The key to understanding others is to first know yourself.
Q. How do I gain leadership qualities?
KW. Leadership and communication skills evolve over time and we only develop options by learning, discussing and using what we learn.
Developing leadership and communication skills is a combination of learning about emotional intelligence, situational leadership, different aspects of communication methods and practicing what you learn.
- Create a reading list on different perspectives on leadership and different methods of communication then set out to read them and discuss what you are reading with others.
- Look for resources (books, articles, seminars, webinars) that focus on leadership and communication and absorb what you learn.
- Be curious about why different perspectives and styles may or may not work in different situations.
- Engage in discussions with other people about what you read and learn and listen carefully for their perspective on the material.
- Seek out people whose leadership style you admire and learn from their experience.
- You will gain a broader understanding of how people think and decipher information when you make a point of seeking diverse opinions and ideas. This will serve you well over time.
KW. There isn’t one thing that stands out as the most important. Learning about leadership has been an ongoing process. Maybe that is the answer, that there isn’t an endpoint.
My leadership priorities are:
- Values matter. Know what yours are and test them for sustainability.
- Resilience is non-negotiable. Be aware of what you need to do to keep yours intact and rebuild when depleted.
- Emotional Intelligence will be your best friend. Take the time and effort to strengthen yours.
- One size does not fit all. Remembering this fact is one way to improve communication skills.
Q. How do you convince a prospective employer to hire you in a leadership role when you don’t have leadership experience?
KW. It can be difficult to convince a prospective employer that doesn’t know much about us that we can deploy leadership skills when we haven’t the experience to support this. It is sometimes easier to do this when we already work in an organization and have proven ourselves and then apply for leadership roles in the organization.
New leaders in any organization have a steep learning curve and when coming into a leadership role from the outside this curve becomes steeper. Without experience to demonstrate that you have proven leadership skills your ability to present yourself as capable becomes critical.
What you can do right now is to look back over everything you have done so far in your education, work experience and volunteer work experience and identify the skills you used that relate to leadership. Ask people who worked with you and know you fairly well if they can identify what you have done that demonstrates leadership skills and add that to your own list. Then formulate how this can be implemented into a new environment and how you know those skills will work in the new environment. At the same time you are listing your developed skills you must also identify your development needs. What leadership skills have you used but can be strengthened? What leadership skills have you not used yet and what will you start doing now to develop those skills? All effective leaders are constantly in learning mode and this is a useful approach to adopt for yourself.
Be absolutely sure this is what you want to do if you obtain a leadership role with a prospective employer and that you are prepared to learn what you need to in order to be successful.
Q. Should I focus my attention more on authentic leadership rather than team leadership?
KW. Focus on developing leadership skills that apply regardless of what context you use them in.
Don’t get distracted by marketed theories on leadership.
There are skills that make good leadership possible and that is where you pay attention.
Understanding theories may be helpful in getting an overall sense of how leadership might show up in different situations but you don’t become a theory-you become a leader by having the appropriate skills.
Q. How important is training for ‘bottom tier’ employees?
KW. The question to ask about training is who needs what and why, then how is the best way to accomplish it. Rather than segregating employees by ‘tiers’ consider that succession planning requires that you identify and close gaps in available skills and that regardless of where in the organization en employee is right now they often have or are developing skills they may not be using in their current role. Peter Senge offers an interesting point of view on this that is worth reading.
Regardless of where in the organization one works training matters:
- Quality of work output
- Safety of co-workers and customers
- Upgrade or expand skills to meet changing technology
- Having a prepared workforce for succession needs
- Ensuring a common understanding of policies and practices
- Error reduction.
Q. With so many successful leadership books on the market why are so many companies poorly managed?
KW. Successful leadership books become successful through smart marketing efforts more than anything else.
Leaders or managers who run companies don’t necessarily read those books.
They may read them but disagree with them.
They may read them but not know how to apply what they read.
Books are necessarily somewhat generic in the advice. Companies are anything but therefore a book is not a source of leadership development beyond some basic ideas.
Q. Why do we talk about culture fit while recruiting people? Why does culture fit matter?
KW. Culture exists and is driven at different levels in any organization. Managers do drive culture to a significant degree. However, in each team a sub-culture exists which is essentially defined as “the way we do things around here” and this sub-culture should be recognized but not assumed to be the defining culture of the whole organization.
Changing a culture is quite challenging and can not happen in isolation or through one person. Culture change happens in phases and is partly caused by external factors such as technology advancements, globalization and shifting market realities. Culture change can be partly caused by internal factors as well. For example, a CEO may sees the need for change for the survival of the organization. Mergers and Acquisitions significantly alter cultures as well.
There are many different ways that cultures begin to shift and change and many are not obvious but nevertheless drive change.
Acknowledge that it takes collaboration, co-operation, communication and patience in abundance to effect sustainable change. Understand that the more flexibility you build into an organization the better able the organization is to adapt as needed and remain sustainable.
- Can one person change the atmosphere in a team for a period of time? Yes.
- Can one person effect true culture change in an organization in isolation? No.
Q. As an introvert, how do I become more inspiring to others?
KW. Some of these tips apply to people with a preference for extraversion as well.
- Have a clear vision and be able to articulate it clearly.
- Listen well and check assumptions.
- Observe carefully.
- Care about others as much as you care about results.
- Offer the opportunity to others to learn and grow beyond their roles and know when this is appropriate and they are ready.
- Learn to ask questions that inspire others to think, share, innovate, and create.
- Be clear when you need quiet alone time to renew your energy and be clear when you are fully available to listen or to respond to others. Remind yourself that in the absence of information from you other people will assume based on guesswork.
- Let others know who you are in regards to your communication style so that they can communicate with you more effectively and understand what to expect from you.
- And be clear what you mean by ‘introvert’-there are some weird and misleading definitions floating around about what being an introvert means. You do have to define this for others to avoid assumptions.
Q. I am going from not having a leadership role to leading a team of 8 people, how do I do this?
KW. Incorporate reading about leadership and management as part of your ongoing learning process.
Managers, whether new or experienced benefit from learning how and when to use a coaching approach and when it is more effective to use other leadership styles. This is often referred to as ‘situational leadership’ as it helps to manage various challenges that arise for all leaders.
- Listen more. Talk less.
- Seek feedback from team members.
- Asking team members what they want/need from the team leader in order to do well at their jobs.
- Admit when you don’t have the answer and what you will do to get the answer.
- Admit when you make a mistake and what you will do to correct it.
- Clear, concise, informative, 360 communication is key.
- Be clear what your goals/mandate/vision is for the team.
- Be open and upfront about your expectations of team members and what team members can expect from your leadership.
- Act on performance issues quickly, fairly, compassionately, appropriately, and ensure clarity on what the issue is rather than what your perception may be.
- Offer positive feedback quickly, fairly, appropriately, regularly.
- Find a mentor and use the mentor wisely with well thought out questions.
Books, articles and blogs by any of the following authors will set you on the right track:
- Daniel Goleman and Travis Bradberry-Emotional Intelligence.
- Marshall Goldsmith-Coaching and Management.
- Peter Senge-learning and team dynamics.
Really Important Books To Read:
Truly understanding the idea of systems in an organizational setting will make a significant difference to how well you are able to apply what you learn about leadership.
- The Art of Systems Thinking-O’Connor/McDermott (1997) but still relevant information.
- Seeing Systems, The Art of Unlocking Organizational Life-Barry Oshry
Conflict often arises from two places and as it escalates the starting point of the conflict becomes blurred.
Core values not being met
Rarely is a disagreement about surface issues. Determine what’s most important to an employee or co-worker by understanding their core values. Use the insight to help create long-lasting solutions based on what will satisfy all parties involved.
Recognize that all we all have individual lenses and filters through which we see and respond to our environments — and no two are the same. Deciphering the code and seeing things from the perspectives of others offers you a new way to understand and approach problems. We do this through effective communication, asking, listening, clarifying, withholding judgement.
Understanding the What’s In It For Me position is critical. It is absolutely essential to understand other’s motivations prior to weighing in. Be able to discuss what is important to the other person(s) involved and to share what is important to you in a calm manner will help reduce tension and reassure others that the goal is to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved.
Identify what you see in neutral, objective terms. This is where you describe the facts of the situation as objectively as possible.
What is actually happening?
When and how is it happening?
What is the other person doing or saying that you believe is contributing to the conflict?
What are you doing that may be contributing to the conflict?
Cite observable facts only.
Avoid assuming or guessing what the other person is thinking or doing. Ask, listen, clarify, reserve judgement.
Avoid ‘owning’ the other person’s behaviour.
Expect accountability from all parties.
1. What would you like to see happen?
2. What would it take for us to be able to move forward?
3. How do we get there?
4. What impact has this had on you?
5. Are you open to hearing my perspective on this?
6. What ideas do you have that will meet both our needs?
7. What is your biggest concern about this situation?
8. What is the most important to you?
Often in conflict we feel the other person(s) involved owe us an apology and it is understandable that offering an apology in such a situation seems counter intuitive. However, usually everyone involved has done something to create and sustain the conflict.
Even when we believe we are ‘right’ conflicts will stay active unless we can move off our position and be focussed on resolution. Regardless of how insignificant we see our role in a conflict someone needs to take the initiative to resolve it.
You’re not accepting the blame; you’re taking responsibility for your contribution to the situation. When someone feels defensive indicating that you see your role in the situation helps him or her step away from an entrenched position.
Tell them why it’s worth it to you to solve the conflict. This can be difficult as few people find it easy to praise and appreciate a person they disagree strongly with, but it’s a great way to move forward.
Choose your battles wisely.
Is the way we promote and define leadership today a disservice to the everyday leadership that happens without acknowledgement, without promotion, without shiny advertised rewards?
Maybe because my work focuses on leadership skills I see what seems like a never ending stream of articles and promoted events about the ‘who’ of leadership. And lately, the ‘who isn’t’ in leadership positions, seemingly primarily gender based.
Is the list of ‘who isn’t’ in leadership positions misleading? Is this because the way we define leadership insists that a title go along with it? We insist that the role be publicly acknowledged as leadership? There are countless numbers of people who quietly go about their lives providing amazing acts of leadership that are never acknowledged. And they are just fine with that.
Do you know that line about ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it-does it make a sound’? Do we focus on publicity or celebrity at the expense of recognizing true leadership? Do we truly understand what leadership is?
The response I most often hear is that publicizing leadership acts matters because it can inspire others to also take on leadership roles. Yet, it can also leave people feeling like nothing they do is ever going to be enough if their acts of leadership are not inspiring others in a publicly acknowledged way.
And that is the reason we need to recognize that quiet leadership is vitally important. We need to recognize that it is important that leadership that is not distracted by the need to ‘show up’ or celebrate in public is the foundation of what keeps us functioning.
That we must also include a definition of leadership that doesn’t have the shiny celebrity status that sells books and speeches and courses but does on a day-to-day basis make a significant and positive difference in the lives of others. We need to recognize leadership that doesn’t come with a title yet makes a very big difference in the lives of others on a regular basis.
We need to do this because it is that kind of leadership that inspires others to do what they can within their own capabilities. And to do so because contributing individual leadership to our communities, be they local or global, is the kind of leadership that will make the biggest difference to the world we live in.
Expectations & Accountability
The rise of the use of 360 reviews, emotional intelligence coaching and values based organizational cultures is likely not surprising to most executive coaches and leadership skills trainers. In our work we often encounter some common themes around communication and expectations that may come wrapped in a story that starts with lack of accountability in others.
Unspoken or unclear expectations are an all too common communication failure that derails managers at any level. The discord created when assumptions are made but not verified leads to fractured teamwork and haphazard collaboration. This derailment happens to managers that are new to the role and managers with a successful track record. It often occurs because a set of assumptions is in play that is not effectively vetted.
These assumptions generally are based on the idea that a core set of skills is already well developed or the manager would not be in the role. It also assumes that the success a manager may have had in a different organization or a different role in the same organization is going to be equally effective in the new role or organization. This can also be a factor in problematic management when a manager is required to adapt to a changing industry or technological landscape with the same set of skills that worked in the past.
Expectations and Change
- Ensure expectations are clear– It doesn’t matter how much experience someone has or how long they have been in a particular role. Take the time to clarify the goal and objectives.
- State, discuss, and agree–clearly define the standard and the measurements by which performance is assessed. Just stating the expectations isn’t enough and this is the most common error I encounter in my coaching practice when a manager is telling the stories about what frustrates them in others performance. People define things differently and we don’t know what that is until we have the discussion that unearths the difference.
- Evaluate-Many managers also believe themselves to be clear communicators, they are concise, precise and say what they think needs to be said. Their communication is generally one-way. They accept a nodding head, a ‘yes, okay’, or the employee repeating verbatim what they said, as an indication that the employee has the same understanding as they do.Too often, this isn’t an accurate assessment of understanding.
- Build A Bridge- changing expectations may lead to confusion and erratic performance. People trust what they understand. They understand what aligns with their previous experience. Start there, where their previous experience has them, then link the new with the old as a way to bridge understanding. Be patient.
- Change-When you are implementing or requiring change, signal first what the intention is, a clear rationale, and a measurable standard. Managers sometimes balk at the idea of providing a rationale for the expectations they require mistaking justification for rationale. You are not justifying expectations. You are providing the employee with a way to better understand what they are required to do with some guidance on how they are expected to do this.
- Check your Bias-we all have them. The difference between emotionally intelligent leaders and reactive leaders is that emotionally intelligent leaders accept that they do have specific biases and are able to recognize when those biases may be driving their decision making or affecting their performance. Putting your bias in its place is a key factor in developing leadership skills that others can trust. Not easy but it is doable.
People who tend to negativity and find fault often with others are sometimes unaware of how they may be creating or contributing to the problems they complain about. They may feel a sense of control in pointing out what is wrong as if it is the responsibility of others to solve all problems or conflicts. That behaviour is likely feeding an unmet need to control their environment and distance themselves from situations where they feel they have little control.
In workplace cultures that function effectively it is fine to report an issue. It is important to note that the leaders in these organizations require that to do so the person bringing the issue must also bring a viable solution. This is an additional opportunity for managers to coach employees to look at solutions rather than problems and to learn to seek information that supports their solutions, both of which are valuable skills.
When a complaint or problem focussed discussion starts, redirect everyone involved toward a solution. If needed take a break, while establishing that the discussion will resume when everyone is able to stay focussed on a solution. Negativity, frequent complaining, and criticizing are not productive nor should it be tolerated. This behaviour has a tendency to ‘creep’ outward and affects others in non-productive ways creating needless stress.
These questions help redirect discussions that get off track:
- What are you really committed to doing [to solve this problem, to achieve this goal etc.]?
- What has to be true for success to happen?
- What outcome do you want to see? Why?
- What do you need to move forward?
- What are you missing?
- What do you expect of me?
- What other ideas do you have that might help?
- What input have you gathered from others that might help?
Listen, Ask, Listen
Understanding how a person is motivated, how their personality style affects their information processing and how their emotional intelligence drives behaviour, provides a leader with guidance to influence more positive behaviour. Leaders get busy and may lose touch with what is driving behaviour in their workplace. When a client is telling me the story that relates to the topic they want to discuss I always ask them some form of ‘what the individuals involved would tell me about the situation’ and it isn’t unusual for the hesitation, then, the acknowledgement “I am not really sure” to follow the question. This is a signal that it is time to spend more time listening, asking and listening some more.
Leaders are both role models and guides to acceptable behaviour in the workplace, the more you understand what drives behaviour, your own and others, the more adept you will be at increasing productive and positive behaviour.
Many leaders I have worked with report that having to have problem behaviour discussions or to let an employee go is a very difficult decision to act on and thus delay taking this step. My own experience in this situation means I can relate to that, yet that same experience reminds me that there is a significant cost that grows exponentially, to delaying taking action. Ask yourself what the cost of the situation continuing is to the business, to the employee, to other employees, to customers and to yourself. Delaying acting on such situations results in having to deal with a much bigger and messier problem later on. Accept that acting on such a decision will always be difficult and remind yourself of the cost of not acting on it.
Use Emotional Self-Awareness
The MHS EQ-i 2.0 defines emotional self-awareness in this way: includes recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions. This includes the ability to differentiate between subtleties in one’s own emotions while understanding the cause of these emotions and the impact they have on one’s own thoughts and actions and those of others.
Leaders need to pay attention to their own emotional state. Be aware of your own triggers and be aware of a pattern of behaviour with the person complaining. When a negative pattern has already been established the leader must first communicate the change-that discussions going forward must be solution focussed and stay on track.
Develop Emotional Intelligence
It is counter-productive to simply utilize managerial skills without well-developed emotional intelligence skills. Cognitive, social and emotional intelligence skill development are all necessary components of effective leadership. The ability to see any workplace situation through the perspective of others and to step outside ones own reactions aids in reaching better solutions. Learning to respond [objective, solution focussed] to situations rather than reacting [firefighting] allows leaders to create positive and productive workplace environments. Removing negativity and problem focussed criticism reduces stress and negativity creep.
Make Culture Count
Strong, sustainable and productive organizations deliberately create a culture that is defined by a clear set of values. Values drive decisions, create organizational culture and reduce uncertainty. Leaders must deal with a negative employee quickly or other employees may view them as condoning bad behaviour or as a lack of respect for the employees who find themselves subjected to this behaviour. How employees and customers view the business is significantly influenced by the behaviours that are condoned, supported or allowed to continue unchecked. To retain the culture that created and maintains the success of the organization dealing in a timely and effective manner with negative behaviour is critical. A cohesive understanding of the values and culture throughout the organization, regardless of size, also helps in times of change, especially during growth periods, to reduce uncertainty. If you are experiencing negativity, angry outbursts and hyper-criticism in your organization, changing this will not happen overnight. Patience, commitment and determination are required to shift the behaviour to a more positive approach which also means the leader needs to keep their own emotional well-being intact.
Leaders who are recognized as getting the best results from those around them are referred to as Resonant Leaders in Emotional Intelligence language. Increasingly we are seeing evidence that focusing on the strengths of others garners better results in terms of real and sustainable change than looking to ‘fix’ perceived weaknesses.
How did you feel after one of the reviews that mostly recognized the good stuff you accomplished but had one area to ‘improve’ for the next review period? The nature of almost every performance review system I have seen in my experience has that requirement to note an area for improvement.
Now, of everything that was written and discussed during your reviews, what became the thing you focused on? What left you with that feeling that you might never quite get ‘there’, wherever there may be? What detracted from the glow of a job well done in the days following that review? When I ask clients, friends and colleagues this question, inevitably it is the negative, need to fix this, data point that comes to mind. It evokes frustration, a sense of being unfairly evaluated, and a lingering sense that one might never reach their career goals. Alternatively it can also leave one feeling that it is the leader who just doesn’t recognize good performance or is incapable of sharing positive recognition. This applies in our lives outside of work and school as well so the implications are significant.
If the research suggesting that negative emotions are stronger than positive emotions is accurate, and I believe it is, then it makes sense that we over emphasize the positive to balance the scales. Yet, if one ‘improvement’ note on an otherwise positive review can overshadow the strengths recognized, how will a leader be a resonant leader, encourage sustainable change and still ensure they are reducing performance concerns? Sounds like a dilemma stated that way but like any such situation most of us can think of leaders in our lives that managed it.
Will you join me in looking at ways to create our own Resonant Leadership, find sustainable ways to create change we want to create, and begin to spend more time recognizing the strengths of others and less on the elusive ‘fix’?
Two questions related to this idea, one personal and one community based:
- How might we handle performance issues without losing the positive to the negative?
- What do we need to consider in the Digital Era, when ‘outing’ the negative can be both positive and negative?
In July we looked at learning from this perspective: “What if you agreed to only take on learning something new if you identify it as something that you are genuinely curious about and that has not drawn you in by suggesting you have a flaw to fix? What if you paid attention to how great you already are and found new energy?”
Emotional Intelligence is something I have been genuinely curious about for a long time now and this summer I decided that it was time to add the EQ-i certification both to satisfy my own curiosity and to offer this assessment choice to my clients.I believe that adding the EQ-i to our services is very beneficial for individuals and teams in understanding how best to achieve our goals.
I am excited to be able to offer this to my clients both existing and new in late September 2014.
What are you considering for your new learning now? Is it true to the idea that it fits something you are genuinely curious about?
You are already great!
The myth of the ‘quick-fix’ offerings can be left behind so we use our energy to maximize our capabilities.
Why we are drawn to these programs, articles and books?
What happens when we repeatedly indulge in this type of activity?
Click-bait, the titles designed to draw us in, often succeed even when we know the content is unlikely to live up to the title. Many digital social sites now resemble a cyclone of self-help mantras offering a quick fix to whatever we think we need. Many of these posts are designed to suggest that we have flaws we don’t even know about and others zero in on perceived problems with the suggestion that most of us are operating at sub-optimal levels.
Life-long learning is very beneficial to resilience and to helping us achieve what we want in life. However, this preponderance of quick fix, self-help information heavily trafficked with click-bait titles may be counter-productive to those goals.
Do you remember what it feels like to learn something new that created a sense of excitement for you? When we seek knowledge or help from the perspective of being excited about adding something new to our lives we gain benefits in many ways. When we seek knowledge or help because we believe we are not enough we tend to reduce the benefit gained. This is because we are using energy focused on what we are not rather than maximizing the truly great abilities we already have. Focussing on our existing skills and abilities helps us use our energy wisely and to focus on the priorities that matter.
What if you agreed to only take on learning something new if you identify it as something that you are genuinely curious about and that has not drawn you in by suggesting you have a flaw to fix? What if you paid attention to how great you already are and found new energy?
LinkedIn feels like a one-stop ‘self-help’ station lately. So many, “do this, don’t do this, why we do this” articles. I am thinking about a “we are pretty great just the way we are” post for this week. What do you think-does that sound like a good way to start the summer season? Our personal development is a good thing, it helps us in many aspects of our lives and comes about through different methods. Sometimes, we need to take a break from it all and simply enjoy how great we really are already.
Let’s take a look at just how great we already are and how focusing on our winning ways can help us learn more effectively.
What if you only focused on what is great about you and the people you interact with for the next week or month? Appreciating what we are already capable of, how well we manage our lives, participate in our communities and in general be a pretty amazing human is an important aspect of life.
These days we see plenty of prompts to ‘detox’ from technology, ‘detox’ our diets, and ‘detox’ our relationships. All this ‘detox’ advice could leave us feeling a little like we will never quite measure up. How about a ‘detox’ from negativity, from the relentless pursuit of perfection, from the stress of being surrounded by messages that suggest we are so flawed we must stay on the treadmill of ‘detox and improvement’? We can chat more about the idea of developing through a more positive and sustainable lens in future posts, today is all about recognizing how much we have already achieved.
Everyday in my work and in my community I meet really great people who contribute so much to my own capabilities and enjoyment of life. When I think about all the interactions that made a long lasting, measurable difference it is always when the focus is on the strengths each person brings and shares to any effort. In Flourish [2011, fP, A Division of Simon & Schuster], Martin Seligman offers insight into why focusing on character strengths help us bring “pleasure, engagement and meaning” to our lives. While we may not want or need to follow the prescribed method in the book simply agreeing to spend time focussing on our own and others strengths offers us the opportunity to explore what might happen.
Rather than an inventory of what we need to ‘improve’ for the summer season maybe we could do an inventory of what we are really good at. For several years I assisted people in creating resumes for job applications on a volunteer basis. When I think back to some of the conversations it still resonates with me how difficult many of us find it to speak about what we do well and what, about our interactions with others, is positive. The seemingly endless articles on sites such as LinkedIn telling us how we get so much wrong doesn’t really help us get more comfortable with seeing our strengths either.
Linda Chu, from Out of Chaos http://www.outofchaos.ca reminds her clients that saying ‘yes’ to something means saying ‘no’ to something else in her presentation Focussing on What Matters Most, how to get more out of your time, touching on an area many struggle with. I believe that if we are able to more often focus on our strengths that we may find the yes/no dilemma may start to become less of a struggle.
There is a significant if oft overlooked difference between learning in a developmental process and learning as a quick fix or self-help process. The former can leave you feeling more confident, resilient and satisfied in life. The latter can create a sense of ongoing anxiety, increase stress levels and leave us thinking that perhaps we are never going to quite be enough.
Today’s post is really about some changes and updates to the Evolve Executive Coaching services and affiliations. In the last quarter of 2013 I thought very deeply about what Evolve Executive Coaching will accomplish in the next several years and this led to the new items I am sharing today.