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Published by Mitchell Davis

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Published by: Mitchell Davis on Aug 21, 2009
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o matter how successful and talented you are,you’ve made mistakes and have acquired some badhabits. Some are old; others have seemingly poppedup overnight. Behaviors that may have worked wellfor you in the past can render you ineffective in thepresent.
Perhaps you’re dissatised with your performance
review. Maybe you’re bothered by a nagging feelingthat you’re not at your peak. It’s time to wake up.Even outstanding leaders invariably struggle throughcareer stretches during which they feel off track.
It can be hard to spot the specic problem when
you’re in the middle of it. Changes in the environment,competitors or even personal circumstances can causeyou to veer off course. Successful leaders are notalways on track, but they have developed techniquesfor recognizing their vulnerabilities and makingadjustments as quickly as possible.As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the most intelligentof the species that survive the longest, it is the mostadaptable.”The best way to make swift adjustments is toperiodically step back, observe and ask yourself severalkey questions. Some experts advise doing this everythree to six months; much depends on the nature of your business.
How Are You Doing?
sk yourself how you’re doing and what you should bedoing differently—and be sure to answer truthfully.As simple as this may sound, many people are shockedby their answers to basic management and leadershipquestions.Leaders should regularly ask themselves questions thattarget seven areas, according to Robert S. Kaplan,coauthor of 
The Balanced Scorecard.
There are no“right” answers, of course. Some of these questionswill resonate more than others.
A Leadership Checklist:7 Questions to Ask Yourself 
Volume V, No. 2 Newsletter
r. MaynardBrusman is aconsulting psychologistand trusted advisorto the seniorleadership team. Heis the president of Working Resources, atalent managementconsulting, trainingand executive
coaching rm. We help
companies assess,select, coach andretain top talent. Wespecialize in executiveselection, competency modeling, succession planning,leadership consulting, 360-degree feedback, changemanagement, emotional intelligence, culture surveys,career development and leadership coaching. Dr. Brusman is a highly sought-after speaker andworkshop leader. He facilitates mission, values, andvision retreats.
“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in theUnited States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessmentsin his work with senior executives and upper levelmanagers, and is adept at helping his clients bothdevelop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader 
in the executive coaching feld, Dr. Brusman brings an
exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to hiswork.”
— Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, Collegeof Executive Coaching 
He has been chosen as an expert to appear on radio andTV, and in the
Wall Street Journal
Fast Company.
Working Resources
55 New Montgomery Street, Suite 505San Francisco, California 94105San Francisco and Marin locationsTelephone: 415-546-1252Toll free: 800-993-3354Fax: 415-721-7322E-mail: mbrusman@workingresources.comWebsite:www.workingresources.com
There is a disconnect between you and your teammembers if they cannot identify how the priorities of 
the big picture translate to specic, actionable steps.
Ask yourself the following questions:
• How often do I communicate a vision for mybusiness?
• Have I identied and communicated three to ve
key priorities for achieving this vision?• If asked, could my employees articulate my visionand priorities?
Managing Time
ow are you spending your time? This question ispainfully simple, yet it plays a major role in theexecution of your vision and priorities. Time is yourmost precious asset. Sadly, many leaders cannotaccurately answer this question. It’s vital for them totrack their time so they can gain a realistic, honestassessment of how their time is allocated. You may
be surprised to nd a disconnect between your top
priorities and how you actually spend your time.People take their cues from the leader when it comesto time management. Actions, business priorities andyour team’s activities must match.Time allocation may vary, depending on time of year,personnel changes and external factors. Nonetheless,time management must become a conscious decision
that ts your vision and priorities. A periodic review
of how you invest your time is vital, similar to your
approach to reviewing your nancial investments.
Ask yourself:
• How am I spending my time? Does this match my keypriorities?• How are my subordinates spending their time? Doesthis match my business’ key priorities?
eedback is a two-way street. You must assess howwell you give and receive it. Many well-intentionedleaders fail to provide blunt, direct and timely feedbackto their subordinates.This problem occurs for several reasons. Commonly,managers are afraid that criticism will demoralizeemployees, discussions will become confrontational,or frank conversations will result in their not beingliked. This prompts many managers to postponegiving feedback until it’s time for annual performancereviews.This is a big mistake. People are more receptive tolearning about themselves when feedback is offeredthroughout the year, as situations arise. EmployeesKaplan assures us that successful executives canconsistently improve their performance and preemptserious business problems by stepping back and takingthe time to interview themselves (“What to Ask thePerson in the Mirror,”
Harvard Business Review 
,December 2006).
Seven Leadership Checkpoints
he seven areas leaders should examine are:1. Vision and Priorities2. Managing Time3. Feedback4. Succession Planning5. Evaluation and Alignment6. Leading Under Pressure7. Staying True to Yourself Coming up with good answers is far less importantthan taking the time to ask yourself hard questionsand honestly examine your strengths and weaknesses.The questions suggested in each of these leadershipareas are intended to spark your thinking. If only a
subset of them resonates with you, you may nd it
more interesting to come up with your own list of questions.The goal here is to gain valuable insights into howyou can stay on track as the business environmentconstantly changes. You can use this leadershipchecklist every few months for self-assessment.
Vision and Priorities
any business leaders fail to ask themselves twoimportant questions:1. How frequently do I communicate a vision and thepriorities for my business?2. Would my employees, if asked, be able to articulatethe vision and priorities?
It is difcult to lead people if they lack a rm grasp of 
where they’re heading and what’s expected of them.Unfortunately, in the rush of day-to-day activities,otherwise talented leaders fail to communicate
sufciently about the “why” of their companies. They
neglect to explain their vision in an easily understoodmanner, not to mention the steps required of thepeople who are responsible for driving business.Employees want to know where a business is headingand the areas on which they need to focus. Manymanagers either unintentionally under-communicate
or fail to articulate specic priorities that would give
meaning to their vision. However often you think youdiscuss vision and strategy, you’re probably not doing
it enough or in sufcient detail for your people.
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are more likely to stay at your company if theyunderstand the issues they need to address. This isbest done in a straightforward and prompt fashion.It is much more challenging to get honest feedbackfrom subordinates. You must cultivate a networkof junior professionals who are willing to be directwith you. Equally important is what you do with thefeedback. If you act on what others tell you, you willimprove your own performance, boost trust and keepthe feedback loop open.
Ask yourself:
• Do I give people timely and direct feedback to actupon?
• Do I have ve or six junior subordinates who will
tell me things I may not want to hear—but need tohear?
Succession Planning
ave you picked one or more potentialsuccessors?If you aren’t identifying potential successors anddeveloping their leadership abilities, then you arecontributing to business and personal stagnation.There won’t be enough leaders to grow thebusiness.When challenging and testing people, you mustfrequently delegate more to them. This frees you tofocus on critical strategic matters facing the business.When people are not being challenged, they mayleave to seek opportunities elsewhere.Planning for succession means your people willimprove their performance, you’ll be more successfulthrough them, and you will pave the way for your ownpromotion. Failure to actively plan for succession
means you do not delegate sufciently and become a
decision-making bottleneck.
Ask yourself:
• Have I, at least in my own mind, picked one ormore potential successors?• Am I coaching them and giving them challengingassignments?
• Am I delegating sufciently?
• Have I become a decision-making bottleneck?
Evaluation and Alignment
our business is constantly changing. So are yourcustomers. Depending on your industry, this maybe rapid—or extremely rapid. If you don’t changealong with the business environment, you maybecome seriously out of alignment. What got youhere today won’t necessarily get you there tomorrow.The people you hire, the way you organize them, theeconomic incentives you offer them and even thetasks you delegate may no longer create the cultureand outcomes that are critical to success.Have you checked to see if the design of yourorganization still aligns with key success factorsfor your business? Effective executives regularlyseek advice and fresh perspectives from peoplewho are less emotionally invested in their business.This allows them to determine whether historicallyrelevant aspects of the business remain critical totomorrow’s success.
Ask yourself:
• Does the design of my company still align with keysuccess factors?• If I had to design my business from scratch, howwould I create it? How would it differ from thecurrent design?• Should I create a task force to answer thesequestions and make recommendations?
Leading Under Pressure
leader’s actions during stressful times have
a profound impact on the rm’s culture and
employees’ behaviors. Successful leaders must beaware of their personal stress triggers and reactions.Behaviors should be consistent with beliefs and corevalues, no matter how severe the stress.Pressure is a normal part of doing business, but itaffects people differently. What may evoke anxietyfor one individual may not bother someone else.As a leader, you are watched closely. Emotions arecontagious—even more so when they come from theleader.
You must be sufciently self-aware to recognize the
situations that create anxiety for you and manageyour behavior to avoid sending counterproductivemessages to your people.
Ask yourself:
• Which events create pressure for me?• How do I behave under pressure?• What signals do I send to subordinates?• Are these signals helpful, or do they underminethe success of my business?

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