Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
It seems that the more time I spend reflecting on my experiences in work and life, the more thoughts and concepts rise up and drive me to feverishly capture them on paper. I keep a running log of ideas and stories that I would like to share, and I will typically use that list to guide the writing process. But sometimes, those moments and timelines seem to converge, and a new idea enters my mind and I find myself leaving my writing to jump ahead and put together a concept that is a compilation of many ideas. This is one of those posts.
I recently read two excellent books from Liz Wiseman, Multipliers and Impact Players. I followed those two with my current read, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. I typically listen to the Audiobooks and then attempt to capture notes for future reference. All three of these books have provided excellent insight but also tied in wonderfully with my own posts and specifically the 3 Pillars of Impact. While drafting a post about listening, conversations and asking questions that referenced those three books, I felt that it was all basic components of Leadership, but something that typically is not well taught or possibly even understood by new managers.
What makes a good leader? I asked myself this question and realized that the words I was coming up with to answer the question could easily be adapted to an acronym for L.E.A.D.
The ability to Lead begins with Listen. You must listen to those that report to you, that interact with you and that you report to. Understand what they are saying and implying. What are they not saying? In Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott writes, “it’s not enough to hear the words - that is only the beginning. But do you hear the fears, intentions, and aspirations?
Externally is the obvious meaning but a good leader also looks internally as well. Be aware of your own feelings and biases that could influence your judgment and perspective. What mental models have you created and typically use when engaging others? Are emotions impacting your response, and is that distracting you from logic? What fears are you hiding or are pushing you towards doubt, defensiveness, or anger? Is your excitement and enthusiasm pushing you to act and move when instead you should continue to listen, be present and prepare to engage?
While listening is the first step, without active listening and engagement you may just be “hearing” words. Engaging others through being present and using active questions to gain a better understanding allows you to enter the relationship. As a leader, those around you need to feel the engagement, the connection with them and their ideas.
Ask questions for clarity and understanding. To help move you in that direction, dig into their why and their intentions and do not simply respond to their carefully crafted words. As you engage you become part of the conversation as well as the process. It is your membership to the club and is necessary if your leadership is to be respected.
Engaging another is not always fun and games as some conversations may be difficult and challenging if there are differing perspectives. But even a discussion that is fierce or appears to be a conflict still shows engagement.
A leader must hold themselves and others accountable. A leader must Expect Excellence, (the 2nd Pillar of Impact), and the expectation, to be of value, must be measured and show progress. When your team knows you are listening and engaged, then they will appreciate when they see you hold people and yourself to those high expectations. But when they see a mismatch between what you say (listen and engage) and how you respond with your actions, they will begin to question their trust in you. You are viewed as not walking the walk.
So good leaders hold people accountable as well as themselves. The level of respect, even when in difficult situations, grows and their support and commitment to the process will be impactful.
Ultimately, you can have great connections with your teams but if you and your team fail to deliver it is all for naught. As a leader, if you are truly listening and engaged with your team, it should give you an understanding of their strengths and limitations. Through this engagement they should be aware of them as well and how they connect with others and where they need to improve.
Holding people accountable is your way to make progress down the desired path. If you are effective here as well, then the results should be delivered. Even if the targeted outcome is not achieved, the process and growth should have occurred. The knowledge and potential that you delivered should have value even if the goal was not achieved. This is why Deliver is the 4th and last step to LEAD Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.