Leadership Lessons They Don’t Teach in School Part 4

Posted May 8, 2012 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

Every Spring we invite 3 senior leaders to our PowerRoundtable panel to share their favourite leadership lessons that don’t come from a textbook (which some would argue is the majority of leadership learning!). For this session, we were joined by Jody Peck, VP Human Resources, PepsiCo Beverages Canada; Stephen Taylor, COO, Morguard Investments Inc.; and Gail Beck-Souter, CEO of Beck Taxi. Every panel we’ve done on this topic shares some common themes, but this particular panel seemed to be well equipped with quotable quotes. Here are some of our favourites:

On key skills for future execs…
WAIT – “Why Am I Talking?”… each panel member stressed the importance of listening as being a mission-critical skill. Sounds easy, but most executives are really lousy at it. After all, you’re paid for your bright ideas and ability to solve problems. Jody Peck shared a visual structure that might help chatterboxes: place a rubber duck on your desk and remember to “shut the duck up”.

“Know what you bring to the table”… there’s a stereotype around what a successful executive should look like and many businesses have “models” of leadership that people need to aspire towards. If you fit outside the “norm”, plan ahead and think about how you will bring a value to the leadership team and make an impact in your own way.

On prioritizing…
“Don’t worry about the mice in the attic when there’s an elephant in the kitchen.”… in other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. In my own observation, great leaders have an uncanny ability to know how to focus on the big picture. They don’t allow themselves to get mired down in all the small stuff. At the mid-level, it’s very easy to find yourself drowning in a million little details. Step back and ask yourself, “what are the 3 most crucial things I have to deliver in my job?” Drive your work day around those priorities and apply the “delegate, defer or let die” rule to the rest.

“First things first and second things never.” Loved that one.

On managing up…
“Plant seeds and remember to make your boss look good.”… whether you’re in a big multi-national or running your own show, everyone reports to someone else. Understand your boss’s agenda; know his or her pressures and endeavor to make them look good. But don’t be a “yes” wo/man. Sometimes to help your boss look good you have to stop them from doing something stupid.

“Do the job you were hired to do.”… your boss won’t be impressed by the fact that you’re thinking about higher level ideas if you’re not over delivering on the job you’ve been hired for. Do that well and then look for opportunities to present your thinking on more strategic or higher level matters.

On leading through difficult times…
“You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet”… the biggest job for any leader is to align their teams around the vision and priorities for the organization. People need to know the “why” around what they’re being asked to do. This is especially important during times of change.

“When you’re on thin ice, skate fast”… when things are uncertain, keep people moving and focused on the most important priorities.

As always, there was so much more. Many thanks to our fabulous panelists and to our members who brought their questions and energy to make this an outstanding session. Our final forum of the year will be Wednesday, June 6 and feature Charles Brown, CEO of The Source. Seating is limited, so if you’re interested, register today and don’t forget to check out our upcoming webinar and special event programs through the summer.

Happy leading!

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