Be A Great Leader – Choose Kindness

how to be a great leader

We often think of great leaders as true visionaries or company turnaround specialists. However, great leaders can be great by doing the little things extremely well. Simple things such as smiling, saying “thank you” and other acts of kindness are either taken for granted or frequently dismissed as unnecessary. Some leaders may even believe being kind is a sign of weakness.

A recent blog by Rob Asghar of Forbes titled “How Does Your CEO Treat The Janitor?” reminds us that being kind is a trait of successful leaders too. He tells the parable of the manager who was mean to anyone “below” him and the other manager who was kind to everyone, even the janitor. Guess which one is a success?

Kindness is often overlooked as a behavior needed in leaders. We want our leaders to be strong, driven, bold, confident and other similar traits. We also need them to be kind. Showing kindness isn’t a sign of a weak leader, it simply means they have compassion and the genuine desire to care about their team and the organization. A kind leader is someone who is:

Thoughtful – a kind leader shows an interest in people and how they are doing. They’ll ask about your family, how your day is going, and other aspects of your life not directly related to the project you’re working on. A kind leader also expresses concern for your well-being regularly and not just as a preface to getting answers about work (i.e. “How’s your family? Great, now when can I get that spreadsheet from you?”)

Supportive – a kind leader wants everyone to succeed and demonstrates support for his/her people through words and actions. When employees feel that their leader genuinely cares about their progress, they are more likely to work harder and stay with the company.

Considerate – a kind leader is considerate of other people’s thoughts, opinions and situations. Kind leaders recognize the value in seeking and learning different perspectives because they believe this makes them a better person and leader.

How kind are you? What can you do today to show someone you’re thinking of them? Take the time to ask a peer or team member what’s new in their life. By spending a little bit of time to be kind to people today (and every day) you plant the seeds of good will for the future. In time, you’ll begin to see a more engaged, productive and caring workforce.

Be A Great Leader – Save Feedback

 

cps be a great leader 001

Are you a great leader? Would your peers, bosses and, most importantly, your subordinates say you are a great leader? Often times the view we have of ourselves is different from the way other people see us. You may think you’re strong, focused and determined. Others may see you as single-minded, unwavering and controlling.

Most leaders at every level know that feedback is an important part of the leadership development process. You learn what you do well and you identify the areas to focus on for improvement. Great leaders not only understand the importance of seeking feedback, but they also value implementing changes in their leadership style based on what they learn. The best way to think of this is by using the acronym SAVE: Seek, Apply, Verify, Exercise.

SEEK FEEDBACK

Maybe you do seek feedback from your boss, especially during yearly performance reviews. However, seeking feedback from your boss or one group of people does not provide the whole picture. One key to seeking feedback is to expand the pool from which you seek it. You have to be willing to seek feedback not only from your boss, but also your peers, employees, team members, and others across many department and levels to gain a true representation of your leadership style and performance.

APPLY FEEDBACK

What good is feedback if you don’t listen to the suggestions or make changes based on what is said? You might not agree with the feedback suggested (“Oh they simply don’t understand me”) but a great leader realizes he has to actually hear what is being said and apply the feedback to make changes for the better. Ask the feedback provider for specific suggestions (i.e. “How would you like to be recognized more often?”) and then make the commitment to incorporate it into your daily routine.

VERIFY FEEDBACK

Once you have implemented suggestions to make it part of your behavior or daily habit, verify with the person who made the recommendation that you’re doing what they suggested. This not only shows you want to improve your performance, but it also signals to the person who provided the feedback that you care about them. Once they see that you actually heard what they said and started applying it to your situation, they will realize that you are truly concerned about them as a person and value their feedback. This is a key step to improving trust with your team or department.

EXERCISE FEEDBACK

Asking for feedback is good. Applying and verifying it is even better. Best of all, is when you make this a customary practice. Seeking feedback once a year is simply not often enough to be effective. By exercising the feedback process on a consistent basis, you’re developing a life-changing habit to continuously improve. Consider seeking feedback at a minimum every week or better yet, every day. Choose a different person to approach and ask him/her a specific question such as: “What can I do better to communicate my ideas? How can I improve the morale in the office?” Your team may think it strange at first and be reluctant to participate, but once it is established as part of an open and caring environment, everyone will want to step up their performance.

Seeking, applying, verifying and exercising feedback consistently will impact you, your team and your organization in positive ways. Once you learn to SAVE Feedback as a normal process for you, you’ll be one step closer to being the great leader you want to be.

leadership skills development

Lessons in Leadership: Listening vs. Communicating

cps_executive_communication

Is it more important for a great leader to be better at listening or communicating their vision? I posed this question recently in several LinkedIn senior leader groups and received hundreds of comments. It was quite an interesting discussion with some thoughtful answers. The overwhelming sentiment expressed in all groups was that listening is paramount to leadership. Many people commented that you couldn’t communicate your vision without first listening to your colleagues, peers and subordinates. As basic as the skill listening is for leadership, most felt that without it, the vision will not be in tune with the environment and employees resulting in failure over time.


These results were interesting since the most popular authors on the subject of leadership describe the importance of vision for success and quite often leave “listening” out of the discussion. Listening is an essential skill of leadership and many people believe leaders possess that trait, when in fact it is not always present.

As an executive coach, I often work with senior leaders who are perceived as having all the answers, but this perception is due in part to poor active listening skills. The assumption is made by many that if a leader doesn’t ask any questions, then he/she must already know everything and doesn’t require any input.

It is incumbent for any leader to recognize that good listening skills are vital to business and career success. Great listening doesn’t happen automatically. Think of your listening skills like a muscle that needs constant exercise. If you don’t continually “flex” your listening muscle it will atrophy or time and you will miss out on much needed information that will help you make better personal and business decisions.

Improve your leadership skills by actively listening every day. Ask a different peer or employee a question about the details or progress of a project, the company culture or just what’s new in their life. Not only will it help you to discover potential problems and solutions, but it will build trust and positive relationships in your work environment.

Coaching Tips for Derailers

Keys To Successful Leadership

cps_leadership_skills_and_competencies

Two months ago CCL (Center for Creative Leadership) posted a blog stating that the two most important competencies for leaders to be successful were Leading People and Strategic Perspective. This was based on their extensive research data base of training leaders from many different countries, levels, industries, job titles, etc.

In more detail, they suggested focusing on delegating, communicating, and motivating would help you Lead People better; while understanding the big picture, solving complex problems, and understanding the formal and informal organizational networks were critical components for successfully improving your Strategic Perspective.

Those competencies definitely support our experiences working with senior leaders. In addition, we find many leaders fail due to an inability to “connect” with their stakeholders, so I would add Stakeholder Relationships as the third most important competency for successful leaders.

What I mean by “connect” is the ability to understand others’ needs and goals and consider these in the course of business. For example, leaders who are directive vs. collaborative do not show interest in “connecting” with their team members. It has to be genuine or else the leader can alienate their stakeholders. One way leaders can improve their relationship stakeholders is to set a regular time to meet or speak with them one-on-one to listen to their expectations, goals, concerns and values.

On a broader scale, the ability to connect with stakeholders and other important relationships may be referred to as a key element of EQ or emotional intelligence. It applies in all situations and a trusted executive coach can help you identify steps to improve this area.

How Do You Prevent An Executive From Derailing?

cps_preventing_derailing_executives

It is disconcerting to read about the recent wave of executive leadership failure which are in areas that are not directly related to their performance. These types of failures have to do with policy, moral or ethical violations.
One of the most famous cases was Bill Clinton who showed remarkably poor judgment getting involved with an intern. He’s not alone, though, several other politicians and public servants including Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, and John Edwards have made bad moral decisions which cost them their jobs and ended their political career.

In the for-profit arena, Mark Hurd (Former HP CEO) was one of the most recent public company failures for improper conduct. Brian Dunn (former Best Buy CEO) was terminated for having an affair. Christopher Kubasik (Former Lockheed Martin CEO) and General Petraeus (Former CIA Director) resigned for sexual improprieties. To say these could have been prevented is an understatement.

It is very important for senior leaders to have someone they trust and who serves as an objective and unbiased executive leadership advisor whose is responsible for pointing out the risks of these types of derailing behaviors. It is lonely at the top and very few people inside the organization will speak up and criticize the boss, especially when the leader may not be approachable or “open” to criticism.

Having a trusted and confidential executive leadership coach and being accountable to someone else can help prevent such lapses in judgment and save the leader, company, shareholders and the country a lot of pain and anguish. After all, as CEO or senior leader you have too much to risk when discussing issues with the Board or any other person who has a fiduciary responsibility to the company. I can’t help but wonder if more of these lapses occur and are just not revealed. For example, Brian Dunn’s fall from grace happened after a tweet was sent mistakenly setting off a chain reaction.

If you are a senior leader and do not have an outlet to discuss leadership issues and opportunities then you are at risk for not being effective and worse, losing your job. Ask your HR department or a peer CEO for suggestions on executive leadership coaches you might contact as a third-party resource to assist you. It is a complex job and it is not a sign of weakness to get some outside confidential help.

Prevent Executive Failure