Category Archives: Leadership

Problems Talking With People

Have you ever had days when it seems impossible to talk to people effectively? Either they are being total jerks or they just don’t get what you are saying. By the end of the conversation you are ready to scream. I know I’ve had plenty of those days in my career, and at home. All my energy is drained by the end of the day and the thought of doing it all again the next day can be depressing.

The only way around that is to find a way to communicate more effectively, even when the other person isn’t cooperating. This can be very hard and at times it will feel like you are climbing a mountain, over and over again. However, if you practice a few simple things it will be easier in the moment and get better over time.

For those who don’t seem to understand the message these three steps will improve your communications:

  1. Meet the person at their level: It’s easy to start from your baseline and expect people to be right there along side of you. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. You need to figure out where that person is and meet them there. Then you can start to get your message across.
  2. Stop and listen intently: Once you’ve shared information take the time to ask if they understand you and then be quiet. Listen closely to what they say without judgment or rushing to correct them. Wait to see what they say.
  3. Acknowledge their response: Take a moment to reflect back what you heard from them. This lets them know you paid attention to them and heard what they said. They might be wrong, but they were heard. Now they will be more open to listening to you.

All too often we get in a hurry to dump information and run to the next person, task or meeting. We aren’t taking the time to make sure we are heard and then we blame the other person for “not getting it”. Is it really their fault? Maybe they didn’t listen or they didn’t care enough to retain what they heard. Maybe we didn’t take the time to be clear and verify we were heard correctly. Sure it takes more time up front, but it saves time, energy and money down the line because things are done right the first time.

The other side of the challenge is talking to jerks. Communicating with problem people is a topic I addressed in Energize Your Leadership, a collaborative book I had the pleasure to create with a group of 15 leaders from around the world. In my chapter I shared stories about some of the problem people I have crossed paths with and how I learned to be a better communicator because of the challenges they presented.

The three key lessons I shared in dealing with problem people are:

  1. Set boundaries to improve relationships
  2. Pause before hitting “Send”
  3. Come from a place of respect

It was a unique opportunity to work with 15 thought leaders from around the world to create a book whose purpose was to help others discover new ways to create energy, ignite/re-ignite their passion for leading, and break through their barriers. I have gotten to know many amazing and inspiring people who were willing to open up about their leadership journey. The stories are real world struggles and shared with the goal of helping others learn.

If you would like to learn more about the book, the authors and our story check it out at http://www.energizeyourleadership.net.

To buy the book you can go to Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Energize-Your-Leadership-Discover-Through-ebook/dp/B00WC5UI1C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431985874&sr=1-1&keywords=energize+your+leadership.

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Are You Creating Boundaries or Constraints?

ConstraintsAs a leader you need to set boundaries of acceptable performance. This means defining what people’s roles and responsibilities are so they know what to do each day. Unfortunately there can be fine line between setting a realistic boundary for performance and creating a constraint that holds people back.

How do you know if you have crossed that line? Here are three questions to ask yourself to make sure you are not holding people back:

  1. Are you answering basic ‘how to’ questions? If experienced people keep asking basic questions about what they need to do then they are being constrained. When people are sure of their roles and responsibilities they understand the basic tasks.
  2. Do people constantly check with you on decisions? When people keep coming to you to check if they are making the right choices you have tied their hands or they don’t know enough to act independently.
  3. Is your team waiting for direction? If people are sitting around waiting to be told what to do next they aren’t feeling free to act.

The real difference between boundaries and constraints is linked directly to empowering your people to act independently. When people feel they are free to take action, make decisions, and get things done without the constant need to ‘check in’ they will be more productive, more engaged and generally happier with their work life. It feels great to know the boss trusts you to get on with your work without micromanaging you.

A couple of keys to empowering people:

  1. Clearly defined roles. People need to know what is theirs to do.
  2. Knowledge to do the job. Make sure your team has the training / knowledge they need to act independently.
  3. Tools to do the job. Things can only happen when people have the tools they need, be it software, computers, etc.
  4. Support from you. For people to truly go out and get things done effectively they need to know that you will support them when needed.
  5. Feedback on performance. Most everyone wants to know how they are doing, what is going well and what they can do differently so provide information on their performance.

Getting your team on track to perform well, without your hand constantly on the helm, will give you more time to get your own tasks done. If you have set clear boundaries of what people can and should be doing they can act freely. When you create constraints by setting the boundaries too tight you will be more involved in the day to day activities of your team which hinders both you and them.

There will be times when you have to limit the freedom to act, so be clear on what that limit is so people know when to check in with you. Up to that point give them the opportunity to work independently. If there is a check point required, explain what it is and why it’s necessary. Explaining it will help you be sure it is necessary and will help your team understand the need for it. It won’t feel like an arbitrary constraint designed to limit activity out of your control.

Creating boundaries will allow you team to move forward smoothly and efficiently. Constraints hold teams back form peak performance.

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Do You Go All In?

poker chips

As we neared the project deadline it was amazing to see the dedication and commitment of the team. People where putting in long hours if needed, helping out with things outside their responsibility and just looking for ways to ensure success. It was a great feeling, particularly when we hit a really ugly snag a couple of days before our deadline. When that happened it was amazing to watch everyone pull together, pull out all the stops and get things done. We hit our deadline to almost everyone’s amazement. The team members humbly told the stakeholders that they just did what had to be done.

This was a team where everyone was ‘all in’ when it came to the project. There were many different factors that created the conditions leading to the formation of such a high functioning team. One of the most critical pieces of that puzzle was the personal choices made by the team members to fully commit to the project.

Each person was 100% vested in the success of the project. This wasn’t something we discussed amongst ourselves, it was just how each of us showed up. Not everyone started off that way, a few went through the motions at first; they did just what was needed and not anything more. As time went on the team grew together and by the last few days everyone was on board and giving their all.

More recently I’ve been part of teams where there were a few members who just did the bare minimum. When their shift was over they left right away. These team members did what was mandated but did not go out of their way to do more or learn more. Sadly it meant there were many more issues as the project rolled out. The people who held back during the preparation ended up playing catch up later. Additionally they were surprised when there were problems and issues. These problems were obviously the fault of the rest of project team.

Why the difference in the commitment level of these two teams? Part of it is their personality, part the business culture and lastly the expectations of the project leaders. When expectations are set that each person is expected to be fully engaged it builds an environment where that is the norm not the exception. Team leaders must give 110%, hold people accountable for their commitments, and bring an energy that helps keep the team excited and going during the rough patches.

Yet each of us has a responsibility to bring our all to whatever we are part of each day. The most engaging, inspiring and exciting teams can still have people on them who just won’t go all in. This means they are missing some of the benefits of being fully engaged. There are three key things gained when you are fully engaged with your team.

  1. Experience: When you are willing to do more than expected you get the opportunity to experience new things, learn new skills and see things in different ways.
  2. Satisfaction: Most people want to know that what they are doing makes a difference. When you give your all you have the satisfaction of knowing that you did your best to create success. Whether you succeed or not you will know that your efforts mattered.
  3. Perception: Those who are seen as going all in on a project are seen as valuable team players. These are people who are get recognized as having potential because they can be counted on to get things done. This perception of dedication and ability can make your next career step a move up.

It’s so easy to say ‘let someone else do it’ or ‘it’s not my job’ or ‘someone else is responsible’ because it means less risk and less work. Yet it means you are creating limitations for what you can do, now and in the future. Holding back means boxing yourself in to a limited role. If you want to only be in a supporting role then only do what you are told. If you want to lead and grow you must break out of the box and show initiative, show commitment and go all in.

Like in poker when you go all in you can lose big or you can win big. However, you will never know how big a win it can be until you risk it all.

If you are ready to take the risk and go all in you can start today. Ask yourself what more can I do today to help create success? Is there something I can do to help someone get more done today? Where can I lend a hand?

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Thought for Monday

Montain summerIn the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

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The Best of Lead With Giants March 14

wpid-Best-of-LWG-Blog-Posts.jpgToday I’m excited to bring to you the best blog posts from the Lead With Giants group.  There are many interesting articles with great insights into leadership topics.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Best of Lead With Giants March 14

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Thoughts for Feb 4th

Lighthouse in the dusk

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
John F. Kennedy

How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success.
Elbert Hubbard

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The Best of Lead With Giants February 2014

wpid-Best-of-LWG-Blog-Posts.jpgToday I’m excited to bring to you the best blog posts from the Lead With Giants group.  There are many interesting articles with great insights into leadership topics.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Best of Lead With Giants February 14

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How Will Your Integrity be Judged?

JudgingIt’s common for people to say that leaders must have integrity.  We are quick to point out CEO’s or politicians who make ethical mistakes and talk about their lack of integrity.  These are easy to point out.  We also identify public figures who act in ways that demonstrate their honesty and integrity.  Yet how easy is it to fall short of the ideal level of integrity?

There are some very subtle ways in which we may be acting which brings our integrity into question.  We often don’t even realize that our actions are not aligned with our values.  Unfortunately others will be watching what we do and compare it to what we say.  Here are some simple things that can trip up even the most honest people.

  • You say you hate gossip and actively discourage it; however you comment on a person who isn’t there at the time.
  • You encourage and evaluate your team on personal development yet you never find the time to take a class yourself.
  • Your company policy says that you will not accept gifts from vendors over a certain value but you allow a vendor to pay for you to play golf on a course whose fees are higher than the limit.
  • You hold people accountable to deadlines yet you often miss deadlines of your own.
  • You promise to give people honest feedback however you avoid the difficult conversations about performance because people will get upset.
  • You promote teamwork and collaboration but you are normally too busy to pitch in when asked.

Some of these examples are more obvious than others.  However, each one of these is an indication that you are not demonstrating the level of integrity that you may desire.  There may be reasons why you do some of these things but if you are honest with yourself it becomes obvious you are not practicing what you preach.  Even these small things can harm how others view you.  If they see you ‘cheating’ on the small things it can create doubt on how you will behave on the big things.

There is a story about President Abraham Lincoln who is well known for his honesty.  It demonstrates how keeping to your word may be uncomfortable in the moment but powerful over time.

While a member of Congress, Abraham Lincoln was once criticized by a friend for his seeming rudeness in declining to test the rare wines provided by their host.

The friend said to him: “There is certainly no danger of a man of your years and habits becoming addicted to the use of wine.”

“I mean no disrespect, John,” answered Lincoln, “but I promised my precious mother only a few days before she died that I would never use anything intoxicating as a beverage, and I consider that promise as binding today as it was the day I gave it.”

“But,” the friend continued, “there is a great difference between a child surrounded by a rough class of drinkers and a man in a home of refinement.”

“A promise is a promise forever,” answered Lincoln, “and when made to a mother, it is doubly binding.”

As you go about your day think about the choices you are making.  Are your words and your actions perfectly aligned?  Have you made allowances for falling short of keeping a promise or meeting a deadline?  Integrity is something that everyone wants in their leaders and in their teammates.  It can be hard to take the high road all the time and you run the risk of offending someone by sticking to your principles.  Yet over time people will think more of us when we do.  Leaders make hard choices all the time and this is one area that you completely control.  Choose wisely.

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If you would like help developing your key leadership qualities let us help you.  Contact me at carol@delta-group-llc.com or visit http://www.delta-group-llc.com

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Quotes on Courage

Here are some quotes I like on courage.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
Steve Jobs

How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.
Benjamin Franklin

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
Dale Carnegie

Courage means to keep working a relationship, to continue seeking solutions to difficult problems, and to stay focused during stressful periods.
Denis Waitley

What quotes or phrases inspire you to be more courageous?

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How Deep Does Your Courage Go?

16 2009 07 04_0083_edited-1There are times when you need more courage than you think you have in you.  When you enter unknown territory you need to have the courage to move forward.  These situations often appear completely unexpectedly and catch you unaware.  As leader you have to be able to quickly pull on your reserves of courage to get you through the tough times.

You may need courage to:

  • Make a tough decision
  • Take on new responsibilities
  • Share your position on a topic
  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Be vulnerable
  • Admit a mistake/error
  • Speak in front of a group
  • Delegate an important assignment
  • Ask for help

These are just a sampling of when you might need to find the courage to proceed.  It’s important that you manage your fear so you can step up when needed.  It’s okay to be afraid; in fact if you aren’t ever afraid of failing, or letting someone down, or being wrong about something important then you really aren’t committed.  Healthy fear means the outcome matters to you.  When you have no fear, nothing matters anymore.  So embrace the fear just keep it in perspective.

To keep your fear in its proper place you need to balance it with courage.  Courage comes from confidence.  Build your courage by building your confidence that you can succeed.  Confidence is created from recognizing and acknowledging past success in a related area.  If you have previously negotiated a contract successfully you will be more confident of your ability to do it again.  The real challenge comes when you venture into new territory, one where you have no direct past experience to use as your compass.

Here are several tips to build confidence when you are in a new situation:

  1. Look for similar experiences.  Maybe you are giving a speech in front of 500 people which is 400 more than you’ve ever done before.  However, speaking in front of people can be the same no matter the size of the audience.  If you did well with 100 you can do well with 1000.
  2. Identify transferrable experiences.  If you are good at making decisions in a project based environment you can be successful making decisions in other environments.  Decision making skills transfer across industries and organizations.
  3. Remember past unexpected success.  Think of times when you accomplished more than you believed possible or even met a goal that seemed unachievable.  Once you have done the seemingly impossible you can do it again.
  4. Enlist the input of someone who has succeeded.  When you are going into something totally new and unknown find a mentor or coach or trusted colleague who can share how they succeeded in this kind of situation.  You can use their experience to learn what is needed to succeed.
  5. Take action decisively.  Once you make the decision to brave the unknown act quickly and decisively.  The more time you spend preparing yourself the more time you will have to create doubts by worrying.  As Nike says “Just Do It”.

Use your past success to give you the courage to dare to do something new now.  Be brave and take a stand, do something new or go where others fear to venture.  The more successes you have in new things the more likely you will be to have the courage to go further and do more than you dreamed possible.

If you are a leader, your courage to go out on a limb will inspire your team to do the same and the results will be even greater than imagined.  Create an environment where fear is okay but courage is cherished.  Be brave for yourself and your team.

When did you have to dig deep for courage?

 

If you would like help building your courage to face new situations contact us at carol@delta-group-llc.com

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