Ask Yourself..Are You a Credible Leader?
I heard about Tom through key stakeholders and some of his team.
Tom was a top-level leader; he was sharp, rather humorous, a technically adept quick study, and very good at corporate politics in his specialized C-suite role.
However, what Tom didn’t know was that most of his team had lost respect for him as a leader; they didn’t believe half of what he said and no longer trusted him.
As a result, team morale was at an all time low, they spent much of their time cross-checking the many stories he told, second-guessing his every move and gossiping about Tom’s life outside of work.
Leadership credibility is formed whether you are conscious about it or not. Being believable and trustworthy are critical success factors to create effective, high performing teams.
After all, who works hard for someone they have no respect for, can’t believe or trust?
6 Bad Habits
Lets look at some common bad habits that erode and damage credibility with your team. Download a free copy of our poster on How To Be a Credible Leader to help avoid these.
In my experience, the following are the most common death knells to leadership credibility – all of which Tom was guilty of:
1. Taking credit – Tom was known for using other people’s ideas as his own.
If you haven’t done the work, you don't get the credit. Full stop. You ARE responsible for the output of your team’s work but when you take all the credit for it, you erode trust and lose credibility.
One of the best leaders I worked with once told me “credit is always for the giving, never the taking “– what a simple and effective way to lead!
2. Being clued out – Tom struggled with addressing performance or behavioural issues in the team or with key stakeholders; he delegated that to others.
As the leader, it is your job (and your job only) to deal with performance or behavioural issues on your team. Be attentive to these issues and don’t turn a blind eye; it negatively impacts everyone.
What also gets overlooked is bad behaviour from stakeholders the team works with day in and day out. Good leaders pay attention to difficult relationships; they find common ground and tackle issues early and head on.
Every team member is watching how tuned-in you are to people who impact them and HOW you handle these delicate situations matter.
3. Holing up in your office or disappearing – Tom’s team said he disappeared a lot and when he was in, his door was always closed.
Yes, you have work to do and meetings to take, but you are a leader. When your door is closed, or you are missing all the time, you send a direct message that you are not available.
Make a point of checking in throughout the week to show genuine interest in the team. It’s these moments where connection and good relationships are formed.
If possible schedule ‘open door’ time and let the team know you are open to interruption for important matters.
4. Avoiding difficult discussions – Tom read lots of leadership books, he frequently talked about candour and 'being open' to the team; yet when it came to addressing an ‘elephant in the room’, he remained silent.
A great leader steps into the discomfort because they care about each and every individual on their team; they know feedback is important and good for development.
When you duck the issues, you demonstrate that you don’t care. To coin a great quote from an awesome client… “Candour is caring”.
5. Failing to communicate – There were many unanswered questions with Tom’s team. Withholding information, not responding or failing to explain why changes were happening caused tremendous angst and caused rumours to start.
It is said that when people don’t know what is happening, they make it up. Quite literally assumptions begin to flow and we draw conclusions from anything unusual – why is that person in the office, why haven’t we heard what is going on, why was he working late, did you notice [insert obscure ideas].
When change is afoot, it is best to share what you can as soon as you can, even if it’s ‘I don’t know, yet, but I’m going to find out and keep you posted’. Just make certain you follow through!
6. Being phoney – No one on Tom’s team felt he was very genuine; he tried to make himself out to be a bit too perfect; at least that is what they all perceived.
You don’t have to be a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) expert to read sincerity in body language; we all can see when you’re faking it a mile away.
Some leaders mistakenly feel they need to portray a certain image of themselves to be revered by others. Unfortunately it can come off as cold and calculated, leaving the team suspicious about who you really are and what you really think. No one trusts a faker.
Be sincere, straightforward and humble enough to let your team know you need their help and you don’t know everything. Be the kind of person we all want to work with…the real you.
The story above is 100% true (name wasn’t Tom though). In fact, there are at least a half a dozen ‘Tom’s” and “Tomasinas” I’ve worked with who have much the same habits.
Sadly most are terribly unaware how they are perceived.
So What You Can Do - Self Assess
If you think your credibility could be in question, I have good news for you. You can practice How to Be a Credible Leader and put an end to bad habits immediately.
Additionally, take time to self assess:
Ask yourself these three questions regularly to examine how you’re doing.
Next, ask others. Consider asking your team the same questions during your 1:1 meetings. Listen closely to ‘how’ they answer, look for clues to what needs to improve.
What to Watch For
No amount of excuses or blame can undo the bad reputation you create, whether you like it or not. HOW you follow through and ‘show up’ has a direct reflection on your leadership credibility.
Word spreads quickly when your leadership credibility is in question.
Other departments hear about it, potential recruits avoid applying to your team and you lose your most valuable team members. Clients (internal or external) pick up on your habits too, they question your sincerity, work around you and avoid interactions or worse, it can cost you business or promotion and sometimes even your job.
Don’t be like Tom
We've created a free poster for you on How to Be a Credible Leader!
Download your own copy today!
To avoid losing credibility, become more self-aware, step into the uncomfortable to learn more about how you are perceived – it takes an open mind and a vulnerable spirit to check your blind spots. Consider working with a leadership coach who can help you explore this further, when you’re ready.
Let a positive leadership reputation precede you with every interaction, be true to your word, show up, be real, communicate as much as you can, and give credit as a practice. Make these your regular habits and you’ll be well on your way to strengthening your credibility.
Are you curious about what your team really thinks about you?
Most times they will open up to third party when discussions are conducted in full confidence. Please keep me in mind if you’d like a trusted leadership consultant to dig a little deeper with you and your team!
Hey did you hear? Prime Minister Trudeau admitted there was an ‘erosion of trust’ occurring in his office; he was unaware of it (based on what came out in the recent Canadian justice committee inquiry). Imagine his disappointment to find that people did not feel comfortable coming to him with concerns.
Well sadly, he is not alone, many leaders realize a little late that there are issues or an underground culture (where they are excluded) in their workplace. It may not come to light until exit interviews, employee surveys or worse, formal complaints.
There may be hints that you're being left out, despite having an 'open door policy' :
You already know that it is the leader's responsibility to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to be forthright and candid. But to maintain the openness, your team need to know:
The good news is there are things you can do to create more of a trusting environment where people will keep you in the loop!
7 Ways to Develop More Openness & Trust
1. Show You Are Open to Different Views
Encourage your team to bring forward a different perspective than yours, welcome it... often. Why not hold meetings where you deliberately poke holes in plans; promoting debate to differ and discuss deliberately. Hone in on healthy scepticism focused at making things better.
Caution: Your role would be to probe, ask for more information and demonstrate interest vs convince them of your way.
2. Really Listen
Practice active listening by reframing what you hear when people open up in meetings or within the office, illustrating that you understand their point. Resist inferring your own ideas or disagreement which may shut them down or cause them to do an 'end run' around you.
Caution: These are times for you to listen and encourage, not squash!
3. Be Interested in Them as People
Get to know each of your team members more personally. A great way to develop good relationship is understanding where people come from, what their family situation is like and what they do on the weekends. Show that you care about them by celebrating their work anniversary and/or birthdays (with permission).
Caution: You are not their best friend, be interested but not involved in their life!
4. Lose the Labels
Avoid putting a label on anyone. Some mistakenly tag people as a troublemaker, not a team player, or loud-mouth when they are a vocal team member. Speaking negatively about others creates a lack of safety to speak up. It also appears disrespectful and judgemental when overheard.
Caution: Careful not to name-call bosses, clients or your peers either
5. Participate in a 360 Feedback Assessment
Show your team that you are interested in what they think about you as a leader. Then openly and humbly share insights that you discover. Be sure to say thank you! If you've already had one, reflect on what you learned? How healthy is communication in your workplace?
Caution: Do not negate any feedback by assuming you know who it came from!
6. Be Available
I hear 'my boss is too busy to meet' all the time these days! Don't be that person. Show your people you make them a priority. Protect meeting times in your schedule without cutting them short. Put your phone down, leave the computer alone and don’t bring either along when meeting with them. When you say your door is open it means leave the door figuratively and literally open and that you will MAKE time for them!
Caution: Your actions speak louder than words!
7. Remain Professional at All Times
Remember, as a leader, you are being watched by your team. This means paying attention to how you act both inside and outside of work hours. Avoid sharing awkward personal information and negative opinions about the company – these can erode trust or repel working relationships.
Caution: If you go out for drinks with your team, careful you don’t drink too much!
Don't get caught off guard! To avoid hearing about issues after the fact, keep working on the kind of environment that is inclusive and open to differences. This is what builds a strong healthy team! The more you listen, learn and demonstrate your own trust, the more likely they’ll include you in their triumphs and their troubles.
Reach out to me if you struggle with a team that has cut you out. I offer a number of custom solutions to help teams to reconnect and open up!
Image by @raw_pixel CC0 Unsplash
These days, with all the tools we have available, we are far more connected and capable of staying in touch than ever before!
So don’t you find it a bit ironic that in today’s workplaces, lack of communication remains one of the biggest issues for employees? Regardless of the industry or size of company!
Here’s the thing - if your team doesn’t feel heard, they don’t understand the direction of the company, never get constructive feedback, or they don’t think you care about them as a person, then why would they give you their best work?
Every one of those ‘misses’ can be remedied simply by taking steps to form a better connection with your team.
It’s More Than Words
Communication, when it does occur, may be missing the mark altogether! Between abbreviated texts and messaging, overwhelming volume of email or the ever brief, on-the-fly meetings these days, communication and connection is deteriorating, especially at work.
To further complicate our ability to communicate is the fact that most of us hear (absorb) less than 10% of what is actually spoken!
According to the Mehrabian Theory we attribute more meaning of a message through body language, facial expression, tone and pace of the conversation than that of the actual words voiced – hence why texts, messages, email and even phone messages can be misconstrued!
So ask yourself - how likely is it that YOU are communicating most effectively for your message to be received the way you intend it?
Using the scenario below, I’ll demonstrate my 7-step method to build rapport so you can improve every interaction!
Scenario - Disconnected Team
Team members, who report to your managers, have told you they feel disconnected lately. They claim that most one-on-one meetings with their manager(s) are being cancelled, and when they do happen it’s a quick download of one-way directives of what to get done, versus real conversation.
As a result, they feel excluded in the overall success of the department and don’t see the opportunity to learn, grow or develop. You sense a few are looking to leave the group or worse, the company.
You believe manager’s (on your team) need to involve their teams in problem solving vs giving orders and begin having development-focused one-on-one’s with each person (at all levels), at least once a quarter to rebuild a positive workplace.
What Not to Do
Even though it may seem the quickest ways, please don’t just call a meeting of your direct reports to tell them to start having one on one meetings focusing on development.
Just like their team members, they too will tune out being given a directive and may even take it out on their teams for speaking up, further complicating the problem.
7 Step Method For Communicating To Connect
While these steps may seem lengthy, it actually takes only a couple of minutes to practice and tailor to your circumstance.
Here are the steps:
1. Prepare - consider your audience and check yourself. Think about what is important to you and why, and how might they view it?
2. Create a ‘safe’ environment – remember to praise in public, criticize in private
3. Lead with open-ended questions – question for clarity about their view of the situation and gather their input
4. Meet them ‘where they are at’, before diving in – use their viewpoint to build on. Putting yourself in their shoes shows you’ve heard them (it also demonstrates empathy)
5. Take time to establish a personal connection – consider the challenges they speak about and build rapport by showing you understand how they feel, validate their perspective (this is not a feedback sandwich)
6. When delivering candid feedback, be tough, not mean – show that you genuinely care about them as a person and expect a change to occur
7. Be clear, direct and provide specifics
Remember: Its All About Them
The same steps will work for any topic, particularly powerful for sensitive issues; the key is paying close attention, hearing their perspective, demonstrating you want their success and being clear about the outcomes that are needed.
Communication serves as the foundation for a positive employee experience for all of us. As a leader when you demonstrate support both through your words AND non-verbal interaction, your team will feel more valued and heard.
Taking time to get to know others and developing an understanding of their communication styles provides a platform to connect on a more personal level. This also creates stronger, more cohesive working relationships where difficult subjects can be discussed and dealt with efficiently.
Help Is Available
To gather insights on your team’s communication styles there are a variety of tools available (ie assessments, questioning techniques) feel free to reach out if you need help to find the right approach to connect and communicate in your workplace.
Recently, a client (we’ll call her Yvonne) reached out to me for assistance with a ‘know-all’ on her team. We had such great success improving their working relationship and camaraderie on the team that I decided to pass along some tips!
Many business leaders I talk to grapple with rebels or difficult personality types. Difficult people can test your every-last-nerve, yet once you figure out how to curb their behaviour by communicating effectively, you may discover a competitive advantage on your team.
Over the next few blogs, I will give you tips on how to handle some of the most draining types of people:
First up is the case of Alan – The Know All (TKA)
Alan – The Know All (TKA)
Alan was an effervescent, spirited, high-energy team member, who was very smart. He drove people crazy with his need to be right all the time and his non-verbal, superior behaviour in meetings (like eye-rolling, arms crossed, dismissive noises).
Trouble was that most days Yvonne found herself doing damage control when people complained Alan was difficult to work with. Alan spent all of their 1:1 meetings complaining about others who were unresponsive or uncooperative, inhibiting him from accomplishing his work and expecting Yvonne to set THEM right.
As a result, Yvonne found Alan to be a drain on her time and energy. Due to the culminating behaviour issues, Yvonne seriously questioned whether to keep him on the team despite the great work that Alan did.
After Yvonne filled me in on the many issues, it became obvious that Alan did not build rapport with others and his smug behaviour rubbed people the wrong way. So we set out a plan for Yvonne to begin providing Alan with meaningful and actionable feedback, immediately.
Alan fell into the TKA-The Know All profile:
The Know All profile (exhibits many of these traits)
The key to leading a TKA is to gain trust by showing them you are ‘in their corner’ but challenging them directly on their behaviour so they can see the impact of their current approach.
Caution to leading a TKA – always have your facts and data in order, never threaten or corner. Pick your battles wisely; focus on behaviour that gets in their way of success vs. labeling the person as a problem.
The benefit to having a TKA on your team – this type of person has tons of relevant information to draw upon, they are hard workers, creative problem solvers, decisive, action-oriented, have high standards, are adaptive, and are highly productive.
The root of Alan’s problems was that he made others feel dumb or undervalued – the more he touted his smarts, the more others did not want to work with him. They resented his approach because he never took time to value their input, he didn't create a relationship, he would talk too fast, not ask questions and express how frustrated he was in a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues.
So What Happened?
Once Yvonne began providing more directive feedback, Alan started making positive changes in his approach. Fortunately Alan knew Yvonne genuinely cared about his success and even though it was difficult to hear, he soon realized he came on too strong and decided to take her advice.
In a few short weeks, Yvonne began to hear from others that Alan was less combative and appeared more team oriented and helpful. Yvonne is now less stressed and has improved her own skills for giving AND receiving feedback.
So Difficult People or Competitive Edge?
For every difficult type of person, there are ways to connect to capitalize on the strengths they bring while correcting undesirable behaviour. It can take a bit of work on your behalf but building and encouraging diverse perspectives can be a competitive edge for a high performing team!
If you are tired of struggling to deal with a difficult person on your team (or even your boss) and you’d like to know how to better communicate with them, send me an email. I have many more strategies that work!
Do you know anyone similar to Alan? I'd be interested to hear what strategies work for you to manage their behaviour or if you have another difficult style you struggle with - please leave me a reply below!
Sign up for my blog updates (subscribe in the right-hand column) or bookmark the blog page. The next post one will feature: TNT – The Blow It Up Type – think of a ‘Mike Holmes’ like worker who sees many things that need fixing and thrives on change yet balks at routine work.
Photo Credit @ergepic from Pexels Creative Commons CC0
Watching political leaders wrangle for position, launch smear campaigns and talk trash about each other sure fires up the leadership coach in me. Grown adults identified as so-called “leaders” who choose bully tactics, intimidation and demeaning others as their campaign strategy gets to me every. single. time!
The Canadian province where I live is currently embroiled in a smear-filled provincial election fraught with insults and put-downs; it is such a miserable and appalling ‘gong show’ - wish I could bong the gong to put an end to this conduct!
I am not naïve enough to think anyone could simply fix what seems to be wrong with such political behaviour overnight but I hope I live long enough to witness a group of leaders stand and face the masses, clearly state their position, demonstrate what they believe in (without being wishy-washy) and then once elected, set a concrete plan working to get it done in a professional “principled” fashion.
In my books, everyone in a leadership position, regardless if they’re running for office or managing a team of 2-20,000 people can be a better leader by leading with principles.
My Kind of Principled Leadership
Note: Seeking, receiving and acting on feedback are skills many of us need to develop further. If you have yet to receive constructive criticism from your people about YOU, it is a good sign you have room to grow. If you have received it, consider it a great gift! Now, how did you address it?
The Core Principles in Action
One senior level corporate leader I worked with (Katrina McGee….yah, not her real name) truly exemplified the core principles I look for as a Principled Leader.
Such a pleasure to work with. I recall one time we were working on a very sensitive and difficult message about a pending reorganization (sadly, one of many). It was a very stress filled period for her. She painstakingly agonized about every change to the department and fretted over each and every word choice because she personally felt the impact of the tough decisions being made – people truly mattered to her.
We were working in her office around 9pm at night, long after others had gone home, when we heard the cleaner in the outer office area singing quite passionately to himself with headphones on. He passed by her door a couple of times - clearly he hadn’t noticed us but we did him. Instead of getting annoyed at the “I hope he buys you flowers” being belted out, she asked if we could take a quick break.
She collected up the garbage from around her room and grabbed a fresh bottle of water from her sideboard and went to the outer office. She startled him as she emptied her bin into his cart and then took a moment to chat, giving him the bottle of water and acknowledged his singing prowess. It was obvious they had spoken before as they shared a little chuckle before she returned to the office.
You see, she treated everyone with that level of respect and consideration - from the cleaner to every member of her global team to her C-suite colleagues. So genuine was her care for everyone that I can honestly say anybody who ever had the opportunity to work with her would go to the end of the earth to support her agenda. A master at Principled Leadership I would say!
I know most of you want to be that kind of leader too. Here are some of the core principles that make all the difference to the teams who look to you as a leader:
Principled Leaders put the interests of people first. Their every action sends a message that everyone is equal and their ideas and opinions matter. It doesn’t mean they will do everything people want, but they ensure their teams feel heard and acknowledged.
Respect is Earned
Principled Leaders operate with respect for others in everything they do – there is no put down, no intimidation or bullying. They gain the respect of others by treating others fairly and with respect, regardless of their position.
Principled Leaders have a positive attitude. They act in a positive, genuine manner, even during some of the toughest times, ensuring everyone remains calm and productive.
Consistency is the Key
Principled Leaders are who they are regardless of the situation. Whether riding the elevator, walking through the office or sitting in a board meeting, their every move is consistent and in-line with their good character.
Curiosity is a Game Changer
Principled Leaders love learning and knowing but will acknowledge openly they actually don’t know everything. They ask a million questions of people – how does that work, why does that happen, why can’t we do that, how can we make it happen. This inquisitiveness comes in handy, seldom are they duped and inevitably they know exactly who to go to if help is needed because they understand the roles/process in their team as well as other groups.
Delivering is their Jam
Principled Leaders are obsessed with getting done what they set out to do. They are doggedly determined. They make sure all of their team understand the mission and remain steadfast in overcoming whatever obstacles are in the way to deliver on their promises.
Can you measure up to being a Principled Leader? Of course you can! You’re likely well on your way if you took time out to read this article and thought about what you currently do!
Keep Dots Leadership Solutions in mind as you determine your own development needs and plans for improvement. I’d like to be your personal and confidential leadership development guide. My coaching clients will tell you I hold them accountable to deliver against any goals they set passing along many tips and tactics to help them be a Principled Leader.
My style is direct (don't worry, I won't bong the gong on you), yet highly supportive and I bring 25+ years of experience working with leaders from many different industries both big and small – give me a call or drop me an email when you’re ready.
Hanging out with my grandson the other day he told me about a neighbourhood bully who makes ‘bad choices’. We had a great conversation about people who make bad choices, particularly bullies. In his vast wisdom of nearly 5 years, my grandson told me ‘Bullies are people too but its not OK when they hurt other people and if they do, then a grown up has to give them a time-out.’
What a thoughtful leadership lesson in this little statement. After all, we use time-outs with children to make them think about their actions, they must apologize and we expect them to do differently so they learn from their experience. So why don’t we tackle bullies in the workplace with the same energy - especially people in a power position over others?
What Would You Do?
You know the headlines these days are dominated by allegations of sexual harassment; victims are speaking out about their nasty experiences, almost daily - a topic seldom talked about before. Women everywhere have been emboldened to speak up and share their personal stories of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in work situations. With every news story, it triggers another woman's courage to speak out. Rest assured, there will be more to come.
Will you know how to manage an allegation at work if someone in your company or organization turns to you for help?
Policy and Practices Start with YOU, not HR!
Lets face it; dialogue about sexual harassment makes most of us uncomfortable. Anything ugly is difficult to speak about, but open discussion is vital to bring about improvement. It really concerned me when I read the Globe & Mail article that '94 percent of Canadian's leaders believe sexual harassment isn't an issue.'
Given harassment has become such a hot topic, every company should recognize that sexual harassment IS a real problem. It is time for leaders, or anyone in a position to help, to stand up, call out and follow through with discipline for inappropriate behaviour. No one should ever feel harassed at work, particularly if it is unwanted and sexualized in nature. It’s just not ok, regardless of how you qualify or explain it away as ‘that is how it is here’.
Turning a blind eye to anyone’s harassment claim can make worldwide headlines within a few hours through social media when they don’t get the help they need. So #Time's Up on covering up transgressions of anyone, especially senior level leaders or officials.
This is tough stuff to handle but there are steps you can take, immediately, to prevent all forms of harassment from happening at your work. Lets look at how you can create work environments where both men and women feel safe to bring forward concerns and get support rather than feeling they have to go public or leave the company.
Think ‘METALS’ - Leadership Steps to Say #Times Up
1. Model. Everyone is watching you whether you know it or not. Don’t speak inappropriately about women (or men); leave any form of sexual innuendo out of the workplace – sexual dialogue does not belong in a work environment. Help your team remain respectful in every interaction, show them how you manage with respect. You are the one your team will imitate, so show people the right way to treat others.
2. Enforce. The basis for change at work begins with having policy as a guidepost. No matter the size of your business, you need policies in place to fall back on to enforce. Ensure your workplace has a clear harassment policy in place with specific actions to take should any disrespectful behaviour occur – regardless of level or position in the company. Check to see that your company has a policy, become familiar and communicate it. If they don’t have a policy, suggest it be implemented ASAP. You can be the catalyst for ensuring a harassment policy is in place, communicated and enforced.
3. Talk. Talk about harassment with your team, long before an issue occurs. When opportunities arise to reinforce, discuss behaviour openly, highlighting what is acceptable and what is not at work. Openly share stories about past personal experiences and state how you would handle it now. Immediately discuss any sign of disrespect you observe or hear about so your team know you will not tolerate it. Make your team aware that they each have a role to play in keeping the workplace safe, people who stay silent are complicit; give them the courage to speak up. You create the environment of open dialogue.
4. Act. In the best work environments ‘respect in the workplace’ is a foundational training piece for all employees so they understand what behaviour is expected of them and what to expect in return. Many people go through training but notice when management doesn’t consistently follow through when something occurs, so they clam up. Be the one who acts swiftly. People want to work for leaders who readily step up and take responsibility for the wellbeing of their people. They will know you care enough about both the ‘bully’ and the bullied to deal with bad behaviour head on. Any form of bullying or inappropriate behaviour should be investigated and acted upon with appropriate discipline, without delay. Action begins with you, not HR.
5. Listen. Treat any form of harassment claim with urgency, seriousness and respect by hearing out those who have the courage to speak up, suspending your own judgement. Ensure a proper investigation is done while taking steps to protect the complainant from any form of retribution. Active listening shows them you care, understand and can be trusted to help. Listening with empathy is a key leadership trait.
6. Speak Up. By respectfully speaking out for those who feel harassed at work, you quickly become a powerhouse leader of tomorrow. Inappropriate behaviour at work is not OK; it is never to be tolerated. By speaking up and supporting others who speak out you will be the leader everyone wants to work for.
Take a Stand
You make choices everyday for how you treat others, we all do. If someone chooses to be a jerk or worse, an aggressor, then they should face appropriate consequences for their actions, regardless of their position in a company or organization. But it takes strong leadership to follow through with these people and take deliberate action. Take a stand!
As a leader you have the ability to choose what your team’s workplace should be like, irrespective of the culture or industry you’re in, or whether you have an HR team. YOU can be the shining example to others in management. YOU count to the people who report to you and how you act during the toughest times will be a key differentiator to their lives.
I’m here if you need guidance to manage tough leadership situations. Send me an email if you want support to develop policy or practices to enforce a respectful workplace or you’re struggling with a difficult issue and want a coach to talk it through.
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My hubby and I have this ongoing joke that I am a closet cape crusader. You see I stand up for good vs. evil and I even have recurring dreams where I leap out of my car to rescue someone from a car accident. Did you ever think of yourself as a super hero? Well I’m here to tell you, that just like every defender of the universe has unique powers, so do you!
All business leaders I’ve worked with have powerful influence over others as well as many other admirable traits. The fact is that each and every people leader brings special powers to the world; it just hasn’t been pointed out in that way!
What are Your Leadership Super Powers?
As a leader, I want you to take time to consider what super powers you possess. These will likely be leadership skills that you are best known for. As example, I am known for insight - I perceive things others don’t see in themselves. Through questioning, feedback and thought provoking conversation I help leaders grow, becoming aware of their own gifts.
Caution – Be Careful of Overuse
These unique skills make us great at what we do, but only when used in the right way. As leaders, it is important to look at your best skill and be aware of the trap to overuse it in a negative way. Some of the greatest learning comes from recognizing this nuance and avoiding the potential harm that can come from it.
Here are a few examples from some successful leaders I’ve coached, with the evil trap they had to steer clear of:
Decisiveness – The ability to quickly assess and evaluate pros and cons, then make a call. People with this power often are ‘go to’ people, called upon to provide advice and come up with solutions, particularly during tough times.
The Evil Side – the flip side of decisiveness is someone who can rush to judgement based on the wrong assumptions. If not careful they can damage trust with members of their team, as they may not take the time to seek input and detail from those who are closer to the information.
Tenacity – This power is the epitome of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. You’re a leader who doesn’t give up; you hold yourself and others to high standards. Determined in the face of whatever challenges you encounter.
The Evil Side – the flip side of tenacity is someone who can be hard on their team, pushing them to succeed, not taking time to reflect and learn, missing out on reward and recognizing the team because you just want to keep going!
Dealing with Ambiguity – This is the power to be open and versatile, the ability to manage during times where you don’t have all the answers.
The Evil Side – the flip side of being good at ambiguity, can be a leader who is a bit wishy-washy or unclear. Your team will look to you to help them understand what is going on and why it is happening. You may be comfortable with the unknown but many people get frustrated without more concrete information.
Loves a Challenge –This is the power to take on difficult and meaty work, likely the one who is frequently asked to take on difficult assignments, complex tasks or projects.
The Evil Side – the flip side of loving a challenge can be taking on more work than is reasonable for your team to deliver. Often leaders who love a challenge will take on too much. The team can be quite worried and stressed as increased workload comes their way.
Thorough – This is the power of great detail orientation. You pride yourself on knowing the answers; can dive deep on a subject or know all the details on a project.
The Evil Side – The flip side to being thorough is micro management; I find high detail oriented leaders have difficulty delegating. They need to know every detail. Your team can lack a feeling of autonomy and trust.
Authenticity – This is the power to be real, you don’t hide behind a façade. You speak your truth, you are candid and open with everyone you meet.
The Evil Side – The flip side of being authentic is that you can share way too much about your life and personal business, making it very hard for you to make unpopular or difficult decisions, should you have to. Blurring the boundaries of leader/employee relationship can also lead to a lack of respect toward you.
Awareness is the Greatest Agent of Change
You can see from these examples that when a great leadership skill is overused it can result in damage to your relationship with your team and in some cases possibly hurt your career advancement. It’s important to reflect and consider when and under what circumstances you may be over doing it.
Becoming aware of how your behaviour impacts the people who report to you can be a real eye-opener. Consider having a proven 360 Assessment or confidential workplace survey done with your team to uncover feedback and help you grow.
Beam the Bat Signal
I may not be a Wonder Woman with a red cape and gold armbands to anyone other than my husband but my super powers are undisputable with anyone who I’ve worked with.
If you’re ready, I mean really ready to develop to your full leadership potential, I’d be honoured to be your coach! Drop me a line, or call me from your red phone I’ll be there. I’m already picking up telepathic messages!
Ever wonder how your company’s President or senior decision makers decide on who to promote? Well, I’m going to reveal it to you today.
...It doesn’t have anything to do with how many additional hours you put in.
...It has no relation to how many lunch breaks you skip.
...And your late night email response rate has absolutely no bearing on the decision.
It’s all about HOW you show up!
You see, senior leaders are listening carefully to those reporting to them and are observing who gets acknowledged most frequently – and yes, HR partners are also providing them with insights regarding HOW people situations have been dealt with. Senior Execs are always on the lookout for future leaders who can make a positive impact.
Of course the unique keys to being promotable may differ slightly from one organization to the next, but there are many elements that senior teams everywhere look at to determine who stands out above the rest.
So, how do you get noticed in a sea of people? Here are a few things you can do to demonstrate YOU are the one to watch:
1. The Buck Stops Here
Can you say accountability three times?!!! The promotion-worthy never shirk responsibility or pass the buck – they jump right out in front, even when they don’t own the root of the issue. If there is a problem, step up and demonstrate ownership. Executives want people they can always count on to resolve issues so they don’t have to.
2. Coach People to Execute
To be seen as a strong promotable resource you want to be able to show that you can help your people stretch to deliver. To do this you need to know your people well and understand their strengths. Give them courage to take on assignments that really play to their strengths and then set expectations for them to deliver results. A great book to raise your game on delivery is Larry Bossidy's Execution: Discipline of Getting Things Done.
3. It’s More Than Performance
Senior executives look for people who are socially dynamic, who can adapt appropriately to different social situations; they have strong capabilities in understanding and perceiving the emotions of others – they are not JUST a high performer! If you’re simply relying on your exceptional performance to get you that promotion, now’s the time to take things to the next level. Focus on cultivating and developing emotional aptitude to guide your thinking and behaviour and then practice managing or adjusting your emotions in the workplace, according to the situation.
To develop and hone your emotional quotient/emotional intelligence, you must focus on the ‘HOW’, not the ‘what’. Watch this video with Daniel Goldman explaining EQ to further develop your own knowledge of emotional intelligence!
4. Purposefully Take Initiative
Always be on the lookout for big hairy problems to take on – and then get tagged to be the one to find the solution! Presidents and senior leaders are just waiting to hear about the great people they have in their team who can put out the fires, stop the chatter of the troops and calm issues with stakeholders.
5. Deal With Tough Stuff
Reorganizations, performance issues, difficult stakeholders, angry staff, ticked off customers – these are the things that make everyone’s corporate life miserable. Most people shy away from conflict and acrimonious bitter disputes, but to stand out you’ll want to get really good at walking towards the nastiness to sort it out. When you are seen as someone who can be tossed the baton and make the pain go away, you are sure to be noticed by the senior team.
6. Lead In The ‘White Space’
On an organizational chart there are lines that join people – that is the hierarchy. Those with highest potential manage all the white space in between – they realize that processes cross boundaries and they ensure the processes they own flow smoothly through the organization. Here is an old article about process thinking - Managing the White Space. worthy of a look. People who lead in the white space are collaborative, curious to understand the impact of their teams work on all other stakeholders, and people who take ownership of their own processes – they activate others to work together. Top executives love to hear about people who calm the discord and noise in the system, turning the complicated into something simple.
7. Excel In The Grey
All companies, big and small, have some level of ambiguity. Those who can lead people through turbulent times and excel in spite of having all of the details are rock stars. Senior leaders gravitate to promoting those who don’t have to have all the answers before moving forward.
If you’re keen to be noticed and would value feedback and support from an outside source call us today. Dots Leadership Solutions offers customized offerings that can help you tap into your own potential and help guide you to that sought after role!
‘Oh goody’, we’re going to have a team offsite (which is really onsite in the old boardroom), and ‘oh yay’ we’re going to have sandwiches and maybe even salad.
Everyone wants a free lunch, right?
You’ve all been there. You know what I’m talking about – one of those team-planning sessions where they bring in only two Diet Cokes and three cans of Sprite for a team of 7. The food is the same, boring sandwiches and the last person to arrive always gets stuck with the egg salad…every. single. planning. meeting.
You do your “team building” [sarcastic voice] – “If you were an animal, what kind would you be and why”. And then your manager divvies up the agenda to each team member so that everyone can contribute. Together you wordsmith the team objectives from last year so they sound more like this year. That’s the planning done.
The big crescendo of the day is to all go out to dinner together (even though no one really wants to). Everybody sits with the persons they prefer and make idle chit chat, watching their phones carefully as they don’t want to miss an early train home. And then, everyone is gone promptly by 6pm.
Did you feel the team bond?? Do you feel setup for success for the coming year of challenges? Did they work through challenges they anticipate for the year? Was there candour about process?
Lets Kick That Old Way Up a Few Notches!
I want to amp up your thinking on team building – I want to really elevate and place emphasis on BUILDING a team. Building takes effort. Lets put a stop to meaningless onsite/offsites and start creating momentous building blocks for high performing, productive, ‘kicka$$’ teams!!
Who’s with me?
Definition of High Performing, Productive, 'Kicka$$' Teams:
So, imagine how good a purposefully BUILT team would be?
They do exist, some are in very good shape, but if you’re a leader whose team may not be there right now I have great news, YOU can make it so!! Here are some of the building blocks of success you can use to build your team with purpose.
7 Building Blocks to Strong, High Performing, Productive
1. Create a team credo – Why does this team exist in this company under this department? What do we believe in? What are our shared values? Think about what would be missing if the team did not exist, this will help you and your team members understand why you’re so important. Reviewing this together annually will keep everyone in tune with your stakeholders.
2. Define your deliverables this year – What must this particular team deliver this year? By when? Write down team goals using the SMART principle (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Create these together, openly debate and discuss.
3. Know your people – What skills exist in your team? Where did your people come from? What are their goals? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What comes easy and what work makes them most uncomfortable, why? How do they see their work, the company, the department and the team?
4. Design workflow and review structure – Does the work flow easily in and through your team, or is it convoluted, confusing multiple touch points with time wasting as a result? Does each role holder have a reason for being? This should be reviewed whenever work changes.
5. Create clear role clarity – This is a biggie. If I asked each of your team what the other people did, can they answer? Does everyone know what is expected of him or her? Do they know what is within their own control? Do they know when they would come to you or to someone else for decisions? Are they accountable for an output or are they a cog in the wheel? Does everyone understand what part they play to accomplish the overall team deliverables?
6. Play to their strengths – Do they know themselves? Are your people set up to do their best work? Have you matched them to the right level of work? Does the team know about each other’s strengths and know how to leverage them?
7. Provide opportunity to communicate – Do you have regular team meetings to review progress? Do you give time to openly debate and discuss and resolve issues as a team? Do you make time to connect with each person and check in to see what challenges they are experiencing? Do you ask questions to understand? Do you allow them to make mistakes and coach for the learning?
You’ll notice that embedded in each of these building blocks is the key leadership traits of today’s leaders. (Try our free leadership assessment to assess how you measure up). Creating a positive employee experience is one of the main roles you have as a leader, true team building serves as a key to positive employee engagement .
There are any number of fun and interesting team activities you can do as a leader to purposefully build your team using these building blocks – and there is help if you want it!!
If you need help in crafting a solution to set you up for success, or to discuss how we can help you reach leadership and team effectiveness, please feel free to contact us. You can also learn more about the Dots story .
“Let’s play follow the leader Nanni,” my 3-year old grandson says, pulling on my hand. He then leads me through the house, taking me downstairs and back upstairs. We crawl, we jump and we stand still; he laughs when I shadow him and is so delighted I’m following his lead. He then says, “Nanni its your turn to be the leader!”. After much laughter, we fall into a heap on the couch. Fun and shenanigans like this make for some great memories.
Too bad leading a team isn’t quite that straightforward – or is it? As a leader, trusting your team members to take the reins and empowering them to problem solve on their own demonstrates a great sign of strength. The very best leaders involve their team in creating the roadmap to attaining business results. Likewise, they involve them in making improvements to the workplace where it will directly affect their roles.
Today, organizations and employees are demanding more of their leaders than ever before. With corporate downsizing, rising inflation, the instability of the markets and the low Canadian dollar companies are struggling to stay ahead; they need leaders who can effectively maximize every resource.
Likewise leaders are looking for high performing teams who not only follow, but who can be trusted to take on key projects and initiatives – they have to be able to do far more with way less. Open communication between the leader and their team members is a critical success factor to high performance, yet many struggle to connect effectively. Therefore the relationship of the leader with their team is at the core of what builds employee engagement and results.
How do you measure up as today’s leader?
Here are some of the key leadership traits employees look for in today’s leader. Take a moment to evaluate yourself on a scale of 1-5.
A leader who is ‘real’ with their people. Someone who doesn’t hide behind a corporate mask and is humble enough to show they too make mistakes. They can relate to their employees as they have been in their shoes.
A leader who gives their employees the latitude to solve problems on their own and backs them up, when necessary.
A leader who follows through on their commitments – they say what they will do and then, what do you know? They do it! Employees want to be able to count on their leader to be dependable.
A leader who demonstrates support to their employees through action, not just words. They take time to know their people, they support their career goals and leverage their greatest strengths by giving them the right work. They then acknowledge and recognize their good work.
Action Oriented ______________/5
A leader who gets things done, but does so with their team. They want them to succeed, together. Employees today want to be a part of a winning team who love to accomplish important and meaningful goals.
A leader who makes thoughtful decisions – is not ‘wishy-washy’. One who works with their employees to find their own path and who helps ‘connect the dots’ from organizational goals to the department, team and individual. Someone who organizes work appropriately, fully utilizing the best skills of their people.
Now that you have an idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are as a leader, create an action plan, focusing on the traits you may still need to work on. Consider seeking additional, candid feedback, from your team by asking your team to complete the attached assessment of the traits. Have them complete it anonymously, dropping it in your mail slot/on your desk. Once you have reviewed the feedback demonstrate to your people how you will be working on these areas.
Additionally, share your results and plan with your own leader to open dialogue for further feedback from their perspective.
Be the leader others want to follow…
The role of today’s leader is to create a positive employee experience tailored to meet the needs of individuals in the team, while delivering exceptional results for the business. Today’s leader requires a blend of finely honed communication skills and smart-savvy business prowess, with a knack for understanding and leveraging the skills of the people they lead.
To create a positive culture and environment where your people really do want to follow you, take the time to learn about the people who work for you! You may discover some outstanding and hidden gems and have some fun at the same time!
For more information, or to discuss how we can help you reach your leadership goals, please feel free to Contact Us. You can also learn more about Dots on our About page.
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.