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Leadership Development: Jockeying for Position

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you continuously improve your skill sets. Reading time: 3:38

      They’re off and pacing. The race horses explode out of the starting gate and head for the first turn: 16 horses jockeying for position.

     harness racing1 harness racing3What if your leadership skills were like those 16 different horses in the starting gate, each jockeying for position?

     And what if you thought of your next annual review as if it were the finish line in a one-mile race. By the quarter-mile mark (in 90 days), you would have a pretty good idea just how  skillfully you are leading all 16 different horses or just how woefully you are just along for the ride.

       But of course your chances of winning the race, of performing well through the remaining 3/4 of a mile — throughout the remaining 9 months of completing your annual review — will depend on how well you anticipate and compensate for challenges ahead to your leadership skills and your ability to shore up your weaknesses and affirm your strengths literally on the run — in the heat of battle– and against vigorous countervailing interests.

Conduct a Quarterly PREVIEW

               That’s why the most effective leaders conduct a QUARTERLY PREVIEW — more than simply an annual review — in evaluating their staffs’ skills on the job. Career Development then becomes a visionary process–an on-going race to a non-existent finish line– more than a punitive report card on a random calendar date 12 months away. (And how may “annual” reviews are conducted 3-6 months late? Too many.)  Small wonder the word — career—stems from the French word for a race course.             In this apocryphal career race, the “victory” goes to the jockey keeping track of all 16 of his or her horses at the same time over time. And much like a horse race fan, the leader in you sizes up your 16 different horses  (i.e. skills) with a predictive eye toward continuous overall improvement long-term and a winning performance short-term.

         The focus is always ahead–the next 90 days, the next quarter in PREVIEWING what could be — not simply reviewing what has been. And like a seasoned jockey, you as the leader continuously leverage your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. You anticipate challenges ahead and stay focused on a productive performance especially in adverse conditions.  You adapt and adjust.

    Harness racing 2 That’s why the most effective leaders line up their career development skills — their horses in the starting gate — according to  a specific sets of leadership skills. Let’s use John Zenger ‘s list of 16 leadership traits as he delineated in Harvard Business Review October 2011. In alphabetical order:

     (1) Change Champion, (2) Communicates Powerfully,
(3) Develops Others,
(4) Initiates, (5) Innovates,  (6) Inspires, (7) Integrity,
(8) Problem Solver, (9) Result focused,
(10) Self Development (11)  Stretch Goals,
(12) Relationship Builder, (13) Teamwork,
(14) Technical Expertise, (15) Strategic Perspective
and (16)  Relevancy (to outside world).

        Size Up Your Race Every 90 Days

         Put these 16 horses in the gate. Handicap them 1-16. The No. 1 horse is your strongest trait. The No. 16 horse is weakest trait. Size up your race every 90 days and compare how well you are performing over time to achieve the following desired behaviors to achieve the above traits:

        (1) Shows concern for others, (2)  Acts in the team’s best interests,
(3)  Acts independently,
(4) Seeks challenges, (5) Learns from failure/success,  (6) Listens, provides feedback,
(7) Personally accountable,
(8) Quick to act, (9) Challenges the status quo, ((10) Deals well with ambiguity,
(11) Anticipates problems,
(12)  Involves Others, (13) Connects emotionally with others,(14) Develops others,
(15) Customer-focused, and (16) Practices diversity.

            So how’s your career going? Are you still in the race? Have you gotten off track.   Can you see the finish line or is the mud kicking up too much? Preview your performance and race your career into the Winner’s Circle. With a commanding lead.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Conduct a Quarterly  Preview to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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When REPLYing, send TO PeterJeff@charter.net.

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