Running A Business

Leadership Sustainability: 7 Disciplines to Achieve the Changes Great Leaders Know they Must Make

Jun 03, 2013 • 3 min read
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      Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 1.59.38 PMNorm is co-founder of The RBL Group, a leadership, HR and organization consultancy.  He is a recognized authority in developing businesses and their leaders to deliver results and increase value. His current work relates to increasing business value by building organization, leadership, and people capabilities that measurably impact market value.

      Most good leaders try to become better. Around the world today, and every day of the year, thousands of leaders will attend leadership training to glean insights into how to lead better. Thousands will receive performance reviews with individual development plans on how to improve. Thousands will receive coaching with recommendations on how to change their behavior so as to deliver better results in better ways. Thousands will receive a 360-degree feedback process with data on how they are seen by others. At the end of the training, performance development, coaching, and 360-degree feedback, most of these leaders will resolve to use their new insights to be more effective. Unfortunately, few of them will implement these good intentions.

      As we help leaders improve, we often start with three questions:

      • On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how important is leadership either for your personal or organizational success? Most answer 8, 9, or 10.
      • What specific things do you need to do to be a more effective leader? Most can quickly write down two or three desired behaviors.
      • How long have you known you should improve these behaviors? Most meekly acknowledge that they have known what to improve for three, six, twelve months—or longer (decades for some).

      Any leader can ask these three questions to assess how they are doing in becoming a better leader.

      The first question addresses the question:  Why?  Why should I work to improve in being a better leader or why should my organization invest in building better leadership?  For organizations, leaders matter because they increase employee productivity, help accomplish business strategies, deliver customer services, and create investor confidence.  At a personal level, being a better leader allows an individual to find meaning at work by positively influencing others.

      The second question is about WHAT makes an effective leader.  In our research, we have found that effective leaders shape the future, make things happen, engage today’s talent, build future talent, and have personal proficiency.  In addition, leaders make sure that their actions are consistent with customer expectations.

      The third question addresses HOW leaders sustain what they know they should do.

      Many leaders who want to get better know why they should and what they should do, but they don’t do it very well.

      In our work on leadership sustainability, we have distilled seven disciplines from multiple literatures on how leaders can sustain the changes they know they should make.

      • Simplicity:  Focus on a few key behaviors that have high impact
      • Time: Put desired behaviors into your calendar and monitor how well these behaviors show up in how you spend your time
      • Accountability:  Be personally and publicly accountable for making change happen
      • Resources:  Support your desired changes with coaching and infrastructure
      • Tracking:  Measure your behavior and results in specific ways
      • Melioration: Constantly improve by learning from mistakes and failures and demonstrating resilience
      • Emotion:  Have a personal passion and emotion for the changes you know you need to make

      These seven disciplines spell the mnemonic START ME. We think this is apt because for each of us, sustainability starts with me. These seven disciplines turn intent into reality.

      When leaders make commitments to change something in training, coaching, or performance management, the impact increases when participants attend to these seven disciplines as they anticipate how to turn learning into action.

      Get a free STARTMEapp at

      About the author
      Ty Kiisel

      Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon.

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