On any given day, in just about any given business publication, you will find one or more laundry lists of skills, qualities, behaviors, competencies, and whatevers that are attributed to an effective, successful or great leader. It’s actually a bit mind-boggling. How can anyone possibly be all of that?!
Well, here’s the thing.
I’ve been working with leaders at all levels for…well, a long time. I’ve implemented leadership development programs across organizations large and small, and I’ve worked one-on-one with senior leaders and executives. I’ve been a leader in the corporate world, on boards and in my own business. And here’s what I’ve learned. While the leadership competencies touted in those lists are important, let’s keep it real about what makes a leader truly extraordinary. It’s not rocket science. It’s what I call the KEEP it REAL Leadership Principles (or Leadership According to Karen).
Before we get to those principles, though, note that they don’t include INTEGRITY. Why? Because for leadership that should be a no-brainer! The is NO negotiation on integrity. If people don’t trust you, there is no way they’re going to follow you. Be accountable and tell the truth. Do what you say you’re going to do. Show up whole, and be YOU and no one else.
Now. Here are my 6 KEEP it REAL Leadership Principles:
BOLD. Have a backbone, state your opinions and hold strong to your beliefs. Be courageous. Protect your team and staff – make them proud to be part of your team. Be accountable – do what you say you’re going to do. And have the hard conversations. Putting them off helps no one.
TOMORROW. What is your vision? Share it. Where is your team and the organization headed? Let them know what’s next, how “we’re” going to get there, and what they can do to help. Give your people a reason to believe in the future and to want to participate in building it. Provide them with development opportunities that will grow their capabilities to help achieve the vision.
TAWK. That’s New Jersey-speak for talk. Communicate, communicate, communicate. People need to hear things multiple times in multiple ways before they really “hear” it. Adapt your communication style to the listener – everyone takes in information differently. Remember it’s about them, not you. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Oh! And don’t forget to listen!
LEARN. You cannot stop learning! Be self-aware: know your strengths and be willing to admit (and work on) your blind spots. Make the time to get to know your team. Be curious. Cultivate a growth mindset and set an example of continuous learning. Provide learning opportunities for your people and encourage them to keep growing. As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.”
PLEASE & THANK YOU. Say it. Always. No excuses. Always be courteous and kind. Express your gratitude and mean it. No one gets tired of hearing: “Please” and “Thank You.”
FUN. Create a culture where people want to come to work, where people enjoy the projects, their colleagues, the stretch assignments, their team. When people enjoy their environment, they’ll be more innovative and creative, and they’ll want to stay in your organization. Culture starts at the top. Create the team YOU want to be part of.
“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Watch for more about KEEP it REAL Leadership – coming soon!
Till next time,
We all know that body language has a huge impact on our face-to-face communications. Our facial expressions, head nods, and body posture can influence whether the other person thinks we are sincere, are listening, and/or are telling the truth.
Generally, we think of body language, or nonverbals, in relation to how we communicate with others. But how does it impact our communication with ourselves? Does your body language make a difference in how you think and feel when you’re – in a group of strangers, feeling unprepared or unworthy in the face of a new challenge, or standing before a group of 200 people about to deliver an important presentation?
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who teaches leadership at Harvard University, says it does. In her TEDTalk, “Your body language may shape who you are,” Cuddy describes how our bodies affect our thinking and our thinking affects our behaviors. If we adopt a “power pose” we are more likely to feel confident and capable, overcoming the anxiety that may be associated with a new or unfamiliar situation. She expands on this theme in her talk, and in her recently published book, Presence, with examples of her research and her personal story.
And…she shares how adopting a power pose for just two minutes can alter how you feel about yourself and how you approach a challenge.
Professor Cuddy describes the typical body postures of people who tend to feel powerful, either naturally, or in the moment. High power poses “are about expanding. You make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space.” She gives the example of athletes who win at competition – “When they cross the finish line and they’ve won…the arms go up in a V and their chin is slightly lifted.”
We all saw this recently in the iconic image of US Women’s Soccer Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe.
When we feel powerless, on the other hand, we do the opposite. In low power poses we close up. We make ourselves small. We adjust ourselves to get out of other people’s way. Visualize someone hunched over their desk, or sitting with their arms and legs crossed, or always moving to the back in group photos.
In one research study, Cuddy and her team found that when participants adopted a high-power pose for just two minutes their “confidence” hormone (testosterone) levels increased and their “anxiety” hormone (cortisol) levels decreased. It was the opposite for participants in the low power pose group.
So, the next time you’re anxious about a situation – an interview, first day on a new job, delivering an important presentation – try this: stand in front of a mirror and adopt a high-power pose, shoulders back, open stance, chin up. Hold that pose for two minutes.
And then, go get ‘em.
Till next time,
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we’ve heard multiple “I’m sorry” statements from public figures who have been accused of bad behavior. Most of them sound pretty much the same. “I’m sorry for how I’ve hurt my family, my friends, my (fill in the blanks)…
Let’s get real. Just saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it. Apology not accepted.
While you can’t go back and undo whatever the offense or error was, a few robo-words in response to it do not in any way compensate, nor do they make the offended party feel any better. You need to take ownership, acknowledge the impact of your error or offense, and assure the other person that it won’t happen again. In other words, you need to be sincere about it. Saying “sorry” and being sorry are not the same things.
This applies to all errors or infractions, not just the big and public ones.
Imagine this scenario. You’re on a project team with four other people. The target project completion date is looming, and your deliverable is key to hitting that target. You’ve had a hellish couple of weeks. Family issues, and “fires” in your day-to-day responsibilities have put you behind. You didn’t alert anyone, because you were so sure you’d be able to catch up. The day of reckoning – the status meeting – has arrived. How do you convey “mea culpa” to your team?
"I’m really sorry, folks. Between family issues and fighting fires there was just no way I could get it finished. I know it puts us behind, but it just couldn’t be helped."
"I realize that my slipping this deadline has put our hitting the target date in peril. I should have given you a heads up early last week when I first recognized I might not make it. I didn’t, and I know that was irresponsible. Here’s what I’m going to do to get us back on track, and how I’ll prevent things like this in the future…"
As a member of the project team, which would convey more sincerity to you?
I’m on a mission to encourage more kindness and courtesy in people’s day-to-day lives. Promoting sincere apologies is part of that. We’ve seen multiple examples of insincere apologies from politicians and other public figures. Enough already.
Let’s move the tide in a different direction by: 1) taking ownership; 2) acknowledging the impact; and 3) assuring the injured party that it won’t happen again.
Till next time,
One of the most satisfying aspects of the work I do is helping other women create a strategy to achieve their business or career goals, keeping them accountable, and then seeing them attain those goals. As I like to say, women supporting other women – just as it oughta be.
In my last blog on this topic I talked about tips for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. This time I’d like to share some tips for women who want to grow their careers in the corporate environment. (Men, these tips will work for you, too!)
First of all, it’s important to understand that you are in charge of your own destiny. You need to keep an open mind, be curious, and get really clear about what YOU want for your life and career, and stop listening to those voices telling what you “should want.” Remember the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.”
Assess where you are. When you’ve decided what you want, take inventory. What skills do you have, what skills do you need? How will you attain those skills? What are your values and interests? What are some internal blocks or other obstacles that have held you back so far in your career?
Understand trends. Bersin by Deloitte recently published a research report about HR and talent in 2017. Here are a few of their predictions based on trends they saw.
-Organizational design will be challenged everywhere. Organizations have to be able to “focus on customer-centric learning, experimentation, and time to market.” Functional groups should be organized into teams that are “smaller, flatter, and more empowered. Leaders should focus more on hands-on leadership, and less on leadership from behind a desk.”
-Culture and engagement will remain top priorities. Deloitte research shows that “86% of business leaders rate “culture” as one of the more urgent talent issues, yet only 14% understand what the right culture is.”
-Human performance and well-being will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership. Employee engagement levels have not improved in the past 10 years, productivity is down, and U.S. workers take 4 to 5 fewer vacation days today than they did in 1998.
What opportunities do you see in these predictions based on your skills, experience and competencies?
Assemble your supporters. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, talks about 3 important people you need to cultivate to help advance your career: an advisor, a mentor, and a sponsor. Their roles are different.
Your advisor is there to help you understand who’s who in the organization, provide context about the way things are done, and answer the “dumb questions” you think you should already know the answer to. Your mentor is the one you share your hopes and dreams with. Maybe they’re already doing what you want to do and can share how they got there. Or maybe they’re in a different organization, but know you well and can give you honest feedback and advice. You can tell your mentor both the good and the bad stuff. The sponsor plays a different role altogether. This is the person – maybe someone on the senior management team – who advocates for you when you are not in the room. This is the person you share only the good stuff with.
Learn continuously. Not just to attain the skills to achieve your current goal, but also so that you are always ready for the next opportunity. As we all know, the world changes at a rapid pace. The job or skill “de jour” may not be needed in a year or two. Keep up to date on technology, pursue new interests, read, network, stay informed about what’s going on in the world around you. Many have watched their careers go adrift because they failed to do this.
Give back. As you move ahead in your career, never forget how you got there. Be willing to be a mentor or advocate for those in whom you see potential. Give honest productive feedback. Help others avoid the bumps you had along the road. Be willing to give informational interviews.
And, of course, don’t stop believin’.
Till next time,
We’re nearing the end of the first month of what I’m calling The Year of Possibilities. I hope you are keeping your eyes, ears and heart open for wonderful possibilities that may be in store for you.
Once you’ve identified a possibility you want to pursue, I encourage you to turn it into a reality by creating a goal and a plan. Make it a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goal and keep your plan simple.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve heard that within the next six months there will be an opening for a team leader in your organization. This is something you’ve been thinking about and hoping for. Now it’s your “possibility.” Your goal setting / planning might look something like this.
Create a SMART Goal: To become a team leader within my organization by June, 2017. It’s Specific (become a team leader); Measurable (you either do or you don’t); Achievable (you are already in the organization); Relevant (it’s an actual position); Timely (by June, 2017).
Create action steps to achieve the goal. Find out what the qualifications are for the role. Which do you have? Which do you need? What do you need to do or learn to close the gap? What will you need to do or provide to apply?
Keep your goal visible. Write the goal and action steps down. With dates. Revisit your goal and progress every day. Share it with someone who will keep you accountable. Better yet, find an accountability partner who will keep you accountable about your goal while you keep them accountable about theirs. Track your progress and add or modify action items as needed.
The main thing is to keep it simple and doable. Too often there’s SO MUCH we want to do or have to do that we end up getting bogged down in our daily “to dos” and miss the opportunity to transform possibilities into reality.
My challenge for you is: before the end of January think of one goal (and create your plan) that you will accomplish by June, 2017 to turn a possibility into a reality.
“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” – Robert A. Heinlein
Till next time,
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” - Gloria Steinem
As the New Year begins, everyone is talking about losing weight, working out more, eating right, getting more sleep. I am exhausted just listening to the same blah…blah…blah every year. Why set yourself up for failure? Instead of those same old broken-by-February resolutions, how about this year you think about all that can be possible for you?
We wake up every morning and start our routine, and before we know it, it’s bedtime. Then suddenly it’s July and everyone is saying “can you believe it’s July already?” And then before you know it, it’s December, and everyone is running around saying Happy Holidays!! Give…me…strength!
Do at least one thing this year that will stretch your being…your thinking…your heart…your soul… Think about it. What will that be?
To figure it out, you have to slow down long enough for your mind catch up to you. My best dreaming and thinking comes when I run. I don’t use ear buds to hear music, and I don’t run with anyone. It’s just me and nature. I sometimes amaze myself at how smart I am when I run. I come up with ideas I would never come up with if I were at home or in my office. For me, running is my dream space. What is yours?
I’m declaring 2017 The Year of Possibilities. I encourage you to take some time and find your “dream space” whatever that might be – running, a walk in the park, a stroll on the beach, a comfy chair by the fire, etc. – and allow yourself to dream about possibilities.
Here are 5 tips to get you started.
1. Just DO IT already. How often have you said over the past few years – “I can’t do that now, it’s not the right time”? Well, if not now, when? Go on that vacation, learn a new language, or how to play an instrument (air guitar does not count). Read that book you’ve been meaning to read for years. Or just do nothing for an entire weekend!
2. Stop multi-tasking. How many studies do we need to read to be convinced that multi-tasking is nothing more than getting nothing done well? Besides, it is very disrespectful. And how are you going to see the possibilities if you are busy doing 3 things at once?
3. Pay attention to what’s around you. Do you ever get home from a day at the office and wonder, “how the heck did I get here?” Commuting can be stressful – by planes, trains or automobiles – and often we just tune out. Open your eyes and allow yourself to see things you miss when you’re just going through the motions.
4. Listen…really listen. What I’m talking about is listening to the signals all around you – what is this wonderful, crazy universe trying to tell you? I can promise you, it ain’t telling you to work more!
5. Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.” Say what you want out loud. Tell your friends, family and partner. The more you say it, the more real it becomes.
Expand your thinking and believe in what is possible…
Here’s to a dreamy 2017!!!
Till next time,