Archive | Leadership RSS feed for this section

Are You a Transcending Leader?

28 Jun

Recently, I attended a funeral of a young woman and the word that kept coming to mind as people remembered her was, transcend.  When you look at the definition of transcend, you see:

verb (used with object):

1.  to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed: to transcend the limits of thought.

2.  to outdo or exceed in excellence, elevation, extent, degree, etc.; surpass; excel.

She had put her illness aside and demonstrated what it meant to go beyond a diagnosis or the limitations of threatening, life-shortening cancerous cells where there was no cure.  As a teenager, she showed wisdom, resilience, and spirit that defined the meaning of transcending limits.  She was a beautiful example of the potential each person has, even when faced with the most horrific of circumstances.

As a leader, you will have to deal with a vast spectrum of circumstances, some that may be devastating.  The ability to transcend situations is essential to strong leadership.  What skills and abilities will help you lead others through trying times?  Let’s look at a few:

  1. Assess situations – identify the problem and the players involved objectively.  In order to create solutions, you need to know what has happened, who’s involved, the stakes, what needs to happen in the short and long terms, and how much time is required of you and others.
  2. Clear your thoughts – put aside judgment, demonstrate openness to all ideas, and refrain from putting limits on yourself and others.  Create an open environment where people can share freely about the circumstances and co-create solutions that go beyond the obvious.
  3. Practice resilience – adapting and bouncing-back from set-backs is fundamental to excellence.  Model an attitude of positivity balanced with realism.  Communicate that you believe in a good outcome and anchor your belief with realistic objectives and actionable plans.

Go beyond the obvious in all situations and be the leader who helps your team to bust their limitations.  Ask yourself what you can do today to help someone on your team reach their potential. Can you help them assess situations more clearly?  Do you need to put judgment aside? What does your attitude communicate?  Transcend the limits to elevate your team to the next level.

The Top Seven Skills of Great Coaches: Coach Your Team to the Championship

16 Jun

The NBA championships just finished and we watched  the  teams finish their seasons, move through the division playoffs and move into the finals.  They start the year, as do all of the teams, with goals and expectations to be the champs.  The difference:  only one team accomplishes their goal.  So, what makes that happen?

I competed on sports teams from the age of nine through college and into my adult years.  I was on championship teams and, far more often, I was on the “also ran” teams that came close or didn’t place at all.  On both the championship and “also ran” teams, we had top talent that no one could touch, yet, that wasn’t the only differentiator that created wins.  The difference, in large part, always seemed to come down to the coach.

The coaches who stand out have consistent traits that leaders today can practice. Create your “championship team” with these top seven skills:

  1. Inspire – motivate with your words and actions.  Do what you say you will do to create trust and follow-up with words that communicate your belief in your team.  When you demonstrate your belief in a person, they will rise beyond expectations.
  2. Listen – avoid judging and give your full attention.  Listening is more than keeping your mouth closed.  It requires you to dial-in and make sure you’ve received the intended message.  When you listen with unbiased focus, you validate the other person and make a stronger connection, and you pick-up on information that you may never have gotten.
  3. Observe – watch for what’s going on in the workplace and pick-up on how people feel about things.  Great tools that you have with you at all times are your eyes and ears.  Use them to gather information, check out your instincts, and create points of reference for feedback and discussion.
  4. Guide – provide the WHAT so that your team can perform the HOW.  Point people in the right direction, observe them, and coach them to adjust their course.  You want to be the guide on the side versus the sage on the (workplace) stage.
  5. Ask questions –build commitment by asking versus telling.  Before jumping in with the answers or your ideas, ask for their input and ideas.  Become great at asking questions that guide and encourage others to take action.  There’s a lot more commitment when people come up with the action they need to take.
  6. Give feedback – gift your team with reinforcing and developmental feedback.  Everyone needs a compass to know where they are – feedback is just that.  Let people know what’s working and let them know when they need to make a course correction.  Part of guiding others is providing feedback that defines the WHAT that needs to be accomplished and where the HOW is or isn’t working.
  7. Build confidence – elevate your team by helping people believe that they can.  When you communicate your trust in other’s abilities and support them with the tools and resources they need to get things done, you boost their confidence.  Confidence is the first step to achieving great things.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he should be, and he will become what he could be.

Leaders have an important role in the success of teams.  What coaching skills will create the difference for your teams?  What will you do to treat your team as the champions they could be?

Influence and Personal Branding

17 May

What are you doing to be memorable?  If you’re not that memorable, what does that say about your brand?  Your brand is your calling card to success and it affects your ability to influence others.  Are you doing what you want to do as a leader?  Let’s look at simple steps to create a personal brand that gets results.

Successfully working with others requires you to connect quickly.  Your presence (how you come across) and what you say helps you sell an idea, get agreement to move forward on a project, build team support, or change directions on an initiative.  Having a branding strategy is key to successful influencing.  Let’s look at four key components to put your strategy together:

1.       Make a great first impression. 

  • Your presence includes how you put yourself together, the degree of confidence that comes through, and what you say.  I’m not saying you have to wear designer duds and spend a fortune on your appearance, I am saying you need to come across polished and put together.
  • A person who stands tall, has a solid handshake and looks people in the eyes is a confident person.  Confidence equals credibility.  When I say confidence, I don’t mean cockiness – know the difference.
  • Communicate what you do and what you have to offer that matters to the other person.  Your brand is how you help others.  Make sure you have a clear statement that lets people know what you are about.  When people know this, you are able to build your influence.

2.       Be a partner.

  • Know what’s important to others and look for ways that you can help them.  Inform yourself on their hot buttons and make connections for them.
  • Put yourself in their shoes to figure out where they need help.

3.       Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

  • Learn how people want you to communicate with them.  Do they like to get down to business and take care of things quickly or do they want to spend time getting to know you and build a partnership?  Do they want to brainstorm ideas and think of creative approaches to problems or do they need to have all the details to make sure they have all bases covered? You don’t have to be all things to everyone.  Make it easy on yourself and communicate how people want you to communicate.
  • Giving and receiving feedback is a huge part of communication.  Be open and receptive to what people say and leave the defensiveness behind.  When you give feedback, connect what they’ve done with an impact and suggestions from both of you.

4.       Look to the future.

  • Anticipate changes and what that means to your relationship.  Be prepared so you can offer insights and suggestions.
  • Identify ways to enhance your partnership.  When you give more than you receive, your relationships grow.

Practicing these four steps will create and sustain a personal brand that others will respect.  Confidence, partnership, communication, and anticipation are foundations to a memorable brand.  Look at what your brand is saying and how you can enhance your ability to influence with a simple branding strategy.

The Top 7 Leadership Pitfalls That Can Derail You

9 May

     Now is the time to shine as a leader AND now is the time where you have the opportunities to do so.  We’ve been dealing with some tough times and organizations need people to step up like never before.

The Kentucky Derby was last Saturday and I find it fascinating to watch the course strategy.  The winner, as has happened in numbers of races in the past, made his move in the final quarter.  He stayed in the pack and then came up the middle when there was an opening and surged ahead to win by two lengths.  There are similarities to the role of leaders and organizational success.  It’s in times like right now that savvy people make their move.  New leaders emerge and smart leaders hone their skills to position themselves for better roles.

I’ve written about how important it is to know yourself: know your strengths, development areas, triggers, and abilities.  Knowing yourself is also evaluating your course and knowing what you need to do to emerge as a leader for the future.  Knowing what can get you in trouble as a leader and how to avoid the pitfalls is a part of that.  Its easy to get derailed with common and easy-to-do pitfalls.  Keeping an eye out for them is the first step to avoiding them.

Let’s look at the pitfalls.  Here’s a quick list:

  1. Letting your pride get in the way.  When you think you have things wired and don’t have contingency plans or fail to listen to what others are saying or recommending, you are setting yourself up for a big fall.
  2. Failing to recognize and appreciate others.  No one does it alone and letting people know that you value their contribution and ideas builds commitment.
  3. Spending little time on developing leaders, not followers.  Followers do as they are instructed.  Leaders build their skills, bring their ideas, and add to your vision.  When you develop leaders, you build for the future and you compound your effectiveness.
  4. Lacking authenticity.  Leaders who say one thing and do another undermine trust.  “Walking the talk” is essential to building trust.  Effective leaders never ask their teams to do something they wouldn’t do.  They are transparent in their communication and demonstrate consistency in their actions.
  5. Micromanaging.  The job of a leader is to lay out the direction, to define the “WHAT,” and then to let their teams determine the “HOW.”  When leaders specify the “HOW” they limit creativity and potential and, most importantly, commitment.
  6. Focusing on the poor performers.  Do you need to address poor performance?  Of course.  Do you need to spend more than 20% of your time on poor performers?  No.  Paying attention to the bottom 10% at the exclusion of your higher performers brings all performance down.  What you give attention to is what you’ll see more of.  Address the poor performers, give them a plan, and give them a time line.  Then focus most of your time on how you can help your higher performers use their talents.
  7. Doing the work yourself because you’re faster and do it better.  Developing others is a fundamental skill leaders must have.  Sure, doing work yourself may get it done faster…now.  What happens later when you have other things you must do and you haven’t developed your team’s skills?  Give a fish, teach to fish – it’s the same thing.  Allow for mistakes and don’t put pressure on deadlines when you know people have to learn.  You’ll be so much better off in the future.

What are you doing to plan your move?  Take a look at your effectiveness and identify one action you can take that will help you emerge as a leader to be reckoned with.

Influence and Leadership

2 May

As I start each day, I throw on the workout clothes, set my iPod to different podcasts, and grab my water.  I set my course on the elliptical  to train my body and select a business guru to train my brain.  The past week had a number of lessons on the concept of influence that really resonated with me.  I’d like to share a few with you.

I listened to John Maxwell define leadership and challenge how we define leaders.  Typically, the position one has says, “I’m a leader” with a title that indicates a person has responsibilities over others.  A title doesn’t make a leader.  Have you worked for a leader that you did what was asked out of compliance?  Over time, what happened?  I’ve had that experience and found myself looking for another job.  When a leader uses position power to get things done, the minimum acceptable standard of performance is done.  When a leader uses influence, there is a connection to individual motivation.  When that happens, compliance turns into commitment.

Influencing isn’t about leveraging authority, its about tapping in on other levels.  Its about:

  • Knowing what’s important to your direct reports and connecting their motivators to action
  • Aligning organization and team goals with needed skills and a commitment to excellence
  • Facilitating movement through barriers
  • Meeting people where they are and taking them to where they want to be

There are opportunities every day to influence others.  Take a moment to identify what’s important to those you need to influence.  Look at how you can connect to their motivators and watch what will happen.  People support what they help create.  Using your influence to gain support and tap into creative solutions will help you quickly advance toward your goals.

Let me know how things go.  I’d love to share your success story.

Know Yourself

3 Apr

Leadership lessons come from a lot of sources.  This weekend I caught a couple of Oprah’s “Master Class” shows on her new OWN network and one key insight was reinforced:  know yourself.  Oprah talked about the importance of knowing who you are, knowing your spiritual worth and value, becoming exactly as you believe.  Simon Cowell, as much as you love to hate him, talked about trusting your instincts.  Its something that he credits for his success.  Both get at the heart of what drives personal success:  knowing yourself.

Knowing yourself is knowing what motivates you, what you can live with and what you can live without, what pushes your buttons and what you do about it, why you make certain choices, how you handle challenging situations, when the time is right, and who you are, among other things.

Knowing yourself is an emotional intelligence competency.  I’ve been a student and teacher of EI for a number of years.  Knowing yourself has always been the first rung on the ladder to success.  It’s not all you need to know, but it’s critical.  If I don’t know myself, how can I effectively manage myself?  If I don’t know that I am directive and hard-driving, do I know that I inhibit my team’s creativity and limit their potential?

Leaders need self-insight to build their skills and help their teams grow.  Asking questions, doing personal inventories, accepting feedback, and paying attention to how we come across are good steps toward answering the question, “Who am I?”  Each of us is a work in progress and, hopefully, getting closer to knowing who we are each day.