Lead Inside the Box gives leaders a way to get the best out of their teams by focusing their energy where it will make the biggest difference. It teaches leaders how to:
Through simple frameworks brought to life with stories from the trenches, leaders will be able to see their own teamsand themselvesfrom a new perspective. Paradoxically these methods will enable leaders to improve their team's performance exponentially while expending half the effort.
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About the Author
Mike Figliuolo is the founder and managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC, a professional services firm specializing in leadership development. He is the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership and is a nationally recognized speaker and blogger. Before founding his own company, he was a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro.
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Improving Your Leadership Efficiency and Effectiveness
You don't fully control where and how you spend your leadership capital. Your investment of it is dictated by the behaviors of those around you. Team members can be demanding. They make mistakes that require your intervention. They cause conflicts that you have to smooth over. Alternately, they may ask little of you. You see them so infrequently that you occasionally forget they're there. Some of them hope you ignore them because your attention only means more work for them. Your boss or other leaders in the organization may require you to spend your time and energy a certain way. They might ask you to coach or mentor someone. They could decide to reorganize your department or reprioritize your projects. Those changes force you to spend time with different team members working on new tasks. Sure, you've got some control over how you invest your leadership capital, but don't fool yourself — much of the world around you is beyond your control.
What you do control, however, is your reaction to those behaviors and events. Just because one of your team members is clamoring for your time to solve his problems, it doesn't mean you have to give it to him. Instead, you can ask him to spend time on his own developing a solution and coming up with the best plan he can, and only once he's done so will you give him the time to sit down with you to review his solution. If you solve his problems every time he asks, you're enabling his bad behavior. For team members like this, it becomes far simpler for them to ask you to figure out the solution instead of investing their own time and energy to do so. You're rewarding their laziness. The more you reward it, the more frequently you'll be a victim of their inaction. All your leadership capital will be consumed by doing their job for them. Once you appreciate how much you're investing in the relationship, you can take different actions. You can reallocate that leadership capital to endeavors that will generate better results. That's this method's true power: it shows you how you're investing your time and energy and links those investments to the results you're getting.
Understanding Where You're Investing Leadership Capital
Through a set of simple questions, you can diagnose how you're investing your leadership capital. These questions will give you a good sense for where you spend your time and energy with your team members. You'll know whom you're investing in and whom you're ignoring. You can only reallocate your leadership capital and invest it more efficiently if you know where you're spending it in the first place.
Then, through another set of questions, you can assess the return you're getting from those investments. You pay your team members a salary to deliver results, but that's not the only investment you're making in them; you're also spending your leadership capital to get results. It's important to understand the return you get from all the investments you're making in your team. Some team members deliver more results than others, and they all have different styles for delivering those results. By analyzing the quality and quantity of results and the way they deliver them, you'll better understand the types of leadership interventions best suited to improving their performance. Ultimately, their results are a measure of your success. The more you can get out of them, the more valuable your team becomes. Their better results improve the organization's performance. Leaders who can make these improvements by shifting resources instead of adding them are more effective and more valuable, and have a brighter future than those who throw more of their limited time and energy at improving performance.
Once you know how you're investing your leadership capital and have a sense of the results being delivered by each team member, you have to understand how your efforts are — or aren't — contributing to those results. It's that causal relationship between your investment and their results that's the crux of this method. To evaluate that relationship, we'll provide a framework called the Leadership Matrix where you can plot your team members in one of four boxes that describe the behavioral patterns they demonstrate. A person's placement on the Leadership Matrix is a function of how much leadership capital that person requires you to invest compared to the results she delivers. Similar to financial investing, your goal is to get the highest return possible on the investments you make in your team members. As you perform these suggested analyses, you may shift where you're spending your time and energy to improve your team's performance. These shifts will occur because some team members need more of your attention while others require less. The reallocation of leadership capital is a major insight that comes out of this assessment process.
For each behavior type, we'll offer specific leadership techniques to use to target your efforts for that team member. For example, some people need you to be directive and monitor their work. Others will be better off if you leave them alone and check in less frequently. The idea is to apply the appropriate leadership techniques that best suit each individual's needs. We'll show you what these behaviors and techniques look like in the real world through extensive use of examples drawn from our personal experiences as well as our knowledge of leadership challenges faced by our colleagues and clients. These stories will demonstrate what this method looks like in practice and make it easier for you to use these techniques when you face similar situations. They also illustrate both good and bad ways to lead team members in each box and how you can use this method to be a more effective leader.
Using this approach will not only help you get the most out of your team, but it will also help your individual team members reach their true potential and be more satisfied with their jobs. By identifying their unique needs, you can tailor your leadership style to help them reach their personal and professional goals. When your team members feel valued as individuals and believe they're making progress on their career path, you're much more likely to get better results from them and have a healthier team environment. People tend to stay in jobs in such an environment and not look for other roles outside of your team. That dynamic's benefits are clear — less attrition, less work needing to be taken on by others during a vacancy, and less time spent recruiting and training new people. That positive cycle leaves more time for delivering better results or for achieving a better work-life balance.
The Benefits of Leading Inside the Box
Most leaders feel a duty to help their team members improve their performance, but soon realize that doing so is hard work. There's not always a clear path to achieve that improvement. Helping someone change his performance requires thoughtful evaluation of the situation and a willingness on the leader's part to use techniques that are tailored for that specific case. These techniques may be uncomfortable for the leader to apply. Many times, rather than trying something new, leaders resort to techniques they're already comfortable with. But one size does not fit all when it comes to the most effective leadership style for different types of team members.
Unfortunately, we establish our own routines, habits, and preferences for how we lead people, and it's difficult to break out of that mold for different situations. What those habits lead to is using the same leadership approach with all team members regardless of that technique's appropriateness for a particular situation. Although that common approach may work occasionally, more often than not it frustrates the team member. The leader is left wondering why performance isn't changing despite her use of an approach that has "always worked in the past." To inspire lasting performance improvement, a leader needs to lead her team members based upon the team member's needs — not the leader's comfort level.
Another trap leaders fall into is being reactive — leading team members in a way they ask for but may not need. Leaders often ask team members to do something challenging — change their behavior. Change is always stressful and often difficult. Team members try to minimize the amount of change they have to suffer through. One way team members do so is guiding their boss to lead them in a certain way using techniques that feel comfortable for them. Those techniques might not be the most appropriate for the situation. If, for example, a team member needs to be held accountable for daily results but the leader gives in to a request to "give me space and let me manage my own work," disaster could result. While team member preferences are important, the leader must choose the most effective means of improving performance even if the team member won't like it.
The "leading inside the box" method we're advocating shows leaders how to take a much more thoughtful, proactive approach to leading their team members to get the best out of them while at the same time easing their burden of leadership. Said differently, this method is about getting the greatest results out of your team members by being wise about how you invest your time and energy. This approach centers on a framework, but it's not about labeling people and putting them in boxes. It's about categorizing the behavioral characteristics people demonstrate and adapting your leadership style to change those behaviors. The better a leader tailors his leadership style to each individual, the more likely it is that true behavior change will occur.
Placement in a box on the Leadership Matrix is driven by the behaviors of both the team member and the leader. Those behaviors can change over time. People don't always stay in one box after they're placed there initially. They can move by changing behaviors — especially if they're led effectively. They can also move within the Leadership Matrix by changing jobs. Both of us have been in every one of these boxes at different points in our careers. There are many examples of people who didn't find professional success until they moved out of jobs for which they were not well-suited. The world famous chef Julia Child, for example, was fired from her first job in advertising before she discovered her love of cooking in her late 30s. People sometimes find themselves in places they might not want to be. A leader's job is to help people move to a position of improved performance and increased satisfaction. To do that, leaders need to use different leadership approaches and target their efforts according to the individual's development needs. Setting a baseline for how people are performing and how the leader is interacting with them defines the starting point for performance-improvement efforts. Once that starting point is known, it's much clearer what needs to be done to sustain or improve performance. That knowledge enables leaders to reduce the amount of leadership capital they must invest to get the desired results.
There is no "end goal" box in the framework. Growth doesn't stop once someone reaches a "high performer" box. Leaders should be moving high performers on to new challenges as much as they try to help low performers move to a position of satisfactory performance. The "lead inside the box" approach is all about continuous performance improvement. Leaders must develop their people, get better results, and be more efficient in the process of making these improvements. Leaders who develop their people will find themselves with expanded opportunities to lead more people and take on more challenging assignments. Those new situations help leaders advance their careers and have a larger positive impact on the organization. In turn, these dynamics result in happier leaders who feel professionally and personally satisfied with their roles.CHAPTER 2
What's the Leadership Matrix, and How Does It Help Me?
Congratulations! If you're reading this you've either reached the ranks of leadership or you're well on your way there. Throughout the course of your career so far, you've likely navigated through a succession of jobs in team environments. But once you're responsible for leading others, the game changes. When you lead a team, you're not controlling all the effort that goes into the work and the quality of the output. Leaders have to manage that indirectly through their team members.
For some newly minted leaders, making the shift from delivering the work to working through others to deliver results feels like they've gone from pulling all the strings to pushing a rope. If they can't get their team members to do the job exactly the way they would do it, they may be tempted to micromanage or, even worse, do the work themselves. But now that they have more responsibilities, they can't do it all. If they take that approach, they'll burn themselves out and fail to deliver the results they desire and that the organization expects. Your scarcest resource is the time and energy available for you to invest in leading your team — your leadership capital. To get the most out of your team without burning yourself out, invest your leadership capital wisely. To do so, figure out where to invest it in your team members to achieve the greatest results for your efforts.
Different types of team members require different amounts and types of leadership capital from you. Being a smart leader means you proactively figure out how to invest your leadership capital instead of dedicating it to the most pressing performance issue or crisis. When we face a crisis, we tend to react first and think later — this might solve the immediate problem, but it could also cause dysfunctional behaviors to arise in your team members. If you behave this way often enough, you might become an enabler of bad behavior: rather than solving problems themselves, your team members will come to you to resolve their issues. Their demands will then take up all your time and energy. Why would they solve the difficult issues themselves when they can pass them off to you instead? They'll do this because this approach makes their lives easier. Avoid the mistake of always leading your team members exactly how they ask to be led. There will be occasions when you'll need to lead them much differently than they might desire. Don't let them dictate how you spend your leadership capital. It's your job to determine where you focus your energies.
Another common leadership capital allocation error to avoid is spreading your time and energy evenly across all your team members. Some people need a great deal of your attention. Others perform better if you leave them alone the majority of the time. Knowing the difference and acting accordingly requires effort on your part, but it's worth figuring out. Be thoughtful about how you allocate your efforts, rather than being lazy and doing what others ask you to do or parceling out your energy equally to everyone because that's a "fair" way to do it.
What Reallocating Leadership Capital Looks Like in Action
Let's look at an example of enabling behaviors and how they can drain a leader. A few years ago, Mike took on an assignment to be an executive coach for Alan, a seasoned executive who was considered a high performer. Alan leads a team of highly intelligent scientists. While most of their time is spent on scientific work, a portion of their roles is administrative. Before Alan took over the team, many of these scientists hadn't been trained on these responsibilities because their previous leader tended to do all this administrative work himself. Alan fell into that same habit when he took over the team.
During a hectic period, Alan and I spoke about how stressed out he was. "I don't have enough hours in the day to get all this stuff done," he said. When I asked what he was working on, he shared that he was performing these administrative tasks. As I pressed him for an answer as to why he was doing this work instead of making his team members do it, he said, "They've never been trained on it and they screw it up pretty often. I then have to fix those errors. When they do try to do it, they're constantly in my office asking me for answers to the problems they need to solve. It's more efficient for me to do the work myself rather than spend time I don't have trying to train them on how to do it properly."
I told him he was causing all the problems. "Do you know what the problem is, Alan?" I asked. "You're an enabler. Your behaviors are the root of the problem." Needless to say he was surprised by my unsympathetic response to his plight. "What's easier for them, Alan — to struggle with the work and suffer through the rework you'll demand of them or to claim they don't have the skills and dump the work on your desk instead?" Alan's eyes widened with the painful realization of the dynamic he had created. I continued, "Here's another thing to consider — how many hours have you spent doing this work in the last six months? How much time would it take you to train them on these tasks so you didn't have to spend the time doing them yourself?" He knew he didn't need to answer my questions. I offered a final perspective. "I know they're going to whine when you tell them to do the work. They're going to give you half-assed results in the hopes you'll capitulate and do it yourself instead of holding them accountable for doing it again. You have to break this cycle. Short-term, it will suck. They won't like you. You'll be less efficient because you'll be correcting more errors and spending more time training them than you would spend if you did the work yourself. Long-term, we both know you need to make this shift."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Lead Inside the Box"
Copyright © 2015 Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I Introducing the Leadership Matrix
Chapter 1 Improving Your Leadership Efficiency and Effectiveness 27
Chapter 2 What's the Leadership Matrix and How Does It Help Me? 37
Part II Leader Inputs and Team Member Outputs
Chapter 3 The Input of Leaders 51
Chapter 4 The Output of Team Members 67
Chapter 5 The Leadership Matrix 77
Part III Leading Exemplars
Chapter 6 Exemplars 91
Chapter 7 "Rising Star" Exemplars 95
Chapter 8 "Domain Master" Exemplars 105
Part IV Leading High-Cost Producers
Chapter 9 High-Cost Producers 117
Chapter 10 "Squeaky Wheel" High-Cost Producers 121
Chapter 11 "Steamroller" High-Cost Producers 131
Part V Leading Passengers
Chapter 12 Passengers 143
Chapter 13 "Stowaway" Passengers 147
Chapter 14 "Joyrider" Passengers 157
Part VI Leading Detractors
Chapter 15 Detractors 169
Chapter 16 "Square Peg" Detractors 173
Chapter 17 "Slacker" Detractors 183
Part VII Applying the Leadership Matrix
Chapter 18 Executing the Plan with Your Team 197
Chapter 19 Applying the Leadership Matrix to Team Situations 223
Chapter 20 Embedding the Leadership Matrix in Your Talent Processes 245
Chapter 21 Your Path Forward 255
Appendix A The Leadership Matrix Assessment 259
Appendix B Applying the Leadership Matrix to Performance Appraisals 273
About the Authors 283