I may have been driving a little too fast but the snow wasn’t coming down too hard. Then I hit the bridge section, lost traction and started sliding. I had made a mistake and was heading for a crash. Luckily my dad had taught me how to not overreact and what to do when sliding on ice. Don’t touch the brakes, steer into the slide and accelerate a little to maintain traction. My heart was racing but I straightened out and avoided a crash. As a leader, how you react to mistakes is also a crucial skill to learn.
As they say, mistakes will happen and your response to your own mistakes and the mistakes made by your team will either help build trust or slowly chip away at your integrity. It is easy to list what not to do – (Don’t touch these brakes):
- Point fingers
More difficult is to steer into the mistake. Based on my own experience, and a few ideas from Kristen Beireis, a coach who specializes in trust-building, the following actions can help you avoid turning a mistake into a crash.
- Acknowledge it or admit it – as hard as it may be this is the starting point to correcting any mistake.
- Offer to fix or make good – it may cost you money or time or prestige but often a simple offer to honor or fix a mistake will go miles.
- Support your people and help them find a solution – resist searching for the cause immediately and support your people and encourage them to focus on first correcting the mistake. You can work together later to search for causes.
- Follow through – demonstrating commitment and follow-through is crucial after any mistake. People will accept an earnest correction but will be skeptical if they don’t see true follow-through.
- Learn from the mistake – adopt the mindset of a scientist and use the mistake as a learning opportunity to make an improvement or minimize the chance of a similar mistake.
It is human nature to slam on your brakes and make a mistake worse. Responding with intention can help you recover and demonstrate integrity.
To truly understand others, leaders need to listen – not talk! That may sound easy but in the day-to-day crush of work and deadlines and priorities it is a challenge. Yet the payoff is huge. In fact, one study discovered that the strongest predictor of trust is a leaders ability to listen with empathy and respond based on what they hear.
Harvard Business Review suggests that leaders focus on three crucial “behavioral sets” to improve their listening.
- Actively recognizing ALL verbal and nonverbal cues. People speak with much more than the words they use and listening is different than just reading a transcript of their statement. We all have “misheard” or “misread” an email. Empathic listening involves paying attention to things like tone, emphasis, energy, excitement, reticence, body movement, gestures, and facial expressions. Seeking to understand both what is being said and what isn’t being said demonstrates true listening.
- Processing the message or tactical listening. Sharpen your skills and use techniques or tools to help you follow along with the speaker, remember what is being said, keep track of key points, identify areas of agreement/disagreement, and capture the overall message. This can be as simple as taking notes, using summary statements and minimizing distractions. It also involves giving up control of the conversation and focusing all attention on the other person.
- Assuring others that genuine listening has occurred and that conversations will continue. Only the people on your team can accurately state if they feel listened to. Leaders need to use verbal and nonverbal actions to share the message that they are listening and want to continue listening. Ideas include verbal acknowledgements, clarifying questions, summary statements, check-in’s, paraphrasing and at times even restating a point being made. Your non-verbals are also being watched so eye contact, posture, facing each other, nodding along, and mirroring body language all reinforce your empathic listening.
Learning to listen builds trust and helps you say more with less talking.
The harsh reality for leaders is that understanding without action is not enough to make a difference. In fact, a more accurate title for our January leadership competency could be – Understands Self and Others – and does something with that understanding. Kind of cumbersome but more realistic.
Tom Rath and Barry Conchie in Strengths Based Leadership, identify four essential elements that people want from their leaders and when they get them they are more engaged and committed to their work.
- Trust: Credibility, respect, integrity and honesty
- Compassion: Caring, concern about whole person, genuine interest in whole person
- Stability: Predictability, consistency, fairness and security
- Hope: Direction, clarity, guidance and optimism for the future
Understanding these human needs for engagement is a starting point for identifying day-to-day actions you can take to demonstrate trust, compassion, stability and hope to your people. It will look different for each of us but taking action is what is important.
A great starting point is to think back to leaders who have most inspired you and ask yourself, what specifically did they do to demonstrate trust, compassion, stability and hope?
Please share your answers and we can build a toolkit of action ideas to share among us!
(Click on image to expand)
To truly understand someone you need to care about them, at least a little bit. As a proud introverted leader that sounds daunting. Yet a close look at the Gallup Q12 Engagement Index shows that a “manager caring about their people” is a clear determinant of employee engagement!
How can you get to know your people while still respecting and acknowledging the natural boundaries that exist between leaders and their teams? You are busy, your people are busy, and you are their boss. Leaders can’t become best friends or confidants, but genuine caring about employees as a whole person is crucial. For most leaders the problem isn’t the genuine caring but figuring out HOW to show their interest and caring in a work setting.
A recent article in Forbes highlights “Seven Ways a Leader Can Get to Know Their Team Better” with practical ideas.
- Help Your People Succeed Anywhere, Not Just in Their Current Role. Remind yourself and your people that success and development in their current role will help them in their future, regardless of where they choose to go.
- Schedule Regular Celebrations. This isn’t a new idea but in the chaotic world of work it is easily overlooked. Taking time together and talking about non-work topics builds stronger relationships.
- Manage By Walking Around. Get up and informally talk with your people. Share personal anecdotes and inquire about non-work activities, milestones, and experiences.
- Talk Naturally During Downtimes. Take advantage of the time before meetings, in the hallway, on the elevator, or while webinars are starting to chat about anything other than work.
- Ask About Displayed Photos, Trinkets, Mementos, Art Work, etc. This is my favorite! I started the post with a saying I have posted on my wall and I have many stories behind it. What your people display is important to them and asking about it will help you truly connect.
- Make Sure to Listen! All your hard work will be for naught if you don’t actually listen. Enough said.
- It Requires Variety. Genuineness and caring is not one size fits all. When you open up your interactions to the whole person you need to be flexible and adaptable.
Ask about that photo and see what you learn. I bet it will be interesting.
Posted in Engagement, Leadership, leadership development, leading authentically, trust, Uncategorized
Tagged asking questions, communication, engagement, Leadership, leadership development, listening, questions, trust
Many days being a leader feels like this image. Where do you start?
Being a leader is complicated! Not only do you have your own job you are also responsible for leading and managing a team of people, representing your organization, collaborating with other leaders and functions, developing talent, making decisions, communicating up, and on and on. It can feel overwhelming.
To help all our leaders at Minnesota State we asked successful leaders across the system to identify what knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes were key to their success. Based on their answers we identified 11 Leadership Competencies that serve as a framework and a starting point for leadership success. You can see them above. We would also like to share them with you, our readers, in 2018. Each month we will focus on one competency and share insights, current literature, experiences and opportunities for your feedback and ideas. January will kick off with Understands Self and Others.
Our 11 Leadership Competencies are broken in four key leadership roles as follows:
Leader of Self
- Understands Self and Others
- Acts with Integrity
Leader as Relationship Builder
- Values Diversity
- Communicates Effectively
- Builds Trust
Leader as Manager
- Delivers Customer Service
- Builds Organizational Talent
- Demonstrates Good Stewardship
Leader as Innovator
- Articulates Vision and Mission
- Builds Organizational Capacity to Meet Future Challenges
- Demonstrates Effective Decision-Making
Best of HigherEDge, first published on January 9, 2013.
We had our first snow and ice of the year and the news has been filled with reports of car accidents and spin-outs. It reminded me of this post. I hope those of you in the midwest scraped your windows so you could avoid a crash due to a blind spot. Todd Thorsgaard
Has this happened to you? You are a good driver, you have the best intentions, and you are paying attention and following all the rules, yet when you signal your lane change and start to move – suddenly you hear a horn honking! Next comes screeching brakes or a crunching sound and an impact. What happened? There was a car in your blind spot.
As leaders, we also have blind spots. Have you ever been surprised by how people on your team react to something you have said or done? Are there times when the pep talk you gave to help motivate someone or the wise piece of advice that you knew was exactly what your team member needed didn’t have the effect you intended?
I still remember the reaction I got from teammates in one of my first jobs after graduate school. My boss called me into her office for my 30 day check-in. I was meeting all my initial goals and I was providing good consulting resources, but my colleagues had shared that they did not think I valued their experience and they didn’t like my “attitude.” I was crushed! I respected them and was so happy to be working on a high performing committed team. What was going on? It was a blind spot. I had just spent a period of time in graduate school where we were expected to always ask critical and probing questions, on every idea raised by anyone. I thought I was demonstrating respect and letting my colleagues know how much I valued their experience and insight by asking questions and seeking to better understand what they were sharing. What they were feeling was that I was challenging their ideas and didn’t trust their experience!
Leadership is a two-way street filled with people. As Anita described in her last post, successful leaders need to understand how their actions impact others. The Johari Window, a tool created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955, highlights that we need feedback to better understand ourselves and to minimize our blind spots. (click on image to enlarge)
Increased self-understanding leads to greater effectiveness in leading others. I needed to ask my boss in that new job what was happening, why were people reacting the way they were? I was unaware that when I immediately responded with a question to a colleague’s idea they felt like I didn’t value their expertise. It felt attacking. I was destroying trust while I blindly thought I was engaging in a spirited debate. Now, as a leader, my natural style is to focus on facts and reasons and I can be blind to how that feels to people on my team. I have learned that I need to continually seek feedback from others on the impact of my actions. Luckily I also have a trusted relationship with my current manager and I am able to ask about my blind spots and the impact they have on my leadership.
What leadership blind spots have you discovered in yourself? How can you invite feedback from others or gain more self-awareness?
HigherEDge has been around for 5 years! We started on November 26, 2012 and since then have generated over 630 posts to support leaders in higher education and beyond.
While a few of you have been with us since the beginning, many people have joined along the way. This month we’ll feature some of our favorite posts from past years that you might have missed.
To start with, here’s one of my early posts. It asks “what would you tell your younger self?” I said that I would tell my younger self to be consistent with my core values, and at the same time learn to be more comfortable with taking risks. It’s still a work in progress, but I think that I’ve learned over the past five years about ways to give grace to myself and others when things aren’t perfect.
It was a fun exercise to look back through my early posts and reflect on how I’ve changed as a leader. If you’ve kept a leadership journal, take time to look through it. If not, consider starting one. Where do you want to be in five years, and what can you tell yourself now to help get there?
Dee Anne Bonebright
As Buddha said, we can use our minds to drive our behaviors. Developing a more strategic way of thinking leads to more strategic behaviors.
In fact, leadership development expert Melissa Karz highlights how having a “strategic mindset gives you a lens to think big in every moment.” In a recent article, she suggests practicing four specific habits to develop your own strategic mindset.
Align to Organizational Objectives. Asking yourself the following questions can help you stay aligned and take the actions necessary to help your team be aligned to the vision, values and goals of your organization.
- Where are we today and where do we want to be in 12 months?
- What skills am I missing, and is my team missing, to accomplish those goals?
- What relationships do I need to build or nurture?
- How are we defining success now, and in the future?
Identify Highest Value Activities. Strategic thinking means scanning all the demands, options, requests, and opportunities and identifying the ones that will best support short-term and long-term success. Prioritization means saying no or delegating. High value activities include:
- Coaching and developing your direct reports.
- Building relationships and networks to facilitate collaboration and a broader perspective.
- Creating a direct line of sight for your team so they can see how their work contributes to the big picture.
Seek Under-The-Radar Information. The reality is that leaders are shielded from much of the information they actually need. It is human nature to withhold bad news or to hesitate to “bother” leaders. To overcome this leaders need to actively seek out information and make it easier for people to share information, even bad news. Practice:
- Asking questions.
- Using mistakes as a learning opportunity.
- Reinforcing open and transparent communication.
- Taking time to meet with colleagues and peers.
- Meeting with people outside your own industry.
Schedule Time for Reflection. Developing a strategic mindset requires action and reflection. Scheduling time to analyze and assess what you have learned, what you want to continue doing, and what you want to do differently is strategic. Just like you schedule important meetings, dedicating scheduled time daily, weekly, quarterly and annually is a challenging but necessary habit to develop.
Over time these habits reinforce a strategic mindset which leads to more strategic behaviors further establishing strategic habits making strategic leadership a part of who you are.
Posted in build organizational talent, building teams, Developing Capacity, Leadership, Strategic leadership
Tagged asking questions, Leadership, leadership development, organizational culture, questions, self reflection, transparency, values, vision
My grandfather was a master painter and wallpaper hanger and I had the amazing fortune to work for him for over 20 years. One of the many lessons I learned from him was that you have to deliver the basics to get the opportunity to become a true master at your craft. The first years that I worked for him I spent much of my time painting the insides of closets or the priming coat of paint. Strategic leadership also has a foundation in delivering the basics before moving to the strategic.
Rosabeth Moss Canter, in a November Harvard Business Review article, highlights that successful strategic leaders are those that have mastered execution and implementation by following these four imperatives.
Question everything. Force yourself to challenge your assumptions and tackle “sacred cows” that exist in your organization or industry.
Inform everyone, then empower champions. Focus on both breadth of awareness and ideas and depth of committed support. Share information broadly and ask for all ideas to ensure that you are considering all options. Then take action to support your early and enthusiastic adopters to demonstrate early results.
Keep relationships tight and rules loose. Build a large network of people who are comfortable sharing good and bad news with you. Focus on creating a shared vision and trust and then giving people the freedom to take action and make decisions based on their expertise.
Modify quickly. Recognize and be willing to acknowledge bad news or challenges. Learn from what isn’t working and modify as soon as possible.
Developing a strategy and announcing it isn’t enough, you have to dive in and get the closet painted.
The dreaded pop quiz. I can still remember how I felt when hearing those words when I was in school. If I had done my homework, I didn’t flinch. But if I wasn’t prepared, my heart would start pounding!
Yes, I have a strategic leader pop quiz for you today, but first let’s study what will be on the test.
Research conducted by the Wharton School of Business and the consulting firm Decision Strategies International, Inc. (DSI) on over 20,000 leaders identified six “essential skills” that can be assessed and developed to become an adaptive strategic leader.
Anticipate – the ability to recognize subtle or ambiguous threats and opportunities before they affect your team or organization. Strategic leaders take action to “scan the horizon” by:
- continually talking and listening to all stakeholders
- gathering market research and utilizing scenario planning
- interacting with people and organizations in other fields
Challenge – closely examining the current situation, assumptions being made and the popular point of view. Strategic leaders focus on reflection and examination from multiple points of view by:
- searching for root causes and underlying issues not just the surface indicators
- identifying and examining assumptions
- actively seeking out alternative perspectives and encouraging debate
Interpret – the ability to accept and synthesize diverse and conflicting input and information. Strategic leaders seek new insights by:
- identifying multiple explanations for observations, issues and results
- actively seeking out and listening to diverse perspectives when analyzing information
- using both observational and analytical analysis
- taking a break and providing space for uncluttered analysis
Decide – use a disciplined process to make decisions, even when lacking information or time. Strategic leaders take responsibility for making decisions and using a robust process by:
- rejecting either-or scenarios and asking “what other options do we have?”
- identifying unexpected consequences
- keeping stakeholders informed on the status of the decision
- utilizing pilots and staged decisions
Align – discover common ground and buy-in among diverse perspectives and multiple stakeholders. Strategic leaders proactively build the trust needed to facilitate alignment between divergent points of view by:
- over communicating (early, often, 8 ways, 8 times, etc.)
- identifying and acknowledging concerns and issues in advance
- reaching out to resisters and listening before explaining
- recognizing when and where team members and stakeholders are willing to support the overall purpose or values of the organization
Learn – facilitate continuous organizational learning. Strategic leaders promote a culture of inquiry and learning lessons, both from success and failures, by:
- conducting after-action reviews and lessons learned sessions
- transparently sharing and communicating the information from the reviews and learning sessions
- recognizing and rewarding people who take action and utilize lessons learned
Strategic leadership requires a mix of all six essential elements but the good news is that leaders can develop them.
Are you ready for a short pop quiz to help you identify where you shine and where you may want to take action to become a more strategic leader? Here is a link to a short assessment developed by the Wharton School and DSI on the six essential elements of strategic leadership.