-Robert Steven Kaplan
What to ask the person
in the Mirror?
Summarized by Rahul Sahai
• Without exception, successful leaders go
through significant periods of confusion,
discouragement and times when they are
unsure of themselves- feeling as if they
should be somewhere else, doing
• Key difference between those who reach
their potential and those who don’t is how
they deal with these periods of confusion
• The trick lies not in avoiding such periods
but instead in knowing how to step back,
diagnose, regroup and move forward.
“Great Leadership is not about having
all the answers- it is more often, about
having the courage to ask the critical
• Establishing a vision is the foundation of your enterprise/ career.
The vision must be translated into key priorities that are well
• Managing Time: Do you know how you spend your time? Does it
match your vision and priorities?
• Giving and Getting Feedback: Effective coaching is a critical tool for
achieving your priorities. While most leaders understand this, they
don’t coach their subordinates to ensure outstanding performance.
• Succession Planning & Delegation: Do you have a nucleolus of talent
that you are focused on developing? Are you deploying, coaching
and adding to that talent base in a manner that builds your
enterprise? Are your consciously delegating tasks to these
• Evaluation & Alignment: Does the design of your enterprise and
your approach to leading fit the needs of the business?
• Leader as a Role Model: Are you fully aware of the messages you
and your direct reports are sending with your behaviors?
• Reaching your Potential: Do you know your own strengths,
weaknesses and passions? Do you foster a learning environment in
which your subordinates can reach their potential? Do you
encourage candid debate?
• Taking the time to carefully develop you vision- an aspiration- is critical to creating
the foundation of your enterprise.
• A vision is a clear articulation of what you would like your enterprise to be if you
succeed. When you look back 5 years from now, what would you like to be able to
say that you have accomplished?
• The Prism: A clear vision makes trade-off decisions much clearer. It conveys your
reason for being? It shapes and influences every key decision that you will make. It
outlines what you will do and what you wont do. It is the essential prism through
which significant decisions should be made.
• Key Priorities: Once a vision is established, you need a specific road map. A vision
must be accompanied by a manageable number of top priorities that, if adhered to,
will enable you to achieve your aspirations- “What are the critical tasks we must
do superbly to achieve our vision?”
• Can you list 5 priorities critical for your job?
• One size does not fit all: Every function, business unit, and a geographic region has
its own unique characteristics. While a company should have a core vision and
shared key priorities, each unit should adapt the vision and priorities to fit its
particular role in the companies success.
• Once you have developed a vision along with priorities you must communicate
and over communicate these messages.
• In times of severe change/ turmoil, multiply the frequency of your communication.
Vision & Priorities
“If you know where you are going, it is
a lot easier to get there”
The Vision Prism helps answer questions like:
• Are we in the business to serve clients with a
particular set of high value added products, or is our
primary goal to generate profits- even if that
outcome is not in the best interest of our customers?
• Do we still believe in innovation or do quarterly
profits pressures mean we suspend those efforts?
• Has the pressure to generate profits overridden a
previously broadly understood vision about values
and serving our customers and communities?
• For you to be an effective leader, your vision and key priorities must directly
shape how you allocate your time.
• This starts with devising ways to measure how you are actually spending your
time. Once you have done this, the next step is to compare how you are actually
allocating your efforts.
• Exercise: For 2 weeks, use a spreadsheet to document how you spend every
hour of your “on the job” time. Break it into categories that are relevant to your
daily work life.
• Also, categorize these activities in 1’s, 2’s and 3’s. 1- Critical Tasks, 2- Important
but not Critical, 3- Unimportant tasks
• Don’t double count hours, assign them into one category or the other. Most
People realize that they are spending a great deal of time on non critical aspects
of their job.
• Analyze why some of your time was spent poorly.
• Match the category of time and amount of time spent to your priorities. Create
an action plan to deal with the mismatches.
• How you spend your time speaks volumes about what you believe in and what
you want the organization to do.
• Are there activities that you really enjoy doing but no longer fit into current
needs of the organization? Are you “protecting” that activity because you enjoy
Client Contact ?
“Look at your calendar, ask yourself- Why is this here? Do I
need to do this? Where in this schedule will I carve out time
to focus on my big priorities”
• One of the critical roles of a leader is “attracting, retaining, and
developing talented people- and appropriately deploying them in
• If you are going to achieve your vision and execute major priorities at
a high level of excellence, you need to have developed the talent
necessary to get the job done.
• If you haven’t identified potential successors for key jobs- including
your job- it is very likely that you are also not delegating sufficiently
and are probably a significant bottleneck for key decisions.
• Outstanding people tend to abandon a work environment in which
they believe they are not being groomed for greater responsibility
though a well planned series of key job assignments and effective
• All too often corporate leaders take a different path and fall into the
trap of assembling a team of cronies. They may make a show of
talking about succession planning and talent development. They may
even implement some sort of succession process, but on a consistent
basis, they promote key lieutenants who are loyal to them personally,
with whom they have worked previously, and who share viewpoints
very similar to their own.
• Such leaders give off a powerful “do not enter” vibe to highly talented
subordinates and colleagues who are not part of their clique.
Succession Planning & Delegation
“Owning the challenge of Developing
successors in your organization”
“Is there someone here who can take my
place? If the answer is no, the next
question is, Should I Hire someone from
outside, in order to recruit the caliber of
talent that could eventually take my job”
• Coaching and evaluation frequently gets confused. Many executives use the
year end evaluation process to “coach” their subordinates.
• Feedback is one of the most powerful management levers for execution of
• Coaching is the process of identifying two or three specific strengths and
weaknesses in the recipient; and then identifying exercises, action steps and
follow up activities that will help recipient address the weaknesses and build
on the strengths. The weaknesses should be specific and actionable.
• Mentoring is different from coaching. Mentoring if done well, takes time.
Coaching if done well takes even more time, more work, first hand
observations and more insights.
• Coaching is central to your job as a leader. Many organizations fail to retain
key talent because leader fall short in their role as a coach.
• Receiving Feedback- Its lonely at the top: Its difficult to get top down
feedback at senior levels, mainly because your superiors get so little exposure
to you. On the other hand, unless you are truly isolated, a number of your key
subordinates get the opportunity to see you in action on a regular basis. If
they are a diverse group, they are likely to have a wide range of opinions
regarding your weaknesses. Most likely, they also have ideas about the kind
of remedial actions that you should take to address those weaknesses.
• You are not doing this to be popular, you are doing this because it gives you
an early warning system for improving your performance.
Giving & Getting Feedback
“Effective leaders coach their people and
actively seek coaching themselves”
How to create a succession planning
Create a Depth Chart
•Leaders list key
jobs that report to
•For each position,
of those people
who can credibly
do the job
•Have an up to
needs and a
Summary of career
•A typical outcome
of such a review is
the creation of a
plans well as other
Devise a Career
•You should come
up with a career
for each potential
successor to a key
job in the
•This plan should
detail who will
own this persons
career by serving
as his or her coach,
as well as list of
could be a
combination of a
new business unit,
•Keep this up to
Review and follow
with your key
leaders on a semi
•Follow up to
being fulfilled well
in advance of the
year end review.
•Make sure that
talent is an
element in the
year end reviews.
Be a Role Model for
•Make sure you are
serving as a role
model for this
portion of your
time should be
for such talent.
• Leaders cast a shadow. You might not see it but your
people do. Many leaders just cant refrain from butting
in and asserting themselves in the organization. Many
a time they don’t let enormously competent people do
their jobs. If you started your firm and are a patriarch
or a matriarch, be aware that you may need to take key
steps to shorten that shadow.
• This involves recognizing that your subordinates may
not do tasks as well as you or the same way you
would- but that doesn’t mean they wont do them
effectively. Allowing them to do so will train them,
build your bench, and free you to focus on those tasks
that the organization desperately needs you to attend
How long is your shadow?
• Many successful businesses go through stretches of time during which they are
achieving their most important objectives and everything seems to be in sync.
When all the elements come together in this manner, it’s great fun and deeply
satisfying. And then… something changes. It always does.
• Sooner or later something happens that changes this special equilibrium.
• Typically, businesses are in alignment in some regards and out of alignment in
others. Key parts of the business are almost always in transition from one state to
other (alignment to misalignment and vice versa).
• Leaders know this intellectually. From an emotional standpoint however, it can
be very challenging for a leader to recognize that key roles, designs and systems
need to be changed.
• So what now?: First you need to ask the question and do the analysis of whether
you are in fact out of alignment. If the answer is yes, you can assess the urgency
of the situation, figure out what changes might need to be made, and determine
the degree of difficulty in the tactics for making those changes.
• You should make every effort to separate your consideration of what from the
how. After doing this analysis you will be in a better position to assess which
changes would be nice to do but would not be critical to the business, versus
those actions that are essential to your continued prosperity and competitive
positioning. At this point of time you will want to develop a detailed plan of
action for how to implement the most critical changes.
• Be proactive.
Evaluation & Alignment
“The courage to assess
your enterprise with a
clean sheet of paper”
Exercise: Take a group of potential successors. Give them the following
assignment: “If we had to start this business from scratch today, how
would we do it?” More specifically, the questions they should pursue
might include these:
• Are these the markets we would serve? Are these the products and
services we would offer? Are these the people we would hire?
• Would we be organized are we are today or some other way?
• Is this how we would assess and pay our people? If not, how would
we do it differently?
• What are the key tasks we would need to be great at? Are they
different from what we do currently?
• Is our current culture the one we would foster? If not, how would
we change it?
• Would the composition of our leadership need to change? How
would the talents and leadership styles of our current leaders need to
• Do you live by a set of rules different from those that you ask your people
to live by? If so, why? What gives you the idea that you need and deserve
• Success, in senior management positions, requires you to have an
understanding of who you are, an appreciation of the power of the role you
are in, a careful plan for delegating key responsibilities and empowering
others, and a conscious approach to the messages you want to be sending
with your behavior.
• Have you though through these questions?
• The role model analysis is not just about your behavior. It also relates to the
behavior of those you promote. Are these the types of role models you
want your employees to emulate?
• What creates pressure for you?: Think about what creates pressure for you.
Pressure and stress are deeply person specific. The issues that stress you
out may not bother someone else at all, and vice versa.
• For example: some hot buttons can include people quitting unexpectedly,
lax attitudes, and finger pointing. On the other hand, you may not be
particularly bothered by losing some business, admitting mistakes or
taking responsibility when things go wrong. What is on your list of
The leader as a Role Model
“Do you Walk the Talk?”
As a leader, you are accountable for both
your own behavior and that of your
employees. As a result, it is wise to discuss
the issue of behavior under pressure with
• Do you understand your strengths and weaknesses? Could you write them down on a
piece of paper? Would your colleagues agree with these lists? Do you take steps to work in
your weaknesses, and take advantage of your unique strengths.
• Learning about your strengths and weaknesses is a never ending process. It needs to be
updated for each successive job you take.
• As a leader, you also need to be aware of what you enjoy. In particular, which tasks do you
really enjoy and which you would prefer not to do yourself. What you delegate, how you
structure your job, whether or not you are in the right job- all of this should flow from and
be influenced by a realistic understanding of your likes and dislikes.
• The question then becomes, how do your passions coincide with the needs of the business?
Have you reconciled your passions with these business needs?
• Leadership Style: To be effective, you need to develop a leadership style that fits who you
are. Your leadership style is the manner in which you do your job. There are a number of
questions you should ask yourself to tease out fundamental elements of your style. Do you
like to joke around, or are you by nature a more serious person? Would you prefer to meet
with people one on one or in groups? Do you prefer being blunt and direct or would you
rather be less confrontational? Are you highly analytical or do you learn more by talking to
people or is it a combination of the two? What is your theory on human motivation- club
over head to perform or do you believe that given enough direction and coaching, people
are highly motivated to excel, and you need to ensure proper incentives are given.
• The answers to such questions have a powerful influence on how you behave every day
and how you approach your job.
• Have you thought sufficiently about this? Could you write down the fundamentals of your
Reaching your Potential
“When you are through learning,
“The essence of leadership- A leader
works hard to figure out what he or
she believes, and then has the
courage to act on it”
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