August 2017

How to Become a Visionary Leader

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In leadership circles, there’s lots of talk about being a visionary. Rightly so. Visionary leadership is important for the success and health of any organization. Unfortunately, the ideas often shared on this topic are old, tired, and ineffective.

To help you as you look towards 2018, I wanted you to have concrete ideas to help you up your game as your company’s visionary. I turned to an expert on visionary leadership—Seth Kahan. His work has included large-scale change initiatives at the World Bank, Royal Dutch Shell, the Peace Corps, the American Nurses Association, and the Center for Financial Planning. His focus is on big, bold initiatives that create dramatic growth or significant transformation.

Scott: What distinguishes a truly visionary leader?

Seth: Visionary leaders operate in the context of contribution—they are eager to make a difference in the world and want to marry that to their organization’s growth. Visionary leaders themselves engage in three activities: self-transformation, strategic foresight, and change leadership. Visionary leaders intentionally transform themselves so they can improve their mental models and ability to exert greater influence in the world. They do this by spending time with other visionaries, making commitments that are large and audacious, and immersing themselves in new experiences.  They are hungry to see around the next corner and gather intelligence on anything and everything that will help them with their strategy—this is strategic foresight. And they master the art and science of leading change.

Scott: What are simple actions a leader can take right now to develop or improve in each of those three areas you just mentioned?

Seth: I suggest these three action…

Self-transformation: Identify another visionary you admire and meet them face-to-face.

Strategic foresight: Create a group dedicated to identifying emerging trends and convene to discuss each one.

Change leadership: Buy my bestseller, Getting Change Right, and read it.

Scott: What are one or two examples of the impacts of visionary leadership?

Seth: The World Bank launched their Knowledge Management initiative to alleviate poverty by harnessing the know-how of its employees and their partners.  The American Nurses Association has launched Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation™, to measurably improve the health of America’s 3.6 million nurses.

Scott: How are visionary leaders operating differently when it comes to hiring?

Seth: They recognize that talent is the difference that separates those organizations that get ahead from those that stagnate. They often need people who are on the frontier of excellent work, doing what very few others can. They recognize the need for tools and techniques to bring in the best when they need them.

Scott: What’s one secret people don’t know about how visionary leaders rely on talented people?

Seth: Visionary leaders rely on people who know how to go beyond what they are asked, people who imagine what is possible and create results where they have not existed before.

Scott: I suspect some leaders will be hesitant to invite people to go beyond what they’re asked. Especially those leaders who are fearful of losing control. What advice do you have for them?

Seth: Leadership is no longer about control. It’s about unleashing potential in your subordinates and partners. Give your people a clear objective and let them find the solution. Stay engaged. It’s not about being absent. Refine your role to be a coach or mentor.

Scott: What’s one closing piece of advice you’d like to share with our readers?

Seth: What separates the extraordinary from the rest of the crowd is the willingness to push the envelope on what can be done. This does not mean you have to succeed every time, but it does mean you have to demonstrate your hunger for creating exceptional results.

Scott: Seth is someone you’ll want to follow, as you can tell from his smart and practical responses to my questions. Here’s how you can keep on top of what he’s doing:

Buy Seth’s book, Getting Change Right

Subscribe to his video blog, Visionary Talk

Learn more about Seth’s services

Scott WintripHow to Become a Visionary Leader
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Leading Change: How to Go from Being an A-hole to an A-Player

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podcast-sleeveEvery leader has to drive some type of change from time to time. Because changing things makes people uncomfortable, it’s common that leaders are viewed negatively, even when whatever is being changed is in the best interest of everyone. In this podcast, I walk you through three simple change management steps. By following these, you’ll no longer be seen as an “a-hole” and instead be viewed as an A-player by the very people impacted by change.

Scott WintripLeading Change: How to Go from Being an A-hole to an A-Player
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How to Create a Rising Tide of Talent Within Your Organization

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Great leaders lift up the people around them. They help employees harness their natural abilities, guide the development of their skills, and support them along an internal career path. Nurturing your organization’s team members has many payoffs. Staff member stay dedicated to the company and its mission; employee retention remains high; and in time, the organization gains its next generation of leaders.

Unfortunately, the persistent talent shortage across the globe is undermining these efforts. There continue to be more jobs than qualified people to fill them. Further, this talent shortage is delaying promotions, which keeps people stuck in their current jobs because they’re the only ones who can do that job. Even when there’s a career path for them, talented employees can’t advance in their own company; they can’t step up because there’s simply no one available to take their place.

You can solve this problem by creating a rising tide of talent available to your organization. Instead of focusing on succession plans that fail for lack of qualified successors, developing a continuous influx of top talent expedites advancement and elevates careers at all levels in your organization.

How can you create a rising tide of talent? By ensuring your organization maintains a wealth of quality people.

Determining Your Current Talent Wealth

Talented employees who do outstanding work are the secret ingredients that make a company great. Sustaining a full complement of good employees fuels succession plans and helps you maintain a competitive advantage.

Just as there are levels of personal wealth, so too are there levels of talent wealth within all companies. The departments in your organization are either talent rich, talent poor, or hover somewhere in between. Understanding your current level of talent wealth is important. Read the following descriptions and share them with your organization’s department heads and HR. Work together to determine which description best describes the current ranking of each department.

1. Talent Rich Departments

Talent rich departments employ mostly above average people, many of who are top talent in their fields of expertise. These people consistently do high quality work, often exceeding expectations and beating deadlines. Numerous advancement opportunities are almost always filled from within, creating new job opportunities. These jobs are filled quickly from a pipeline filled with high quality job candidates.

2. Talent Strong Departments

Talent strong departments employ people who are at least average at what they do. Some of these employees are top talent in their fields of expertise. They do quality work that meets expectations and deadlines. Advancement opportunities are frequently filled from within, creating new job opportunities. Some open jobs are filled quickly from a pipeline of talent. Other jobs take longer to fill, delaying promotions until new employees are found.

3. Talent Stable Departments

Talent stable departments have a mixture of average and below average performers. Just a few, if any, employees would be designated as top talent. The performance of these employees is typically adequate, although they can struggle to meet expectations and deadlines. Advancement opportunities, when they occur, are sometimes filled from within. When jobs become open, it usually takes days to fill some of them, weeks or months to fill the rest. Promotions are often delayed or even cancelled when backfilling a role takes too long.

4. Talent Poor Departments

Talent poor departments employ a significant number of below average performers, along with a handful of people who could be considered average in their roles. Rarely is there anyone on the team who could be considered top talent. Job performance is usually mediocre at best. Deadlines are often missed and expectations are rarely exceeded. Advancement opportunities are rare, prompting people to leave for other positions. When jobs open, it takes weeks or months to fill them.

Shaping the Future of Your Organization’s Talent

Talent rich businesses thrive while others struggle. Make maintaining high talent wealth throughout your company a top priority to ensure its success. Require that each department improve their ranking (or maintain their talent rich level if that’s already been achieved). Support department heads in filling open jobs and replacing subpar performers with quality hires. Work together with each department to set a goal and a deadline for this improvement, such as raising their current ranking one level or more by the end of the next business quarter. If you need help drawing in quality job candidates and conducting an efficient hiring process, my new book will show you how.

The flow of talent in your organization will determine its future, lifting careers or sinking them, including your own. Hire exceptional people. Help them to be the best versions of themselves. Offer them a path that elevates their careers and yours. Build and maintain a wealth of talent that makes your organization an unstoppable force in the marketplace.

This article originally appeared on Great Leadership with Dan McCarthy.

Scott WintripHow to Create a Rising Tide of Talent Within Your Organization
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