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How to Measure Your Leadership Effectiveness w/Michael Tanner Ep#151

By Anthony Taylor - February 14, 2022

SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.

Untitled design - 2021-12-27T131748.040  Anthony: Welcome folks, to today's episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast, where we speak to experts in their field about strategy, leadership, people, technology, and all the cool things that are happening in the world of business and entrepreneurship. And today, my guest is Michael Tanner. Michael, how are you today?

Untitled design - 2022-02-10T125008.722  Michael: I'm good, Anthony. How are you?

Anthony: I'm fantastic, beautiful day as we discussed, and I'm excited to chat. And I promised I'd ask where in the world are you today? And then do you have an accent from that place? Just in case anybody's wondering?

Michael: Yeah, I'm sure the listeners probably have already identified. I live here in Atlanta, Georgia. And we talked about the podcasting equipment, and so forth. And I have a pretty nice setup. But I'm confident it does not hide the southern accent.

Anthony: That's okay, I've got a face for radio anyway. So we're good with that. Michael is the founder of Credible Leaders, and is the VP of R&D for Automated Logic. So Michael, what keeps you busy most days? What fills your time?

Michael: Well, you know, as we talked about before we hit the record button, I'm really wearing two hats. In leadership as vice president in a large commercial building, H-VAC, system controls environment. So I've got a team of about 150 people as a part of that.

And then the second hat is the founder of the the Credible Leadership Group, which is a leadership development firm. It's just an outgrowth of my passion to coach and mentor people and to see them succeed. You know, in my corporate role, I get to do that every single day, and I love it. But there's an aspect of it that is limited, you know, I can only really influence and impact those people that are on my team that I'm leading, and that I'm working with. And what I love about my own business is that there is no limit to that, right, I can help anyone that wants to improve their leadership capability. So those are kind of the two hats today that I wear.

Anthony: Awesome. I really got that from our pre conversation and your website. The work that you do, your nine to five, it's to give to people and Credible Leaders is to support building that capacity in people because it's something that you're very passionate about. So, why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about how you view leadership? Like, how do you view its effectiveness? How do you know if it's working? What's your overall kind of mantra or way of thinking and viewing about leadership in organizations?

Michael: Man, that's a big, open ended question. And I will try not to take the entire podcast answering this one question. But you're dead on by starting there. I believe by starting with how do you even define leadership? Because in our workshops, in my work with individuals in coaching, I've discovered that that's where we need to start. Because a lot of people can't really articulate well, what is leadership? What does it look like?

I have a military background. My first leadership role was in the United States Marine Corps. So a lot of people think that I'm going to answer that question with, you know, rank or authority, or organizational chart, title or position or something like that. And it's not at all the way I define leadership. But I know that a lot of people struggle with "what is leadership?" How do you define it? My favorite response to that question is "Well, I don't know, but I recognize it when I see it". Well, that doesn't help us at all. So I really am, you know, I believe defining leadership is super important.

So at the Credible Leadership Group, we have a working definition upon which all of our leadership is based. And that is this: Leadership is influencing others towards a shared goal. Now, I'll break that down really quickly for you, because all of those words in that definition have some significance, right? First of all, the word others - there have to be others involved, right? If people aren't following you, then you're not in leadership. Okay? So others have to be involved.

There has to be a goal, right? We have a purpose here as a collection of people, as a team. We have a purpose, we're intending to accomplish something. So there has to be a goal involved.

And then to the beginning of that definition, the word influencing. We use that very, very intentionally because influencing carries with it this idea of a willingness to follow. So you're being a leader if people are willing to follow you. Now, if they're following you just because you have a title, that's not really influence, or there certainly isn't a willingness to follow you, right? They're really following out of fear, because you're the boss, you could fire them or something like that, right? But our definition carries with it this idea of, 'I am willing to follow this person'. You kind of have this attitude of 'I would follow them anywhere'.

But then lastly, the word 'shared' in our definition of shared goal. In our definition, that word shared, it has two parts. First of all, it means communicated. You don't have a goal if you haven't communicated that to the team. So it's been well communicated. But the second aspect of the word 'shared' is this idea of togetherness - that we are in this together. So I'm sharing even though I'm the leader, I'm sharing in the accomplishment of the goal with this team. I'm not the leader that sits in his office or sits up in his high castle and barks out orders, and its off you go, go accomplish the goal. That is not leadership - we're sharing in this. So I'm in the trenches with you in sharing in the accomplishment of that goal. So that's our working definition. And we build everything we teach in leadership around that.

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Anthony: Yeah, I love that. So just for everybody listening, you know, influencing others towards a shared goal. Each of those words has a very specific definition and connotation to it. And why I thought it would be interesting to ask you that question, Michael, is that when I talk to people in senior leadership positions, they might not necessarily be doing the right leadership things. As in, they have a big title, but they're in the weeds and getting the work done.

The challenge or reflection, I say is, you're in a leadership position, you need to do the highest value work. The highest value work is leading others, not just doing work from your chair. And then the challenge that I'd put out to our listeners.. if you're wondering if you're down here or up there, reflect on what does leadership mean to you? And how can you exhibit it on a day to day basis? Michael, the other thing that I heard from you is, when you're talking about your military background, I wrote down the word respect. Because I think that it's not rank, title, file, all that stuff. It's like, if you're going to go to battle with somebody, you got to respect the guys, you know, you might not have to like them, but you respect them. That creates the trust, which then builds towards that following piece. Anything you want to add about that from your seat?

Michael: Yeah, I think you're dead on with that. I mean, you know, in the military world, we have situations that are life and death, right, and soldiers and Marines at times are called upon to put their life in danger. And a lot of people have this misconception. People won't just put their life in danger because you outrank them, or because you're 'the boss'. But they will do that for you, when you ask them to do that, if you have a good relationship with them.. if they know you, if they trust you, if they respect you.

So even if you're a leader, and you outrank those that you're in charge of, which you obviously do, they're not going to just do what you ask them to do, just because you outrank them. And so in the corporate world, just because you have a VP title, people aren't going to be willing to work the weekend for you just because you have that title. But if you've built a good relationship, if they trust you, if they trust your motives and why you're leading, if you know a little bit about them as a person, and you've built some good relationships with them, and then you ask them to work the weekend, they're much more likely to be willing to follow you. Your VP title at that point doesn't matter.

Anthony: Yeah. And I think what that made me think about is like, willingness is a two way street. Like when you said, I can't work the weekends - I'm gonna be there, too. So walking the walk and showing that you're willing to be able to do the work side-by-side with them. Even in the military case, you're putting your life at risk - it's not putting them ahead of you. Y'all are side-by-side.

And I think that goes back to your original definition of the shared goal. We have a shared goal, we're going to make sure that we're working towards it together, not that kind of whipping motion, you're all moving towards the same thing. So I think that's really cool. Now looking at your role at Automated Logic, what were some of those 'aha' moments that you had as a leader, some of those things that kind of shaped your brain? Often I find that they come with somewhere you might have screwed up. So if you feel willing to be humble and share some areas where you got a really good learning, I'd love to hear that from your history.

Michael: Yeah, I've got plenty of those. And in fact, a lot of my leadership development career is built upon "hey, let me tell you what I messed up so that you don't have to make the same mistake". One that comes to mind, related to my leadership at Automated Logic is the need for a leader to have credibility. Now, we teach four components of leadership - credibility, competence, motive, and relationship. And it was when I got to the team at Automated Logic that I really recognized the need for credibility.

So a little bit of history. I've been at Automated Logic in this role now for about nine years. So nine years ago, I was brand new to this team, they didn't know me, I got hired into this team in the vice president role. And there were a lot of changes that needed to be made, operating type changes, even organizational type changes. And in fact, the senior leadership of the business, that's the very reason that they brought me in was to try to make some of those changes, because I had made very similar changes in a previous company. And so I just remember that, as I was working with and building relationships with some of the key team members, and I was starting to introduce some of these changes that we needed to make. It was actually in a big group setting. And one of the rockstar team members of our team, he asked me a very pointed question, as I was introducing a change that we needed to make.

And he wasn't trying to put me on the spot. He was very sincere in this question. But I was explaining this change that we needed to make. And I even went into some details about, you know, some of the struggles that we'll have and some of the pain points that we'll have. But I was obviously very intentional to talk about the benefits of it, and why we needed to do it, and so forth. And he asked me a very, very pointed question. He said to me, Michael, have you ever made this type of change before? Now again, I'm three, four months into this job now with this brand new team.

And in that moment, I recognized they don't see any of the credibility that I have, as a leader. They don't see any of the credibility that I have in making these kinds of changes, because they weren't with me at that previous employer. And so credibility - it's just kind of this history or this track record of success. And I didn't have that yet, with this team. And when he asked me that point, I recognized in that moment that I needed to do everything I could every single day, every little moment, to build my credibility as their leader.

Anthony: Yeah, that's awesome. Thanks for making that really specific. That credibility - it's like a bank. So you got to build up that credibility until there's that trust, because it's assume versus implied. And you got to take those opportunities, because if there's no credibility and there's no trust, then getting people to be on your side is a lot more challenging, especially as you're doing new things that are scary and uncertain as you move forward. So building your team, I know we talked about measuring leadership effectiveness. How do you measure leadership effectiveness? How do you know if your leadership is effective? How do you know if other people's leadership is effective within your organization?

Michael: Yeah, so that's the next step. So as I said, we go into a lot of organizations, and the first thing is, "how do you define leadership?" And then the second step is, well, then how do you measure it? And I think this is a really, really important question. I think it's where, at the Credible Leadership Group, we have some really strong value that we bring in measuring leadership. Because I saw too often I believe, the wrong metrics being used for measuring leadership.

When you survey any number of people about well, "how do you measure leadership?", the majority of your responses are going to be something related to attrition, right? And we've all heard the cliché. People don't leave companies, they leave bad bosses or they leave people, right? And it's true. But I look at attrition as the wrong metric to be using to try to measure your leadership, because I look at that as the scoreboard at the end of the ballgame. Well, you can't change the score. Now the game is over. If you're looking at attrition, your best team members have already left. You already lost, right? So why not look at leadership now and try to use that as the measurement? What I prefer is more of a real time measurement. What is my leadership score right now.

But I also prefer an objective measurement of leadership. Because, again, when your definition is, well, I don't know what leadership is, but I know it when I see it. How can I make an objective measurement? And I think objective measurement and leadership is so important because we tend to be defensive, when a measurement of us is subjective in some way. When you say, "Well, you know what, I feel like you could do better at this", we tend to get defensive on that. So what we've developed is something called the leadership equation. I'm a math and computer science guy. So it was just natural that I would come up with an equation. And so we put the four components, credibility, competence, motive, and relationship, together in a mathematical equation that represents their relationship to one another. And what we're able to do with that then, is put a survey behind that then gives you a score - a number. Nothing is more objective than a number. And we're also very diligent to say, look, this is not an academic grading scale. You're not looking for a 90 or above and you're an A, the number is irrelevant.

So you basically just get a random number, that random number now represents your leadership score. Now you can do things in those four areas, credibility, competence, motive and relationship, and watch your leadership score increase.

Anthony: And just so we're clear, it's not a random number, it's a generated number, right?

Michael: It's a calculated number, but it doesn't really mean anything to you, in the sense of oh, I made an A or I passed, or I'm good or I'm bad. It's just a baseline upon which now you can grow.

Anthony: Perfect. That's, that's what I thought. And I really like it. Again, moving from subjective to objective, to make it specific and measurable so that everybody is measured on the same thing. You've taken components, characteristics and quantified leadership. Again, it is not the way, it is a way. But it sounds pretty good to me - credibility, competence, motive and relationships. They're all important characteristics of leaders. And so your ability to do that. And it doesn't really matter what you think, as the rank-ee. It's super important what everybody else thinks, because that's the core component of leadership - that other people have that. And I think what I also really like about this is that it gives you specifics that you can work against. So you can say, Oh, I'm really great in relationship and competence, but I have no credibility. So what can you do to take actions to move that forward and support your leadership outcomes? Awesome. Anything else?

Michael: Yeah well, we call the leadership calculator. And again, it's just a survey, a questionnaire. It spits your answers into the equation and gives you a score. But from that, we can also identify which of those four components you should focus on first.

Now, I would argue that as a good leader, you got to be good in all of them - all four. But you can look at the equation, you can look at your score, and you can identify which of the variables gives you the biggest bang for your buck. So for instance, motive is really just the answer to the question "why do you want to be a leader?" And it's related to your team members are always trying to determine, are your motives for being a leader selfish, or selfless in nature? And so if we look at your score, and your team feels like your motive is selfish at a high level, that's going to greatly reduce your leadership effectiveness score. And so that identifies for you where you need to focus.

You need to focus on persuading your team members, that your motive for being a leader are selfless in nature, not selfish in nature. And so the beauty of that is we can really hone in on what are the errors you should start on first. And then as you improve that variable, then you can move over to the next one. That's the beauty of having a mathematical equation - you can look at it mathematically and identify which one is the most important you should work on.

Anthony: Yeah, I love that. As Jay-Z says, men do women do but numbers don't lie. If you can have something that will support not only the diagnostic but taking actions, I think it's critical. And I think what's really cool about that, Michael, is that it really just highlights all of the experience that you had from the military, from your work, and being able to build a tool that people can actually use. So I really appreciate that.

And I invite all of our leaders, if you're trying to focus and improve your own leadership ability, either reach out to Michael for his assessment, or create one that supports your objectives. I think another thing I really loved about today was influencing others towards a shared goal. I can't think of a better way to define leadership. I won't look it up in the dictionary. But I thought it was awesome. Michael, where can people get a hold of you? Where can they learn more about you and your work?

Michael: Well, the best place to find everything that we're doing at the Credible Leadership Group is our website, credibleleaders.com. You'll see the leadership calculator pretty prominent there on the front page. So you're welcome to take advantage of that. It's a free tool. But then on social media, I'm primarily on LinkedIn. You'll catch me on Facebook or Twitter occasionally, but primarily, I do all my business on LinkedIn.

Anthony: Awesome. I love that. Well, I appreciate it Mike, it was awesome chatting with you. I encourage everybody to check out the tool. Your leadership is a capacity, and you're never going to be perfect. And we're always going to screw up. The best you can do is try to mitigate the amount of times you screw up. But that's for another conversation. Michael, thank you so much for joining us today.

Michael: Anthony, thanks so much for the opportunity. It's a real honor and blessing to serve you and your audience any way I can.

Anthony: The pleasure is mine. Folks, my guest today, Michael Tanner from Credible Leaders and the VP of R&D at Automated Logic. Thanks so much for listening, everybody. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, I hope you check out the assessment tool. And my invitation to you is just for wherever you're at, up down, bottom across, new hire old hire, you always have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. And I hope you take that into today and the rest of your days.

So once again, my name is Anthony Taylor, this has been the Strategy and Leadership Podcast. Thanks for listening, thanks for watching, thanks for subscribing, and just thanks for being you.

We'll see you next time!

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