Do you know an insulated leader?

We regularly provide leadership training programs and coaching to a wide variety of organizations. These different types of organizations often have similar leadership challenges. One common issue we encounter is insulated leadership which we describe as any of the following:

  1. The leader lacks awareness about how they are perceived as a leader
  2. Those around the leader do not feel comfortable being open and honest to the leader
  3. The leader is surrounded by a those who continually agree with him or her
  4. Important complaints and issues are not shared with the leader to avoid conflict and protect people

An insulated leader cannot perform as effectively as an aware and informed leader. Insulated leaders are prone to making uninformed decisions and assume the business is operating better than it is. In addition, insulated leaders can frustrate those around them which results in lower engagement, motivation, and retention of employees.

We recommend three approaches to help leaders be less insulated:

  1. Listen more: In general, leaders need to listen more than they speak. There are many organizations with employees who constantly defer to the leader. Leaders can encourage those around them to be open and honest about their leadership and to always share essential business information with him or her.
  2. 360 feedback: Leaders can gather confidential feedback through a 360 feedback process. This type of process is a good way for leaders to openly share that they want to hear from those around them. Many employees will be more open and honest if they know their feedback is confidential. 
  3. Leadership inventory comparison: There are many leadership assessments that can be used for this approach. Leaders can complete the assessment on their own and ask those around them to complete it independently. This approach allows the leader to compare their perceived performance on leadership indicators with the views of others.

After soliciting the input of others, it is important to acknowledge and thank those who participated. This is a perfect opportunity to set leadership development goals.

Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith’s book What got you here won’t get you there describes how leaders assume that their behaviors in the past will continue to result in success. One way leaders can improve their leadership is by reducing insulation and increasing awareness.

We can help you conduct a 360 feedback process and a leadership inventory. In addition, we can work with you to create a leadership development plan. We coach leaders to ensure follow up on the leadership development plan and provide needed leadership training programs.

Want to learn how we can build your organization’s leaders through effective leadership training and coaching?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership.

Why hire a strategic planning consultant?

Strategic planning is all about ensuring the long term success of an organization. There are some organizations that successfully use internal people to lead and facilitate strategic planning, but we recommend organizations at least discuss the pros and cons of conducting the process internally vs. using an outside resource. In general, organizations hire a strategy / strategic planning consultant for one or a combination of the following reasons:

  1. Their staff lacks the time necessary to lead the process. Most organizations are already busy running day to day operations. Devoting an internal person to leading and facilitating a strategic planning process is not always realistic. A strategic planning consultant can be hired for the length of the engagement for a relatively affordable fee. 
  2. They lack familiarity with developing strategy or creating a strategic plan. Many leaders are very knowledgeable about their industry but do not have an extensive background in strategy and strategic planning. A strategic planning consultant provides expertise in strategy and has experience applying this expertise to numerous organizations.
  3. Bringing in an external party will signal the planning process is a priority. Spending is an expression of our priorities, and using a strategic planning consultant signifies to the entire organization that the process is an investment in the future. 

We like to think of strategic planning having three major phases:

  1. Gathering data
  2. Goal setting/plan development
  3. Implementing, monitoring, and modifying

Gathering data: During this phase, we gather as much relevant data as possible. Data can be quantitative such as financial information, trends, and statistics, and it can also be qualitative such as open ended feedback gathered through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Candid feedback can sometimes be difficult to stomach, but we need this information to learn how to improve. A strategic planning consultant can be helpful during this time to develop a system for gathering quantitative and qualitative data. 

Goal setting/plan development is the time when we really need to be creative and collaborative. We recommend involving multiple people in the development of the plan to gather ideas and develop buy in. Utilizing divergent and convergent thinking skills will enhance a group’s ability to generate creative ideas that will lead to “out of the box” thinking. When strategic planning is facilitated with an internal staff person, it can be difficult for staff members to facilitate the process and provide their input. A strategic planning consultant is a neutral third party that is only in charge of the process. This allows all participants to fully participate in developing the content of the plan. 

In the third phase of strategic planning, we focus on implementing, monitoring, and modifying the plan. This phase is arguably the most difficult and time consuming aspect of strategic planning. Many organizations create a plan and struggle with the follow up. To enhance implementation, we encourage all strategic plans to include an owner who is accountable for each goal, a clear timeline for execution, identified metrics to determine when a goal has been accomplished, and a plan for regularly reviewing the plan. Multiple people can be involved with implementation teams for each goal and should receive regular progress updates. Implementation typically occurs beyond the scope of a strategic planning consultant’s contract, but we strive to help clients set up a system and process for implementation. In addition, we recommend clients consider utilizing an outside party to formally evaluate the plan on an annual basis. There may be reasons to revise the plan as new factors emerge. Having a formal review of the strategic plan creates accountability and sends a message that the plan is important.

Help your organization enhance strategic planning processes.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer. 

Succession planning: The elephant in the room

Did you know that less than half of all Americans have a will or have made estate plans? We all know that our time will come at some point, but we still put off what we know is important. Our heirs, family, and friends will be better off with us having created a plan once we are no longer around.

I imagine comprehensive succession planning occurs less frequently than estate planning. This HBR article shares that business succession planning is relatively rare. However, we understand that all employees will move on from the organization at some point in the future. We need to recognize that as our organization evolve, our staffing needs change. Organizations can ensure smooth transitions, development of employees, and better hiring decisions when succession planning effectively occurs. We often avoid succession discussions or do not have time for succession planning, but our organizations could benefit from these conversations and planning.

We need to think about short- and long-term succession planning:

Short-term succession planning: This type of planning helps organizations in situations when an executive or key employee leaves suddenly or is unable to work for a period of time. Here are some ways organizations can be ready for the short term:

  • Identify essential job functions that need to be covered immediately and develop a backup plan for these functions.
  • Update all job descriptions at least annually and list key tasks that occur throughout the year. More detail will help during successions.
  • Document key contacts and work processes in a way that can be understood by others. Review these processes with management.
  • Develop a system to collect and organize logins and passwords for various functions.
  • Discuss how short-term succession will be communicated to employees, boards, and customers.

Long-term succession planning: This type of planning helps organizations ensure long term success. Here are some ways organizations can be ready for the long term:

  • Develop a long term or ideal organizational structure or chart. Future job descriptions are also helpful. This information should inform future hires and how current employees are developed.
  • Create an employee development program that will prepare current employees for future roles in the organization.
  • Hire new employees with thoughts about their potential for immediate and future leadership roles.
  • Discuss with employees their career aspirations at least annually. Ask employees how the company can help their development. Leaders can encourage employees to consider pursuing new roles that meet their skill sets.
  • Identify areas of need within the organization and determine if the right person just needs some additional training or education.   

We work with organizations on leadership development and find that many organizations and employees fail to have succession discussions or conduct succession planning. We can help you facilitate discussions and develop plans for employee development and succession. This planning will help your organization in the short and long term.

There are other conversations that may need to take place based on the type of organization. For example, family businesses may need to have discussions among family members about who will take over key roles in the business. There also might be discussions about buying and selling the business. Due to the sensitive nature of these topics among family, it can be especially helpful for family businesses to bring in an outside resource to facilitate these discussions.

Comprehensive succession planning takes years to accomplish. This article is not meant to be an exhaustive guide for succession, but we hope it gives you some things to think about and discuss. If you other items to consider for succession planning, we would like to hear from you.  

Help your organization enhance leadership and succession planning efforts.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership.

Why is innovation so important now and how can organizations become more innovative?

At the beginning of 2019, LinkedIn published a study of hard and soft skills needed by employers. The top five soft skills include: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. As a former educator, I think the focus on standardized testing has led to placing less value on creativity and innovation in schools. We are seeing employees in the workplace that need help with their creative and critical thinking.

Think about the changes that have occurred in the last 10-20 years. We are experiencing an accelerating rate of change. The Internet and other technologies have led to an explosive growth of the amount of information available to all of us. As a result, we are able to more quickly access information than ever before and innovate faster. The following timeline from Peter Fisk demonstrates how the rate of change is accelerating.

Patents are not the only sign of innovation, but they indicate that we are experiencing an accelerating rate of change. This article shares how the number of patents have been granted since the U.S. Patent Office opened in 1790. According to the article, “In the first decade of the patent office, the U.S. granted 229 patents—the same amount today’s America grants every 7.2 hours.”

As the rate of change accelerates, organizations need to make sure they keep up with the competition and anticipate changes and opportunities. The word disruption is often used to describe innovations that result in new markets and ultimately change needs for leading products and services. There are plenty of examples: Amazon has disrupted traditional retailers, Netflix and video streaming nearly eliminated all traditional rental video stores, and Wikipedia wiped out the need for traditional published encyclopedias.

In this HBR article, Minor, Brook, and Bernoff discuss how innovation really works. They share that innovative organizations generate more ideas than less innovative organizations. In addition, they have systems in place to collect ideas, evaluate them, and implement them. This may seem common sense, but I find many organizations actually discourage innovation in the following ways:

  1. New ideas are judged too quickly or criticized harshly in a way that discourages people from being willing to share them.
  2. Not enough time is spent generating new ideas. The organization continues to operate as they have previously or make minor improvements to existing products and services.
  3. There are real or perceived consequences for taking risks. It feels safer and easier for employees to maintain the status quo than take risks.
  4. Ideas are generated and shared, but there is no follow up or system in place to implement them. When no change occurs, employees feel that coming up with new ideas is a waste of time.
  5. Teams are created with like-minded people that struggle to think outside the box. Most organizations are becoming more aware of the importance of diversity, especially related to age, gender, race, and ethnic background, but we don’t think enough about cognitive diversity. You can read more about cognitive diversity here.

A few questions to consider:

  1. How does your organize encourage employees to generate new ideas?
  2. How much time do you spend generating new ideas?
  3. Do you encourage risk taking and encourage employees to learn from mistakes?
  4. Do you have a system in place to collect ideas, evaluate them, and implement them?
  5. How have you intentionally developed cognitively diverse teams?

We offer a variety of workshops designed to help organizations generate more ideas in creative and collaborative settings. In addition, we use the Basadur Profile to help develop cognitively diverse teams. Some of our offerings are only two and four hours long and can be a very affordable way to increase creativity and develop more effective and collaborative teams. We also offer comprehensive creative problem solving facilitator training in the Basadur Simplexity Thinking process. This training develops the skills of participants to facilitate complex problem solving within your organization.

We can help you develop a system for collecting ideas, evaluating them, and implementing them. If you need an outside facilitator to guide you through a creative problem solving process, we can also provide that service.

We encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the questions above. Thank you for reading.

Tad Dickel, Ph.D.

Help your organization enhance creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer and has provided this training to people in business, government, education, and non-profit sectors. He helps organizations think more creatively and work more collaboratively to solve complex problems, He has received a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership.

Is your organization’s 2020 vision in focus?

I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask, and I was surprised when I started reading articles about the “myth of multitasking.” You can Google that phrase and find many articles that discuss the negative consequences of multitasking on productivity. One particular article can be found here.

As I have learned about the advantages of clear focus, my personal productivity has significantly approved. I try to start each day with key priorities in mind, and this approach allows me to spend my limited amount of time on what is most important.

Many organizations are guilty of multitasking. We take on numerous goals, initiatives and tasks and struggle to focus on what is most important. It is too easy for us to get caught up in our day to day responsibilities and ignore more strategic items. A survival mindset prevents us from looking at the big picture and setting a vision for where we are going.

In The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, the authors urged leaders and organizations to set a clear goal and provided a framework for executing it. They wrote:

“MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller says, ‘Trying to concentrate on two tasks causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity…Particularly when people try to perform similar tasks at the same time, such as writing an email and talking on the phone, they compete to use the same part of the brain. Trying to carry too much, the brain simply slows down.’ If this is true of simple tasks like processing emails and phone calls, think of the impact of losing focus on the goals that could transform your business.” (2012, pp. 25-26)

We are now well into the 4th quarter of the year. Does your business or organization have a clear vision for 2020? Have you spent time focusing on what is going well and what needs to change? As a business owner, I find myself now wrapping up this year and carefully planning for next year. I imagine you are thinking about what 2020 will bring for your business or organization. We often neglect to carve out time to discuss some of the most important business discussions. These questions might include but are not limited to:

  • What successes have we experienced?
  • What lessons have we learned?
  • What opportunities exist for growth, better services, and new products?
  • What is one area that we could focus on to improve our business or organization significantly?
  • Where are we going as an organization?
  • Where should we be going as an organization?

Setting aside time to bring together employees and/or other stakeholders to discuss these questions is a valuable investment to set clear priorities, develop buy in, improve as an organization, create accountability, and learn from others.

These discussions often take place in the context of an extended strategy meeting or retreat. Utilizing an external facilitator can ensure all employees and/or stakeholders are able to fully participate in the discussion and not be worried about running the meeting process. After the meeting, we can provide a report with key priorities to consider. T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is trained and experienced in facilitating these types of important discussions and are now scheduling facilitated team retreats and meetings for the end of the year and early 2020.

Please contact us to schedule an initial discovery conversation and learn more about how a facilitator can help your organization plan for success in 2020. We offer customized retreats and meeting facilitation in various time formats and locations. In addition, we can include team building activities to enhance the cohesiveness and effectiveness of your team.

If you are looking for a way to establish a collective vision and focus for 2020, please contact us. We wish you a happy and successful 2020.

Tad Dickel, Ph.D.

Dr. Tad Dickel is the President of T.A. Dickel Group, LLC and is based in Evansville, Indiana. His services enhance organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Creative Problem Solving for Congregations

Dr. Tad Dickel will provide a “Creative Problem Solving for Congregations” workshop through the Center for Congregations on October 23 in Evansville, Indiana. The workshop will help attendees improve how they creatively approach complex problems encountered by their congregations.

All attendees will take the Basadur Profile in advance of the workshop to better understand their preferred creative problem styles. During the workshop, attendees will learn how their styles influence their creativity and problem solving as individuals and in teams. Other topics include effective meetings, productive conversations, and team building.

The workshop will introduce ways to enhance creative thinking and apply these skills to real problems experienced by congregations. Learn more at the following link:

To discuss this type of offering for your company or organization, please contact us. We offer a variety of options to help organizations enhance how they think creatively and work collaboratively to solve complex problems.

Building Effective Teams Across Generations

Tad Dickel recently presented at the AAF-CRC (American Advertising Federation Central Region Conference on the topic “Building Effective Teams Across Generations.”

Here are some highlights from the presentation:

There are currently five generations in the workplace:

Millennials are now the largest generation in the workplace:

In the book Sticking Points, Haydn Shaw (2013) identified twelve common challenges for different generations to navigate:

  1. “Communication: What is the best way to interact with my coworkers?
  2. Decision Making: How do we decide what to do?
  3. Dress Code: How casually can I dress?
  4. Feedback: How often and in what ways do I want input?
  5. Fun at Work: How much fun at work is allowed?
  6. Knowledge Transfer: How do we pass on critical knowledge to new employees?
  7. Loyalty: When is it okay to move on?
  8. Meetings: What should happen in our meetings?
  9. Policies: Are policies rules or guidelines?
  10. Respect: How do I get others to respect me?
  11. Training: How do I learn best?
  12. Work Ethic: How many hours are required, and when must I work them?” (p. 30)

Shaw (2013) also developed a five step strategy for working through these “sticking points”:

  1. “Acknowledge: Talk about generational differences.
  2. Appreciate: Focus on the “why,” not the “what,” and the common needs.
  3. Flex: Agree on how to accommodate different approaches.
  4. Leverage: Maximize the strengths of each generation.
  5. Resolve: Determine which option will yield the best results (when flexing isn’t enough.” (p. 31)

When we talk about generational differences, this is often done in a negative manner. We need to:

  1. Show respect
  2. Appreciate differences
  3. Be careful about stereotypes
  4. We are more similar than different

We provide training on building effective teams across generations and also help facilitate these important conversations related to these differences.