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Inspiring team vitality

 

We’re hard-wired to be critical, continually on the lookout for “what’s wrong”. This might come from our human brains that were needed by our primitive ancestors to be aware of threats in their surroundings in order to survive. This critical thinking plays out in our organizations with leaders continually rehashing things that went wrong or speculating on what might go wrong.

Sound familiar? How often do you communicate what went right or what might/will go right? If you are like most leaders I know, you may admit to yourself that you don’t do it enough. If I asked your team what you could do better I wouldn’t be surprised if they told me you could take a more positive view.

You want your team to have vitality. An unbalanced focus on what’s wrong won’t provide the kind or energy you want your team to have. Can you imagine what it would be like if there were more positivity and vitality in your team? What would you see people doing and how might it impact your business?

What can you do to lead your team to be more vital and energetic?

Have more conversations about the present and future: Once the critique of the past situation, process, project, or individual has been completed, drop it and move on. Focus more of your dialog with your team on what’s right in front of them now and what a successful future will look like. You’ll inspire your team and inspire yourself while fostering persistence toward achieving team and individual goals.

Give more authentic praise: Telling someone they did a good job isn’t enough. Feel it in your heart, be sincere, and provide your team members with the specifics of the good things you’ve noticed they’re doing and the impact on the work. While you’re at it, let them know the impact their work has on the future of the organization’s objectives.

Foster relationships: As a leader, it’s your job to make sure that the relationships and trust amongst your team members is sound and life-giving. This means that you are the “chief relationship manager” for the team. Make sure that inappropriate personal conflict is dealt with and that all team members feel a sense of connectedness. Facilitate the tough conversations and make sure everyone agrees to behavior that moves the team forward.

Remind them of behavioral commitments: As the chief relationship manager, you are also the chief coach. That means you need to make sure that there is accountability for the behavioral norms of your group. Ideally, everyone on the team will be pitching in on this, but it’s important that you make sure that’s happening and step in when it isn’t to remind and coach team members on the behaviors that are acceptable (and what that means for the team’s goals).

Sometimes criticism is needed. However, your team’s energy will come from your emphasis on what the team is doing well now and what it will take to move to that inspired future. Spend more time dialoging and performing in a positive space that embraces the present and the desired future and you’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished.

 

Develop a leadership code of behavior

 

Is the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior changing as you shift a culture or as you struggle with different generations of leaders who have varying ideas on what’s permissible at work? Do you feel like you have leaders or employees who are acting outside the lines of what might be considered ideal behavior? If these things are true for you, it may no longer make sense to continue to assume that everyone knows what behaviors are appropriate. What should a leader do to help the organization achieve clarity in this case?

Consider that the “rules” or guidelines for acceptable – if not exemplary – leadership behavior can be developed collaboratively with your leadership team and then shared widely with all employees. If behavioral expectations are mutually developed and openly shared throughout the organization there is a smaller chance for slip-ups. With a set of behavioral norms in place, when they are not followed, there is a foundation for a conversation about them.

I am suggesting that the organizational leaders begin the process because they are expected to model (appropriate) behaviors for others in the organization.

Sit down with your leadership team and facilitate a dialog about the type of behaviors that you want to foster starting with yourselves. What you’ll be looking to develop are actual observable behaviors that you want to see and model for the organization.

To get you started, here are some questions you can ask:

  • What behaviors do we want to model?
  • What will others see us actually doing and saying?
  • How will they see us doing and saying these things?
  • Why are these behaviors important?

Here are some examples and how they could be described:

Respect others: We know it’s possible to understand a colleague without agreeing with their opinion. We respect each other by listening to understand, even if we disagree. When we disagree, we verbalize it in a direct manner, calmly, and with kindness. When we respect others, it is returned not only to us, but to our customers and clients.

Give feedback: We provide feedback to each other in an open and honest way as soon as possible after we observe a situation that calls for our reaction, criticism or advice. We give critical feedback privately and praise publicly. When we deliver feedback with respect in this way, we create culture of trust.

Communicate: We communicate clearly, openly, and honestly as much as we can and as soon as we are able. We communicate things consistently and often, and in more than one way often using more than one tool. We don’t gossip or speculate about others’ motives; we ask them respectfully to clear up any misunderstandings or confusion. When we communicate in this way, we are all are better informed and better able to act consistent with our organizational mission.

As you develop your own leadership code of behavior, you can communicate it to all employees in the organization, getting their input and setting expectations for their behavior as well. When leaders create a code of behavior for themselves and hold each other accountable to it, they are in the best position to communicate and expect such behavior from everyone else in the organization.

 

 


 

How to receive the rare gift of feedback

 

Like all of you, I’ve had experiences where I had unwittingly offended or hurt someone. I have blind spots (these behaviors can cause problems in relationships because we aren’t aware of them). In each case, I sensed something was amiss and was able to address the reaction of the other person by asking for feedback.

I never intend to cause pain or suffering to others, so it’s important for me to hear others’ experience of me. I’ll admit it’s hard to ask for feedback because of my fear of what I’ll hear and how I might react.

That sounds very silly when I write it down. Because I know that feedback is like medicine; it may not taste very good in the moment, but over the long run it will make me a healthier (and better) person and leader.

Little by little, asking for feedback can break down those ego barriers that exist between yourself and others.

You don’t get to hear what you’d like to hear

But here’s the deal about the feedback that you ask for. You don’t get to hear what you wish you’d hear: you, in glowing terms; you, as the best leader around; you, as the great leader others want to follow.

If they’re being honest, you hear what they think. What they think may not be what you think of yourself. If you are in a position of authority you might have to work a little harder at getting honest opinions, but this is true to different degrees for anyone asking for feedback. People may not want to hurt you or may be afraid of the repercussions of being honest in their assessments.

If you have any designs on being a better leader, it’s worth asking; there are significant growth opportunities in the asking and the receiving. So be a little vulnerable, put yourself out there and ask. It might initially sting a bit, but you’ll find your way through it.

In order to keep the future flow of feedback coming your way, here are some thoughts on how respond to it:

Think of it as a rare gift: It isn’t often that we get feedback. It usually doesn’t come unsolicited, so you have to ask for this wonderful gift that can enhance your ability to lead at your best. Someone giving their honest observations is like getting a gift carefully picked out especially for you.

Don’t be defensive: You get what you get when you ask. It’s someone’s perception. If you are quiet and listen to what they say, you just might find some truth in it, even if it is their truth. There isn’t any sense in denying or making excuses, because you have the choice to do with it as you please.

Express your thanks: This rare, customized gift deserves a heartfelt thank you because it is so often just as hard to give as it is to receive. Someone has put themselves out there and risked your disapproval to be honest. Just say “thank you”.

Decide on your actions: Like any gift, you get to decide what to do with it. Will you tuck it away for a bit, thinking about your choices, or will you open it and begin to use it right away? Maybe you need better instructions on what to do with this feedback gift, in which case you can find someone to confide in.

Get back to them: At some point, it would encourage the gift-giver to continue their philanthropy if you let them know how you used their feedback. It’s also the kind and respectful thing to do. How about a hand-written note expressing your appreciation and a description of how you used their gift?

Treat feedback as the gift it is and you’ll enjoy the benefits of more of it. That’s good for you as a leader and as a human being.

 

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 12 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages Fortune 500 corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.

This post was originally published in SmartBlog on Leadership.

The wide world of choice

 

A recent discussion on about making career choices drew my interest as commenters indicated a variety of choices they could make around their careers within their workplaces. One comment that stopped me cold, however was one where someone said that you couldn’t choose your boss.

Oh contraire! Even your boss is a choice you can make. It might be scary or uncomfortable but there are always choices. So if we start with the “choosing your boss” example, you can decide how you’ll react to him or her. Did you inherit a bad boss in a reorganization? You have choices, even ones that scare you, about how you can deal with it.

There are choices to be made everywhere and every day if you think broadly enough. When a situation is difficult your emotions may prevent you from seeing the array of choices in front of you. In the case of a bad boss, you have lots of choices but may only see an option that is uncomfortable. So you think you have no choice but to stay and be miserable.

Choices abound even when things get uncomfortable

Sometimes discomfort is a good thing, bringing us learning opportunities that were unforeseen. It takes introspection and being open to possibilities to see that you have choices when things get uncomfortable.

Notice your discomfort and the cause(s) when it happens. Spend some time thinking about what “choosing” means in your particular situation. These questions can be used for many situations that you deal with on a daily basis:

Stay: What would it mean for you to stay with the discomfort you have? Is there some learning there for you? How might you deal with the emotions you have about the situation? At what point might you decide that you’ve had enough and you need to move out of being comfortable with discomfort?

Go: What perceived risks would you be taking if you (physically) stepped away from your uncomfortable situation? Are they real risks or imagined? Can you mitigate the risks? Who would you impact? What are the benefits of stepping away from the discomfort to you and those you impact?

Something in between: What is the middle road between staying with the discomfort and leaving it behind? Would the middle road impact you and others in a way that is positive, or is it simply a form of procrastinating on the real decision you need to make? Can something in between staying and going provide breathing space for a stronger choice at a later time?

Open up to the unconscious choices you can make every day. Spend time reflecting, becoming aware and making decisions/choices with intent. Once you see the wide world of choice open to you, you’ll watch your ability to lead soar.

 

 


 

How to put out burnout in your organization

Ron Kitchens Headshot

 

By Ron Kitchens*, whose blog can be found at www.ronkitchens.com .

 

 

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. – Rumi

If your team is starting to show signs of wear and tear or “burnout” as we call it at Southwest Michigan First, do not fear. There are many ways you can engage with your team to put out burnout and improve the work environment almost immediately. Here’s a few I like best:

  • The team has to know that the leader appreciates them. Simple things can be done to show appreciation – even things that seem silly. When you first join our team at Southwest Michigan First, we ask you what you like to drink. So, if you’re a Yoohoo fan (only the world’s greatest processed chocolate beverage) or love to drink Diet Dr. Pepper, we’ll get it for you and stock it in the refrigerator. It’s an easy way to show appreciation and show someone they are important.  Great leaders also write notes to tell team members they are doing great work and “thank you.” Small acts of appreciation go a long way. 
  • Acknowledge success when it happens. Why do we want to wait until a calendar period to acknowledge success, annually or quarterly? We don’t want until the end of the game to applaud athletes. We applaud them when they come up to bat, we applaud them when they get a hit and we applaud when they round third base to score at home. There’s a reason there is a home field advantage. If athletes perform better with more encouragement, why not apply that principle to our teams? Let’s applaud and encourage our teams in real-time. 
  • Give your team the resources they need to succeed. Sometimes we get so caught up in achieving goals or hitting our measures that we forget to ask, do you have what you need to succeed? It is the leader’s responsibility to ask that question at every turn. We need to ensure our team has the time, talent and treasure they need to meet the challenges we set before them or they will get discouraged.
  • Make your team take vacation – even if it’s a “staycation.” I never hear leaders protest that they are giving their team too much vacation time at the beginning of the year. But, at the end of the year, I inevitably hear leaders complain that their teams all have to take off the last several weeks of the year because they have tons of unused vacation time. As the leader, you are to blame for that. You didn’t give them permission, or push them, to use that time during the year. The best performing people have to recharge their batteries. Your team will perform better if they know they have permission to take time off with the leader’s full support and the support of their team to know their jobs will be somewhat taken care of in their absence.
  • Good leaders focus on wellness. And this is not necessarily fitness. You don’t have to spend money on remodeling a fitness room for your team or on personal trainers. Leaders need to address wellness where it meets the needs of the team. Maybe your team is struggling with financial concerns of making their mortgage payment or where to send their child to daycare. If we take care of these stressors in the lives of our teams through offering financial coaching or daycare referrals, our team members will perform better. Take a holistic approach when it comes to wellness at your organization and think outside the box.
  • Help people see their career future within or outside of your organization. You can’t want more for people than they want for themselves, but you can find out what they want by simply asking! What do you want for your future? It’s the leader’s job to help team members achieve the jobs of the dreams. Use your resources to open doors for your team. Give your time in coaching their leadership. The better we expand, grow and build leaders, the better our organizations will be.
  • Compensate your team generously. Money isn’t everything, but it is a tangible way that you can show your team how much you value them. Team members may leave our organization to pursue a different career path or to take the next step in achieving their dream job, but I will not let someone leave solely because they feel underpaid or underappreciated.
  • Know your team’s family. Invite family members to visit the office and “get to know” where their parent or child or spouse works. Host summer picnics or holiday parties and invite family members to show your appreciation for the time they sacrifice while their loved ones work for you. Celebrate children’s birthdays and send thank you notes to families when their loved ones are away on business travel. Family members should be an integrated extension of your work team. There is no better way to show a team member you care about them than by caring for their family.

We are in a generation where people demand the best out of their employer. We can’t get people to stay in our organizations and achieve great things if they don’t feel like leaders care about them. Great leaders care about people first. If you hire great people, engage them around the mission and vision of the organization and show them you care, they will wow you with the things they achieve. 

Question: What simple change can you make in your organization today that will impact your team in a positive way?

 

*This guest post is authored by Ron Kitchens who learned the power of a job at an early age and has endeavored to share this revelation in the best way that he knows how since — by creating jobs to contribute to the elimination of poverty and vulnerability. With more than three decades in economic development, Ron is now chief executive officer of the Southwest Michigan First Group of Companies, a cluster of privately funded economic development advisors who act as the catalyst for economic growth in Southwest Michigan. Ron is a nationally sought-after speaker and best-selling author whose works include Community Capitalism: Lessons from Kalamazoo and Beyond. You can follow Ron on his blog, Always Forward at www.ronkitchens.com, or on any of his social media sites: Twitter (@ronkitchens), Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

Honoring those who question

 

I was a curious child who sometimes got into trouble with my questions (I heard “children shouldn’t ask those questions” or “you’ll learn about that when you grow up”). Not one to let what I was told dampen my curiosity, I began my career as a laboratory biologist, where asking questions is foundational to important insights.

At some point, my ambition got the better of me, leading me into other career choices where asking questions wasn’t always embraced. I did my best to fit in, not always asking the questions that I should have. If I couldn’t be curious and bring others along on that ride to discovery, I knew it was a tradeoff – more prestige for leaving questions behind – I’m embarrassed to admit that today.

More than a decade ago a wakeup call that I wasn’t on the right track happened when I lost my corporate position in an acquisition and I discovered that coaching was a way to use questions to guide and help others. Not only is the use of questions foundational to the work I do as a coach, I often have the opportunity to teach leaders the art of asking great questions.

This post is written to honor those leaders who courageously question themselves, their followers, and the organizations they belong to. They’re making a difference in a world of answers that are all too easy to come by. You can now find ready answers to anything; so those leaders who pride themselves on their knowledge may be left behind. Those who ask will be in demand.

Leaders who question:

Deepen self-awareness: Making the effort ask themselves questions about their motivations, thoughts, drivers, and values helps questioning leaders to deepen their self-knowledge. This deepening is essential to their ability to capitalize on their strengths and become aware of personal weaknesses while remaining true, authentic, and ethical. What question can you ask yourself that would set you free?

Develop relationships: The very act of asking someone a question is a way to develop, deepen and build trusting relationships. When someone is asked a question, it means that the asker is confident that they have an answer, creating a bond. What relationships, when bonded through questions, do you need to develop?

Learn on the fly: In this crazy world filled with speed-of-light actions and decisions, pausing to ask questions brings insight and learning. Sometimes all it takes is a well-placed question for the right answer to appear and great learning to happen. What insight might be possible if you asked more questions?

Help others to help themselves: A good question can help others to become more independent, to learn to think, educate themselves and take responsibility for their actions. What question can you ask your employees that will help them to become more engaged and responsible?

Change the world: Einstein asked himself what he would see if he rode on a beam of light. Newton asked why the apple fell. Robert Kennedy asked why not?. What is the question you need to ask that will change the world?

Here’s to the leaders who ask questions; we honor you as you change yourself and the world around you.

 

This post was inspired by my clients who question as well as the new book A More Beautiful Question by author Warren Berger who provided a complimentary copy. I’m hoping you’ll hear more from him about beautiful questions here soon.

Leading the Future in the Present

 

I once worked with a leader who had purchased a competitor’s highly successful product and took it apart to see what all the fuss was about. His company was behind in the marketplace for this particular item, and he felt it would give him some insight. The problem is, it only gave him current state of the art information about the product.

We need leaders who are models of what it means to be great organizations that live the future now. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but you must lead without waiting for the future to arrive.

What this means is that you must be agile, adaptable, and willing to change in anticipation of what’s required tomorrow, next year, or even five or ten years out. This requires you to see and act beyond the vision and strategic plan.

To lead the future now you must:

Get in touch with your heart as well as your head. Getting in touch with your heart means that you lead in a way that assures that your organization is unselfishly working in the future today. This is an act of leading with love that prepares those who follow you when you are gone to continue on even as you prefer to fight daily fires. Get ready, go beyond the every-day doing that satisfies your head and work hard at cultivating and modelling future possibilities now.

Widen your circle: We all know the story of Abraham Lincoln’s choices for his cabinet, outlined in Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals. Lincoln didn’t choose the easy way of surrounding himself with a cabinet of people just like him (or that he liked), but went out of his way to choose opponents. A brilliant strategy for today because the possibilities for you to find your own network of rivals in our hyper-connected world are endless. Be on the watch for those who challenge you (but you may not like), and who think crazy out-of-the-box things (even if you disagree). Spend time and listen to them.

Read, reflect, dialog: Many leaders claim they don’t have time to read, reflect or dialog with others. This is where future-thinking comes from. How can they possibly get new, creative ideas without knowing what is shaping the future in the bigger world around them? If they’re closed in, head down in their organizations, they are oblivious to what the future might bring. Reading, reflecting and having dialog with others about how the future is taking shape should be a priority.

Be courageous: It takes a lot of fearlessness to embrace the future now, to stand steadfast and to imagine and lead for it. There will be naysayers. There will be those who oppose change, and want to keep things as they are. The greatest leaders don’t only react to what is, they act on what will be despite their enemy’s admonitions, resistance and ridicule. They learn to influence those who oppose them to see what they see.

Lead the future in the present, or you and your organization can expect to be left in the past!

Where do you spend your time?

 

Diane is six months into her assignment as a mid-level manager in a large technology company. She was promoted to this position because of her previous “wild success” as a first line manager, where she managed a team of engineers. She’s struggling in this new position, feeling ungrounded, overwhelmed, and unable to lift herself up enough to see where her organization is heading.

She thought the transition to this new mid-level position would be easy. But this very spot is where the rubber meets the road in many companies. She will either find a way to become successful or she’ll fail. Unknowingly she’s being tested now to see if she has the mettle to get through the complexities she’s dealing with and manage a team of managers that will drive – in her words – “my organizational agendas forward”.

Wait a minute. What’s wrong with that last sentence?

Her organizational agendas! Nobody told her that she needed to have input from her team! While she had her head down, responding to perceived emergencies, doing the work that her managers should be doing and fighting every new fire on her own, she hasn’t stopped to think, “How can I maximize my time in order to make the most impact?”.

Sadly, this true scenario plays itself out time and time again. This is the plight of countless managers who move into similar situations: a new promotion (or position), hardly a moment to catch their breath, and they’re running as fast as they can to keep up.

Are you in a similar situation?

If so, you’re being watched to see whether or not you’re agile enough to learn what is and what isn’t expected of you. Your organization wants you to lead, and leadership is defined by how you spend your time.

Diane isn’t leading. She’s being pulled along unconsciously toward failure. She has a choice about where to put her efforts and she can do this by embracing what leadership really requires:

Collaboration: Organizational agendas and a vision will be better accepted and implemented when they are developed in a collaborative atmosphere, with you leading the effort rather than just handing it over to stakeholders and expecting them to sing to your tune. That might sound simplistic but I run into leaders ever day who can’t figure out why their vision, strategies, and agendas aren’t going anywhere and it may be because others don’t feel like they were a part of their creation. It gets harder if you don’t start from day one by asking others to participate in the creation of a future for your organization, so start thinking about how you’ll do that before it’s too late.

Delegation: A lot has been said about delegating over the years, but a lot of leaders and managers aren’t listening. The importance of delegating requires repeating because it is a lifelong struggle for many leaders – especially those who have a natural tendency to want to control. It means you have to allow yourself to be uncomfortable in not knowing everything everyone is doing at every minute. Yet you still have to hold them accountable. If those seem like opposites, they are a little. But you will either die of exhaustion or drop some important balls if you continue to attempt to be involved deeply in everything all of the time. Pick your battles. What are the most important things for you to do and who needs to do the rest?

Coaching: In our complex business environments it isn’t enough to simply delegate. You may not have the luxury of having a team that has the breadth and depth needed to do everything that needs to be done alone. You’ll have seasoned team members and you’ll have new ones that need to learn the ropes. Both can use coaching – from you or from whomever else is appropriate – when they can’t see their way forward. Coaching is a collaborative conversation, and you can find the right path forward together. You don’t have to have all the answers.

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “Where you spend your time defines you as a leader”. Don’t let time pull you along. Figure out what it means to lead, and spend your time doing what’s most important.

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 12 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages Fortune 500 corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.

This post was originally published in Smartblog on Leadership.

Surfacing elephants and new ideas

 

There are many leaders who talk too much. They can suck the life out of a room by shutting out other voices that need to be heard. Any wisdom those other voices have may be lost in the plethora of words that gush out of the leader’s mouth.

I’ve also known leaders who are quiet and need to be heard. They may have wisdom to share, but can’t get a word into the raucous cacophony going on around them. So they may withhold their voices, much to the detriment of their organizations.

There is withheld wisdom in both scenarios, and it is a reality in our organizations that some leaders aren’t listening and others need to be heard. The net result is that organizations can’t reap all of the available potential from their leaders. There is so much to be heard that isn’t, leaving our organizations malnourished.

When loud leaders and quiet leaders learn to moderate their natural tendencies, modelling and setting expectations that others do the same, the organization can bathe in the grandness of a collective wisdom that has been kept dormant.

Can you imagine what might happen when that occurs? It’s a compelling vision of fully functional companies that actually listen and hear what’s being said. Creativity is no longer an issue. Collaboration rides on the coattails of this imagined company ripe with rich, deep listening and all wise voices being heard – with bottom line results.

The skills to be able to listen and be heard are learnable. Whether you are a loud leader or a quiet leader, what if……

You listened more: Take the stance that you aren’t the keeper of all knowledge. You have learned that others just might have something important to say. Silence in conversations is embraced as your friend because it shows that people are thinking and allows dormant voices to come forth. You are listening to understand what others bring to a conversation instead of allowing your brain to chatter along, making judgments and assumptions. Notice the wisdom that is appearing now!

You are intentional about using your voice: You are as strategic about your words as you are about achieving organizational results. It takes hard work, but you know when to speak and when to listen and how to find your way into a conversation. This strategic use of your voice is THE most important leadership skill, foundational to your success and that of your organization. You’ve noticed that your clarity and influence is magnifying within the organization. Heads turn to hear what you have to say. You are making an impact!

Listening and being heard are modelled, learned, encouraged and required: You’ve learned to model deep listening and you speak up only when it’s essential. You make it clear that you expect others in your organization to be intentional about listening and being heard; you’ve held employees responsible for doing so. You now observe the growth in your organization, including bottom-line effects!

We spend billions on training employees in our organizations to work together, to “be creative”, and to lead others when better listening and assuring all wisdom is heard can solve a lot of the issues. When we listen better and find our voice, deep conversations begin to happen, surfacing elephants and new ideas. Imagine the possibilities.

One important question

 

You are an experienced leader for whom leadership has taken on a habitual rhythm. You rush about your day, hardly taking notice of what is in front of you, but getting things done nonetheless. You take action and get results without much thought about the potential you have within to go above and beyond your current level of leadership and to be working at your best.

Whenever someone comes into your office with a problem, you solve it. When something needs to get done, you do it. When fires break out, you get out the hose. You say you have the best team and you’re confident of your skills as a leader.

But could you entertain the thought that you could be even better at being a leader? If so, then there is one important question you can ask yourself.

 

What am I doing (or not doing) that’s keeping me from being at my best?

 

Even the very best leaders understand that they can get better at their craft. They know there’s always room from personal/professional growth. But the answer to this question may be eluding them. If you’re having a hard time coming up with a response to this question, there are some simple ways to begin to learn more about what’s keeping you from being the best possible leader you can be:

Look beyond the obvious. This question doesn’t just address your work life; it addresses your entire being including your diet, your sleep, your outside-of- work relationships, your spiritual and intellectual life. If things outside of your everyday work world are out of sync, they will impact your ability to lead at your best. Start now to make sure all areas of your life are in congruence.

Observe yourself real time. Pay attention to your behaviors and the reactions you get from those around you as you go about your work. What are you doing that could be done differently or better?

Ask for feedback and listen well to what you hear; consider it carefully and thoughtfully even when it’s hard to hear. Sometimes your blind spots keep you from accepting behavior that’s less than optimal for you to lead at your best.

If you are like many leaders I know, you are driven and focused to take action and get results. This drive is a strength that undoubtedly got you where you are today. But it’s also a strength that can go too far, keeping you from being thoughtful and intentional about your actions. Dial this strength back and carve out regular time in your schedule to consider what you are learning about yourself from this one important question.

Develop a plan of action to grow and change the habits that will make you even better; to go beyond what you think might be possible for you.

And then start the personal growth work all over again. Because leadership isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.


 

Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo
A former executive in a Fortune 100 company, I own and operate a leadership solutions firm called Aspire Collaborative Services. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. I am married, have two daughters, and a dog named Edgar the Leadership Pug who exemplifies the importance of relationships to great leadership.
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