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Peyton Manning: A Case Study in Good Leadership

Peyton Manning is in his 18th season in the NFL and is preparing to play in his fourth Super Bowl. A five-time league MVP who has thrown nearly 550 touchdowns, Manning has certainly accomplished some impressive athletic feats in his career. He has continued to excel over the years, both with the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos under multiple head coaches, because he is an exceptional leader. His skills on the field as the head of his team are just as applicable off the field to those who are the heads of their company.

Although Manning has broken records and received awards, personal glory has never been his end goal. This is evidenced by the season he’s had with the Denver Broncos. Despite the team’s stellar performance, this is statistically Manning’s worst year. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons that he is such a phenomenal leader on the field: he focuses on his completion percentage and touchdown passes because they “help our team win,” as he told Bill Rancic at Leadercast last year. He puts the success of his team at forefront of his actions.

He also works well under a number of different coaches and staff, which has been demonstrated this year under the new leadership of head coach Gary Kubiak. The two had very different offensive styles, but Manning and Kubiak worked together to achieve the Broncos’ huge successes this season. Part of this collaboration was Manning’s willingness to adapt to Kubiak’s approach to offense and study his new playbook. He has never stopped learning and taking direction. “Once someone stops learning to be coached, taught, or mentored, they’re in big trouble,” Manning said.

Throughout his career, during which he has been seriously injured and moved to a new team after 14 seasons, Manning has always focused on the challenge at hand one step at a time. He recovered from his surgery in 2011 and has continued to deal with any problems that have arisen as a result. He ignores the media hype and doesn’t respond to whatever may distract him from winning football games. His laser focus is no doubt turned toward the Super Bowl against the Panthers, and his leadership will unite the Broncos in San Francisco on Sunday.

Gail Meneley Writes About Work-Life Balance for Chief Executive Magazine

Gail Meneley Writes About Work-Life Balance for Chief Executive Magazine

Leadership continues to change dramatically in today’s business landscape with small, but important, steps showing today’s C-Suite inching closer to a more perfect balance between professional lives and personal lives. Gail Meneley wrote an article for Chief Executive magazine detailing the emerging management trend.

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The Pandemic Is Bringing Out The Best In CHROs Today For A Better Tomorrow

The Pandemic Is Bringing Out The Best In CHROs Today For A Better Tomorrow

The post-Covid-19 workforce will hardly resemble itself from just a year ago

During the last 10 months, I have been actively keeping in touch with many high-performing CHROs across the United States and Europe from a variety of sectors. And while the pandemic has produced a significant amount of hardships for businesses in general, the current Covid-19 landscape has presented human resources leaders with the opportunity to show their stuff, and in most cases, they’ve done that very well. In many companies, these important leaders are not just creating the systems to manage through a crisis and to take care of their employees, but also influencing their chief executive officers to be proactive and helping them understand the need for higher levels of empathy, communication, and transparency with the employees.

Companies quickly adjusted to having more meaningful virtual town halls and creative ways to communicate that dig deeper into the humanity of employees and demonstrate an understanding from leaders that may not have been evident beforehand. This is a journey that many HR leaders are helping their internal clients successfully navigate.

Now that we are starting to think about post-pandemic – timing TBD – the bar has been set to a higher level in some of those areas that CHROs need to think about. For instance, once leaders improve the quality of communications, as well as the frequency of communications, employees will naturally expect both to continue. HR pros need to ensure the C-Suite maintains this when we get back to “normal.” We cannot backslide to vague and infrequent interactions between leadership and employees. This will likely take some prodding and nudging of the CEOs to make sure that happens.

As the pandemic intensified, several companies were setting up crisis funds to help employees in need and I strongly recommend to clients, and any leaders reading this article, to continue setting aside money in the budget to assist workers that have a personal crisis. HR leaders are going to play a crucial role in persuading CEOs to keep on with this practice. There is a great deal of fatigue in the workforce at all levels. Best-in-class companies are revisiting their EAP plans to ensure they have the capabilities to manage through the mental, physical and economic impact of the last 10 months.

There is another crucial element that CHROs need to be thinking about: Talent Management. Tied into this are questions about what the company is going to look like coming out of the pandemic. Everything is going to change and there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty. One thing HR people know for sure is the question of how to best collaborate between employees staying home and employees going to office need to be addressed almost immediately. But that is not the only change. HR leaders can help the company think about what will be needed to prepare and execute strategies for the changing consumer and customer.

To be sure, all of these unknowns can be unsettling, but at the same time, we are also presented with an exciting opportunity to create a future that requires a different type of talent. If you are not sure of the future, create it! That means, human capital and performance tomorrow will not be the same as it was yesterday.

We often talk about seeing around corners. Well, I think now we need to be able to see through walls, create the future, and then make sure that we have the talent that will then drive us forward and make companies successful in the future.

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When Career Transitions Go Sideways, Keep it Cool

When Career Transitions Go Sideways, Keep it Cool

The social contract between employer and employee that was in place for generations has pretty much fallen by the wayside. In the past, people worked in one company for a lifetime believing that the company would “take care of them”. Today’s C-Suite needs to be prepared for a bumpy exit no matter how unlikely he or she may think it is.

Don’t believe me? Here are just a few stories of some of our clients:

A CEO of a $400M healthcare company was fired without warning. The news was leaked to the press before he could reach his family. A local television reporter called his home, his 16-year-old daughter answered, and the reporter asked, “How do you feel about your father being fired?”

If that doesn’t make your stomach turn just a bit, how about this one:

The chief operating officer of a private company had been promised that he would succeed the chief executive officer when the time came for a leadership transition. The founders called him into a previously unscheduled meeting, fired him on the spot without cause and then dared him to do something about it, saying: “We are not going to honor anything in your contract. If you don’t like it, sue us.”

These are just two of the many stories we have heard from our clients and each one makes us angry because it is avoidable.

No matter how poorly a termination is handled you must keep your cool. Take it in, control your emotions, let the person know that you need time to process what you have been told, and terminate the meeting as soon as you can. It is important to remember that every action you take while in, and after that meeting, may well determine everything that happens later.

Most of the clients who come to us are at the top of the leadership ladder – a Board Member, a CEO, a direct report to the CEO, or a Division Officer – but no matter who they are, they need a solid reference from the organization they are leaving. It is important to maintain a professional business demeanor because that is the final and lasting image that people will have of you. No one wants to help an executive who “kicks the furniture” on the way out the door.

Listen. I get it. We are all human and we’ve had situations where we let our emotions get the best of us. But don’t let this situation be one of those situations. How?

Breathe. Reach out to us. Using our confidential process, we can debrief you and help you understand what happened and examine appropriate next steps. We will ask a lot of important questions.  How was the situation presented? Who was in the room? How did they present it? What did you hear? How did you react to it? If we sense that our client took the low road, we offer solid counsel on how to regroup. Most senior executives are smart enough not to do anything rash or make idle threats, but they are justifiably upset – particularly if they didn’t see the termination coming.   But, our client has to go back to his or her former boss, apologize for the emotional response, and ask for their help to make the dissolution of the partnership as fair and equitable as possible to both sides.

Our clients have small but highly influential inner circles. When they later run into friends and colleagues, they are often asked, “What really happened?” It is our role to make sure that our clients have that answer ready to go – a truthful, carefully constructed, positive (or at least neutral) story that provides an opportunity to say good things about both the company and herself or himself.

After all, job loss is viewed as one of the top three most stressful situations in a person’s life – preceded only by the emotional disruption of a death and or divorce. That is why if you can’t rush through or repress the healing process that is required. Our team of coaches, advisers and executives have significant P&L expertise and understand the unique needs of the C-Suite. Armed with that knowledge and understanding, we help clients neutralize the emotion that can be so close to the surface when someone asks why he or she left. Once we have achieved that, clients will be ready to re-enter the marketplace with confidence.

Once that emotion is resolved, these very smart, talented and successful people begin to regain their perspective about who they are and what they have accomplished during the careers. As the process moves forward they will say, “Good grief. I’m not so bad, am I?” Or “Wow! I’ve really got a lot done, haven’t I?” They also recognize that they are in good company, because transitions are part of the risk/reward equation that is part of any top job.

Then it’s time to prepare for interviewing by developing compelling stories about the challenges they faced during different parts of their career, what actions they took to resolve them, and the results of their actions. This puts the “fire back in the belly” and they are ready to engage in finding the next opportunity.

This phase includes developing relationships by reaching out to those they know and meet, expanding their scope of influence, and interviewing for roles that are interesting and challenging. When negotiating for that that new role we are behind the scenes conducting compensation studies, recommending employment lawyers to review contracts (with appropriate severance provisions) , and developing a detailed On-Boarding Plan to ensure early success.

Signing on the bottom line to accept that new role is a moment we all relish and celebrate together. These men and women have learned from what came before, increased their self-knowledge, and developed fresh insight into what the market needs. They also know they can handle any unexpected change to their employment status with confidence.

Here’s Why Today’s Leaders Should Choose “And” Thinking

Here’s Why Today’s Leaders Should Choose “And” Thinking

HR Strategy, Work Culture by Elizabeth K. Olson
To the detriment of talent development and work cultures everywhere, we most often employ “either/or” thinking. Let’s talk about why today’s leaders should more often choose “and” thinking….

So many important aspects of human capital are nuanced and interrelated, yet seemingly polar opposites. For instance, recognizing the individual performer or recognizing team efforts. Showing respect for each person or showing respect based on performance and rewarding managerial-style performance or rewarding leaders.

Some organizations state only half of these pairs as desired values, hence the “or” between them. This is a mistake because when we see these values framed as either/or choices, we miss the synergy from leveraging the best from both sides. We cause harm from overfocusing on one value to the neglect of the other. After all, many values are interdependent, and ideas we think might be opposites are both highly desirable. The misleading part about this is that they need to live in tension with one another over time. These pairings can be called paradoxes, wicked problems, or polarities that require “and thinking.”

“And” Thinking Versus “Or” Thinking

Both inside and outside of work, complexities exist that require us to think about these tensions between seemingly opposing pairs, rather than choosing A over B. For instance, one critical thinking point for leaders is the push-pull between continuity and transformation.

Those business leaders often find themselves executing complex change initiatives that enable their companies to compete better. At the same time, they must create and maintain consistent foundational cultures employees can lean into – no matter what. All too often, when the message is only why complex changes are necessary, without acknowledging what has been going well (and what needs to remain in place), even the best plans blow up.

Everything done “the old way” is now wrong. Right?

This pervasive contradiction lowers morale and confuses, thereby sabotaging the energy and focus needed to implement the change.

Centralized Versus Decentralized Coordination

One of the biggest derailers for employees is the pendulum swing between centralized coordination and decentralized coordination. Organizations are frequently in a seesaw around this polarity. It’s as if one is better than the other, so they over-focus on one at the expense of the other.

For instance, a new chief executive officer is instituted and says: “We’ve lost the entrepreneurial nature of this organization, and we must decentralize and give control to each of the business units.” Because centralization and decentralization are interrelated, people complain there is no coordination and little ability to share services effectively. That causes the next CEO to say: “We have to centralize; everything is all over the map. Nobody knows who’s on first.” After finally getting used to the new structure, it whipsaws back to some version of the old one. With the average tenure of CEOs being three-and-a-half years, organizations must simultaneously focus on centralization and decentralization.

The Solution: Mapping Versus Gapping

One way around this conundrum is to institute a mapping process…

Instead of executing a gap analysis, which is how most people approach change, we think about the upside and downside of their preferred value or pole in the polarity equation. We then do the same for the countervailing pole. Then, as the diagram illustrates, we outline action steps for gaining the upsides from each pole. We also design strategies for avoiding the downsides of each if we over-focus on one pole to neglect the other.

That is “and” thinking.

Once we get the tension right between the different energetic poles, my clients find themselves comfortably resting in a virtuous cycle. They begin to get the best of both options, no matter how opposite those options seem. For many leaders, this comes as such a relief. Because those leaders, rather than focusing on the power of both – the “and” – tend to over-focus on one side of the equation. They then find themselves in a vicious and contentious cycle that isn’t good for them, their fellow leaders, or their teams.

Harness the power of both poles. Expand your thinking to “and.” You’ll soon create a virtuous cycle that will enable your organization to thrive, freeing your teams to unify under healthy “and” tensions versus the opposing camps that can form from “or” decisions.

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The Pandemic Is Bringing Out The Best In CHROs Today For A Better Tomorrow

Executing Talent Planning And Management When You Are Not In The Office

When the pandemic started, HR pros and talent managers learned very quickly how to use platforms such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, etc. The ramp-up was quite remarkable, really, and comfort levels were soon realized because after all, that was all that we could do. That was then and this is now. As the shutdowns stretch into the winter months, we are beginning to see that there are certain tactics that are missing.

Based on what I have heard from leaders in North America, Europe, and Latin America the piece that is missing is that two-minute conversation that you have when you’re walking down the hall. As all HR leaders know, those unplanned, spur-of-the-moment meetings are critical to leadership opportunities, team building, and coaching. Gone are the days of ducking your head into somebody’s office and saying, “hey, great job on that account,” or, “let’s take a couple minutes to just talk about another approach.”

What is the solution? Let’s get old-school and pick up the phone. Dropping a text or making a short phone call to say “good job” is where leaders need to be right now. The issue is that leaders need to remember to do this because these outreaches can easily fall to the backburner and then become old news or forgotten. These communications take little effort, but they are important. I recommend adding some structure to that. Having a list that you keep beside your computer that helps remind you to call a certain employee to say, “Thank you,” tell them they’ve done a good job, give them some feedback on something that maybe they could have done better. Make it a point to have that coaching moment.

To be sure, it is important for managers to find impactful ways to talk with their direct reports and manger during the pandemic, however, let’s remember that leaders should also do a good job of communicating frequently with his and her peers. Check in to let them know what your team is working on, your priorities, and of course, explore how you can support their priorities.

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Investing in the Future of Food: Three Essential Steps to Successfully Build a Leadership Team

Investing in the Future of Food: Three Essential Steps to Successfully Build a Leadership Team

Hugh Shields Featured in Food Navigator USA

In this segment of Inventing in the Future of Food, career coach Hugh Shields of Shields Meneley Partners explains the factors that could stunt the company’s growth and how his three essential steps in building a successful leadership team can help entrepreneurs smooth their transition to working with newly hired executives while growing the company.



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Now Is the Time to Build Your Leadership Bench

Now Is the Time to Build Your Leadership Bench

Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/middle-market-growth/build-your-leadership-bench

The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has led many businesses to focus on challenges related to working capital, supply chain, or the accelerated shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce. Yet alongside these urgent priorities, talent planning continues to be important, particularly as companies position themselves for the post-pandemic future.

Bob Ryan, a partner at Shields Meneley Partners, and Keith Goudy, the managing partner at Vantage Leadership Consulting, return to the podcast to discuss the pressing issues related to talent management and hiring that business leaders and private equity owners are grappling with today.

Drawing on their experience working with clients, Ryan and Goudy describe how the COVID crisis has changed what companies are looking for in their leaders, and how to lead effectively when employees are working from home. They offer actionable tips for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in a virtual work environment, and they explain why succession planning is now more important than ever.

Ryan and Goudy first appeared on the Middle Market Growth Conversations podcast last year, in an episode titled “How to Get Hired at a Private Equity-Owned Company,” available here.

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