I’m told that one quote preachers try to live by is, “If it’s foggy in the pulpit, it’s cloudy in the pew.” In other words, as the leader and communicator, if you’re unclear about any part of your message, it’s a sure bet everyone else is as well.
You don’t have to be a preacher to risk setting unclear expectations. If you’re responsible for performance outcomes of any kind, unclear expectations could be your biggest kryptonite. In fact, if the expectations you set are unclear, you force members of your team to work as much as three times as hard.
This post is an excerpt from my new book Ignite Your
Leadership Expertise, which is available on Amazon.com.
Recently I had an idea for one of my corporate leadership programs that has over 6,000 leaders enrolled. In an attempt to make the program communications more personal, I included an insightful reflection one of the participants “Mark” had shared at the bottom of the email message. I didn’t have to wait long for a response, but I was surprised who it came from. Within minutes an email reply appeared from our company president. He had cc’d me in a reply directly to Mark and included Mark’s entire executive chain of command. Our president began by thanking him for his engagement in the program and leadership in his function and ended with a “proud to have you on the team!”
I don’t know anyone busier than our company president, but he still found time to give a personal kudos. I don’t know Mark personally, but I bet he went home walking on air with a story to share with his family over dinner. “That was really fun to be a part of,” I thought. “I want to do this again.”
One of my favorite quotes of all-time comes from the 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson, who observed, “The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.”
Each of us are “single human beings.” We qualify. Your applause is of great consequence, and so is mine.
Celebrating the success of others is definitely a “nice” thing to do, but if we think a little deeper, it has some real benefits for us as well.
If you have goal to grow as a leader, you’re on the right track. If you have a plan of how to get there, you’re doing even better. But where have you put your focus?
Many leaders choose to focus their development energy on areas they think (or have been told) are their weak areas. But is that really the best strategy?
If you’re going to invest the effort into becoming a stronger leader, it pays to make sure your focus is in the right place.
One of the most distasteful activities leaders face is giving negative feedback. The reason? When done well, it can still ruffle feathers. When done poorly, it’s a disaster. No one likes engaging in activities that often aren’t appreciated.
Giving great feedback isn’t easy. It’s tricky, it’s not much fun and to top it off, none of us were born knowing how to give great feedback. We have to learn how over time – often the hard way.
If you’ve struggled with giving feedback before, here are some tricks to get you pointed in the right direction quickly.
What comes to mind when you think about leadership responsibility? Taking charge? Casting vision? Setting strategy? Getting results? Every time I get to ask this question in a workshop setting, the list gets long very quickly.
Let’s make it more personal with this sobering question: are the people you lead better or worse off because of you? What is the experience of each person on the other end of your leadership?
Since there are so many leadership responsibilities, let’s focus on just a few that have enormous implications for the people in our wake.
“How can I get my leaders to do a better job coaching their teams?”
That’s a question I frequently field from the executives and HR partners I support. I hope you’ve asked that question for yourself as well, because it means developing your team is high on your radar. I’ve shared the key skills of coaching as well as my favorite coaching conversational model GROW. That said, a new question arises, which is when should you coach and when shouldn’t you?
If you get this question wrong, you’re likely to either confuse your team or neglect to use your coaching skills to their maximum effectiveness. But if you get it right, you’ll grow as a coach and so will your employees.
Here are three situations when you should not coach and five situations when you should.
The new three-part video series Jump-Start Your Employee Engagement has now launched. Join communication expert Josh Erickson and myself for three ideas in three days – all in four minutes or less. This video series will only be available for a limited time – click here to enroll.
How do people learn to be leaders?
That’s the question leadership consultant and thought leader Robert J. Thomas answered at a leadership academy event I recently helped organize. Speaking from his book Crucibles of Leadership, Thomas demonstrated that simply taking a course on leadership would do little to transform leadership abilities. In fact, knowledge plays only a small role in a leader’s effectiveness, despite the high price often invested in higher education.
Here is a sample of the elements that transform ordinary people into great leaders.
We hear so much about coaching these days. Leaders need to coach more. Employees need more coaching. High performers need coaching. Low performers need coaching. As leaders, how can we know we’ve done enough? And what does a quality coaching conversation actually look like in action?
Over the years, I’ve adopted a simple definition of coaching: “To coach is to develop another person by listening and asking questions to clarify ideas and commit to action.”
If you look closely, you’ll notice five key characteristics. I’ve listed each of them out below:
There’s incredible power in language. Words don’t merely convey ideas, they can change the course of history.
The words you use as a leader matter too. Here are some simple but powerful phrases that set great leaders apart from the rest.
In the 16th century, political consultant (for lack of a better term) Niccolò Machiavelli’s works were published in the controversial manuscript The Prince – which is still in print today. In it, Machiavelli shared his theories on how a ruler could maintain control of his province – especially when gaining new subjects through military or political conquest. Essentially, it’s a dictator’s best practices manual.
Dictatorship is alive and well in the world of global politics, but it’s a not-so-subtle organizational management style as well. So if you want to lead like a dictator, here are some unfortunate suggestions for you, including some from Machiavelli. And if you prefer a more serving style of leadership, note the contrasts.
What happens after a big win? For all the focus (and press) directed at planning and executing, what comes next?
Whether your team has achieved a significant goal or is looking to get back on track after a shake-up, here are some basic ways to get everyone back on course.
Just about all of us are Monday morning quarterbacks when it comes to leadership. Everyone has an opinion. But how informed are those opinions, especially if we’ve never been there before?
Here’s the thing: if you wait until you receive a leadership role to get a leadership education, you may be waiting for a long time and you may not last long once you get there. We all need a leadership development plan that includes work experiences, formal training, networking and self-study. But don’t overlook the easiest, cheapest and most accessible one of all: observation.
Here are eight observations to make of the leaders around you.