How To Know If Your Leadership Is Helping Or Hurting

What if you’re unintentionally hurting the people you lead?

Here are some ways that may be harmful, even if they seem helpful:

1. Not giving employees a chance to show what they’re capable of. Allow people to show you why they were hired and how much they can do. One of your most important abilities as a leader is to let people shine.

2. Telling people what to do instead of letting them show you what they can do. Telling people what to do isn’t leadership, it’s direction. Leadership means creating a space for others to accomplish their best.

3. Constantly speaking and not allowing others to express their opinion. Listening only to your own voice harms your credibility and disempowers your leadership. Power doesn’t come to those who speak the most but to those who listen best.

4. Providing solutions to problems other people should be solving. You should not be the fixer of all problems.. Allow your people to develop solutions—their abilities will grow and they’ll come up with things you might not have thought of.

5. Complicating simple business processes. Keep things as simple and uncomplicated as possible. People have enough to do without the bother of unnecessary bureaucracy and complicated processes.

6. Saying things like “I know best.” Even if you know you’re right, it’s far more effective to guide people into the answer through dialogue and communication. People want to know they’re contributing, not just following orders.

7. Giving rewards where there hasn’t been effort. In many companies where I coach, it’s common practice to give bonuses regardless of the effort people put in. This approach only creates a culture of mediocrity.

8. Playing favorites with your team. For any leader, fairness builds trust and trust is everything. Treat everyone with the same respect and be equitable in providing opportunities.

9. Saying you’re going to do something but you don’t. Any time you don’t keep your word, your leadership loses respect and credibility.

10. Shaming, criticizing or blaming others publicly in meetings. As the saying goes, appreciate in public and criticize in private.

Lead from within: Most leaders have good intentions, but those intentions sometimes lead to bad results. Try to keep your eye on the consequences of everything you do as a leader and ask yourself whether it’s helping or hurting.

 
Source: Lolly Daskal

How to Cultivate Leadership Presence Remotely

With the intensity of working online, it is particularly important to find ways of consciously managing your attention. Here are some things to try (whether on Zoom or in person) so that you stay energized as well as engage your co-workers.

1. Before a meeting

Take a few moments to become present. Find a quiet space where you can close your eyes and notice what you’re feeling. Put away your phone (unless you need it to be logged onto a meeting or for a call.) Keep it out of sight so that you’re less likely to swivel your attention in its direction. The people you’re with will feel more valued if they’re not competing for your attention.

2. During a meeting

Notice yourself breathing in and out. Maintain eye contact when another person is speaking. If you’re not able to give other people your full attention, say so. It is better to say, “I know you need to talk with me and I’m interested, but I want to give you my undivided attention” than to be in a semi-distracted state. Take care of what you need to and then return to
the conversation.

3. After a meeting

Carve out whatever space you can between meetings rather than rushing from one to the next. Even a short break of a few minutes helps to clear your mind and reduce “attention residue” (continuing to think about one issue when you need to pivot to the next). If it’s possible to stand outside or open a window, even for a few seconds, the fresh air will help to keep your attention focused in the here-and-now.

At the end of a meeting, jot down any actions or decisions that were taken so that these don’t remain as ‘open loops’ in your mind. Close your ‘loops’ from one meeting before you head to or log into the next.

In closing

Our presence is what creates the most impact when someone walks into the room, whether in person or on Zoom. Great leaders have it and you can too. Presence is available to us each moment. Cultivating presence will greatly enhance the quality of your leadership and life.


Source: Allan Watkinson, Rohit Kar and Jennifer Robinson via Gallup

Don’t Miss Out on the Power of Failing Forward

Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, famously said, “Failure is not an option!” And indeed, in that case, with the lives of three astronauts on the line, he was right. But for the rest of us, failure is not only an option; it is inevitable if we are pushing the boundaries of our performance and driving hard for results.

The Difference Between Average and Achieving

In life, the question is not if you will have problems, but how you will deal with your problems. If the possibility of failure were erased, what would you attempt to achieve? When you consider the people on your team, is the fear of failure or a fear of your response to failure holding them back?

Which Way are You Failing?

Obstacles and challenges are a part of high-performance leadership. They are going to happen, and you will have times when you won’t get it right. The question you need to consider is, are you failing forward or backward? When the people on your team have setbacks, which way do they lean?

When someone fails backward, they will blame others or portray themselves as the victim. When someone fails forward, they will take responsibility for what happened and look for ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again. When my kids were teenagers, a motto we lived by was, “make all new mistakes today.” People who fail forward learn from each mistake, so it doesn’t happen again.

I failed, but I Am Not a Failure

Another characteristic of someone who fails backward is the relationship they have with the failed effort. Instead of viewing the setback as an event, they consider it as defining who they are. Failure is an event; it does not define who you are. People who fail forward view failure as feedback. The failure does not define them; they just learned something that doesn’t work. It was reported that when Thomas Edison was asked how he persisted through so many failures of the light bulb that he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” People who fail forward persist.

What are You Communicating to Your Team?

How you view your failures, mistakes, and setbacks communicates a lot to those around you. If you want people (at work or home) to grow and develop and become the best they can be, they must have the freedom to fail. Then they must take the learning from those setbacks and put them to work as feedback on how to do it better next time. Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, once called an executive leader to his office after the failure of a new product that had cost the company millions. The executive was sure he was to be fired and had prepared himself for that certainty. When the executive arrived in Mr. Watson’s office, he commented, ” I guess you are going to fire me.” Watson’s response is priceless and a great reminder for us all. Mr. Watson responded, “Fire you!! I just spent millions educating you, now don’t let it happen again!”

All failure is feedback and education about what does not work. Encourage those you serve to stretch and try new things, and when they come up short, encourage them to fail forward, take the learning and try again. Don’t waste the investment you are making in their personal development.

Source: Perry Holley via John Maxwell’s blog

Employee Retention – A Note About Those Who Stay…

For anyone who doubted, the data is in. The Great Resignation is real and it’s happening. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that during the months of April, May, and June 2021 a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. And it’s not over.

What does this all mean to your organization? You are likely juggling two pressing needs: hiring to backfill people who have left and hiring new people to support business growth. The scarcity is real — too few people for too many jobs.

The best way to stabilize your business is to stem the tsunami of attrition and increase your retention. In the frantic need to hire more people, the group we often forget to attend to are the folks who stay — those showing up day-in and day-out shouldering the work that needs to get done. Think about what these people — the ones who are here, working for and with you — need now. The short answer is they need to be seen for who they are and what they are contributing. It’s your job as the leader to make sure they’re getting the recognition they deserve.

Here are four steps leaders can take now to best navigate the Great Resignation:

1. Be aware of your impact.

As leaders, people are watching you all the time whether you realize it or not. So, pause and consider how you are showing up in both your words and your actions. Let’s say your company is experiencing record YTD turnover of 25% and hiring is falling 60% below target (real scenarios in far too many companies). Your people are worried and stressed. How do you message the realities of these pain points to your people? Are you aware of how your own concerns and frustrations are experienced by others? Are you unintentionally adding to their fear and uncertainty? When you become aware of your impact, you can control it and steer it in the right direction.

2. Focus on potential and possibility.  

On the flip side, let’s say your organization has 75% retention and you have attracted and welcomed a large number of new people to the organization. Consider what outcome you want to create out of this uniquely disruptive time. This is a time to be grounded in pragmatism blended with possibility, gratitude, and recognition of what your people, old and new, are going through. Get curious and ask:

  • What do you envision as the best possible outcome for this situation?
  • What excites you about that?
  • What does that give you/the team/the organization?

When you communicate to your people in this way, the impact is one of potential and possibility instead of fear and uncertainty.

3. Make it okay to leave.

Speaking about communication, let’s look at one other area where you may be creating an unintended impact — how you and others in the organization treat people when they leave.

In far too many companies, when an employee gives notice the reaction is akin to an emotional breakup — you’ve been left and you feel rejected. This triggers some not great behavior like a tendency to make the person leaving “wrong” and doubt their trustworthiness or integrity — even though that was not the case before they gave notice. There is a penchant to dismiss their presence and devalue their contribution. Think deeply about what this type of behavior signals to the departing employee and remember, those that remain and are watching.

An alternative is to approach these transitions with gratitude. It’s helpful to realize the era of lifelong employment is over and with rare exception, your employees are with your organization as a pit stop on their career journey. They’ve contributed and hopefully, they’ve learned some new things. They are not the same person they were when they joined and the same goes for you and for the organization. What would it be like to pause when a resignation occurs and give voice to these things from both sides of the relationship? What would be created if you paused to acknowledge how both sides of the relationship have grown and evolved? Rather than viewing a resignation as a rejection of the relationship, what could be possible if you began to view it as an inflection point in its evolution?

The talent pool is tight, and careers are long. End this phase of your time together with appreciation.

4. Give your employees the respect and attention they deserve

The marketplace for talent has shifted. You need to think of your employees like customers and put thoughtful attention into retaining them. This is the first step to slow attrition and regain your growth curve. And this does not happen when they feel ignored in the fever to hire new people or underappreciated for the effort they make to keep business moving forward. You cannot take your people for granted and expect them to stay — healthy relationships do not work that way. Here are three steps:

Re-recruit them.

Consider what conversations would be like if you were recruiting them to your company.

  • Spend time to understand their motivations and ambitions. With so much new hiring happening, identify where opportunities might exist inside the organization (even if it is outside of your team) to help them fulfill unrealized dreams and ambitions.
  • Help them see and claim the positive impact they are making in the organization. Acknowledge not just what they are doing, but why it matters. Let them know what you appreciate about how they are showing up during difficult times. People want to know they are making a difference.
  • Don’t stop. These are not one-time conversations. You can’t just wade in, have a talk, and think all is good. This should be the primary focus of each manager and leader in your company.

Reward them.

This may ignite the need for a systemic look at how and what is recognized and rewarded in your organization. Now may be the time to challenge the status quo if what you are seeing from your people and hearing from the talent marketplace is misaligned to your company’s current reality. This is not just about paying people more — research tells us the motivational effect of pay raises is short-lived. Just as important is how you recognize and value the contributions and impact of your people.

  • Think about the DNA of your organization. If the old ways of doing things no longer serve the organization and its people, figure out what does.
  • Be willing to let go of the past … it’s gone.
  • Play the long game here. Be sure your company’s compensation philosophy is clear and understood by all. (That starts with you.) Make sure accountability is in place so that those current employees are not shorted when new people are hired.

Equity starts in how you value contribution. You may not be the only one in your organization to fix the myriad of issues linked to recognition and rewarding your people, but you can lead. You can give voice to the issues and advocate for accountability.

Engage them. 

Businesses are hurting and at the root of that pain for many today is a shortage of people to do the work. Your existing people feel that pain as they extend themselves to pick-up extra shifts to provide coverage, listen to customer complaints when they are helpless to fix the real issue, or witness one more colleague call it “quits” when their tipping point is reached. So, be bold and engage your people in helping you solve problems.

  • Ask for their help. This requires courage because admitting that you do not know all the answers is vulnerable work. It takes strength and confidence to appreciate that outcomes are better when more ideas are included, when fuller representation is present and diverse perspectives are heard.
  • Give them agency to help mitigate the day-to-day concerns they are faced with. Create space for them to step up, participate and inform the way forward. This sends the crucial message that they are trusted and valued.
  • Focus on the desired outcome. Actively seek the insights of diverse voices and points of view into what will help achieve it, especially insights and ideas different than your own. Remain open to being surprised and delighted.

Daring to be vulnerable and to not to know it all paves the path to creating deeper engagement and loyalty from all your stakeholders: teammates, peers, colleagues, and direct reports. You lead the way by opening the door.

Source: Vipula Gandhi and Jennifer Robison via Harvard Business Review

The Essential Skill for Success … Often Forgotten

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my line of work it’s this: Listening is an essential skill for success.

One of the key components of leadership is good communication skills. Great leaders are powerful communicators—that’s why leadership books and classes usually include topics such as “Communicating Your Vision,” “Having Difficult Conversations,” or even “Speak Like a Leader.” But the best leaders, the ones who really get the job done, aren’t only good at getting their message across to others. They are also great listeners.

Speaking is only half the communication process. The other half, equally important, is listening. Too often, we view listening as simply being quiet until it’s our turn to talk, but truly effective listening is more than that and requires conscious effort.

Active listening isn’t hard to do. It’s a set of skills easily learned and readily practiced.

Start with these seven simple steps:

1. Eliminate distractions. This includes your phone, email and people dropping into your office. Author and radio host Krista Tippett said, “Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet.” How many times have you tried to talk to someone, only to be continually interrupted by their cell phone or by other people? It was probably very frustrating for you to try and keep their attention on what you had to say. Show respect for the person talking to you by removing these distractions and truly focusing on who’s talking.

2. Make plenty of eye contact. It shows the person you are fully present in the moment.

3. Try a “listening posture.” I’ve learned to rest my chin on my thumb, and place my index finger over my lips. Not only does this position tell the person, “I’m listening,” but it also reminds me to keep my mouth shut!

4. Reframe ideas. Reframing or rephrasing what you heard from the person speaking helps you understand them better, and shows them you are trying to understand. You can use a phrase like, “What I’m hearing you say is…” or “If I understand correctly, you’re saying…” Not only does this technique help clarify ideas for you, it can also help the speaker clarify his or her own ideas and message.

5. Ask great questions. Listening isn’t just about hearing; it’s about truly understanding what the other person is saying. That means asking probing questions which actively seek more information and insight from the speaker. Conversation is a cooperative exercise, and good questions can help constructively examine and challenge old assumptions.

6. Focus on the positive. Good listeners focus on making the conversation a positive experience for the other person. This means looking for ways to validate the other person’s feelings, experiences and self-esteem. Keep in mind, validation requires empathy, but not necessarily agreement. When you validate the other person, you are effectively saying, “I see you and recognize your feelings and experiences. I’ve had similar ones myself.” We can do that without having to share the other person’s viewpoint or assumptions about a situation.

7. Participate, don’t compete. It can be easy to turn a conversation into a competition, either by engaging in one-upmanship or by arguing the validity of feelings and ideas. Listening is about seeking understanding and clarity, not convincing the other person to share your viewpoint. Remember, it’s a conversation, not a debate (unless it is a debate… in which case, go for it).

Performed well, listing can be a powerful tool for ensuring clarity, connecting with others and building collaborative relationships.

Source: Tony Leonard via Leadercast