The Leadership Mind Switch: Rethinking How We Lead In the New World of Work by D. A. Benton and Kylie Wright-Ford

8. Addressing Feedback and Rewards

  • The annual review process comes under a good deal of criticism here. The authors are more in favor of regular, clear, and specific feedback in order to praise and correct behavior. You do, however, need a process that is put together by people with experience in this matter. Be sure to document conversations and share your documentation. Ideally, everyone gets feedback from peers, managers, and direct reports. Good feedback helps establish trust. Feedback should be a learning experience and a chance for development.
  • There are many types of communication you can use for giving positive feedback, but if you need to correct behavior you need to do that with a private meeting. Consider sandwiching constructive points between positive points. Tie feedback to your organization’s goals and values. Be sure to smile and be unfailingly pleasant. They talk about compensation here, which is not an issue for most educators due to union contracts.

9. Prioritizing Decisions

  • Here there is a focus on delegation. There is a range of leaders from autocratic to laissez-faire. The former are very controlling while the latter give direction and get out of the way. This is the type of leader that younger people and teachers in general prefer. It’s still a good idea to put check-ins on your calendar so you can keep track of progress. You need to define what “results” are for your organization.
  • Leaders need to create a balance between delegation and doing things themselves. Delegate prime opportunities to your best people. Delegate the “sexiest” aspects such as those that offer attractive trips when you can, but keep the “riskiest” for yourself. This is the work that requires the most experience and expertise. People are looking for interesting experiences that offer intrinsic motivation. You can motivate people by making them part of the change process. (Doug: This is true for teachers too.) Don’t make decisions when you are tired, mad, sad, sick or pressured and make sure you have as much information as possible. Urgent decisions need to be made quickly, but important decisions usually allow for more time.

10. Managing Conflict and Handling Controversy

  • Accountability is at the heart of leadership. Denial is the antithesis of leadership. Conflict is something you manage rather than avoid and your team needs to know this. You need people to express and defend their opinions and for others to question them. Keep emotions out of such discussions. (Doug: Tell people to be hard on problems and easy on each other.) Assume that people have honorable intents. Misunderstandings often result from a lack of context.
  • Presence of controversy is a given. If you are the source your first defense is honesty. Own up to your mistakes and don’t look to blame others. Other advice includes never sending an email that you would post for the world to read, don’t have an affair in the workplace, and never misuse company resources. The truth will come out so see that it comes out sooner. Address behavior, not character or motive. Talk about everything as behavior. Bad people don’t make good leaders.

Conclusion: Getting Results

  • Leadership is about getting results. In business, results will be associated with financial targets. In education, they are more likely to be more about what students produce and the quality of relationships. Look at your organization’s goals and look for those that you can control. Share them with your team.
  • The modern leader needs to be adept at handling ambiguity, speed, technology, a changing workforce, and a more global atmosphere. You need to be nimble to lead across generations and styles. As for qualities you need to be true blue, confident, enlightened, and tenacious. For behaviors, you need to exhibit communication skill, dynamic behavior, playfulness, and be unblocking. Direct your actions towards helping those you lead pursue their dreams as you pursue your own. Thanks, Debra and Kylie.

D. A. Benton and Kylie Wright-Ford

  • D. A. (Debra) is the president of the Benton Management Resources, Inc and author of 11 business books. She has been named one of the top ten executive coaches in the world by TopCEOCoaches.Com. Her clients include Microsoft, Citicorp, GE, Pfizer, and NASA. Her website is DebraBenton.Com. At Twitter she is @debrabenton.
  • Kylie is an operating executive, sits on multiple boards, and is a three-time entrepreneur. She has an MBA from Oxford and is experienced in mergers and acquisitions. She has had roles at Goldman Sachs and is COO of World 50. Her website is KylieWF.Com. At Twitter she is @kyliewf.
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