In my last blog, Becoming a Leader, I shared that self-awareness is the first step in becoming an effective leader. This means understanding your strengths, values, accomplishments, development areas AND…recognizing (and admitting) any beliefs and behaviors that may be working against you. These are what I call your internal barriers; the “show stoppers” that are preventing you from getting to where you want to be.
Here are some examples.
You’ve been unhappy for several years in your current role. You’re bored. You know you have more to offer, but you don’t see yourself getting an opportunity to do so in this organization. And you can’t seem to crank up the initiative to look for an opportunity elsewhere. What’s holding you back? Fear of change? Self-doubt? Difficulty selling yourself? Procrastinator?
For the second time in the past 5 years you’ve been passed over for a promotion. You work hard. You know the organization. You always hit your goals. Yes, maybe you’ve had some difficulties with other team members, but only because you care so much about things being done the right way. What’s holding you back? Perfectionist? Short-tempered? Controlling? Confrontational?
You’ve just come back from your annual review meeting with your leader. For the first time in your career, you’ve received less than a stellar review. You sat there in a fog of phrases like “deadlines missed,” “disappointing results,” “lack of commitment.” You can’t believe that after all you’ve done for this company, the long hours and lost vacations, that it has come to this. What’s holding you back? Difficulty asking for help? Lack of work/life balance? Burn out? Stress management?
OK. Now it’s your turn.
As you think back over your career, what are the internal barriers that have prevented you from getting to where you want to be? These may be beliefs or behaviors you recognize in yourself, or ones you’ve learned about through feedback. Be brutally honest with yourself. That’s the only way to GET REAL about them and start dealing with them.
Write them down. Choose from those I’ve mentioned above, or from the list below or add your own. The important thing is to identify, acknowledge and admit them!
Here are some additional common internal barriers to consider:
Difficulty with authority
Fear of making the wrong decision
Lack of focus
Poor judge of others
Worried about what others think
If you completed the values exercise from last time and now have identified your internal barriers, you are on your way to building self-awareness.
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Till next time,
Studies show that nearly half of new leaders do not receive any leadership training. This is both unfair to the new leader and detrimental to the organization.
Most people are promoted into their first leadership role as a result of their high performance as an individual contributor and/or because of their technical skills. Yet what has helped them succeed as an individual will not necessarily contribute to their success as a people leader – where the challenges and responsibilities require a different set of skills.
New leader training needs to be a key component of every organization’s learning and development plan. And it should not be just a one-day event around policies, performance reviews and disciplinary actions. It needs to be structured in a way that gives participants time to apply their learning, receive feedback, and get the ongoing support necessary (mentoring, coaching) to grow into the next line of senior leaders and executives.
With that being said, it is EQUALLY important that new leaders – and leaders at all levels – proactively share the responsibility for their own development. Ya gotta put some skin in the game.
In my recent survey of senior leaders, the PeopleThink Leadership Journey Survey, many respondents said they wished they had spent more time on leadership development early in their career. “I wish I had invested in myself earlier in the journey. It would have accelerated the impact I could have on others had I been more aware and insightful.” “I would have started sooner to allocate more time to work on my leadership competencies.”
So, if you are new to a leadership role or working toward becoming a leader, what can you do to prepare?
Start by becoming self-aware. This is what I call the inventory stage of leadership development, and it’s a key component of my GET REAL Leadership Program. Understanding your values, competencies, accomplishments and those behaviors or beliefs that have (yes) worked against you is the first step on your journey to becoming the leader that only you can be.
Let's begin by Defining Your Values. This is an extremely important step in clarifying who you are or want to become as a leader. Your values – those things that are non-negotiable for you – will be key to guiding your behaviors and decisions on your leadership journey. Have you defined your values? If not, here’s a 10-minute exercise that will help.
On a sheet of paper, write down one-word descriptions of all the things that are important to you at work and in your life. Here are some examples: Appreciation, adventure, balance, challenge, competition, dependability, empathy, flexibility, fun, health, humility, independence, influence, kindness, knowledge, learning, power, prestige, quality, safety, risk-taking, success, teamwork, visibility, wealth, wisdom. Now go back and circle 10 that are the most important to you. Review those 10, and then put a star next to your top 5. These are your TOP 5 Values - the non-negotiable things you must have in order to do your best. Keep them visible. Use them as a guide to ensure that what you do, what you say, and what you decide aligns with your values.
The next step in becoming self-aware is identifying internal barriers that have prevented you from being who you want to be. We all have them. Calling them out helps us overcome them. Tune in next time to learn more.
Till next time,
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, it’s time to get real about what makes a leader truly extraordinary. It’s not rocket science. It’s what I call the Get Real Leadership Basic 6 (or Leadership According to Karen).
Learn. 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.
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!
Tomorrow. What is your vision? Share it. Give your people a reason to want to stay. 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.
Resources. Give your people adequate resources, tools and support to do their jobs. Then get out of the way and let them do it. Don’t make them beg or want to look elsewhere to fulfill their goals. Be sure you have the right resources to make your team successful.
Please and 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.”
Laugh. Laugh often and laugh loudly. You spend a whole lot of time working. Make sure you create a work environment that people are happy to come to, where they feel supported and connected, where they can do their best work. Then enjoy the ride!
You’ll note that integrity, honesty and trust are not on this list. Why? Because they are just “no-brainers.” Without trust there is absolutely no one who is going to follow you anywhere. Trust is the foundation of a leader.
“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Till next time,
Research shows that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Additionally, 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually! What is wrong with this picture???
We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. And, we all know someone who lives by the motto: “I do my best work under pressure.”
However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents.
Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and over-emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.
So…how do you do it? Start by taking some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break?
Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to reduce. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to resolve a lingering issue? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.
And, to get started on reducing your stress level in general, here are some stress busters for you.
Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you do not take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.
Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.
Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine!
“Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown
Till next time,
In my last blog I wrote about the importance of leadership development at all levels. And, as I said, it is especially important for people to receive training as they make the transition from being an individual contributor to leading a team. With that being said, it is EQUALLY important that new leaders – and leaders at all levels – proactively share the responsibility for their own development. After all, “The road to success is not a path you find, but a trail you blaze.” (Robert Brault) Ya gotta put some skin in the game.
So, what is your responsibility, as a leader, in initiating and continuing your personal development?
First, become self-aware. Spend some time reflecting on the behaviors and skills that have helped you thus far in your career and be honest with yourself about those that have worked against you. If given the opportunity to take a personality assessment, 360-review, or candid conversation with your leader about your strengths and development areas – take it. Gaining self-awareness is the first step on your journey (blaze that trail!) to becoming an effective leader.
Create your personal vision, or as I like to call it, your leadership mantra. What kind of leader do you want to be? Who was the best leader you ever had? What was remarkable about them? In the leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – we look at four domains of leadership: Leading with Vision, Leading with Drive, Leading to Deliver, and Leading through People. As leaders, we should develop competency in each of these domains, yet we tend to operate most frequently in one or two of them. Here’s a brief description of each. Where do you see yourself?
Leading with Vision - focuses on strategy, innovation and inspiring the team.
Leading with Drive - provides the team with very clear direction and is focused on achieving excellence.
Leading to Deliver - strength lies in planning, follow-through and accountability.
Leading through People - focuses on coaching and developing the team and creating win-win partnerships.
Identify and acknowledge gaps. We don’t often associate humility with leadership and yet, the most effective leaders are willing to admit they don’t know it all. They are continuously learning. What are the areas you need to develop to become the leader you want (and need) to be? Make a list, make a plan, set some goals – create a trail map for your leadership journey.
Take action / be an advocate. Back to the other half of this leadership development shared responsibility. Once you have your trail map in hand, leverage any leadership development offered by your organization. If none is offered, advocate for it. Leadership development comes in many forms, and the most effective programs are a combination of them. Learning is a process, not just an event.
In my leadership development work with organizations, I’ve seen the greatest benefits come from programs where we used a variety of components from the following: workshops, mentoring or coaching, assessments, stretch assignments to apply the learning, teach-back sessions conducted by participants, leadership forums, required reading, etc.
When the responsibility for leadership development is shared, with leaders driving their personal development and organizations providing the opportunities and resources for them to do so, everyone succeeds.
Till next time,
How many times in the last six months have you said “yes” to something you really didn’t want to do? Or allowed yourself to be burdened with meeting expectations that were unreasonable or out of your control? Or avoided saying something when a person or situation made you uncomfortable? Most of us have been in one or more of these situations at some point. We kick ourselves afterward for acquiescing, yet may rationalize it by the desire to be “seen as a team player,” or, not wanting to “hurt someone’s feelings.” Here’s the problem with this. We teach people how we want to be treated. And when we keep saying “yes” when we’re thinking “no” and don’t set and communicate our limits – our boundaries – people are going to keep asking us, and expecting us, to do things we don’t want to do, or to do more than originally agreed. (Can we say “scope creep?”) Eventually we become resentful. And when we finally draw the line, it may not be pretty. Better to set, communicate and maintain your personal boundaries up front. Here’s how.
Be self-aware. Knowing your boundaries starts with understanding your values and what’s important to you. If having personal downtime in the evening or family time on the weekend is important to you, then you would want to make it clear that you’re offline in the evenings and not working on weekends. Difficult, I know, in this always-connected work environment. And, this environment was created by all of us who said “yes” to being always connected and working a ridiculous number of hours in the week (including weekends!) It’s up to us to change it.
Set your boundaries. Decide what your boundaries are. Prioritize them. Write them down. Internalize them. Practice saying them in front of the mirror. Give yourself permission to have boundaries and acknowledge the benefits – more respect from others; more respect for yourself; less stress and anxiety and/or feelings of resentment; more free time; more time to focus on the projects you want to do, etc.
Communicate them. Be direct. If you don’t want your boss and co-workers contacting you at all hours, be specific about the times you’re available. On projects, manage others’ expectations up front with regard to what you’re capable of and the timeframe in which you can achieve it. Be very clear about scope, and the cost – in time, dollars or other work – when scope expands beyond that.
Learn to say no. Saying “no” is hard, especially when it’s to your leader, or to someone whose relationship you value. Yet as workplace communication consultant Diane Amundson says, “Good bosses appreciate employees who have the confidence to say no.” It’s all in how you frame it.
Challenge the stories that hold you back. Think about times in the past when you’ve said “yes” and later regretted it. Or allowed yourself to be taken advantage of. What held you back from being more direct? Fear of losing your job? Fear of disappointing the other person? Most people are unaware of how their actions impact us unless we tell them, and will appreciate being told what our limits are.
Be consistent. Once you’ve established and communicated your boundaries, work to maintain them. This will help educate others how to treat you, and will contribute to your well-being and peace of mind.
“I encourage people to remember that “No” is a complete sentence.” - Gavin de Becker
Till next time, Karen