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.
I had a chance to work with a couple new vendors recently. The contrasts couldn’t be more stark. One is a time-tested and respected brand and product. Another is a semi-recent start-up with an innovative concept. But the differences didn’t end there. Right from the get-go, one required some initial planning and then essentially ran itself. The other became a second job to actively manage. One required a few decisions that could be made quickly. The other required many complicated and lengthy decision points. One had a simple system with self-service reporting. The other had a complicated system that required customized reporting.
In many ways the products were comparable, but it wasn’t long before I started caring less about results and more about my own self-preservation.
The main issue wasn’t quality or customer service. It was simplicity. From top to bottom, one was simple, the other was complex.
In today’s marketplace, simplicity is currency.
As you look to increase your leadership effectiveness, make sure simplicity is part of your equation. Here are a few tips to get you started.
“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.
Over a decade ago I received a DVD of a past Chick-fil-A franchisee seminar. As I watched, the late founder Truett Cathy took the stage to deliver his opening remarks. They weren’t what I expected. He opened by saying, “If any of you has something against someone in this room, I want you to make it right.” Then he promptly left the stage and approached someone in the audience for a conversation. After an initial silence, almost every person in the audience got up and found someone to talk to. Soon the whole place was abuzz for quite sometime.
Watching the seminar footage, I couldn’t help but muse, “You just don’t see that every day….” It was just so… different. Contrast this with a scenario that played out a few years back on my team. I had received some feedback on a project that I didn’t agree with and had defended myself a little too aggressively. The next day, I decided I owed my team an apology. Even so, I remember pacing in my cubical for several minutes before I could muster up the will to admit I’d been wrong.
What is it about apologizing that is so difficult? And what makes it so important – in terms of cultural capital, influence and effectiveness?
Here are my observations.
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.
When I think about what makes a great boss, one of my first items is someone who really knows what they are doing – a true expert. And when I think about what makes a true expert, in my mind it’s always an older person, someone with sage-like wisdom who has been where I am… but a long time ago.
If you’ve worked for any length of time, you know that’s just not realistic.
I’ve managed folks who were older than me in the past and recently finished an assignment with my first younger boss – a great experience for me. If you’re younger than the folks you lead, keep these best practices in mind.
I recently conducted a needs assessment for a senior executive group and was surprised when one of the highest rated development needs was stress management. The topic came up again in training discussion when another executive group expressed a high desire to include stress management on the list. I guess I assumed in a climate where everyone was expected to delivery more with less (as is the case in most places) the topic would seem too “soft” to them.
Now I’m thinking maybe they were on to something. Instead of ignoring the stress, they’re trying to be proactive about it. If the business reality won’t change anytime soon, maybe we can better adapt to it.
Napoleon Bonaparte claimed, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
Hope is a strangely human enigma. It can’t be handled but it can be shared. It can’t create anything on its own but it can pave the way for new accomplishments.
Whether you’re celebrating a new beginning (like the start of a new year), caught up in new adventure or struggling to maintain the status quo, hope plays a key role. Not only must leaders be positive (no one wants to follow a pessimist!), they must deal in hope that can be felt and transferred.
Here are several ways to grow and share your hope.
Years ago I served as a consultant to two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked closely together. At one, the head accountant was a friendly woman who very much enjoyed her job. But on several occasions, there were questions regarding the way the numbers added up and we had to work together to find and fix the errors. One day the president of the other NGO expressed a need for a new accountant and I casually suggested he consider the accountant from the first NGO. He rolled his eyes and commented that her lack of expertise would be a liability on his team.
I’ve thought about that scenario quite a few times since then. There have been occasions where I was clearly out of my league at work. As a young consultant, I struggled so much with the ambiguity of my role that I was frequently unable to sleep at night. I didn’t know what I didn’t know – and worse, I didn’t know who I could ask for help since I was expected to perform anyway. I didn’t want to be like the woman in the first NGO: a friendly and enthusiastic person who couldn’t be taken seriously as a professional.
Expertise isn’t the only critical factor in getting a job done, but it certainly is one of them. In its absence, ideas can’t “tip,” planning gets skewed and results suffer.
Not all of us are required to be the ultimate expert on any given day, but some of us are. Regardless, any expertise you can acquire will go a long way. Here are six ways to build your expertise – regardless of your field.
How do you get your big idea across in the age of information? A quick keyword search can provide anyone with much more data than they could ever hope to use. What’s the secret to getting your idea past all the clutter and into the land of reality?
It’s been well over a decade since Malcolm Gladwell published his bestseller The Tipping Point. In it, he explains that it’s not the quality of the idea itself, but the quality of three key ingredients that cause the idea to tip. If you haven’t read the book, below are the items (hint: they’re people) as well as a few strategies to employ.