everyone can (or wants to) be a leader, generating more leaders ready now requires you and your senior team to determine which individuals and groups will be the focus of your acceleration investments. Executives must make difficult choices about whom to accelerate and when. Some organizations struggle with this basic point of departure, maintaining that differential development is harmful to the culture because it excludes some people from participating. This point of view is a nonstarter, because acceleration is not an investment in the culture; it is an investment in the business.


Matthew J. Paese, Ph.D., is Vice President of Succession and C-Suite Services for Development Dimensions International (DDI). Matt’s work has centered on the application of succession, assessment, and development approaches as they apply to boards, CEOs, senior management teams, and leaders across the pipeline. He consults, coaches, speaks, and conducts research around all those topics and more.

Audrey B. Smith, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President for Global Talent Diagnostics at DDI. Audrey’s customer-driven innovation and global consulting insights have helped shape DDI’s succession, selection, and development offerings, from the C-suite to the front line. She has been a key strategist and solution architect, encompassing technology-enabled virtual assessments and development aligned to current business challenges.

William C. Byham, Ph.D., is Executive Chairman of DDI. He cofounded the company in 1970 and has worked with hundreds of the world’s largest organizations on executive assessment, executive development, and succession management. Bill authored Zapp!® The Lightning of Empowerment, a groundbreaking book that has sold more than 3 million copies. He has coauthored 23 other books, including seminal works on the assessment center method.