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.

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“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 …

 

“The Secret” Is Out … Really


promo_04I like a good story, with realistic characters, a logical plot, and a thoughtful message … which is why I really enjoyed reading the 10th Anniversary edition of “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller . . . 

Now, let’s be clear … this title will never become a Hollywood blockbuster.  It has no explosions, no sex, no superhuman stunts.  All you get for your money is solid writing with crisp dialogue about situations familiar to most of us with a satisfying story about one person’s ability to become a more effective leader by serving others.

On the other hand, this would make a GREAT training film as part of an effective leadership development program in any organization.

If you are familiar with Blanchard and Miller’s other works, both individually and as co-authors, you know their style leans to short, easy-to-read, narrative style books which are deceptively simple-appearing.  However, their work is always engaging and useful … if you are serious about considering your own leadership and how you might become a better leader.

At the risk of spoiling the surprise, here’s my interpretation of the secret ofThe Secret”:

Leaders Serve … That’s pretty much the gist

The book provides a reality-based scenario of Debbie Brewster’s learning journey as she slowly learns that basic fact about leading others.  I suspect many of us started out more like Debbie in our perception of leadership than we might like to admit.   She goes from a leadership perspective that involves a focus on herself to where her focus is on others … those she serves … her team.

Debbie learns, as we do along with her, that leadership is about serving others.  Five core components create the focus for servant leadership: 

share_091)  Vision:  See the Future

2)  People:  Engage and Develop Others

3)  Improvement:  Reinvent Continuously

4)  Success:  Value Results and Relationships

5) Credibility:  Embody the Values  

These are not unique or new concepts.  If you are a student and practitioner of leadership, you have seen this all before.

However, this book provides insight into them in a very down-to-earth and easily understandable fashion.  Other authors take hundreds and hundreds of pages loaded with technical terms and convoluted illustrations, often at a mega-level beyond the reality of many of us, to say what Blanchard and Miller do simply, quickly, and effectively.

One quibble:  I am not a big fan of titles likeThe Secret, simply because they imply something mysterious  and difficult to learn … this book is anything but mysterious or difficult.

That said, here are three quick observations about some value-added features in this book:

1)  Debbie has to learn about servant leadership in small doses and take notes along the way … 

Lucky for you that her notes, neatly organized and including only the essentials are available in the back of the book.  She did the work and you get the benefit.  These are “Debbie’s Secret Notes”, so you know they are extra special and valuable.

OK, that was a little sarcastic, but the point remains that you have the core learning of two very accomplished leaders in one simple and straight-forward document.  This one is worth copying and posting somewhere you will often see it and be reminded of the five core components.

2)  Debbie’s leadership journey takes months, but you can read this book the first time in one rainy afternoon …

This is not one of those weighty and academic books, that require long periods of reading and reflection, along with sometimes needing to Google the terms and concepts used to illustrate the points.  Everything is in easily understood language.

NOTE:  Observe that I said “first time” when referring to reading.  This book is worth revisiting every so often, even though you know how it all ends after the first time through. 

3) A Self-Assessment is also included for your use and continued consideration …  

You probably already know where you are with becoming a servant leader, but this simple assessment based on the five core components walks you through the details of how they are lived out.  It serves as both an excellent reinforcement of the concepts in the book and as a measure of where you are at a point.  You will want to revisit this section from time to time, both as a quick refresher and to see how you are growing.

You DO want to become a better leader who serves, right? …

Enjoying another great addition to my leadership learning library in the Heartland ….

John

For much more about this book and the two authors, check out The Secret.

 

promo_02ABOUT KEN BLANCHARD

Ken Blanchard is founder and chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international management training and consulting firm that he and his wife, Margie Blanchard, began in 1979 in San Diego, California. He is one of the world’s most prominent authors, speakers, and consultants and is the author or coauthor of more than sixty books.

Dr. Blanchard is universally characterized by his friends, colleagues, and clients as one of the most insightful, powerful, and compassionate individuals in business today.

Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world and is respected for his years of groundbreaking work in the fields of leadership and management.

 

promo_01ABOUT MARK MILLER

Mark began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. Since that time, he has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, Quality and Customer Satisfaction, Training and Development, and today he serves as the Vice President for Organizational Effectiveness.

During his time with Chick-fil-A, annual sales have grown to over $4 billion. Mark began writing about a decade ago. Today, almost 400,000 copies of The Secret are in print, and it has been translated into more than 20 languages.

Recently, he released The Heart Of Leadership which further explores leadership character and reveals the five habits leaders need to develop. His blog, Great Leaders Serve, is rated as one of the top leadership sites in the world.

 

Regular Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book prior to publication for review purposes.  It would take a lot more than a free book (of which I have many) to influence my opinion.  Feel free to be slightly jealous if you did not receive a free book, but reflect that if you use the learning in this book, you will regain your purchase price many times over. 

Guest Post: “Must Wins” by Mark Miller


promo_04Today’s guest post is from Mark Miller, co-author of “The Secret:  What Great Leaders Know and Do”.  This post was originally published on Monday, June 9, 2014 at www.greatleadersserve.org

I’ll have more to say myself about this great anniversary edition, but for now, here’s Mark with some solid leadership thinking …

 

MUST WINS

Have you started working on your 2015 plans for your organization? If not, it’s probably time. Where should you begin? One approach is to determine what’s most critical for your organization to accomplish in the coming years.

I attended a meeting recently in which someone shared the “Must Wins” for their department. After listening for a few minutes, I realized, he was describing what I’ve historically called organizational priorities. His language is far better than mine. To describe something as a “Must Win” gives it importance and urgency.

Here’s a working definition of a “Must Win…”

A statement of strategic intent critical to the health and future success of your organization; substantive enough to require 12 – 60 months of focused attention and deserving of disproportionate time, energy and financial support.

A “Must Win” is not a tactic or a program, nor is it a goal – although there should be metrics established to monitor your progress. It is about closing gaps or seizing opportunities to fundamentally strengthen your organization.

Here are some examples:

1. We must improve our retention among hourly team members.

2. We must meet our quality requirements more consistently.

3. We must establish a successful west coast presence.

4. We must create products and services to reach new customers.

5. We must find new ways to reduce costs across all divisions.

6. We must increase repeat business from our existing customer base.

7. We must develop the business acumen of our people.

8. We must create a leadership culture.

How do you determine what your “Must Wins” should be? That will require a blend of research, hard work, heated debates and a good measure of leadership intuition.

Here are a few questions that may help…

· If a new leadership team took over our organization today, what are the first three things they would do?

· If this new leadership team were creating their 3-year plan, what would they deem most critical?

· If you could eliminate one competitive threat over the next 36 months, what would we choose?

· What could you do to create significant competitive advantage?

· Where are we falling behind our competitors?

· If you were not worried about the difficulty involved, what is the one strategic priority you would certainly embrace?

· What is the most significant gap you need to address over the next 36 months in your organization?

· What should you do if we want to fundamentally strengthen your organization for the next decade?

· If you could only have one strategic initiative for the next 5 years, what would you choose? (You’re certainly not limited to one, but the thought you might be, should force some thoughtful conversations.)

These, and other questions like them, should always be on our mind. Not only are leaders the architects of the future, we set the strategic direction for our organizations. A successful organization cannot do everything – “Must Wins” help us know what we must do.

The future begins today!

clip_image002Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

The 10th anniversary edition of The Secret will be released September 2, 2014.