There is so much to know in the world today about leadership. It is mind boggling to think that leaders of today have to know so much, build so many skills and be able to translate those skills across geographical and cultural boundaries.
Today, I just want to bring up 3 of the most important things that leaders have a tendency to forget when they are leading. And, the leaders I work with in one way or another get to these 3 big topics over the course of a coaching engagement.
Important Thing 1: 100% consensus is just not possible in the real world, and it is not healthy for your team. If your team is coming to an agreement and reaching 100% consensus on every decision you make, then there is a good chance that people are feeling squelched. While you may feel great that 100% consensus has been achieved, I would question any team that is 100% in agreement. When I hear that a team has reached 100% consensus, I often wonder if groupthink has set in, causing the less vocal people to shut down. If anyone is holding back on sharing concerns about the direction you are going, then you don’t really have 100% consensus…it is simply an illusion and one that needs to shift into reality.
Important Thing 2: The way your team perceives you is your reality. I had a client a few years ago become so upset during a 360 degree feedback review process, because it was revealed that his team did not feel that he was a good listener. He told me that he spends about 65% of his day listening. The reality was somewhere in the middle. While he said he was listening, his team said during the review that while he was “listening”, he was also texting and checking email. So, to the members of the team, this translated into “He is hearing me, but he is not listening, because he is distracted by his text messages and emails.” So, at the end of the day, when your team gives you feedback about how you are showing up, this then becomes a reality that you must address if you really want your team to follow you. If you don’t address their perceptions of you, you will be viewed as someone who does not care about the opinions of others.
Important Thing 3: The way you talk as a leader can change the way you lead and your bottom line results. A few days ago, I attended my second Zumba class (April has been my month of trying four new exercises: Zumba, Hot Yoga, Pilates and Body Pump). About 20 minutes into the class, I went to get a drink of water, and I heard a woman asking 3 other women to please stop watching the clock and announcing how much time was remaining in the class…that it was distracting and causing other people to look at the clock. I thought to myself “Hmmm…the power of suggestion is just so amazing…it can even get people distracted from their hard, sweaty workout…imagine that?” (duh) The power of suggestion and the power of words can be life changing in the world of leadership. So, I most often work with leaders on shifting language in 3 main areas:
- Shifting from the language of complaint to the language of committing to finding solutions and moving the team forward. Complaining can filter throughout your team, and there is nothing worse than a dysfunctional team that whines constantly. If you are complaining, your team will follow your lead. If you are complaining about the time, others will start watching the clock. If you are whining about how tough the economy is, your team will use this as an excuse for not getting more leads and closing more sales.
- Shifting from the language of assumptions to the language of speaking facts only when they are facts. When you are in a leadership role, you have to “assume” that nothing is a true fact until you have the evidence in your hand that something is true. Until you find out a fact is true, use the words “I assume” or “I predict” or “My guess is” or “I cannot make a decision until I find out all of the facts”. When a leader states an assumption as a fact…look out! Your team will call you out, but only if you have given them permission to do so. Be careful about calling something a fact or true until you have the evidence in your hands.
- Shifting from the language of giving orders and advice to the language of curiosity. No one likes to be constantly told what to do. The best leaders of today are great coaches. They listen, ask questions and probe for clarification. If you are constantly barking orders to your team, it will fall on deaf ears. The language of curiosity is so amazing. By asking childlike questions such as “Hmm…that is interesting…how did that come about?” or “That is an interesting perspective. How did you arrive at that conclusion?”, you will get a great deal of information from your team. As a result, they will probably voluntarily offer up new information without your having to even ask for it.
As you read this post today, just keep in mind that your team is watching you and the way you lead. The best thing you can do is to ask for feedback from your team and start working with a coach or mentor on how you can improve the areas that your team members want to see you improve.