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How to assess leadership skills

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Here are steps to hone your managing style. | September 15, 2011

Are you persuasively steering your team, and the company you founded? How do you know?

“Often without meaning to, we create complexity for people who work with us,” said Katherine Ebner, executive leadership coach at Nebo Leadership inWashington.

The first step is to recognize you can always do better. The next one? Follow Ebner’s seven leadership tenets.  

1. Clarify what your job is. Before anything else, said Ebner, you must understand your roles and responsibilities as a leader. “Often people will do their old job; they will do what is familiar versus what’s needed.” Ebner said it is an adjustment to step up to a leadership role, often one that people are not prepared for.

She recommends you define your work by researching your job description, making a list of your roles and responsibilities (according to you), defining outcomes expected of you and, invaluably, asking direct reports, directors, and other senior level staff what they expect from you.

2. Invite feedback. Just as you offer colleagues and subordinates constructive critiques to improve performance, those people can also help you evaluate how you’re doing. To get the deepest and most actionable commentary, Ebner recommends you make the feedback loop simple. It can be formal or informal, as long as it is confidential, respectful, and efficient.

Ebner recommends conducting such leaderships reviews annually, or twice a year, because your staff may turnover and market conditions change. She advises asking key staffers open-ended, low risk questions such as: ‘What could I be doing better to support your success?’ ‘What do you need from me?’ ‘Is there anything I do that make things difficult?’

She also points out the importance of observing nonverbal cues. She stresses you should always be aware of the impact your make others. You can observe it from body language. Does the staff fall silent when you walk in the room, say? Do key executives meet your gaze or look away when you are speaking? “The key is to understand that you are collecting observable data,” said Ebner. “Don’t project, or be overly sensitive about what you may be seeing.”

3. Define goals. Establishing goals and milestones for performance over time is important not only in the financial arena but also in the organizational one. “The number of people you can impact everyday does not change in a big or small company. People who work most closely with you will pick up on your tone and mood,” said Ebner. This is then reflected throughout the company.

You can track “people performance”: turnover of key positions, length of tenure in position, ability to attract top talent.

For the last four steps, click here.

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