Tag Archive for training

5 Things We Can Learn about Leadership from Siri

siriApple’s virtual assistant Siri was designed to learn and get more sophisticated over time. The evolution in Siri’s capability and the increase in value she brings happen as users build a history with her. Learning through experience…what a great concept!

As I used Siri over the past year, I found myself getting frustrated and losing patience when she didn’t understand my request. I would ask her to call someone in my address book – she would tell me there are no Vietnamese restaurants close by. I would ask her to search the web for “succession management” and she would search “efficiency in algorithms”. Not very helpful. In the end, I would often just do the work myself.

Over time, I had an unsettled feeling though. Apple made a big investment to purchase the technology and integrate Siri into their products, so she is clearly talented and has great potential.  A few questions emerged in my mind: What if I was Siri’s leader? What if it was my obligation to develop her for the future?  This got me thinking about how many organizations are struggling to build leadership, build succession processes that really work, and create a culture of learning.

Yes, it’s often easier to just do the work ourselves, especially when someone misses the mark on a task or project. But this is the crux of the problem. As leaders it’s up to us to build capacity for the future. This means we must strive to provide meaningful challenges, show empathy, provide coaching & feedback and we must be patient as individuals learn from their experiences. How often do we bring bright, passionate, talented individuals on board – only to miss every opportunity to help them grow and develop?

Here are a few questions to think about to help you flex your talent development muscles:

1. How am I making a valuable contribution to this person’s development? Take some time for honest self-reflection about where you have made an impact. Dig deep on this one.

2. Am I doing work I shouldn’t be doing? Delegating and empowering others allows you to lead at a higher level. Think about the value you should be bringing.

3. What am I doing to bring out the best in this individual? Understanding someone’s strengths, sweet spot, and passion has simply too many benefits to mention here. Seek to understand.

4. Am I giving important feedback that will truly help this individual? Give the feedback that no one has had the courage to give before. It can be life changing.

5. What is holding me back from helping others develop? Ask yourself if you’re taking enough risks that provide unique opportunities for the individual to not only grow – but to thrive.

Without a doubt, Siri has great potential. She is also a great reminder that really effective talent development and succession management is often hard work and requires discipline, investment, and a deliberate contribution from leaders.  When we do the important work of developing talent, we might even be surprised at the outcomes. In fact, you might be surprised to know that Siri researched, organized, and created most of this blog.

Now that’s some serious talent.


Audra August is a Principal, Succession & Talent Planning with Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions.  Audra works with organizations to build strong leadership capacity. Her areas of focus include succession management, team effectiveness, and organizational development. Audra can be reached at aaugust@knightsbridge.ca and @AudraAugust on Twitter.

Five Days to Successful Speaking: Stop Stripping, Start Believing (Guest post by Andy Janning)

If you have a heartbeat, chances are you harbor a fear of speaking in public that outranks death.

In the last 25 years, I’ve spoken to groups that could fit comfortably in a Mini Cooper and ones barely contained by the side of a mountain. Those experiences have taught me some valuable lessons about how to present in an honest and engaging way, and brought some humbling professional successes into my life.

This week, I have the privilege of sharing some of those lessons with you. They will help you form a positive and productive connection with virtually any group, anytime.

But before we go any further, my friend, I need to ask you one favor:

Stop stripping the audience.

It should be a federal offense to tell a nervous speaker to “imagine they’re all naked, and you’ll be fine.” This advice is bad with a capital BAD. It doesn’t help.

All it does is put some images in your head that you can’t unsee, all the while trying to make it through your presentation without some anxiety-induced gastric event bursting forth upon the naked assembly. I don’t know who created it but please – do your part in killing it.

Moving on…

It’s OK – you’ve got this.

I’ve known too many speaking coaches who try to turn their client into someone they’re not. They teach them exactly how to move and gesture, show them hours of clips of successful speakers, and make the sometimes-subtle case that success lies in mimicking another’s techniques and talents.

This coaching premise plays on the same three myths bolstered by speech classes around the world:

  • Your natural method of verbal communication is inadequate and ineffective,
  • You must be given a complete makeover in order to be worthy of a room’s attention, and
  • Presenting to a group requires a fundamentally different set of skills than those you already use when talking informally to a group of friends around a dinner table.

These feed you inner doubts about your own skill, message, and value. That’s bad for you.

And a complete load of crap.

Everything we’re going to talk about this week springs from what you’re about to read:

You’re already a professional public speaker, in that you get paid to communicate ideas verbally to at least one other member of the public. This isn’t silly semantic gymnastics I’m performing here. It’s 100% true.

You already know how to share information with another human being in a way that he finds beneficial. Whether by phone or face-to-face, your verbal communication skills have helped you ace interviews and maintain that persistent food/shelter/clothing habit. They’ve helped you make a difference in the lives of customers and clients. You might be surprised how many people actually like listening to you when you’re just being you.

The same methods and mindsets you use to verbally communicate with people while you’re off stage will work just as well to communicate with any number of people while you’re on stage. It doesn’t matter where that “stage” may be: standing at the front of a packed conference hall, sitting around a conference room table, hosting a conference call, or having a one-on-one meeting.

This concept becomes much easier to understand when you regard “public speaking” not as a presentation you deliver TO an audience, but a conversation you have WITH them.

More on that tomorrow.

The president and founder of NO NET Solutions, Andy Janning is an 8-time state and national award winner for overall excellence in organizational development, a popular speaker at conferences and events across the country, writer, and voiceover artist. He delivers proven leadership consulting results through the “Leader Effectiveness Training” program and offers a wide variety of workshops and webinars to improve your parenting, speaking, serving, training, communication, and leadership skills.

To learn more, and to find out why he occasionally runs with scissors, visit AndyJanning.com and follow him on Twitter at @andyjanning


What I Should Have Said…

So how much of the responsibility for employee development lies with the employee?

I don’t recall the specific verbiage that was used, but that was the gist of the question as I remember it. It came in a Q & A session following a talk Andy Janning and I gave about employee development, during which I advocated for employee development to be thought of differently than it often is.

Some version of that question was probably running through the minds of others in the audience after I was fairly direct about some managers’ general apathy toward developing their employees. I had suggested that organizations stop acting like the training department alone owns employee development. On a related note I opined that organizations need to stop holding Training more accountable for employee development than those employees’ managers. I said that we, in organizations, need to stop making it OK if managers aren’t developing their employees, and stop thinking that a manager sending an employee to a training session counts as them developing them that employee. And then, to top it off, I argued that organizations need to stop promoting people into management if they don’t develop people; just being a technical expert isn’t good enough anymore.

I was essentially suggesting that employee development needs to evolve into something more than an effort to create human pegs to stick into organizational holes. It has to become more about creating an environment that it is about creating a program. Employee development has to be a community effort, an organizational way of life that’s owned by everyone.

It was as the dust settled from that talk that the question mentioned above was posed. How much of the responsibility for employee development lies with the employee? I’m inferring—and this is admittedly an assumption—that this thought was perhaps in response to me placing so much emphasis on managers’ responsibility to lead and develop people well. The way I took the question was basically this: You’re hitting managers pretty hard about doing their part to develop employees. But what about the employees? Don’t they bear some burden here too? Again, in fairness, the questioner did not take any sort of unkind tone or adversarial stance. It was a good and fair question. I just think I may have bungled the answer.

I don’t remember exactly how I phrased my response (those bright lights get to you every once in a while, you know?), but I said something along the lines of “both the manager and employee own 100% of the responsibility.” My point of course was that both parties have to be entirely committed to the developmental process.

In retrospect though, and as pointed out by a buddy of mine, maybe I should have responded to that question differently. Maybe I should have reframed both the question and my answer.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gone as politically-correct as I did. Maybe I should have just said something more like “Why don’t we act like all of the responsibility is on us as leaders? Why spend time trying to figure out just how much of this thing is on us and how much is on that employee?”

As my friend said, of course there’s some sort of unspoken assumption that some of the responsibility falls on employees, but think about it this way: If you’re the manager of a business unit with a capable and engaged leader above you, would that leader allow you to blame your staff for their lack of development? After all, who’s responsible for the staff you’re managing? Technically speaking, you are, right? You’re who that leader holds accountable for your team’s performance.

So what if we changed our mindset? Why wouldn’t we act like all of the responsibility lies with us as leaders? If people really look at themselves as leaders, wouldn’t they be challenging themselves to continue to develop their team well, regardless of what percentage of their employees’ development is assigned to those employees?

Perhaps a case could be made that as long as managers are allowed to place any of the blame on their teams, they’ll assume they’re not the problem. Let me rephrase that. As long as you and I are allowed to place any of the blame on our teams, we tend to assume we’re not the problem. I had never thought of it exactly like that, but how many times have you heard some version of that? Probably lots.

Honestly, some managers aren’t the problem, and that’s fine; but why shouldn’t we feel the weight of that responsibility whether we think it lies totally with us or not? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? We’re usually quick (often too quick) to take credit for the good stuff our teams do, so why not take ownership of the not-so-good as well?

Why don’t we, as leaders, start asking ourselves where our responsibility is in all this? Not the employees’—ours. It’s our responsibility to lead and develop our employees. We signed up for the gig when we accepted a leadership position. Now we need to own it.