Skill or Will?

Leadership challenge? Nah, It’s great to be a leader – easy in fact! Presiding over your kingdom, all your peeps utilizing their strengths effectively; everyone getting along and collaborating for the best possible outcomes; goals being met ahead of schedule; creative ideas flowing; and all the key stakeholders as happy as they can be. Yep, it’s so great!  Wake-up! You were dreaming.  It was a beautiful dream, but unfortunately not reality.  Being a leader means facing daily challenges, dealing with messy and uncomfortable “stuff”, problem solving, being accountable, and holding others accountable. Sometimes the difficult leadership challenge is technical and system driven, but more often it is a people-related performance challenge.

I believe it is about midyear performance review time, which always seems to be ripe with leadership challenges.  I bet you write and deliver your “Exceeds” performance appraisals ahead of schedule. Those are easy, even (kind of) fun. Delivering good news feels almost as nice for the deliverer as it does for the recipient.  But what about the not-so-great performance appraisals?  If you are anything like me, you procrastinate, deliberate, and maybe even try to figure out how to soften it and make it better than it deserves to be. After all, hedging is a lot easier than being honest.  It’s also a lot less time consuming than dealing with the after-math of a poor appraisal: Denial, victim-ism, anger, and let’s not forget the pain of creating and following-up on potentially performance enhancing action plans.  What a hassle!

Hmmm. Is it a hassle? Or is that leadership?  I submit it is the latter.  A leader earns his stripes, so to speak, when he summons the courage to deal with the uncomfortable “stuff” – the leadership challenges.  Anyone can “not deal with it”.  A real leader recognizes it, seeks to understand it, and formulates-then-implements a plan to remedy it.  This post could go in many directions right now, but let’s stick with the performance management theme…

I have one tip for you today that will help you effectively address individual performance issues:

  • Determine whether the issue stems from a lack of skill, or a lack of will.

Your next steps should differ dramatically, depending on the answer to “is it skill or will?”

  • If the deficiency stems from a lack of skill, but there is will, it could be remedied with the right training, clear guidance, and follow-up. A fairly straight-forward approach.
  • If it stems from a lack of will, your super-hero like interpersonal skills must kick into high-gear in order to discern why there is no will, and whether the will can be ignited and sustained. Generally, people don’t develop a will to improve or change behaviors because you tell them to. However, they might if you uncover what the real problem is and participate in finding a remedy.

Skill or will, your leadership challenge is to identify which it is and participate in developing action plans aimed at improvement. Then do your part to follow through and keep your word – which is truly your responsibility – with regard to performance management.  A small percentage of individuals are not going to succeed at the job they are in. Sometimes a change in responsibilities is all it takes to find success!  Sometimes individuals must be invited to leave…  As harsh as that sounds, it is a disservice to all involved to ignore or fail to address underperformance.

True leadership is challenging, and it doesn’t happen by accident.  So you think you have the skills?  Ok, but do you have the will?

Contact us today for more information on successfully navigating leadership challenges.

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