Articles tagged with: Communication
Several weeks ago, I was coaching with a client (let’s call him John) who was working to further develop his listening skills. In the course of our conversation he said, “I want people to feel I am genuinely interested.”
John went on to share a short, but impactful story with me. John was attending the funeral of an elderly gentleman who was a long term friend of his family. This man was known to be a very quiet man. Because of this, John was a little surprised to see so many people at the funeral. After the service, John was talking with some of the guests and mentioned that he was surprised so many people were in attendance…. Not because this man was not a great man, but rather, because this man was so quiet. One of the guests responded to him with a statement that changed John’s perspective of this man forever. The guest said, “There are so many people here to honor him because he was more interested than interesting.”
This is the time of year most home owners are focusing on getting their yards looking good again. Many of us are seeding, re-planting, trimming, raking, mowing… and mowing…. and mowing! The poignant thing is, living things keep growing, the weeds continue to pop up and everything needs to be watered regularly as well as trimmed. It takes maintenance and consistent effort to keep a yard looking good.
Great leaders love and champion change…well, at least that’s what most business articles would have you believe. I believe that the question begs a more complex answer to provide true guidance. As managers, we can each “champion” change, what we need to explore is how to develop our personal skills and how this becomes part of our leadership journey.
So what do we mean by “championing change”? Change Champions are leaders selected and trained to manage the inevitable uncertainty that is bound to arise within your team when faced with a program of change. To consider your role, I will examine change at three core levels: Championing a Quality Culture for Change; Leading your Team through Change; and Your Role as a Change Champion.
There are many opportunities in our lives and careers to negotiate for what we want:
· The cost, scope or schedule of your next project
· The sale price of a car or house
· Your starting salary or vacation benefits for a new job
· Your upcoming performance raise
Many notable authors and scholars have pointed out the advantages of using emotional intelligence in these scenarios. My experience with these concepts is that I need to break them down in to very simple terms so that I can remember them in the “heat of the moment” and under the stress that negotiations typically put on us.
Read any survey, talk to any leader, any employee – Communication ranks at the top of the list for “things leaders need to do better”. We all know it, and yet, most of us still struggle with communicating. And now that we live in the world of instant communication and information overload, it has only gotten harder. We have more tools, more resources, more access and we are less effective. This reminds me of the famous quote of George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” There are some things that we can do to get better.
There are those of us that are really good at estimating how long a particular project will take, or how much effort can be reasonably expended in a period of time. And then there’s the rest of us.
Whether it is through sheer hope or lack of experience, we often underestimate the amount of time and energy it ALWAYS takes to complete a project and overestimate the number of things we can add to our plates.
While this can be painful at best if the project only affects you, when it affects your team, or the organization as a whole, estimation of time and effort really become critical to the success of the project, team morale and completion of strategic objectives.
Here are six strategies to consider for those of you that may share frustrations in estimating:
- How clearly defined is the scope of the project? Do you know EXACTLY WHAT needs to be accomplished, and EXACTLY HOW it will be accomplished? If not, allow time for investigation, planning and re-planning- especially if this is uncharted territory.
- Ask your experts. Typically – those actually doing the work are better suited to advise you on the time and effort you’ll need to complete the task – or even just define the scope of the task. Be advised and then, as the leader – be sure to take into consideration if this person has been a good judge in the past, what other tasks may also be coming up, give room for other variables and then adjust the schedule and your expectations accordingly.
- Be mindful that many people on your team may want to naturally try to accommodate your wishes. Be sure to ask probing questions about their portion of the project, what is required and what other expectations are on them. This will save you down the road when they are floundering because they have agreed to do too much. Also be sure to check in with them frequently to encourage open communication so that you can adjust the schedule and expectations as necessary.
- Be mindful of your own desire to accommodate an unrealistic schedule. It’s no secret that leaders are under pressure to perform and to get the project done quickly and under budget. As you collect scheduling information from your team – ideally your experts – be sure to examine your motives if you think that the project could or should be done faster or cheaper. Holding strong to a realistic goal allows you to under-promise and (potentially) over-deliver – a much better position than over-promising and under-delivering!
- Expect that nothing will go as planned. Help your team to realize that when they are estimating, they should plan for technical glitches, changes in scope or priority. These are all natural occurrences in a project of any sized organization. Change is a constant – but if you’re expecting it, you can help your team to adjust that much more quickly.
- When in doubt – give the schedule a little cushion. Your percentage of increase will vary depending on your experience and that of your team, but as long as the goals of the project can withstand it, add a little more time on top just in case. You’ll be surprised how often you need it!
Once you are relatively certain of a good estimation, a project leader needs to be a champion, cheerleader and barrier remover once the work is underway. Delivering a project on time and on target is a very gratifying feeling – and working toward that is important for your team and the organization as a whole. However, if the path and the itinerary are not clear from the get go- or the expected arrival date is unreasonable or just plain wrong– no one will enjoy the trip! Frustrations will mount both on your part and that of your team and targets will be missed. Developing your skill in estimating a project scope and schedule to enable your team’s success will result in far more satisfaction on everyone’s part!
My husband and I recently traveled to Italy with several of our family members. We were fortunate enough to be hosted by dear friends of my in-laws who are natives of Pesaro. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful; the architecture was inspirational. I enjoyed the savory food and delectable wine, but what most impressed me most was the allure and authenticity of the people and their relationships.
From the moment we met our new “friends”, we were embraced as family. We did not have to “do” anything to earn or deserve their affection… we didn’t even have to “wait” for a certain period of time to prove ourselves. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We were welcomed with warm smiles, holding of hands, sincere hugs, kisses on the cheek and instantly meaningful conversation. I immediately became skeptical (even though I loved it). I thought… “This is just because they are long term friends of my in-laws”. Over the course of 10 days in Italy, I found this sort of charm and openness to be legitimate in relationships and consistent with most of the people I met. We were also fortunate enough to be in a location that was not populated with tourists. So, our experience was authentically Italian. Whether I was meeting someone in a shop or observing total strangers interact, relationships were the center focus.
This experience caused me to reflect on my own view of relationships and how I interact with strangers, new acquaintances, and even a friend I run into, on the street. I have a tendency to be very focused (especially during work hours). If a specific time was not scheduled, I rush any “interruptions” or “spontaneous encounters” in order to get back to my scheduled agenda. I realize in doing this, I may be missing out on much of the richness of life that my Italian friends have mastered.
As I reflected on my own behaviors in relationships, I began to think about the importance of relationships in leadership. If you have spent any time developing yourself as a leader, you know relationships are a vital part of being successful. I wonder how many of us know this in our head as true (theory) but struggle to genuinely practice it. I realize I do. Even though I have spent years talking about how important relationships are, my short time in another country proved I do not practice it as much as I should.
I am writing this to challenge myself and other leaders like me to make room for spontaneity in relationships and to embrace a less guarded approach… an approach that focuses on the individual and what they are saying and not on the next meeting. I also encourage you (and myself) to not be afraid to appropriately give a hug or a pat on the shoulder. I think we may both discover this to be rewarding both personally and professionally. I am also confident there is a positive unintended by-product of truly connecting with people. Many times, we're looking for all kinds of ways to motivate people. Cultivating relationship frees up that mental energy we're using, because sincere and meaningful relationships are the motivational carrot that brings loyalty, commitment and drive. I realize my behavior may never be as my new friends in Italy; however, I can work to be a little more like them.
What are your thoughts on this subject? If this is an area you would like to further develop in, I'd encourage you to contact us to discuss leadership coaching.
Have you ever listened to a true storyteller? My dad was a gifted storyteller. Each night, he would weave a story for my sister and I, and we were transported to a world of the imagination. Vibrant characters would embark on all sorts of exciting challenges and adventures. These stories created a wonderful fabric of memories for my childhood.
I think of strategy as an engaging story about an organization. A strategy story can draw you into the passion and purpose of why that organization exists and what they hope to accomplish. Like a gifted storyteller, a strategic leader can bring you quickly to care about the mission and interest you in the pathway to the future. Navigating interesting business challenges and opportunities can craft an interesting plot that has you rooting for mission success. Like a gifted storyteller, leaders in great organizations can consistently recount their strategy story about who they are, how they serve their customers, and where the organization is headed in the future.
Shouldn’t you be able to tell your organization’s strategic story? To do it well, you need to develop an attention-grabbing script. Whether it is an employee, vendor, client or even a neighbor, the story you tell can engage the listener and generate interest in supporting future success.
So how do you weave your story of strategy? It takes effort to internalize the important messages of strategy. You need to own the story. Consider the following three parts to compose your strategy story:
- What is the most inspiring purpose for your organization? A good mission statement should serve as your guide. Start with the mission statement and put it in your own words. Be brief. As Peter Drucker said, a good mission statement should fit on a t-shirt. Don’t be afraid to believe in the product or service you provide. Be sure it is a “we” statement not a “they” statement.
- What role does your character play in the strategy story? Consider your contribution to the organization. Define why you enjoy your role and how you ensure a quality product or service. Think about a great day at work and what you love about your job. Own your story and how you bring unique value to your role. Be proud of your contribution, and this can inspire others to contribute their best efforts.
- What do your colleagues contribute to future success? Each person in an organization should connect to future success. It is a great feeling to be a part of a broader purpose and the success of a team. The more you engage others in your strategy story, the more they contribute. Consider each role and how that role contributes to the product or service. Remember to provide feedback and appreciation to encourage participation.
Like a great story, strategy is about the journey to succeed and you get out of it what you put in. You can be a part of creating a wonderful journey of opportunity and success for your organization. I will never forget the amazing characters in my dad’s stories. My wish for you is to invest your career in organizations where you are truly a part of the strategy story.
For further information about connecting strategy and leadership, consider watching the MSBCoach Webinar: Connecting Leadership and Strategy: Sparking Energy for Success
I remember early in my leadership career, I hated meetings. I had to attend so many of them that I could hardly get my job done. I remember thinking, “what a wasteful use of everyone’s time and the company’s money”.
One of the many reasons the meetings were so dreadful was because they (more often than not) lasted way to long and whoever was leading them only spoke one language… “theirs”. When you are a leader, it is valuable to know your own language (this is self-awareness), but you also need to know how to speak the language of others. Each brain (person) is unique in the way they think, and behave, even how people gain or lose energy is different. At MSBCoach we primarily use a tool called Emergenetics Human Behavior Assessment to help leaders learn this important information. Emergenetics is a brain/science based tool to help individuals better understand how their brain works, what gives them energy and what drains their energy. It also helps them understand the brains (thinking, behaviors and energy patterns) of others. This is important if you want to be an effective leader and lead meaningful (not wasteful or boring) meetings that engage every brain.
Emergenetics divides the brain into four thinking preferences and three behavioral preferences:
- Green – Structural – prefer consistency, procedures, tradition, practical, predictable, learns by doing
- Blue – Analytical – prefer credible data, logical, clear thinker, rational, learns by analysis
- Yellow – Conceptual – prefer ideas, brainstorming, imaginative, visionary, learns by doing
- Red – Social – prefer people, connecting, working together, socially aware, empathetic, learns from people
- Expressive – may prefer to get energy from being quiet, alone or in small groups or the other end of the spectrum prefer getting energy from being a gregarious and a performer
- Assertive – may prefer to get their energy from being quiet, maintaining peaceful energy or the other end of the spectrum and prefer to get their energy from driving hard and fast to get things done
- Flexible – may prefer to get their energy through sticking to decisions once they are made or may prefer to get their energy to being open to what others want
The thing to remember as a leader is that there is not a right or wrong, it is just different. Each one of the behavioral and thinking preferences brings strength to the team.
We do not all think or behave alike. This is not rocket science to you I am sure, yet it is amazing how many leaders lead their people and run their meetings all the same way. Running effective meetings is brain science and Emergenetics can help leaders to be successful. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t understand the science behind effective meetings and and they do what they know as the “best way”… which is the way “they” prefer to think and behave. This may be effective with people who are just like them, but, the opposite happens with people who have different preferences from them. Take for example, Erica is the boss, and is structural/left brained. Her meetings always start and end on time, they are by the book, expected and predictable. People always know what to expect. But what happens when Steven who is social/right brained wants some time to connect with people and he never gets it? or Tom who is analytical/left brained and wants to discuss the research and data but tends to get shut down because his topic is not on the agenda? Anthony who is conceptual/right brained and wants to share his ideas and possibilities for the future, and he is told to, “focus”. What happens is brain science, these team members disengage and Erica with the best of intentions has lost them, and is not leading effective meetings with her team.
Here are four tips to help leaders bring brain science into their meetings and make them more effective:
- Be self-aware of your own thinking and behavioral preferences when leading meetings - you will have a bias to lead out of them because they are familiar and comfortable to you
- Recognize there are several other combinations of thinking and behavioral preferences and their preferences need to be met in order to keep good energy, ideas, information, structure and connection in the meeting room and to the team
- Leveraging and valuing all seven of the preferences will greatly benefit you and the team
- Be sure your meetings tap into all seven aspects of the brain:
- Have an agenda and send it out in advance
- Be sure to include time for the following:
- People to connect
- Sharing of ideas
- Giving credible research and being practical
- Pace the meetings so they are not too fast, nor to slow
- Be sure to have energy with expression but not over the top
- Be open to new possibilities and ideas even if a decision has been made
- End on time
- Set meeting ground rules
- Only schedule meetings when necessary and not just because it is time for a meeting
- If you want someone to present then know their preferences, they may need advance opportunity to prepare. Be careful ever putting people on the spot, even if it is information they know.
If you put these tips into practice, I guarantee you more effective meetings. Do you have any effective meeting tips you have discovered that work? If so, please share them with us, we would like to learn from you.
Did I really say that??!!! Have you ever left an important meeting with a knot in the pit of your stomach not knowing exactly what you said but knowing that it was completely the wrong thing? Wondering if there is damage to your relationships with key colleagues because emotions took control of your voice?
Fear not! There are ways to better understand this emotional reaction and tools to help you use this energy for powerful and more effective messages.
First, let’s understand what is happening in your reaction. If you have worked with personality typing such as Emergenetics or Myers Briggs (and I heartily recommend considering these tools if you haven’t), you understand our differences in how we process situations, information, and reactions to other people. Certain ways of viewing the world are naturally more comfortable for you. So what happens to your style when stress or pressure pushes you to operate in a way that is completely outside of your usual style and comfort…and may lead you to post-meeting questions of “what was I thinking when I said THAT?”
I reference a great piece of research called In the Grip; Understanding Type, Stress, and the Inferior Function, by Naomi L. Quenk. The premise is that when our usual dominant styles are confronted with fatigue and stress, we have an inferior reaction type, the opposite of our standard Myers Briggs type, which takes over our reactions in the frustration of the moment.
So what does this mean in real life situations? Consider a situation when you are tired and at the end of your patience. The reasonable “you” is now agitated, angry, and acting out of character. Backed into a corner, the opposite of your standard personality erupts in a way that is confusing to you and to others in the discussion. You can come away from a meeting wondering “who was that person?”
So how can you manage the energy of stress and ensure that you project your best self in discussions that matter? The trick is to reconnect to your comfort and style strengths by recognizing the situations that cause this level of stress and fatigue. I recommend four basic ways to reconnect to your true type.
- Take a time out – Even a short trip out of the meeting room for a common excuse can give you the time to take a few deep breaths. Although adrenalin is needed if we are in peril, it can be your enemy in a meeting full of emotional turmoil.
- Find the patience to listen– In a stressful meeting, messages are flying in all directions and no one is really listening. The respect of truly listening to an alternate viewpoint can change the tempo of the whole meeting. Try repeating the message of the “other side” and you may find that you are not as far apart as you thought. Once you listen to their input, they may react much better to your perspective rather than your emotion.
- Forgive yourself and follow up - If you really “lost it” and your comments create a conflict, take accountability for a bad meeting. Most people have experienced something similar and will react well to a sincere apology about getting caught up in the emotion of the moment. Use this as a lesson to understand what triggers you in these situations and to manage your future reactions. This is an opportunity for a valuable leadership lesson.
- Refresh your personality testing knowledge - Revisit and explore personality typing. Myers Briggs and Emergenetics help to explain how others may view situations differently and can help immeasurably in shaping your leadership messages.
The better you understand yourself and others, the more productive your meeting discussions can be even in stressful situations. Exploring your personal style can be an exciting journey.
The intensity, destruction and aftermath of a powerful storm can be overwhelming. The things we once took for granted become the most important in the aftermath. We learn to value safety, warmth, clean water, a shower, and a hug from a caring person. In this case, as with others, there are lessons to be learned.
If you have been in a leadership role for any length of time, you have experienced a few storms both personal and professional. So, how do we weather these storms as leaders and how do we support others through their aftermath? Below are eight things that I are as true in leadership as they are with tornadoes and floods:
- Stay Calm – In an audio clip I viewed of a storm there were people huddled in a store refrigerator to escape the tornado. I could hear the leader speaking calmly as he gave directions and moved people toward action. His calm demeanor kept them focused on what they needed to do in that moment. If a leader panics or becomes overly emotional, only chaos will emerge. People want to believe that their leader has things under control.
- Have a plan – work that plan – In another case, when waters were approaching a family farm there were initial discussions of “throwing in the towel”. It appeared that there was no way to beat the rising water. Then a plan was initiated by the leader. There were plenty of naysayers, but the leader continued to encourage, “Let’s work the plan”. They worked the plan and much of their hard work paid off. During storms, we may need to re-work our plans or even devise new ones. Engage others in working that plan. People will rise to the challenge - they just need a leader who will take a stand.
- Speak in succinct terms – In times of stress, we are unable to hear long, laborious statements. Be succinct in your directions and communications. People want to know what is really important and what has to happen next.
- Give people something to do – Remember you are not alone in the storm. People will help you. They want to be part of the solution. Ask them. Or maybe it’s more of a matter of just allowing them to help you.
- Communicate like crazy – let others communicate – As the tornado approached, this leader kept talking to the huddled people, questions were asked and others made suggestions. As the leader listened, he/she continued to make necessary adjustments. The leader never stopped communicating as the tornado ripped through the building. Many times leaders make the mistake of being silent or not listening during times of turbulence. People want to know that their leader is aware of what is happening, willing to listen and adjust if needed. They want to be certain that their leader will be there through “thick and thin”!
- Reassure/be visible – Throughout the horrific sounds of breaking glass, howling wind, and boards ripping, you could hear this leader continue to reassure people. At one point the leader used a cell phone to light up their face so others could see that he/she was still there. His words were strong and definitive…”We are going to make it. Hang on, it will end soon….” Nothing speaks louder than the leader “being there” during the storm. Your visibility and reassuring words give comfort and confidence to do or survive the impossible. People want a strong leader who believes in herself and the power of others.
- Be kind - As the leader/owner and employees scurried out of the badly damaged building, this leader checked with each of the employees to make sure they were ok. Then she told them to take any items that they thought they may need and go to their families. She told them to let her know if they needed additional things. One employee said he had never experienced such kindness and concern. He was willing to stay and help her start the clean-up but she insisted that he check-in with his family. Often we are so focused on the storm; we forget to be kind and considerate of others. Kindness can make the hard work just a little easier. Find little ways to show kindness.
- Remember what really counts – Reoccurring responses from those who have lost so much are statements like these: “I am just thankful to be alive”; “I only want to find my family pictures”; “I have my family that is all that matters”; “I am ready to start the rebuilding process”.....Storms have a way clearing away the “clutter” of our life and showing us what is really important and of value. Leaders, I recommend that you remind yourself often of the question, “What is really important and what really counts?”
The bottom line is important; however, to achieve that desired bottom line, we need people. People need to know that you care…really care.
I was recently reading the book, “Brain Rules” by John Medina. In the book, Medina teaches us that in order for learning to take place we have to connect with those we teach. He gives several examples of how to do this, but one in particular stood out to me. This example is that we have a tendency to forget that the information we are sharing is NEW to those we are teaching.
This hit me like a brick when I began to realize as leaders, mentors, and teachers we take for granted the information we have accumulated and how long it took us to master it. I first reflected on this insight within myself. I realized that I often move very quickly when teaching and coaching new concepts to those I am working with. I have a tendency to just assume they “have it” and are ready to move on; often I do not want to “bore” them (or myself).
According to Medina our brains:
- can only process 10 minutes of information at a time and
- can only focus on one thing at a time.
He also provides proof that our brains
- do not pay attention to things we are not interested in
- are inspired by emotional arousal and it helps the brain to learn.
This book enhanced and brought validation to concerns I already had. I began developing ways that I can more consciously connect with my audience – even if it is an audience of one. I also began to think about the executives I work with and how frustrated they get when people do not “get it” like they do, do not “get it” quick enough, or make mistakes.
Here are some of the tools that I use to connect with my audience. I encourage other executives I work with to do the same. Hopefully they will help you too.
- Create interest – people do not pay attention to what is “boring” to them
- Reduce multi-tasking – especially when new information is being learned
- Help those you are training to connect to the big picture first and fine tune the details later
- Tell a story (or something) to emotionally connect your learners/staff to what you are teaching
- Only teach 10 minutes at a time and then pull your audience or staff back in by creating a hypothetical situation they can connect to – even better if it involves their emotions
- Create an open environment for learning. Make sure your staff or audience are comfortable making and owning their mistakes and asking questions, otherwise, people will tell you they “get it” when they do not.
The next time you are coaching, training or mentoring someone, remember people need time to learn, process, store and practice the new information. Everyone learns differently and at a different pace, so get to know the person you are training and adjust your style accordingly.
Do not take for granted the learning process and reflect on how long it took you to master the subject matter you are teaching. Remember that while you may be proficient with a certain subject, it might not be your audience’s strength. This is vital if you really want people to learn and not just a perfunctory process to check off the list.
Thanks for joining us again for the third post for the Strategic Transformation Series. In the first two entries we talked about The Strategy and Engagement Connection & To Plan or To Transform? We look forward to your comments and questions as we dive into how strategic planning can not only enhance your company’s bottom line, but the engagement of your employees as well.
True transformation comes down to Intent. If our intention is to truly transform our organization through strategic planning, then that significant intention will require significant action.
Create a Strong Foundation If your last strategic plan is collecting dust on the shelf, let me ask you a few questions:
- How organized was the pre-planning? Did you identify stakeholders, decision makers, timelines and milestones?
- Was the rest of the organization well informed of this plan? Did you continue to communicate transparently and frequently?
- Were the right people involved? Did you have enough diversity of experience, subject matter expertise and perspectives to create a full picture?
- What historical information was gathered and provided to the team? Did they know what worked and didn’t work in the past?
- Were the leaders of your organization in the right frame of mind and open to thinking big about the possibilities for the future?
- Was the team prepared to communicate effectively and deal appropriately with conflict? Was there a designated facilitator?
By answering YES to these questions, we show our intent to create strong foundation for success by HOW we prepare. Important work and we haven’t even started the planning! This important phase of creating cultural preparedness for your organization will help you create that all important buy-in from your teams that you need to have the transformation you desire.
Define the Future
Once you’ve created the foundation, it’s time to get to the business of planning. Here are some things to consider as you create the high level strategy that we are all familiar with.
- Is your mission and vision clear? Does everyone have the same understanding and clarity that you need to move forward?
- When’s the last time you took inventory of everything that your organization does? You might be surprised how many “I didn’t know we did that…” comments you hear around the room.
- Are they the right activities? What would you like to be doing? How would you enhance those activities? What would it take to get there?
Strategy, at its heart, is about great communication. Remember – this intent is that this strategy be something everyone in your organization understands and lives by. Be mindful of the strong foundation and work to develop the goals and objectives collaboratively and interactively through a series of facilitated sessions that draw upon all stakeholders’ input and perspectives.
As you write the plan, keep the messaging clear, concise and actionable. Less is more. Consider a strategy map to help as a communication tool that can help to internalize this strategy in your culture.
The Plan to Get There
The typical next step is to issue the plan to the entire organization and instruct that they cascade the high-level goals and objectives into their operational divisions. We might even instruct that performance goals be tied to this strategy.
This all sounds good, in theory. However, Implementation Planning is often missing key results such as:
- opportunities for collaboration between divisions to execute the goals
- collective priority setting and coordination
- adequate resources to execute across the organization
- measurement of progress and enhanced performance
HOW you plan to implement the strategy is key to its success. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste; be sure to create a consistent process by which divisions are creating work plans that contribute to an overarching organizational work plan. Then work collaboratively to ensure the proper priorities and resources are allocated to TRANSFORM your organization!
MSBC brings an innovative approach and a team with extensive experience to guide your leadership through this Strategic Transformation process. Let us know if you like to learn more at .
This is an issue entire books are written on. I believe the major reason new managers fail is due to lack of training. New managers go into a position with “sugar plums dancing in their heads” and wide-eyed wonder of how fantastic it is to be a leader. It is wonderful to be a leader, but it is also a challenge.
We have to look at why people get promoted to leadership. It is usually because they were great individual performers. We then take them out of the role in which they have: excelled, built identity, and earned autonomy. We then we put them in a role where they are the “new kid on the block”, have not managed people before, and are trying to figure out who they are in this new realm. That seems to be a recipe for disaster and yet it happens every day. Instead of being responsible for themselves and for personal results, they are now responsible for a team of people, motivating and managing different personalities, and let’s not forget still having someone above them telling them what to do.
I think there are a several challenges that a new leader faces in this new opportunity. I will list them below with a few suggestions as to why this happens:
- Micromanaging – there are several reasons for this. The first was discussed above. New managers often know how to do the technical aspects of the job well so they continue to go back to that by default because they have not been trained to manage people. New managers often think they can do it better than their team. This may be true and why got promoted in the first place, they need to realize it is not about being “the best” as an individual performer, it is about inspiring and training the team to be the best. A high-performance team will reflect better on them in their new role as a manager in the long-run. Another reason for micromanagement is they want to look good in their new role so they are afraid to let someone else do it when they know how well they can perform – again this may be true but they have to understand they are now training people to be as good as they are, even better! The new manager has to work on trusting their people – it is amazing what a new manager’s team will accomplish when they feel valued and trusted. My advice to new managers who are micromanaging is, let it go – give your team some margin for error, the opportunity to learn and then coach them to improvement.
- Insecurity – a new manager is going to feel insecure in their new role initially, even if they never tell anyone. It is normal to feel this way anytime we do something new. This can be another factor in micromanaging. A new manager needs to give themselves some time to develop and grow. I highly recommend a mentor or coach to partner with you in this new journey.
- They don’t know what else to do – New managers are often only comfortable performing the task rather than managing the task because they have not been trained what the role of the manager is – try delegating – ask your team members what they want to do, observe what they are good at. Your job is to manage them to their own greatness.
- Need to be in control – this is usually tied into insecurity or fear. A leader does not need to control others to be in control.
- A need for things to be perfect – people cannot grow under this pressure. New managers should learn to strive and train for excellence but remember where they started. Train, mentor, and partner people up for better performance.
- Not running effective meetings – again this goes back to the lack of new manager training. If there is nothing to talk about, there is no need for a meeting just to “have it”. Meetings should have purpose, a schedule, an opportunity to connect and people should leave with a feeling of accomplishment. Meetings do not have to take a long time. Time does not equate importance.
- Thinking that because they are the “boss” they have all the answers – This is a misconception that can be due to past experience with managers who thought they knew everything or from the misconception that as the boss they have to know everything. New managers need to recognize that they are not going to have all the answers and that is OK, normal and the way it is suppose to be – this is why they have a team!
- Trying to be everyone’s buddy – this often happens when a new manager is promoted from within. They are not sure how to make the shift and do not know how to lead and still be connected. They may be afraid of being seen a “bossy” or just taking over and telling everyone what to do. They want to be liked… that is the way it was before… new leaders may not know how to transition into the realm of leadership. A new leader has to recognize that things are different now. When they have “buddies” on the team, the rest of the team will assume favorites even if they are not playing favorites. It’s better to keep the “buddy” friendships and “private jokes” about the night before out of the office.
- Avoid the “maverick” syndrome – whether hired from the outside or promoted from within, coming in as a “maverick” with all the answers or going to show this place “how it is done” does not usually work. It is better to get to know the culture and the people, earn respect and then begin to make changes. This will play in their favor in the long run.
- Not understanding the importance of managing up – Managing up is a skill that takes time to develop; however, when done properly can really help a new manager learn and excel. The foundation of managing up is relationship building and strong emotional intelligence
- Not self-aware enough to know how they want to lead or be known – it is important for a new leader to process through how they want to lead, what do they want to be known for, what their personal/professional values are, and how are they reflected in their leadership style. This takes time and self-reflection for any leader including the new manager.
- Inability to balance new responsibilities with the rest of their life – going back to self-awareness, what do they value? What do they want their life to look like? Set a plan of action according to that – and don’t expect everyone on the team to have the same priorities or work-life balance.
- Managing everyone the same way – people are different, they are motivated differently, and respond differently in situations. New managers should get to know individuals on their team and manage them the way that they will be most successful for them individually.
- Being a suck up – this never works, the best idea is to learn how to manage up, not suck up.
- Not valuing the importance of a safe network of support – a support team is important to bounce ideas off of, share frustrations with and concerns – self-aware leaders know that as humans we need support. All leaders need that support to give feedback, encourage and hold accountable to your own value system.
- Having favorites – see the notes above on “buddies” at work. People know when you have favorites and will not be able to be loyal and dedicated if they know you have “favorites.”
- Relying on or hiding behind email – some situations require personal contact, especially if something can be misunderstood and/or if conflict is involved. If an email has gone back and forth more than 3 times, it is time to pick up the phone or set a meeting. If it can cause or has the potential to cause conflict, have the conversation in person, body language and non-verbal messages are important for a leader to read and they cannot do this over email.
- Not showing respect for people that have been there a long time – new managers should listen to the feedback of those with seniority, even if they disagree. They will be surprised what they may learn. New managers should find a way to create win-win scenarios and always show respect. “If you want it you have to give it.” I think many of the hurdles that new managers face can be overcome from having a coach and or mentor to work with – this coupled with good leadership training workshops will help to bring success. We should not fail to recognize the value of “the school of hard knocks”.
As a leader of a team or an organization creating a culture of transparency can be a powerful tool to build trust and organizational cohesion.
But what should we share, and when? How much is too much?
One thing to consider the type of information, is it tactical or strategic? Is it key to executing the next steps on the path, or is it helping to make sure we are on the right path? The level of information and the way it is presented will depend on what its purpose is.
Tactical: How can you tell if you are giving too much information a leader about day-to-day operations or a specific project? How much of the details of what you are doing (behind the scenes) or reasons for your decisions do you make should you share?
- How much information does your team really need to do their job effectively?
- Will they be more engaged if you explain the details – or check-out from boredom?
- What does this do to your credibility as a leader? Will explaining this allow them to see more clearly how you think and act or is it just your ego wanting attention?
When it comes to transactional information – its important to keep people in the loop – but more often than not, it should be at a higher level. Just as you aren’t always interested in HOW the job got done, just that it did and satisfactorily, by keeping status updates and decisions made at the summary level, it allows them to make informed decisions and act on their own with a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of their decision.
Too many details will make your meetings long and expects your team to be able to connect the dot and understand their impact to their work at the same time. Make it easier for them by giving the highlights and the outcomes and offer offline explanations to anyone interested.
Strategic More often than not, we need to share the strategic vision and mission of our organizations and projects. This helps to make sure everyone’s activities are in alignment with the overall expected outcomes.
Most of us communicate the “What” and the “How” of our activities pretty well, but it is also important to share "Why" we are doing them. Good things come from including why we are doing things like:
- Connection the “what and how”
- Creating dialogue
- Encouraging innovation and creativity
- Providing clarity
- Identifying errors/flaws/misunderstandings
- Ensuring safety
- Improving employee engagement
- Generating buy-in
- Strategic vision and mission of the organization
- The challenges to achieving the vision and mission
- The strategies and tactics to overcome the challenges
- Roles and responsibilities
- Decisions that affect people, policies, methodologies, products, and services
- The rationale or decision-making processes for difficult situations
- Too much Personal Information – Use your personal relationship with the recipient as a barometer – but understand all things you share will become part of how people view you. It is always important to be authentic, but you don’t also have to air your dirty laundry– and it can be a damaging habit to confide too much.
- Ideas not fully vetted or thought out (outside of a brainstorming activity) – or that are seriously couched
- Sharing Frustration or overwhelm. Be a real person, but buffer appropriately if the recipients can’t actually help. Stress is contagious and drama is never productive.
- Concerns about other leaders in organization
- Admitting Flaws or Mistakes is often a great way to help other people learn from your own experiences. However, not all that goes on behind the wizard’s curtain is required to be shared… just like I don’t tell my guests about the laundry baskets full of toys and papers shoved in the closet when they come over!
When in Doubt:
- Consider Size and culture of your organization; share when sharing is promoted and accepted
- Consider Role of the Recipient and their ability to act on the information – or will they just feel overwhelmed by the stress of the information?
- Recipient’s ability to assimilate the level of detail shared with out disrupting their ability to function. Not everyone is good at being in the weeds!
- Before sharing – ask what your team wants, what level of information they need to do great work and make good decisions
- Ask yourself:
- What is my intention for sharing this information? If the intent is pure, and you deliver it in a careful way, the outcome will often be good.
- Is this stimulating the passion and commitment in the team members? Remember to also ask for their thoughts and ideas in order to get buy in and commitment!