Best Leaders Bring Out Best in Others

Do you have what it takes to be a leader?

Trying to define the success criteria for effective leadership is challenging. It is virtually impossible to identify a singular trait to adequately capture the successful leadership experience or define its complexities. There are entire sections in bookstores devoted to this subject.

People are often promoted into leadership roles due to their “technical” expertise or because they have performed well in other roles (that may or may not have required leadership ability). Yet technical expertise doesn’t necessarily equate to successful leadership capability. Before automatically saying yes to that new promotion that will thrust you into the role of “leader,” consider doing an honest and accurate assessment on your leadership potential.

Here are a few questions and core competencies to help you gauge if you “have the right stuff.”

  • Initiative. Do you readily seize opportunities to develop and contribute? Do you eagerly volunteer for additional responsibility? The most successful leaders share a common attitude — they do whatever it takes. The best leaders do not shy away from challenge or accountability. They are conscientious, dedicated and take pride in delivering results.
  • Interpersonal skills. Do you enjoy working with people (really)? Do others enjoy working with you? Relating well with others is essential, as well as being able to adapt to many different types of people and personalities. Bullies, control freaks and manipulators (people who don’t play well with others) usually fail at leadership because most people won’t follow them.
  • Inspiring others. Can you inspire and motivate? The best leaders create an environment where people want to contribute and do their best. This is the “heart” of leadership. Successful leaders inspire others to get on board with their ideas and vision. This requires an ability to communicate clearly and with passion.
  • Emotional intelligence. Are you moody and reactive when stressed? Can you have empathy for others when in conflict or disagreement? Emotional intelligence is dealing effectively with your emotions and the emotions of others. Understanding your primary reaction tendency (and modifying it when required) is important to leading effectively under stressful conditions.
  • Self-awareness. Are you aware of your strengths and challenges? Do you know how your actions (or inactions) affect others? Do you admit your mistakes and learn from them? Do you seek feedback to improve yourself? Self-awareness is looking in the mirror. It’s understanding how our behaviors (and their consequences) hinder or help us meet our leadership goals.
  • Decisiveness. Can you confidently make difficult decisions? Leaders need to make good decisions even under duress in a timely manner. Good decision-making is often a blend of understanding success criteria, analysis, consultation, wisdom, experience and judgment.
  • Adaptability. Are you resistant to change? Today’s fast-paced and dynamic marketplace requires the ability to refocus, change direction and adapt to changing conditions. Leaders today can’t survive with a rigid attitude. Equally important for today’s leaders — being able to manage change effectively.
  • Personal integrity. Are you trustworthy? Can you handle difficult situations with integrity? Are you a role model for what you ask from others — in other words, can you lead by example? The best leaders are transparent, straightforward and earn the trust and respect of their people.

From my viewpoint, anyone taking on the role of leader needs to be focused on self-awareness and self-development. I remind clients and students that leadership skill training can’t replace who you are and what you stand for. At best, leadership training is a supplement to your core gifts, experience, wisdom, values and judgment.

Working on you isn’t easy. For many, it will be the most difficult challenge of their professional career. It requires openness, vulnerability, risk-taking and courage. It takes accurate assessment, workplace challenges, experience and support to grow your leadership skills. Think of leadership as a lifelong journey versus a final destination.

As an executive coach, I help with leadership development.  I Skype with clients all over the world and meet you where your challenges/opportunities lie.  I will teach you methods, techniques and tools to help you take your leadership to the next level.  Isn’t it time to invest in your future?  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

 

Great Leaders Coach

While most managers have the skills required to “get work done,” many lack the skills required to effectively coach others. But increasingly, managers are being asked to use coaching as a preferred management style and, as a result, are being required to develop entirely new skill sets.

Learning coaching skills is a process — it requires role-modeling, training, practice and feedback. It often involves “unlearning” old methods and styles that are no longer effective in today’s workplace.

In trying to define what makes a great coach, think about the last time someone coached (or helped) you to achieve something important to you. What did he or she do that helped? Most people might list qualities such as the following:

  • Listening well.
  • Believing in me.
  • Providing feedback to help me improve my skills.
  • Being willing to show me the way.
  • Giving me a new task or responsibility that was a learning opportunity.

The list is always long as there are many components of effective coaching. That’s because coaching is an art — a balance between the softer relationship skills (empathy, caring, listening and interpersonal competence) and business skills (process expertise, setting clear expectations, giving direction and offering constructive feedback).

Here are a few of the traits and skills of great leaders with coaching skills:

The ability to build genuine trust, respect and rapport. This is the foundation for coaching success — it’s what fuels the coaching partnership. Employees who distrust or are uncomfortable with their coach find it easy to dismiss the coach’s message. Effective coaches convey sincere interest and concern for workers’ well-being and growth. They are credible; their audio matches their video; and they demonstrate integrity and personal respect.

They are active listeners (versus passive observers). The leader-as-coach is in tune with the person’s story, intentions and feelings (the emotions behind the words). If you have ever had someone listen to truly understand you, you have no doubt experienced the difference. This interaction can be truly profound and inspirational.

They demonstrate genuine empathy. While not everyone is naturally empathetic, empathy is a skill that can be developed. Empathy means trying to understand how an experience affects the other person — what it’s like to walk in their shoes. An important distinction: Empathy is not agreement; it’s understanding and acknowledging the feelings and experience of the other.

They have personal authority and credibility. Great coaches are adept at challenging and suggesting or demonstrating new behaviors. Their personal authority, confidence and competence allows them to challenge, reward success in a meaningful way and treat errors as learning opportunities while employees learn new skills.

The best leader/coaches establish clear direction and protection, and create a motivating environment. They are persistent regarding the need for follow-through on commitments.

They ask powerful questions. They encourage learning by asking questions to raise the employee’s awareness, level of performance and accountability. The questions are open-ended (i.e., those that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no).

This approach is very different from “telling” employees what to do or giving them the answers to their problems. Here are a few examples:

  • What resources are needed?
  • What obstacles might get in the way?
  • What has not been tried?
  • What will you commit to doing and when?

They set clear goals and expectations. Have you ever seen the words “Vince Lombardi” and “wishy-washy” in the same sentence (until now)? A key to effective coaching is the ability to clearly communicate goals, define specific action plans and foster ownership of or commitment to the attainment of these goals.

They are realists who can hold others accountable for activity, action and results. The SMART acronym is a useful guide for coaching — it defines setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Coaching is an activity that always involves the question, “What’s the next step?” Great leaders with coaching skills hold people accountable for taking action and achieving results.

They provide clear, effective and challenging feedback. This coaching skill is so critical that it deserves its own column (see next week).

The challenge for many organizations is how to establish an effective program for managers to learn and master these skills. Most organizations require outside expertise to accomplish this.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and coaching abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com