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A very results-oriented CEO, frustrated with what she perceived as a direct report’s lack of commitment, felt she had to choose between empathy and effectiveness.  This CEO has been working hard to embrace the concepts in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead™ , especially the idea that people are doing the best they can.

What Does That Really Mean?

We went back to the source for clarification: “Assuming positive intent does not mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change.  It’s a commitment to stop respecting and evaluating people based solely on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing.”

Set Boundaries for Ourselves First

If a team member isn’t meeting expectations, it’s the leader’s job to have the tough conversation and hold that person accountable.  It is possible to do that with empathy but here’s the surprise – we have to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves first.  When the CEO acknowledged that her direct report’s best wasn’t good enough, she made the decision to let him go.  Defining that clear boundary for herself meant she didn’t have to choose between empathy and effectiveness.

What boundary do you need to strengthen to be both empathetic and effective?

I recently attended an event with a group of women entrepreneurs who are making a profound impact on individuals, teams, and organizations.  As I listened to their stories, I heard these common themes:

  • Tuning into inspiration – being curious and receptive; putting yourself in places and with people who inspire you
  • Setting your intention – being clear about what you want, who and how you want to be
  • Following through to execution – learning from experience and partnering with others to convert ideas into reality

For the women in this group the results included a new book, new clients and service offerings, and more opportunities for collaboration.  What might be possible for you with more inspiration, clear intention and successful execution?

Remember the classic game of finding the letters of the alphabet on road signs and billboards? You have to watch carefully to find those tough letters like “Q” and “Z”.

What Are You Missing?

Driven, results-oriented leaders sometimes miss a few signs on the way to their destination. One of the most frequent comments I hear when conducting 360 feedback interviews is, “he needs to do a better job of adjusting his style based on the situation.” Those signs might look like:

  1. High turnover on your team
  2. Difficulty getting your peers to support your ideas
  3. Your boss tuning you out or cutting you off

How to Adjust

When you notice those signs, consider making these adjustments:

  1. Delegate more and micromanage less
  2. Take the time to build consensus
  3. Provide a high level summary and get into details only when asked

I invite you to try and identify one sign this week and figure out which direction you should go. It could make the trip a lot smoother!

Read more about Adjusting Your Style

 

listening

Do You Hear What I Hear?

As the Christmas carol says, “Do you hear what I hear?”  If we’re honest, mostly what we hear is ourselves talking.  Telling others what we think they should do or how they should feel or what we have accomplished since our last holiday letter.

What Am I Doing?

In our results-oriented world, it is easy to focus on delivering value by doing something.  Although we think we’re helping by offering solutions, our spouse, colleague or friend may just want a sympathetic ear or a brainstorming partner.

Giving a Gift

This holiday season is a great time to give the gift of listening.  That means:

  • Keeping our mouths shut and holding our advice until we’re asked
  • Emulating Nelson Mandela and focusing on the person who is talking as if there were no one else in the room
  • Restating what was said so the other party feels heard
  • Expressing empathy

I invite you to give the gift of listening generously and often and reap the benefits of improved relationships.

Holding Onto the Seat

Do you remember learning to ride a bike?  Someone probably held onto the back of the seat and ran alongside you a few times.  Then they encouraged you to try it on your own.  You wobbled a little before falling and skinning your knee.  Depending on their approach, you either kept trying or you gave up until they pushed you back outside and made you do it again.

But Not Too Long

In my coaching practice, I see a lot of leaders who are discouraging their teams by holding onto the bicycle seat too long and micromanaging.  Understandably, they don’t want anyone to fail but they don’t realize the importance of encouraging people to learn from falling down.  In these situations, I work with my clients to become effective leaders who equip people with the tools and support they need and then let them do their jobs.

Micromanagement or Motivation?

In the book What Leaders Really Do, John Kotter points out that, “Motivation and inspiration energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one’s life, and the ability to live up to one’s ideals.”

I invite you to envision what you and your team could achieve if you trade micromanagement for motivation.