Welcome to my blog!

My name is Alex Arshavskiy. I created this blog for people who are trying to get a leadership position based on their professional experience, educational background, or both, but cannot get it due to the lack of leadership skills, credibility, or both. This blog helps you complete a missing link and accomplish your leadership goal. It also provides essential knowledge on leveraging non-profit organizations whose mission is to develop leadership skills.

Many people never heard about these organizations, some people heard about them, yet others even participate in these organizations. However, only few people really know how to efficiently leverage those groups. This blog also provides you with detailed information that allows you to immediately pursue your goal, develop leadership skills, and obtain credibility as a leader.

You will benefit from this blog regardless of your professional experience, and educational background. If you do not have business or management degree, you will get a tool that allows you to obtain knowledge and develop you leadership skills. If you are an MBA graduate, this blog will show you how to immediately apply your academic knowledge at the level your employer will not allow you. It will also give you an opportunity to gain credibility as a leader.
And last, but not least, this blog will connect you with people like yourself, to support and inspire each other.

Regards,
Alex Arshavskiy,
MBA, PMP, Competent Leader

The Essence of Leadership

     Bill Buckley

The Essence of LeadershipThere are 2 axioms of leadership: 1) “good leaders are made, not born,” and 2) “to achieve the essence (heart) of leadership you must study and practice the essence of leadership.”  What is the essence of leadership?  When the terms “essence of leadership” are googled you receive back over 39 million responses-an ocean of articles, opinions and recommended courses to take in order to understand the essence of leadership.  So what is the essence of leadership?

We can find the essence of leadership by studying the actions of many great leaders.  Leaders solve problems; good leaders solve problems effectively.  What does “effective problem solving “mean?   Effective problem solving is “implementing the correct solution to the right problem with in the given time frame using the resources and material available”.  How can this be accomplished?

 

There are four (4) basic steps we can take to accomplish solving problems effectively.  The four steps are as follows:

  1. Identify the problem or problems.
  2. Develop the correct solution.
  3. Implement the solution.
  4. Review, evaluate and document.

Realize that these steps are not conclusive.  You may have to add additional steps depending on the problem or problems you are facing.

There are certain actions or activities we must take within each step to accomplish the step.  Once again, this is not a conclusive list and should be added to depending on the situation.  I will use an acronym within each step as a memory method to remember the actions.

Step One – Identify the problem or problems (S.O.R.T.)

  1. Separate the problems – I include plural in problem because usually there is not just one problem but many other problems created off of the major problem.  This will involve separating the problems and looking at them individually.  Include the items that may be perceived to be a problem as well. 
  2. Organizational (structure) or function (process) and its impact.  Determine the category that each problem may fall in.  Organizational problems tend to be more people and procedure orientated verses function which tends to be more computer or technically oriented.
  3. Resources – Based on the category above do you have the right skills available to solve each problem?
  4. Timeframe  - Guess the time frame you believe it will take to solve each of the problems listed, and determine if that total time will fit within the time frame you were given.  You may have to request an extended time frame at this point in the process.

Step Two –Develop the correct solution.  (R2.L.E.S. or to put another way, squirrels don’t create business problems.)

  1. Reoccurring - Determine if this is a repeat problem or if someone else has experienced the same or similar problem in other areas of the company, division or in a like industry.  In other words don’t reinvent the wheel.  A solution may be at hand.
  2. Recreate - If you can, recreate the problem(s) and run a test using the listed solutions to see if they solve the problem.  This will cut down the problem solving time considerably.
  3. List possible solutions – List any and all.  Tell your staff to suggest even off-the-wall solutions.
  4. Evaluate through testing – Solution can possibly spawn other problems or affect other operations or processes. Determine if there is a budget impact for implementing the solution(s).
  5. Select the correct solution – At this point, determine the time it will take to implement the solution.  Also, determine if additional resources will be required.  This could impact your budget.

Step Three – Implement the solution. (D.A.Ve)

  1. Develop steps to implement solution(s) – List out in detail what must be done to implement the solution to each problem.  Remember to include the estimated time to accomplish each step.
  2. Assignments and Time Line – Assign your staff and resources to the steps developed in (a) above and set a time frame for implementation.
  3. VerifyContinue to verify that the solution is working as planned.  At this point you may have to repeat steps 2 and 3.

Step Four – Review, Evaluate and Document. (R.E.D.)

  1. Review – Review that the solution or solutions are continuing to work.
  2. Evaluate – Evaluate your performance and your staff’s performance.  Do this in a positive way with the purpose of improving the time to identify and develop solutions.
  3. Document – Document all the steps that you and your staff took to solve the problem or problems.  That way, should the problem reoccur your time frame to solve it is reduced.

Leaders are trained and placed into positions of authority and responsibility in order to solve problems within their organization so that the organization may accomplish its goals.  The above steps to effective problem solving have been presented as one way to make this effort successful for all leaders.

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Transferability of Leadership Skills

Your success as a leader depends on the following very important factors:Transferability of Leadership Skills

* YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS AND HABITS, and

* YOUR CREDIBILITY AS A LEADER

In our blog, we help you develop your leadership skills and habits. We suggest using non-profit organizations in order to develop your skills and build your leadership habits. Once you acquired leadership habits, related to the specific skills, you own them.  Both, SKILLS and HABITS are transferable!

How about your credibility as a leader?  Let’s say you are a credible leader at your Toastmasters Club. Does this mean that you automatically become credible at your work place or at the company that you own?

Unfortunately, not really!

Does this mean that YOUR credibility as a leader is not transferable?  Actually, it is transferable, but not automatically.

Let’s see how it works. As a leader of any group, (for example, non-profit organization) you have a social status.  You built your status by being loyal to the organization, achieving success as a leader using your leadership skills, etc. Can this status be at least partially transferred to your work place or your business? There are many ways, both formal and informal, how you can obtain a social status at your organization.

One of the best ways is when people with high status at your organization communicate your status within organization. For example, the CEO of your organization tells his subordinates that you have excellent delegation and negotiation skills and suggests using your skills.  At the moment when he does this, your leadership skills are transferred.

It is obvious that, the CEO either witnessed your leadership skills at the organization where you play a leadership role, or someone he trusts told him about you as a leader. This is where your NETWORKING SKILLS come to play.  NETWORKING SKILLS is a separate topic, and we will dedicate the next article to this essential subject.

 

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Three Dimensional Leadership Model

ThreeDimensionalLeadershipModelThe Tree Dimensional Leadership Model describes three main components of leadership success as well as three traits of a leader. 

These three dimensions are:

  • Instrumental Leadership
  • Charismatic Leadership, and
  • Political Leadership 

Let’s take a look at each component of leadership separately.

Instrumental leadership is leadership through structuring, organizing, and controlling. It also includes leader’s ability to build and manage teams and create systems and processes. This type of leadership also includes  a skillful use of rewards and punishments.

Leaders can significantly improve this aspect of leadership through learning managerial strategies, tactics, and techniques.

Charismatic leadership is known as a leader’s ability to energize, empower, and influence his/her team.

Many people believe that this is natural ability and cannot be learned.

Even if you can find many different techniques to develop charismatic side of your leadership; your overall progress will depend significantly on your inborn potential to be a charismatic leader.

Political leadership is primarily a leader’s connections with top decision makers within his/her organization.

There are many situations in history when talented leaders with excellent instrumental and charismatic leadership abilities and skills failed because of lack of political connections with top decision makers.

You probably know people with mediocre leadership skills who had been promoted to executive positions because of friendship with top decision makers.

The best way to improve this aspect of leadership is through networking both within and outside of your organization.

How can non-profit organizations help you develop these three dimensions of leadership?

Let me give you several examples.

Practicing public speaking is one of the best ways to develop your charisma. Being a part of Toastmasters International is one of the best (and cheapest) ways to improve your public speaking skills Toastmasters can also help you improve your instrumental leadership skills.

What about political leadership?

Non-profit organization will allow you to network within and outside of your organization or business and help you develop credibility as a leader.

I sketched a map for you. Now it is your turn to start the exiting journey!

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Formal and Informal Power

InformalFormalPowerThe source of organizational power can be either personal influence, formal position, or both.

Official position can be determined by the range of rewards and punishments a leader can use. A leader typically receives this authority from his boss.

Personal power is characterized by the degree your team trusts and respects you, as well as your ability to create an aura of positive team climate and collaboration.

Formal authority is not a constraint based on certain position within the organization. Leaders holding the same position within the organization can have completely different formal authorities.

Actual formal power depends on your boss’s desire to delegate his/her responsibility.  This means that power of formal authority transfers in the organization downward.

Informal power is obtained from your team members. That is why a good leader should remember that his informal power might not last forever. Your team members can quickly recall this privilege from you.  

Sometimes, it is enough to make several mistakes to see how fast you will lose your supporters. Your informal power should be earned daily.

There is a very important relationship between formal and informal power.

The level of formal authority delegated to you by your boss mainly depends on the strength of your informal power, based on his/her perception. In other words, how much does your team want you to lead them?

On the other side of the coin, the level of your informal power depends to certain degree on the strength of your formal authority, which strongly depends on your team members perception. In other words, the range of rewards and punishments you are authorized to use.

It is not enough to get formal authority from your boss and trust from your team members. You really need to prove to them that you actually OWN the POWER. I will address how to do that in my future articles.

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Negotiation Skills for Leaders

Negotiation Skills for LeadersNegotiation Skills are among the important skills not only for business but for personal life as well. For leaders, negotiation skills are especially important. 
 
There are two ways to approach negotiations:
 

   1. Focus on getting a bigger piece of a pie (capture value).

   2. Work to increase the pie first and then obtain your part (create value).

I really like the approach proposed by Deepak Malhotra and Max  Bazerman from Harward Business School in their book Negotiation Genius.

They suggest to identify the following as accurately as possible:

    1. Your zone of possible agreement

    2. The zone of possible agreement of your negotiation partner

    3. Your best possible alternative to negotiation

    4. Other’s site best possible alternative to negotiation

With this information, you should try to expand the size of the pie and then get the biggest piece possible.  

The majority of people focus on claiming value at the bargaining table. Actually, there are many ways to create value, which is a more profitable strategy.

One of the best ways to do it is to understand that almost every real-life negotiation is a multi-issue negotiation.

If, for example, there are multiple issues then the weight of each person’s value on each of these issues would be different. This is why the ability to analyze each participant’s weight on every issue is critical to create even more value.

By giving up a less important negotiation issue, you can get a more important issue (and less important for other party).

A powerful leader is very skillful in creating value leveraging different priorities and different expectations of two parties.

It’s important to learn how to find differences and then figure out how to leverage them.

You can also add more issues to the negotiation table to create additional value. Creating contingency contracts is another way to create value. 

Let me give you a specific example. You need to rent an office for your new business. You discussed several options and you really like the office in the business park near the peaceful artificial lake.

After having a discussion with John P., an owner of the property, you figure out that his zone of possible agreement is between $3,000 and $4,000 a month.

Your zone of possible agreement (calculated based on your projected profit) is $2,800 and below (obviously, the lower, the better).

At first glance, you don’t have a common zone of agreement. However, after additional research, you figure out that John P. owns several new automatic coffee machines, and he does not have a place for them.

Based on your square feet calculations, you know that you would have an available space for a coffee machine, so you make him a new offer.

You offer $2,600 for the rent under condition that he will have one of his coffee machines in your (hopefully busy) office. During your conversation, you have a feeling that he is almost ready to accept the offer. However, he mentions that this is an outstanding location and you will make at least 30% greater profit that you expected. 

In response to his comment, you offer a contingency agreement. He will agree for $2,600 per month. However, if you earn 30% or more income premium, you pay $200 extra per month. John P. agrees. 

In addition, I would like to mention that there are many more strategies and tactics to contribute to your negotiation skills.   I am going to discuss these strategies and tactics in my future articles.

 

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Time Management Skills for Leaders

Leaders always operate under certain constrains. Time constrain is one of the most fundamental constraints of a leader.

Of course, time is a constraint of all individuals. However, leaders are responsible not only for their own time, but also for time utilization of each member of on the team either directly or indirectly. 

How can a leader manage her personal time, as well as time utilization of the team?

There are many strategies and techniques. In this article, we will review only the most important ones.

The first step is prioritization of tasks. Nobody can successfully manage his tasks if those tasks are not prioritized.

I suggest two approaches to task prioritization:

  1. Time Management Quadrant, and
  2. Pareto Law

In order to leverage Time Management Quadrant, you need to assign each of your tasks to one of the following categories (based on their contribution to your leadership goals and mission):

Example of Time Management Quadrant

  • High importance/high urgency
  • High importance/low urgency
  • Low importance/high urgency
  • Low importance/low urgency

    Example of Pareto Law

According to Pareto Law, 20 percent of your tasks always responsible for 80 percent of your results, 80 percent of your tasks are responsible for 20 percent of your results.

You really want to identify 20% of your task that are responsible for 80% of your results and FOCUS on them. 

Time Management Quadrant and Pareto Law sound simple. However, just a few people really have a habit of using them.

The next step is identifying if there are any tasks that needs to be alleviated in terms of time constraint. When you determine which task needs to be alleviated, think how you can alleviate the task.

Delegation is one of the best techniques to alleviate a critical task. However, to use this technique, you need to master delegation skills first. 

Another technique you can use to alleviate a critical task is renegotiation time of delivery (if possible). This technique requires good negotiation skills and cannot be applied to all situations.

Finally, I would like to mention that good planning of your (and your team’s) tasks will make your time management process less stressful.

 

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Team Building Skills for Leaders

In order to achieve a leadership goal, a leader has to leverage the talents, knowledge, and skills of his team members.
 
Effective team should serve as a multiplier of a leader’s vision, creative energy and knowledge. However, to serve as a multiplier, the team should be properly built and managed. In fact, leadership building skills is a complex set of related leadership skills with common denominator. This denominator is an effectively functioning team.
 
A team can be defined as a group of people with the same goal. Sounds very simple?
 
In reality, it’s not as simple as it seems. Goals can be declared and/or real. I am sure you remember the time when a team member declared goals, which were not her real goals. She had her own hidden agenda and her own hidden goal.
 
The critical responsibility of a leader is to make sure that all team members have the same REAL GOAL. Moreover, the goal should be properly aligned with a vision of a leader. This can be accomplished by proper team building and team management.
 
There are different psychological types of people. Different types of people interact with each other in their own unique way. In addition, team members can have different cultural backgrounds, can belong to completely different age groups, and of course, have entirely different skill levels. These are just several of critical variables a leader has to consider in order to design a well functioning team.
 
 

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Persuasion Skills for Leaders

Outstanding leaders envision the goals they would like to achieve.  They understand the current situation and determine what needs to be done to make their vision a reality. Realistically speaking, not many people are capable of doing this. However, this is just the first step.

The next step is to PERSUADE others to understand the vision and commit to themselves to achieve the goal. Here is where the PERSUASION skills come to play.

As a leader, you should be able to communicate your vision as well as the ways to achieve it. PERSUASION is a very touchy science. The message itself is very important and many people with leadership experience recognize it. However, the message, even a very powerful one, must be properly delivered.

Let me use a computer analogy. Computer can send a message to another computer only if they use the same protocol (a language computers talk to each other). This ensures that the message will be interpreted correctly.

In the case of human interaction, the proper framing of the message contributes to the correct interpretation of the message.

Framing is one of the many persuasion techniques that distinguished leaders use.

Adding PERSUASION TECHNIQUES to leader’s toolbox is CRITICAL.

In order to master persuasion skills both knowledge and practice are required.

I highly recommend Dr. Kevin Hogan’s Persuasion Science Courses. This is a great learning opportunity for everyone who needs to master persuasion skills.

The great thing about these skills is that you can practice and apply them almost everywhere: at work, in business, at home, and, of course, in non-profit organizations. 

 

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Political Skills of a Leader

It is difficult to imagine something even more controversial than politics and political skills of leaders. 

What is interesting is that if you ask two different people to define politics and political skills, you will get two different sets of definitions. 

I define politics as an art of presenting and defending interests of others (people or groups of people) while accomplishing leadership goals

Accordingly, the political skills is the ability to present and defend interests of others (people or groups of people) while accomplishing leadership goals.

While accomplishing leadership goals” is critical here. If you remove this part from the definition of political skills, you will get a definition of diplomatic skills.

Yes, diplomacy is essentially an art of presenting and defending interests of others. This is one of many definitions, of course!

What is the difference? Presenting and defending interests of others is the END GOAL of a diplomat. For leaders, this is just one of the means to achieve their LEADERSHIP GOALS based on their VISION. 

 There are three critical parts of political skills: 

  1. Excellent knowledge of the environment
  2. Excellent knowledge of the hierarchy of stakeholders related to leadership goals 
  3. Personal quality

The first two parts contribute towards understanding of terrain and allow to identify opportunities for presenting and defending interests of others while pursuing leadership goals. The third part allows leaders to take advantage of these opportunities. This part includes other leadership skills such as persuasion skills and negotiation skills as well as outstanding self-control (as I mentioned earlier in my articles, all leadership skills are interconnected).

 

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Delegation Skills for Success

 Delegation Leadership                                                                                                      As either formal or informal leader, you are only one person and can do the work for only one person.  A good leader leverages the effort of his team to accomplish goals.

Delegation is one of the most important leadership skills that contribute toward efficiency of a leader.

We can define delegation as the transfer of authority to other people for specific task or decision.

Proper delegation always involves excellent understanding of strong and weak sides of people you are leading, outstanding communication skills, ability to grant appropriate level of authority to the person, and ability to establish the feedback on the process.

Successful delegation will tremendously amplify your personal power. However, failed delegation can entirely kill your reputation and create turbulent environment around you.

I highly recommend practicing delegation skills outside of your work or business, until you reach at least intermediate level of competency.  

Many people mistakenly believe that only formal leaders can delegate.  Actually, both formal and informal leaders can leverage delegation skills. Nevertheless, the best delegation always involves the combination of both.

Delegation always involves two critical elements: RESPONSIBILITY and AUTHORITY.

To be ready for delegation, you need to understand the tasks, activities and duties that you can delegate.

It is also important to identify tasks and decisions that should not be delegated.

Strong leaders distinguish between the following four categories of jobs:

  • High importance/high urgency
  • High importance/low urgency
  • Low importance/high urgency
  • Low importance/low urgency

Usually leaders perform high importance/high urgency tasks themselves because there is not enough time to delegate successfully. 

Next, you need to decide to which of your team members you will delegate a task.

You should have a clear picture in your mind of what you want the person to whom you are delegating a task to achieve. Then, choose the level of control you need to execute. This will depend on two critical factors: SKILL LEVEL of a person, and the DEGREE TO WHICH YOU TRUST THIS INDIVIDUAL.

Moreover, it is vital to develop a method to monitor the progress of a person you delegate to.

Your next step is to state your expectations, including milestones and how they will report the progress.  Another important thing to do in order to prepare for your delegation is to allocate appropriate resources. Then, you need to implement the monitoring method.

If monitored task requires correction, you need to inform a person how you want to change the process.

After completion, you need to review the assignment. This review should provide a positive feedback including the lessons learned to improve the future performance. 

Here is an example. Let’s assume that You need to prepare a meeting and decided to delegate the following tasks:

  • Reserve a conference room
  • Pick up an electronic key
  • Print out agenda
  • Configure projector and laptop for Power Point Presentation.

You ask person A to reserve a room (ask him if he had ever done this before; if not send him an email with detailed steps required to accomplish this task). Ask him to forward you the confirmation email (to make sure that the room has been reserved); be very specific regarding the deadline and if you don’t get an email, follow up to identify the status of the task. 

Ask person B to pick up an electronic key (Instruct her to do it several hours before the meeting and send you an email to confirm.) Also, ask person B to print out the agenda two hours before the meeting and send you a confirmation email. Make sure that she has appropriate resources (file with agenda). These two tasks are relatively simple and you should not be concerned too much. Check your email one hour before the meeting and if you still did not get a confirmation, then, do it yourself.

The last task requires a person who already has experience configuring projector and laptop. If you have a person with this experience, make sure that he has a laptop and that the conference room has a projector (this info should be included in the confirmation email from person A). Call him three hours before the meeting to make sure that he is available and keep in mind the assignment. Remember, technology sometimes does not work, so print out Power Point Presentation to backup yourself.

The next level of delegation skills is to delegate responsibility that in turn involves delegating responsibility.

Toastmasters International is a great place to practice this advance skill. Toastmaster of the Day (whose responsibility is to prepare and facilitate a meeting) supposed to delegate responsibility to General Evaluator, who in turn needs to delegate part of that responsibility to each member of her team.

I will provide information related to other CRITICAL LEADERSHIP skills in my future articles.

 

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