“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John Maxwell
Many people aspire to become a leader but most do not understand that leadership is way harder than it seems. There are no instructions or manual that comes with it, nor is there a guide that you can use to find your way through. Sure, there are plenty of podcasts, books, blogs and more, but at the end, it comes down to each individual, their leadership style and the environment they are in.
It may seem obvious, but leaders have more responsibilities than meets the eye, and the stress of having to make decisions that will potentially affect others’ lives isn’t an easy place to be in. The constant pressure will get to the best of the leaders, but the show must go on through fears, apprehensions and other challenges.
“The biggest mistake you could make is being too afraid to make one.” Elbert Hubbard
When you are addressing a team or a group, talking about a problem that you have to resolve, it is normal to have a bit of your nerves acting up. But there is a whole different problem when you are lacking the confidence to address the issue or when you are afraid that you will be wrong.
What’s the first thing any of us do upon receiving negative feedback? That’s right, get defensive, angry and wonder how anyone could have anything negative to say, as opposed to actually pondering over the possibility of truth in the feedback. This holds true for all of us and this is exactly what we must consciously get away from. While it may not naturally occur to a lot of us to speak up, we can certainly hone and train ourselves to get there. Here are some tried-and-tested ways that work:
BE TRANSPARENT: “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” Dalai Lama
A lot has been talked about the importance of transparency and trust, but they are almost always about personal relationships and not as much about professional ones. However, we are happy that the narratives for corporates are changing and an increasing number of employees now expect that their companies and team leaders follow open communications. Incredible things happen when leaders are honest and transparent. For starters, there is a better connect and understanding because employees are able to relate to your situation well. Problems are solved so much faster when you are open, because chances are that, somebody from the team will be able to come up with a solution that you couldn’t. This also leads to building trustworthy and strong work relationships and your respect amongst the team will multiply.
BE CONFIDENT: “Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong.” – Peter T. Mcintyre
If there is just one quality that a leader MUST possess, it is confidence. Speaking up in a room full of strong voices can be overwhelming and even nerve-racking for anyone, but especially if you’re introverted or are a lone woman in a male-dominated environment. It is normal and happens to a lot of us. Feel it, but DO NOT let the fear consume you. Be confident and speak up. Confidence is the foundation upon which every other leadership quality is built. A leader is someone who is constantly under the pressure to make important decisions that will potentially affect the entire team, and confidence is the driving force behind these decision-making processes. Leaders who are confident are always respected, admired and looked up to. Don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s completely normal and if anything, it will help people know that leaders are humans, too, regardless of their rank or position in the organization. Confidence also helps you to handle public speaking and meetings with power, allowing you to handle criticism and feedback with grace and positivity.
BE READY FOR FEEDBACK: “Learn how to take criticism seriously, but not personally.” – Hillary Clinton
Feedback and criticism are essential for both personal and professional growth. If we don’t know where we need to improve, we cease to learn, and when we do not learn, we do not grow. To be an effective leader, you need to constantly learn, grow and develop, and feedback – both good AND bad – will get you there. It is especially important for a leader to know how they are perceived by their people.
There are many companies that encourage their leaders to hold periodic feedback sessions where team members are asked to rate their team leaders on various criteria or provide inputs about the pros and cons of working with someone. This has proven to be extremely insightful and rewarding. Leaders have learnt of opportunities through these sessions that they would have never otherwise, leading to a healthier, stronger team and organization.
BE OBJECTIVE: “Dispassionate objectivity is itself a passion, for the real and for the truth.” –Abraham Maslow
Objectivity is the ability to keep personal preferences and biases at bay and look at a situation with an open, realistic mind. And, as a leader, objectivity is something that must be one of your top priorities. Your team trusts and looks up to you for unbiased and impartial judgement and decision-making. Failing to do so will result in chaos, distrust and conflict. When a leader is subjective, they allow their decisions to be influenced by their personal thoughts, preferences and opinions. It is essential that every decision is made based on deep understanding of the issue, corresponding data and past experience. Learn and understand the situation, investigate all angles of it before arriving at a solution.
OWN YOUR POWER: “Leaders become great not because of their power but, because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell
Having power gives you the ability to influence others’ behaviour, decision and lives. The word ‘power’ is often associated with being corrupt or bad, but it is actually what you make of it. Leaders can use power to either uplift others or constrain others. Use it wisely and effectively. Use your voice to advocate for the good and the right. Stand up for the underdog, be their voice and support system. Use your power to influence organizational processes, to enable healthy work environment, to help people achieve more and build stronger teams. Be a leader of character; OWN YOUR POWER!
At Lead With Passion, we work with Executives and other senior leaders in various stages of their career, to help achieve their professional goals. Find out how we can support you and your organization.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Ways to create effective workplace communication
- Encourage two-way communication: Communication has got to be two-way. Period. There is no two ways about it (pun unintended). A lot of organizations tend to think of communication mainly as a way to inform employees about policies, company updates, rejigs, etc. As a leader, stepping up here and opening up opportunities for conversations, will benefit the team and company leaps and bounds. Learn about what your employees have to say. Are they happy? Overworked? Burned out? Are they facing struggles that stunt productivity and growth? These are must-ask questions (and must-know answers). This will also build loyalty, boost morale and will result in a productive and happy work environment.
- Listen, don’t just hear: “Leaders who do not listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” – Andy Stanley. Listening is a skill that a lot of us struggle with. Paying attention when spoken to is the sincerest form of respect you could give someone. Often times at work, we find ourselves in the midst of back-to-back meetings, emails and phone calls, making us completely oblivious to our environment. If you are in a meeting with your team and are typing away on your laptop or cellphone, or if you are thinking about your next meeting, you are not paying attention. This is not only disrespectful, but highly detrimental to your team health and engagement, leading to frustration and lack of motivation. Put all the gadgets away and listen to what your colleagues have to say. Give the conversation your everything. Ask questions. Empathize and try to genuinely understand what is going on. Everything else will fall in place.
Create healthy work relationships: We spend most of our day at work, collaborating with our teammates on different levels. Positive and healthy relationships at work is largely determined by the company’s communication process. When senior executives are effective communicators, they are able to inform employees of their roles and responsibilities, comprehend their problems and are able to provide constructive feedback, resulting in smoother, better processes and healthier environment. Gallup found that sales increases by 20% when employees are actively engaged, and profitability increases by 21%. These are huge numbers and can literally make or break an organization. It is simple math – when employees are engaged, they are more productive, teams are stronger and workplace environment is healthier, automatically leading to increase in revenue, profitability and growth of an organization.
Manage conflicts appropriately: Workplace conflicts aren’t new or rare and have been around forever. It’s prevalent in the most successful organizations. However, what makes a difference is how these conflicts are resolved. Or in many cases, if they are resolved. Many leaders are uncomfortable and tend to avoid conflicts to stay out of unpleasant confrontations. But it is imperative for leaders and senior executives to have these difficult conversations with their teams, in an effort to resolve it and without taking sides. If these conflicts are avoided, leaders lose their position and respect with their teams.
“It’s important to make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” Barack Obama.
This quote couldn’t be more relevant. While avoiding conflicts is unacceptable, it is also necessary to pay attention to how you handle conflicts. The basics remain – be polite, be courteous, do not yell, do not swear or be condescending. In other words, be diplomatic. We need to understand that we are here to SOLVE the conflict and NOT bring down the other person. Get to the bottom of the issue and talk it out in an effort to find a solution. Remember, that’s your goal.
- Offer feedback: Both positive AND constructive. Yes, you read that right. According to a recent study by Zenger and Folkman asserted, not only the “Your work is great” and the “You are amazing” feedback but constructive feedback is just as crucial, and if delivered appropriately, it is considered to be extremely effective at improving performance. The same study also notes that not many like to give negative feedback, which isn’t surprising, but is necessary and reiterates the importance of communication. And quite frankly, our team members want it and want to know how they can improve and grow. So, go ahead and say it – the good, the bad and the ugly – but do so in a professional and polite manner.
Deriving the right communication strategy for your business can be daunting and overwhelming, but we assure you, that with the right kind of strategy and support, your organization can achieve successful internal communications. Lead With Passion has years of experience working with heads of various companies and teams, helping them build and execute successful communication strategies.
Whether you need a full-fledged plan or just discuss to understand more about what we do, you know that we are just a click away.