Developing Managers to Lead! A #WISHRM Interview with Kristin Derwinski

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker

Leadership development. When done well, it seems to be the archeological treasure that is hard to find yet sweet to obtain! Many a great HR leader has tried developing their internal leadership programs only to encounter giant boulders, poison darts, and snakes as if they were Indiana Jones!

I am one of these archeologists – looking to build our internal leadership academy at my organization. I’ve scoured caves, deserts, and pyramids! So, when I was that there was a session at Wisconsin State SHRM Conference, I had to meet Kristen Derwkinski to learn more!

Kristin has an extensive background in talent and organizational development. She has served in various internal domestic and international HR Leadership roles and has extensive experience working in varying capacities across an HR function including: Change Management, Executive Leadership Development, Organizational Development and Succession Management. She has spent her career working with leaders to build high performing and development cultures.

Kristin will be presenting Developing Managers to Lead at Wisconsin State SHRM Conference 2021. Kristin will share key lessons learned and facilitate a discussion around learning solutions for new managers, mid-level managers, and high potentials who will be in that role.

I was truly excited to interview her, learn more about her work, and discover what makes her tick! She can be reached on LinkedIn if you want to know more!

1. In your experience, what are the key skills missing from people managers struggling to make it as a leader?

This is a great question! There are several key ones I touch on in the session.

  • Coaching: People Managers need to meet their employees where they are. The best way to do this is by getting to know who they are as a person, listening to their career aspirations, identifying their strengths, and providing regular and frequent feedback.
  • Plan first, act second: As you move into a leadership role, the day-to-day execution becomes less of where you spend your time. Planning becomes critical as you think about where you are going and how you align your team and collaborate with your peers
  • Prioritization: There is so much happening every day and so many people find themselves pulled in many directions. The power of 3 is critical.  What are the top 3 things you need to focus on, deliver and then focus on the next 3.  You can use this to think about your day, week, month, or year.
  • Delegation: In talking with new managers, this is usually one of the first competencies we talk about developing.  It is hard to do, especially if the work is something you love to do.  Leaders need to quickly change their approach from getting the work done and receiving praise to celebrating when your team gets the work done.  A leader’s job quickly becomes focused on removing obstacles and then getting out of the way.

2. What has been the biggest shift in training people managers over the last five years?

The biggest shift, that I find most exciting, is the move from coaching as a developmental resource from being offered to only those in executive roles to those at the manager level.  The introduction of group coaching, and peer coaching is now an important part of manager development programs.  People need to learn and then apply it and then talk through their learning experiences with their peers.  It is a great way to help managers sustain the learning and application from development programs.

3. What is the best way organizations can prep high potential employees for a future people manager role?

Find ways to put them in situations where they can lead others.  I have seen organizations assign interns to future managers or ask the high potential employee to lead a group where they provide day to day direction to a group of people.  The key is to create experiences on the job where they can practice in a safe environment.

4. Communication skills, or lack thereof, seem to be an ever-contentious sticking point in many people managers’ performances. How do you advise organizations to work to develop these vital necessary skill sets? 

The best way is to develop avenues to put in “structure” or opportunities where managers need to communicate one on one or with their teams.  Here are some examples:

  • Recommend monthly performance feedback sessions where managers and their direct reports meet to talk through business and development goals, and figure out a way to reward managers that are executing on this!
  • After major company wide communications, provide managers with speaking points to bring the information back to their team to reinforce key messages.
  • Provide Sr. Leaders and their direct reports with the coaching they need so they can coach their managers to continue to communicate with their team – you need to make it part of your culture!

5. There’s an old adage that leaders are readers. What three books must all leaders have in their library?

First, I recommend Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham. Great book! Next, Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, and finally, LEAD NOW! by John-Parker and Daniel Stewart. I’d explain why, but then I’d give away their secrets! 😊

6. Can you discuss briefly how technology helps develop leadership skills in organizations? How can technology build a culture of leadership?

There are so many benefits of technology today. Here are a few:

  • Assessments: The best way people learn is to understand where they are and identify where they need to be. Technology has enabled quick tools and information at our fingertips.
  • Virtual tools: We are all working so much. Virtual tools have provided new ways we can get information right in front of us. I can talk to my coach, quickly attend a webinar and attend a networking event all in the same day. Yes, we could do this before, but we now have access globally and that is a big deal.
  • Ready reference: Managers today don’t have the time to attend weeklong sessions.  They do have the time to research a topic, find a tool and learn quickly how to apply it.  How to videos, chat sessions and other micro-learnings have been great ways to learn and apply when you need it.

Technology is a vehicle to share learnings and information.  If your organization creates the vision, describes the culture and provides guidance to leaders around expectations and tools to be great, technology can help deliver that information. 

7. Lightning round! Time for some extra fun!

Where is the most unique place you’ve visited?

Tlaquepaque, Mexico. It is a fantastic little city with great culture, an artisan vibe and amazing people.

What is your favorite holiday?

Christmas – you can never have too many lights.

What is your favorite movie?

We are big Star Wars fans!

If you could have “walk-up” music any time you entered a room, what would that song be?

I have no idea.  I will have to think about that one… 😊

What is your drink of choice?

Right now, it is water, boring, but true.

Published by Paul LaLonde

Husband. Father. Passionate about HR, helping people, and doing the right thing. Also, heavy metal, craft beer, and general nerd things! #SHRM19Blogger. Find me on Twitter at @HRPaul49 and LinkedIn. Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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