Thursday, March 20, 2014

Building Our Leadership Skills Part 3… Leadership Qualities and The Secret to Difficult Conversations

Man, I got so far off topic last time talking about setting an intention that I had to change the title of the post!  Let’s try this again.

In our example, we are helping a new supervisor get past the initial fear of talking to a team member about a behavior that needs to change.  Sometimes it’s something small, like getting back from lunch or break on time (maybe small now, and could turn ugly if allowed to go on for too long).  Other times we need to talk to a team member about a subject that could easily bring out some defensiveness.  I’ve had to talk to someone about personal hygiene.  I mean really… you could tell when this person was standing 10 feet behind you without turning around.  I’ve talked to a team member about calling out for funerals… after his 5th grandmother died.  He knew he was caught in a lie, and still got very irate…  Sometimes we have to address performance issues with people who think they are great workers, and they don’t want to hear the truth… it can be tough to get through their armor.  Other times, it’s any issue with someone with whom we’ve allowed ourselves to become friends.  Sometimes it’s just the person… there are lot’s of people out there who simply do not want to hear any feedback at all.  To them all feedback is a personal attack, and they can fight back as if defending their very existence.

So, how then do we approach these conversations; much less have them go well?  Crap!  Here I am again.  I’m about to start talking about a much larger subject, like developing relationships with our team members, and really just started talking about how to get our new supervisor started off right.  Oh well…

The only good way to have these conversations go well is to start having them long before we need to.  What the hell does that mean?  It means this…

If we spend the time and energy developing strong relationships with our team members, these conversations are not difficult at all.  Well… the vast majority of them.

Leadership is all about developing relationships.  Without these relationships you will be unable to achieve your goals.  With the right relationships however, your team will turn into a high functioning team.  Your team members respect you, as well as show you surprising loyalty.  You will never want for Leadership.  You will supply others will Leaders.  Your job will be a secure as you want it to be.  Your team will make you look like a god among men.  Well… anyway…

So whether you are a new Leader, new to Leading this team, or want to change the culture of your existing team, you still need to follow pretty much the same path.  You will need to develop a relationship with every person on your team.  What does that look like, and how do I do that?  It’s not as hard as it sounds.  It all begins with you, and your relationship with yourself.  Damn it Steve… now you’re just talking in circles!     Calm down… we’ll get through it.

There are many traits or qualities that a Leader needs.  John C Maxwell, one of the best-known people in leadership circles these days , and an author I would highly recommend, would list them in his “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” as:

Character.  Charisma.  Commitment.  Communication.  Competence.  Courage.  Discernment.  Focus.  Generosity.  Initiative.  Listening.  Passion.  Positive Attitude.  Problem Solving.  Relationships.  Responsibility.  Security.  Self Discipline.  Servanthood.  Teachability.  Vision.

Since they are ‘indispensable’, we need all of them.  And… we are all unique and so each of us will be stronger in some than in others.  I have also come to believe that some are more important at different times for us as Leaders.  For our purposes here, we are going to talk about teachability, or humility, servanthood, security, listening skills, character, and communication skills.

We need to develop relationships, so what exactly does that mean?  Much of this is work that we will do, or have done, when hiring.  I would advise you to go back and read my series on hiring the best hourly team members starting here.  Until then, it means many things… getting to know the team member, about their home and family life.  It means finding out what kinds of goals they have for themselves, both long and short term.  What do they do for fun?  All of these are things we would want to find out if we cared about someone.  The point being… we have to actually care about our team members.  If you really don’t care about your team members at all… I would not waste my time reading any more… it will do you no good.

Servanthood comes into play here… we want to do for others.  It’s natural, for most of us anyway, to feel good about doing something for someone else.  There are multiple books written about servant Leadership… feel free to read them.  I feel that all we need to know is: that it feels good to do for others; doing for others makes them feel good about us; if we care about others’ goals they will be much more likely to care about our goals.  That last one is a little on the selfish side, and that’s OK as long as we don’t just focus on that part.  How do you feel about doing for others… caring for what others need and want?  Do you feel good when you do something for someone else, with nothing expected in return?  I hope so…

Humility is next, for no particular reason, and is listed as teachability.  For our purposes it means we are aware that we don’t know it all.  We are open to the ideas of others.  We can learn from anyone and everyone.  We are all unique, and all see the world through different eyes.  If you are humble and are open to ideas from others you know that the team can solve so many more problems than you can.  Are you humble?  Do you listen to ideas from your team?  Everyone on your team?  Are you open to learning from anyone?  If you think you know more than pretty much everyone around you… well… the word for you is arrogant.  You need a coach or mentor to help you with this if you want to be a good Leader.

Security is important so you don’t feel threatened by those around you.  If you feel secure in yourself you can listen to others, and allow them to be as good as they can be. If you regularly, or irregularly, feel threatened by those around you… please work on getting a mentor, coach, or therapist.  You may need some help here to achieve your goals.  You will have a tough time surrounding yourself with the best people if you are not secure with who you are.

Character is what you do… do you do the right thing, even when no one is looking?  People are always looking.  Perhaps called integrity… you will not be able to gain the respect of the team if you lack integrity.  They will see that you are out for yourself, that your actions do not align with your words, and they will not follow you.  I have failed, in the past, to act with integrity, and even though I wasn’t the best Leader at the time, that failure was the only thing the team rebelled at.  You must always do the right thing.

Listening skills and communication skills go hand in hand.  You cannot be a good communicator without being a good listener.  Good listening skills are not just sitting patiently while the other person speaks, preparing your rebuttal.  Listening skills include listening to understand what the other person means, how they feel about what they are saying, and putting yourself in their shoes.  If you are listening correctly, you will be able to argue the other side of any argument.  Please go back and read my post on listening, and what not to say.  Pay attention to what you are doing the next time someone is speaking to you.  You may be surprised to find yourself thinking about what you want for dinner, or how that dry skin on you ankle is itchy again… let those thoughts go, and return your attention to the person speaking, and your interest in really understanding them.

Communication is both listening and communicating what you want to get across.  Please go back and read my post on communicating…  Yes I have a lot of posts… I’ve been busy here.  It’s your responsibility as the person (in particular as a Leader) communicating a thought, to make sure the person listening hears what you are saying in the way in which you intend.  It is your responsibility to read the body language and facial expressions of the listener to ascertain whether or not they heard it as you meant it.  If they are not hearing it as you meant it, you have the responsibility of fixing it before they leave the conversation.  When in doubt, you can even ask… ‘What did you hear me say just then’?  When checking in I’ve found that many people feel attacked in some way if there is the slightest doubt about our intentions.  Make sure!

All of this was to explain the part above about your relationship to yourself.  How do you feel about the qualities listed above?  Please be honest with yourself… I hope you have a coach or mentor, and if so please ask them to give you some honest feedback about these qualities.  If you have a trusted, honest, and disinterested peer (disinterested means that they are interested only in the truth, not how you feel about it) you may ask them too.  These qualities are all necessary, and it’s OK to be working on them as we go along.  The most important thing is that you have an honest assessment of where you are with all of them.  That way you will be able to improve on them, and be transparent with your team.  These are the basis of your relationship with your team members.

Which, I guess, we will talk about next time…

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I also wanted to share this article with you... I like what Tanveer has to say.
Revealing the Secret to Successful Leadership

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