What to ask the person in the mirror?
To assess your performance and stay on track, you should step back and ask yourself certain key questions.
Vision and priorities: In the press of day-to day activities, leaders often fail to adequately communicate their vision to the organization, and in particular, they don’t communicate it in a way that helps their subordinates determine where to focus their own efforts.
- How often do I communicate a vision for my business?
- Have I identified and communicated three to five key priorities to achieve that vision?
- If asked, would my employees be able to articulate the vision and priorities?
Leaders need to know how they’re spending their time. They also need to ensure that their time allocation (and that of their subordinates matches their key priorities)
- How am I spending my time? Does it match my key priorities?
- How are my subordinate spending their time? Does that match the key priorities for the business?
Leaders often fail to coach employees in a direct and timely fashion and, instead, wait until the year-end review. This approach may lead to unpleasant surprises and can undermine effective professional development. Just as important, leaders need to cultivate subordinates who can give them advice and feedback during the year.
- Do I give people timely and direct feedback tat they can act on?
- Do I have five or six junior subordinates who will tell me things I may not want to hear but need to hear?
When leaders fail to actively plan for succession, they do net delegate sufficiently and become my decision-making bottleneck. Key employees may leave if they are not actively glommed and challenged.
- Have I, at least in my own mind, picked one or more potential successor?
- Am I coaching them and giving them challenging assignments?
- Am I delegating sufficiently? Have I become a decision-making bottleneck?
Evaluation and Alignment
The world is constantly changing, and leaders need to be able to adapt their business accordingly.
- Is the design of my company still aligned with the key success factors for the business?
- If I had to design my business with a clean sheet of paper, how would I design it? How would it differ from the current design?
- Should I create a task force of subordinates to answer these questions and make recommendations to me?
Leading under pressure
A leader’s actions in times of stress are watched closely by subordinates and have a profound impact on the culture of the firm and employees’ behavior. Successful leaders need to be aware of their own stress triggers and consciously modulate their behavior during these periods to make sure they are acting in ways that are consistent with their beliefs and core values.
- What types of events create pressure for me?
- How do I behave under pressure?
- What signals am I sending my subordinates? Are these signals helpful, or are they undermining the success of my business?
Staying true to yourself
Successful executives develop leadership styles that fit the needs of their business but also fit their own beliefs and personality.
- Is my leadership style comfortable? Does it reflect who I truly am?
- Do I assert myself sufficiently, or have I become tentative?
- Am I too politically correct?
- Does worry about my next promotion or bonus cause me to pull punches or hesitate to express my views?
Source: Harvard Business Review article “What to ask the person in the mirror?(The Tests of a Leader) by (Robert S. Kaplan, Harvard Business Review pp.86~95, January 2007)”