May 2011



Teams at the Top: Part II

�Our latest research shows that one in every three leaders moving into new organizations at the senior level does not meet organizational expectations at the two-year mark. And one in every five leaders promoted within their organization are deemed to be underperforming in their roles.�

Dr. Patricia Wheeler, The Wheeler Group

In last month's edition of Competing through People , I discussed how starting a new team from scratch is often easier than transitioning an existing team with new players and responsibilities. The challenge can be even greater if one of the new players is the team�s leader. The new leader must not only resurrect the team but also navigate their own personal transition. I expect that the lack of an effective and accelerated leadership transition process is a key factor in the research cited above.

Ensuring a successful leadership transition starts before the public announcement of the new job and continues into the first few months in a new role. The honeymoon period is often shorter than you think. The critical path to success is rapidly identifying what is most critical in the short term, while simultaneously laying the foundation for long-term success.

Research has shown that 4 out of 10 executives fail in the first 18 months in a new position. The causes of many of these derailments can be traced back to the first 90 days and are often due to:

  • Not coming up the learning curve fast enough
  • Failure to build an effective team
  • Failure to establish clear expectations with a new boss
  • Failure to build positive relationships with peers
  • Not following through and achieving results

How do you fight the odds and vaccinate yourself against the transition challenges? I have found success in my work with new executives by building an overall plan for success in the new role.

The process works best if you start a few weeks before you arrive on site or, in the case of an internal move, before the official start date. The overall plan should be built from components that address the common causes of derailment including:

  • A Learning Plan
    • Build the capabilities that you personally need for success
  • A Leadership Plan
    • Build (resurrect) your new team
  • A Relationship Plan
    • Establish a positive working relationships with your boss and other key stakeholders
  • A Business Plan
    • Achieve results with short- and long-term action plans
  • And finally, A Success Plan
    • Create an overall action plan of S.M.A.R.T. Goals for the first 90 days

Read more about Accelerated Transition: Assuring Success in a New Leadership Role

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The Magic of High-Impact Facilitation Revealed

I sometimes hate to admit it but the first time I facilitated a group process was in 1979. I�m sure that first effort wasn�t pretty but it started me down a career-long study of the art and science of facilitation. It was one of the best things I�ve ever done since it is a capability that can be applied in a wide range of situations. I�ve facilitated hundreds of meetings, projects, and processes; from small teams to groups of over a thousand; from brief meetings to multi-day or -month efforts; with businesses and non-profits to colleges, unions and churches.

Often times (it happened twice in the last month), I get a reaction from someone involved in the facilitation that goes something like, �How did you do that? We�ve never gotten that much done before. What�s your magic?� Well, after careful consideration, I have decided to reveal the magic of my high-impact facilitation ability.

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, my home planet was about to explode and my parents, Dean-El and Roberta-El, put me in a rocket . . . . . wait . . . . that�s not it. The real �magic� isn�t superhuman (though many years of experience doesn�t hurt.) There are two important potions in facilitation magic.

Design, Design, Design    This is a secret that I learned many years ago from my mentor and facilitation guru, Jerry McNellis. This magic occurs long before the actual session begins and involves querying stakeholders to gain a thorough understanding of the situation at hand and what is to be accomplished. It takes the superhuman capabilities of questioning, listening and observation. I�ve done facilitation-on-the-fly (mostly in emergency situations) but it is never as effective as a well designed and tested process. The result is a laser-like focus that doesn�t waste anyone�s time and gets more done than anyone thought possible.

Dumb Facilitators    That�s right, the stupider the better � that�s why I have excelled. No, seriously . . . by �dumb� I mean someone who can stay out of the content and focus on the process. It always surprises me when a potential client is looking for a facilitator that is an expert in their industry. Why? Don�t they already have experts? What are all those people doing on the payroll then? They don�t need another industry expert. What they really need is someone who can effectively tap into the existing expertise, stay above the fray, make sure the process is on target, can ask insightful (dumb) questions and can know when to call audibles or make mid-course corrections.

There you have it - the non-magic of high-impact facilitation. Go forth and cast your spell!

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Ask and You May Receive

By Richard Citrin
President, Citrin Consulting

If you don�t ask, you don�t get.
      Mahatma Gandhi

Everyone wants to say yes! (well most everyone). Yes is affirming, yes builds business, and yes creates community. But in order to get to yes, we have to first ask.

Asking for something that we want can be amazingly challenging at times. It may be that we�ll get a no and that will feel like a rejection. Or we�re not exactly sure what to ask for because we�re unsure of what we want. Here are five steps to get more of what you want whether it involves increasing the work productivity of your employees, generating more business from your customers, or getting your kids to clean up their rooms.

  1. Know what you are asking for: this may be the hardest part of asking. If you are clear, you will be able to send a precise message, which will increase the chances of your getting a positive response.
  2. Know who and where to make the request: Make sure you get to the right person who can fulfill your need. And make sure the request is made in the right venue. Discussing business with a potential client should probably not happen at the charity event you are both attending.
  3. Know how you are going to make the request: Sometimes it is best to be direct in your bidding while other times you may want to couch it within the context of a larger issue. Speaking to your staff about a new big project can effectively be discussed while reviewing current project activities.
  4. Take action: Get out there and make your expectation known. Think about the words you want to say and mentally rehearse your message. Then do it!
  5. If the response is no, accept it gracefully. Remember, most people want to say yes, but sometimes that�s not the right answer for them in this instance. Thank the person for their consideration of your request.

Asking for what you want may seem selfish at times and you may get rejected, but you may be surprised at how much people want to help you grow and improve your business and theirs. Ask you for what you want and be ready to get that �yes�.

© Richard Citrin, 2011

Citrin Consulting: Accelerating Success

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