Developing Leaders

Dear Dr. Jim,
I promoted our communications coordinator to manager. She is skilled and experienced, but her direct reports are still coming to me instead of her. How do I help her assert herself?
– Will*


Hi Will,

Your statement: “she is skilled and experienced”—yes, skilled and experienced in communications, as a coordinator, but not skilled and experienced as a leader or manager (yet).

So, your job is to help her learn how to become a better manager. If she’s lacking development, she’s going to become what we call an “accidental leader”, and she’ll likely not succeed in the new role. Here’s what you do:

  1. Identify articles for her to read about leadership and management.
  2. Initiate/establish weekly meetings with her to talk about (1) what’s going well in her new job and responsibilities, (2) what needs improvement, and (3) what might be missing.
  3. Finally, encourage her!

The other thing that’s really important—if her direct reports keep coming to you, direct them back to her. (I’m assuming you’ve been through significant leadership or management training and you know how to do these things.)

If you too are an accidental leader who has been promoted but not developed, that’s a problem. Consider connecting with us!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Are You An Accidental Leader?

Accidental leaders are experts in their field with a high level of education and experience who were promoted into a leadership role based on their hard work and expertise. Or in some cases, are those who did not set out to become leaders, but fell into the role through good luck or being in the right place at the right time.








Do any of the following apply to you? 

  • You are good with people but just can’t seem to motivate your team
  • You lack formal professional development outside of your field
  • You relay information to your team, yet are finding they fail to successfully complete the tasks
  • Your hands are tied, but you don’t know what to do differently

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you might be an accidental leader


If you identify as an accidental leader you are not alone—there are tens of thousands of you! If you have been given the responsibility of leading or managing a team, but not the support or training, here are some ways to help you effectively assert your leadership.

5 Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skills

  1. Learn to Lead: Upon being promoted, ensure you receive training for the new position; make it a condition for accepting the role. 
  2. Lead by Example: Be a behavioral role model. Be honest, supportive, and trustworthy with your team; they’ll naturally behave the same way.
  3. Ask for Help: If you need support, ask for it! Identify an experienced, recognized, and respected leader in your field to ask for advice and have conversations with. 
  4. Prioritize: What’s important and urgent? What can wait? What’s important to others? After asking yourself these questions, establish 2 x 60 minute time slots in your day when you are on “Do Not Disturb” mode—no exceptions. Use this time to complete your priorities. 
  5. Establish Ownership: Before responding to problems, identify who owns the problem and who is responsible for it. See if your direct reports can solve the problem on their own, then circle back and check in with them on their progress. 

Remember, leadership is about clarifying issues, setting priorities, and holding others accountable. Don’t just strive to be liked, strive to be respected!

What is a VSR™?

Vivo Team Vital Statistics Report

Vivo Team uses people analytics in L&D to analyze, predict, and prescribe solutions for clients. Renée answers questions about this proprietary Vital Statistics Report (VSR™) and how it came to be. Check it out for yourself with our FREE Team Assessment! 


Q: Let’s start here, what is a VSR™?

R: Our VSR™ or the Vital Statistics Report™ is a proven method to capture behavioral insights for leaders and their direct reports. Unlike self-directed profile assessments that look at individual tendencies, the VSR™ looks at behavioral factors of skill, will, and collaboration. The report illustrates the viewpoint of the leader and their team members regarding the effectiveness of the team, soft skills, and the alignment/connection between the leader and their team.


Q: How did you come up with the idea?

R: After years of providing consulting services to CEOs and their C-Suite executives whose challenge was business strategy or aligning with one another at the executive table, we recognized stakeholder interviews and analysis was critical to targeting needs. Looking at the team as a system—or family theory, behavioral change, leader and team alignment, and the cost of lost productivity—would offer unique and innovative data collection in learning and development.


Q: How does the VSR™ help businesses?

R: The VSR™ provides leaders the insights they need to manage and lead their teams effectively—understanding which areas are strong or weak in relation to competence, motivation, collaboration, and alignment. They also gain perspectives on the measured impact of their own leader behaviors.

Team members achieve a clear understanding of where they are doing well, where they need to improve, and understand how other team members view the team—ultimately learning that behaviors cost money!

Finally, C-Suite executives gain a measurable understanding of the effectiveness of their teams and predictive knowledge re sustaining growth of leadership within the organization. The VSR™ pinpoints how they need to develop and activate their talent.


Q: What were the signs or steps that lead to the creation of the VSR™ tool?

R: Simple answer: Research, study, research, study, testing, analysis, research, and more testing!

We analyzed stakeholder interview questions, studied the language of teams, researched indicators that help teams function at a high level, and conducted a survey of North American companies. This enabled us to scale our key indicator predictions. I think we ended up with about 32.

We then deployed a second survey to narrow down our key indicator predictions and got it down to about 12. Digging more deeply within our research and hypotheses we identified 6 key indicators to measure. Next, we built out an algorithm, tested it with early-adopter clients and attendees at multiple conferences throughout North America. Finally we had it tested with the University of British Columbia (UBC).

In the process of validating our 6 key indicators, UBC’s reviewing committee recognized that through our assessments we were simultaneously collecting data on team alignment and leader effectiveness, yet neglecting to report on it.

As a company with a strong culture of interactive feedback, we implemented this new knowledge through the infographic element in each indicator, in addition to the overall team alignment section. Thank you for the prompt, UBC!


Q: So, what are the final 6 key indicators of high performance that you landed on?

R: Communication, Accountability, Interactive Feedback, Structures, Emotional Intelligence, and Cohesion.


Q: Has the VSR™ changed or progressed since the initial launch?

R: Yes! We constantly test our assumptions about the VSR™ with client feedback, peer reviewed awards, ongoing research, and product development while considering technological advancements, coach/trainer insights, and workplace developments. We continue to learn and innovate as our clients use the VSR™.


Q: Which key indicators does the VSR™ pinpoint as needing the most development among your clients?

R: In a recent poll we conducted among HR leaders, 35% said Communication was the area of development their organization needed right now, followed by Feedback at 19%. This is also the story when looking at our VSR™ data. Our average indicator scores across all clients (before training) is Feedback at 62% and Communication at 66%. A score of 80+ signifies a healthy, highly functioning team.


Thanks for chatting with us, Renée! 


I’m Skeptical

Dr. Jim,
My company is implementing a coaching program for all managers. I’m skeptical. Will this be a waste of my time?
– Hayden*


Hi Hayden,
It could be.  Some items to consider:

  • Have managers been trained how to coach people in addition to their many other responsibilities?
  • Are managers rewarded for coaching people?
  • And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is there a way to measure whether the coaching is successful or not?

At Vivo Team, we have a method that we use to identify the five requirements of a good coaching program:

  1. Evidence – Behaviors. Is there evidence of the behaviors that are going on right now that you would like improved? This allows you to take a look at what the task-specific behaviors are that you’re hoping to see – behaviors that will indicate improvement.
  2. Relevance – Deal/Goal. Is what’s being talked about in the coaching session (which should be no longer than 20 minutes) relevant to that person and the goal that they are working on, in terms of their everyday roles and responsibilities, that lead to the results of the team and the strategy of the organization as a whole.
  3. Consequence. Measurement comes into play here. For example: You were here. I see the progress here. Now it looks a lot better here. There should also be some kind of consequence in terms of whether there is an agreement about required improvement, i.e., what is the consequence if the person doesn’t move forward? A consequence – not a punishment. For example, if an employee wants to move into a supervisory role, then you might say to them: “I notice you’re doing this thing and I think that might interfere with your effectiveness as a supervisor. Your probability of moving into a supervisory position will be greater if you do these things instead,” and you list the kind of things you’d like to see, your expectations of what you’re looking for.
  4. Agreed on Action. At the end of every coaching session there should be an agreed on action with a timeline tied to it. This step requires the person who’s being coached to send their notes (that they’ve taken throughout the coaching session) to the manager, so the manager can get an idea of how well the content was understood, and the person who’s being coached gets a clearer idea because they’ve written it down.
  5. Follow-Up. This is where you look back, you go over what’s working well, what needs improvement, etc. This is very important in terms of results.

Hopefully this is helpful!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Coaching and Mentoring Remotely

Dr. Jim, 
What are some best practices for coaching and mentoring my team remotely?
– Cheryl*


Hi Cheryl,
Some basic things to start with. One: make sure you have good connection. Two: make sure people are on video–with cameras on, really important–so you can have a life-like conversation.

Make sure that everybody understands what you’re coaching about. What would they like to get out of the session? What would you like to get out of it?

Next, keep it short. I like my coaching/mentoring sessions to be no more than 20 minutes. Everything virtual these days is fast-paced, I find people have difficulty if you go over the 20 minute mark. It gets too long and there’s too much information.

I also ask that the person I am coaching writes the notes, and at the end they send them to me: what we talked about, what the agreements are, and by when. That’s a really important thing.

A structure for coaching I sometimes use, before the session we each write down: What’s working well? What needs improvement? If I’m the mentor/coach, what can I do that will help you become better at what you do? Finally, what you might do as the coachee to improve yourself.

Just imagine it’s like you’re face-to-face, that’s a good mindset to come into it with.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Team Goal Setting

Dear Dr. Jim,
Do you have any tips for team goal setting for the New Year?
– Chris*

Hi Chris,
If I was in your shoes, and I am, the number one thing that I would make clear with my team members is: what are our norms and our rules of engagement? How are we going to conduct ourselves? The things we agree on need to be unanimous because they are the rules that we’re all going to play by. Any kind of game that we play, the game of life, football, chess, whatever it is, there are rules. If you don’t follow the rules, things are going to go awry.

The second thing, I tend to like to set 90-day goals around the overarching expectations, big goals, or purpose for the team as a whole. By setting 90-day goals you can review them on an ongoing basis. If you set a goal for a whole year, it’s a really difficult thing to try to do, it’s too long a time.

So go for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, review the following: What went well? What do we need to improve on? What might we be missing? What is it that I need to do more of to help my team fulfill the goals? What would I like more of from the team? You can do this through each month up to the 90 days. Take a look at it, re-jig it depending on what’s going on, things that are happening, etc.

One of the other things to do is as a team—and this is really on the leader—if you’ve got high priority things that you need to do over the next let’s say 90 days, 120 days, 180 days, it is your responsibility to help your team stay focused on those goals and protect them from incursions from outside that may get them off track. Make sure everybody is sticking to goals. Check-in once a month, hang in there, and stay focussed.

Really important: norms and rules of engagement. Discipline. Discipline gives you freedom. That’s one of the absolute aspects of life. The more disciplined one is, the more freedom you’re going to experience. Tough to do. Hang in there, take care.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

What Are People Analytics in L&D?

73% of respondents said people analytics will be a major priority for their company over the next 5 years. (2020 Global Talent Trends Report, LinkedIn)

Vivo Team Vital Statistics Report

People analytics, also referred to as talent or HR analytics, can be broadly defined as a data-driven method of studying people at work – from processes and functions to challenges and opportunities – and using that data to make better decisions and ultimately achieving your business goals.

Focusing specifically on L&D (learning and development), the power of people analytics can be harnessed to analyze how teams and leaders are performing. By gathering the right data you can diagnose, analyze, predict, and prescribe solutions for increasing leader and team efficiency and satisfaction.

Stakeholders, executives, and boards are increasingly relying on data to demonstrate how intangible assets drive business results. People analytics in L&D can be used to clearly demonstrate how human interactions affect behaviors, ROI in dollars, engagement, and productivity.


What to know more? Check out Dr. Jim Sellner’s article:

Four Things You Need to Know About People Analytics in L&D >


Dr. Jim,
It looks like Covid-19 will continue to have an impact for some time. How can I best equip my leaders to handle all the continued changes and adaptations necessary?


Hi Trevor,
Number one is to stay in touch, keep up-to-date. Ask what’s working well, what needs improvement, what might we be missing?

Also, make sure to meet regularly in Zoom or Microsoft Teams, on video, and rotate the chairthat is the person usually responsible to organize those things. The reason for doing that is, as people are out of the office for a longer period of time, the further we get away from the centre, the fuzzier things get. So, we have a group of managers working remotely, then we have the managers people working remotely, so they all have to make sure to stay in contact.

Another tip is to keep the Zoom meetings where you are updating your team, to a maximum of 15 minutes, no longer. Otherwise people are going to feel that Zoom fatigue thing.

Also, make sure to look for, in your managers, how well they are dealing with the situation. Some people are going to like it, and some are going to struggle with it.

Finally, be aware of your managers who are working too much. Taking breaks is really important because we don’t want people to burnout. Hopefully his helps. Covid is going to continue for a while, we just need to adjust to it.
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed