Leadership courage

Setting Yourself Up for Success in a Negotiation

I presented at the Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy & Technology in Houston. The topic was How to successfully negotiate for a raise—How to get past your dread, develop a win/win approach, and negotiate for what you want.

In this article, I have broadened my comments from what I presented there to apply to a variety of career situations—where you might be negotiating a pay raise, a high profile assignment or key role, or for something else you really want.

There are tons of articles about negotiating and the best way to approach it. So, rather than try to cover all that territory, I want to share two things that are mentioned less often but have a huge impact on your success.

Create the Right Perception.

One of the things I coach and do workshops on is Getting the Visibility You Want, which is all about strategically informing others and giving more visibility to your skills and contributions. Take some time to think about who needs to understand how you are adding value and who will influence the ultimate decision about whether to give you what you are asking for. If you don’t know already, find out what their perception of your performance is today and where you may need to close some gaps.

Let me be clear, this is not about creating a false image. It is about proactively helping others understand your value and helping them understand how to best leverage your skills and talent. We all know this doesn’t happen overnight, so allow enough time to close any gaps in perception.

Also, remember that how you “show up” in the conversation where you ask for what you want matters. So, think about how you want to be viewed or perceived in the negotiation. For example you might want to be seen as confident, reasonable, committed to the company’s success, and looking for a win/win for you and the company. Whatever it may be, think about how to frame up the conversation to reinforce that image.

Understand How You Will Get in Your Own Way.

Many of us have fears or anxiety about negotiating or asking for what we want. So, think about how you might get in your own way in advance. It could be a belief or concern that keeps you from asking for what you want. For example, I have a client who was really concerned that she would be viewed as greedy because she was already paid well, even though the data showed that she was clearly underpaid relative to others at her level.

Another client who was asking for a nontraditional role feared the worst, that they would just say, “We can’t give you what you want. Just leave if you’re not happy.” Test these beliefs by looking for confirming and disconfirming evidence. More often than not, our own fears are the biggest barrier to getting what we want.

In both of the examples above, I worked with my clients to identify their mental roadblocks and how they might react in the face of resistance, and develop strategies to keep both from getting in their way. I am excited to say that both of my clients got everything they asked for.

There are so many things I could have covered in this article, and so much I still want to share with you. For now, think about how you can start applying these two concepts, whether you are asking for something big or small.

When Someone Plays Hardball

I had a conversation with a talented leader who has achieved tremendous success in her career. She is in a tough political situation that has thrown her for a loop. A fellow leader at her company clearly wants to expand his span of responsibility and is blatantly playing hardball to make it happen. The situation has affected this woman’s ability to stay level-headed, focused on what she needs to get done, and ultimately sustain her performance. And, because she carries her work frustration home, her personal life has suffered as well.

As someone who has worked with many large companies across industries, I have seen ugly politics time and again — and have personally experienced them myself. It’s never fun, but you can navigate through it.

Here are three ideas that can help you:

1. Identify your triggers.

We all have “buttons” and some people know how to push them better than others. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. It could be a person who comes across as self-serving (e.g., blatantly schmoozing, taking all the credit, etc.) or does something equally frustrating.

When you have a strong reaction — one that you keep replaying in your head or can’t let go of — you need to identify what triggered it for you. Usually it’s not just about what that person said or did. Rather, at the core it has to do with something that you really value being violated.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure this one out by yourself because your emotions can cloud your judgment and ability to work through it. So, you may need to talk to a coach, colleague, or confidant who can help you get to the heart of what’s going on.

2. Leverage the “Power of the Pause.”

If nothing else, the next time you let yourself get triggered by this person, just pause. Remember that no one can make you feel or react a certain way unless you let them. Do you really want to give the person that much power over you? That may sound counterintuitive because you may want to blame the other person for the whole situation—“Of course it’s their fault that I’m so stressed and frustrated!”

Do not underestimate the power you have. You know that you cannot control the other person, but you can control yourself — with deliberate focus and practice. I fully recognize this is much easier said than done, which is why people often need help to make the shift.

So start by taking a small step. Practice pausing when you get triggered. Even 2-3 seconds can give you just enough time to choose a different response.

3. Make a different choice.

OK, this last step may sound like a statement of the obvious, but I can’t tell you how much value people get from seeing it in black and white or hearing it. Doing more of the same will never get you a different result. Period!

The person who triggers your frustration can probably predict how you’re going to respond. So, once you can make yourself pause, you will start to notice that you can make a different choice in the moment.

By choosing a different response, you can break the unproductive cycle. This will help you focus much more on what will serve you best in that situation and less on reacting to the other person’s behavior.

A couple of final thoughts: First, don’t underestimate what you can do in tough political situations to drive the outcome you want. Second, leverage the power you have when someone plays hardball. If nothing else, identify your triggers in the situation, because doing that will help you get to a better outcome faster.

Is Fear Holding You Back?

No matter what anyone says, change takes energy—whether it’s positive or negative change. We may tell ourselves that we embrace change and thrive on it, but the reality is that it can be stressful. Change often triggers fear, one of the biggest impediments to success.

So, what is fear exactly? At the most basic level, fear is resistance. Let’s take the simple analogy of a thermostat to further explore this. We are living creatures with systems that operate in a narrow range. For example, the human body temperature is 98.6 degrees and blood pressure falls within a specific range. So, in essence, your body has a particular “setting” on a thermostat. If you change that setting even half a point, your body has to expend energy—so your body “resists” in order to conserve your energy and keep you exactly where you are. When you are trying to make a change in your behavior, a similar process occurs. Fear and other discouraging thoughts show up in order to keep things status quo.

So, how can you keep fear from holding you back? Here are five strategies to consider:

1. Tame your Gremlins.

The “Gremlin” is the internal voice that makes us have second thoughts or fear change. For example, your Gremlin might say “You’ll never find another job that pays this well and has this level of flexibility.” Realize that the Gremlin does not always speak the truth. Its function is to keep things exactly as they are—to stop you from making the change. Pay close attention to what your Gremlin says to you, and develop strategies to counter its voice. Depending on your circumstances, the Gremlin may be very powerful and you might need outside help to reduce the power of its voice.

2. Take small steps.

Break change down into manageable pieces and tackle each piece one at a time. This will break down your resistance, and make the change feel less insurmountable.

3. Identify what is holding you back. Be specific.

Let’s take the example of a man whose stomach turns upside down at the thought of giving a presentation. What triggers his fear? When he starts to think about it, he realizes that his fear surfaces only in presentations to his boss or peers. After we dig a little deeper, he realizes that at the heart of it, his fear is really about appearing incompetent in front of his colleagues. Now he has something concrete he can work to overcome.

4. Play out your fear and develop a rational response.

Play out a video of your worst fear. What is happening? How likely is it that what you see in the video will happen? What is the size of the risk (large, medium, small), and the probability of it occurring (high, medium, low)? If your fear came true, how would you handle it?

When we go through these questions, we often recognize that what we have imagined is far worse than what might happen! But even if our worst fear came true, having a game plan can make it less scary.

5. Get support from others.

Don’t try to take it all on by yourself. Getting help from others will make you feel like someone cares about your success. Create a support system for yourself with individuals who will encourage you and celebrate your successes—big and small.

Change can be hard work, so make sure you stack the odds in your favor. If you need some support to achieve your goals, consider working with a coach.

What is “Sitting on the Fence” Costing You?

Have you ever found yourself sitting on the fence about something that’s really important to you? It could be related to a career decision, going for what you want personally or professionally, or making an investment in yourself. Well, I’m here to tell you that the road ahead is full of new opportunities and possibilities…and you can make some different choices than you have in the past.

I have the privilege of working with talented leaders every day to help them get results they couldn’t before. And what I often see is that despite their success, at times even they find themselves sitting on the fence instead of moving forward.

Here are three common traps they fall into:

1. This isn’t a good time.

This is what I like to call “playing it safe.” There are so many reasons to stay exactly where we are and not take action. The lists are endless. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “If I can just finish this project or get past the next two months, then I’ll have time to focus on this.”

  • “There’s already been a lot of change in the company. I don’t want to rock the boat.”

  • “I can’t ask for the company to invest in a coach or a training program for me, even if I can quickly recoup the investment. Budgets are tight.

Whether the reason is time, money, or something else; it’s up to you to make the business case:

  • What does make this the right time to take action?

  • What positive outcomes could occur if I move forward now instead of waiting?

  • What’s at risk personally or professionally, if I wait?

2. I need more information

If you find yourself in an endless cycle of gathering and analyzing data, the question to ask yourself is “What do I have to know to move forward with this?” By focusing on the one or two most critical things, you can put aside the “nice to have” but less important information that’s muddying the water. We will never have all the information we want or need, so use the 80/20 rule and focus on the 20 percent that matters the most.

3. What if it doesn’t work out? Or, what if it does?

Sometimes the fear of getting what you want can be scarier than the fear of not getting it—because at the end of the day, it means change. And change is hard, even when it’s positive. So, you may find yourself lacking energy and enthusiasm to move forward, even when it’s something that really matters to you.

Ask yourself, “If I move forward with this, what could happen? What would be different?” Play out your worst case and your best case scenarios as if you were watching them on video. Describe what is happening in as much detail as possible. By playing them out, you will get a better sense of how likely they are to happen and what’s really underlying your fear.

Just remember that we all find ourselves sitting on the fence at one point or another. The key is to not be there long enough to get splinters. Whether your response is a “yes” or a “no” on whether to move forward on something that really matters to you, sometimes it’s important to just make a decision. So answer the questions above, and consider working with a coach or someone who can help you figure out what’s making you hesitate. That’s the first step to getting off that fence.

What Guides Your Leadership?

Ask I spoke in depth with an officer at Marathon Oil about one of my clients, our discussion naturally shifted to his leadership philosophy and how it comes into play with his direct reports. I want to share the five principles from a leadership model pinned to the wall in his office. They’re simple, powerful, and struck a chord with me.

1. People want to do a good job and want to win.

This principle may sound really basic, but it may not be something you think about day-to-day, especially in fast-paced, stressful situations. So, the next time you find frustration creeping up on you, stop and take a deep breath. Whether you believe it or not, consider for a moment that the person you are frustrated with actually wants to do a good job. If you adopted that perspective, how might it change how you think about their behavior and how you approach the situation?

2. People want and deserve to know where they stand with their supervisor.

I have to say that I can appreciate the difficulty most people have giving honest, constructive feedback—especially after leading Performance Management & Career Planning at Deloitte. A lot of managers and leaders dread the process and have concerns about whether the employee can handle the feedback: Will the employee have an emotional outburst? What might go wrong?

But, as a leader, what if you viewed feedback as something people want and deserve to have? It might shift your mindset from worrying about your discomfort to providing something of value and service to your employee.

3. Winners produce better bottom line results.

Research demonstrates time and again that “winners” (high performers who are engaged) contribute tremendously to the organizations in which they work. They creatively look for better ways to do get the job done and often elevate the performance of their entire team. So, as a leader, ask yourself, “What 1-2 things do I need to do to create more winners?”

4. Managers have more impact on performance than they realize.

Most people don’t leave jobs or companies; they leave their managers. I can’t tell you how often I see high performers leave organizations to work for a leader or manager they truly believe in—someone who has demonstrated that they care by supporting the employee’s career goals and personally investing in their success.

Leaders with true followers typically instill in their employees a genuine desire to go above and beyond. At the end of the day, this translates into a level of commitment, loyalty, and performance that is hard to replicate.

5. A manager’s job is to produce winners.

Ultimately, management and leadership are all about setting your employees up for success. Great managers and leaders build a strong commitment to their organizations by investing in getting to know their employees, demonstrating that they care about their aspirations, and helping them build their capabilities. Remember that this doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it does require consistent focus.

I hope this list has stimulated some ideas for you. Before you immerse yourself into the next thing on your to do list, take a few minutes to think about what principles guide your leadership and one action you will take to reinforce just one of those principles this week. Who knows, you may end up with a list that you decide to pin up on your office wall too!

Being in the Moment

At my 25-year high school reunion, I found myself going back down memory lane. I had so much fun reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

As a member of the planning committee, I found myself paying much more attention to the body language and cues at each reunion event, because I wanted to make sure that people were having a good time. As I looked around, I was surprised by how much I noticed after just a few seconds. This reminded me of the importance of truly being in the moment. Although in this case I’m talking about a personal situation, the same concept applies to business.

So, I want to point out three things about “being in the moment” that may be helpful to you as a leader.

1. Notice the valuable information in front of you.

Day to day, most of us are so focused on our own responsibilities, that we overlook the valuable information that others send our way. Whether it’s someone’s look of frustration or anger or their excitement, it gives you insight into how they are feeling. More importantly, it gives you clues about how to respond in that situation.

Let me give you an example of how someone I know has put this into play. I have a former colleague from Deloitte Consulting who has mastered the art of “noticing.” When she enters a room, she quickly looks around and pays attention to the energy level and the body language of each person. So, when she speaks to someone, she already has valuable information that allows her to engage with the person beyond a surface level. She often surprises people when she mentions what she noticed, because she’s usually right on.

2. Send the right message about your leadership.

I remember coaching a manager who literally would have one foot out the door each time he would talk to one of his direct reports. Or even worse, he’d be looking at his BlackBerry the whole time. Yet he was surprised when his 360-feedback report said that his team feels like he doesn’t have time for them and that he just cares about himself.

Although he had a busy schedule like most managers, he recognized that he couldn’t get his job done without his team. On top of that, he really did care about them. So he decided that each morning, he would take five minutes to talk to at least one of his employees as he got his morning coffee. It was a simple strategy that helped him connect with his team before his day got crazy. By making a small investment of his time and giving each person his undivided attention, he communicated that he valued his relationships with them.

3. Take advantage of the opportunity in front of you.

Finally, if your mind is distracted by something other than what’s going on right now, you may miss the opportunity in that moment—to be creative, spontaneous, or something else. You may be so deep in thought or busy checking your PDA that you miss the chance to bring your “A” game.

Here is my Call to Action. Look at your calendar and choose an upcoming meeting to practice “being fully in the moment.” When you get to the meeting, remember to put your technology away so it doesn’t distract you. During the meeting, simply notice what’s going on around you—the body language, tone of voice, energy, and what’s being said. You may be surprised at how much you learn about others, and how much more engaged you are.

How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable

It can be difficult for some women to voice a difference of opinion in a way that will be well-received (i.e., not too assertive).

On the other hand, saying nothing can have negative consequences of its own (i.e., being viewed as not assertive enough). If you’ve found yourself waffling about whether to speak up or bite your tongue, read on.

1. Don’t be a derailer.

Recall a time when you sat in a meeting thinking to yourself, “I don’t agree with the direction we are heading” but didn’t say a word. Perhaps you thought it was the wrong forum in which to voice your concerns.

What was the impact of your choice? Did you catch people off guard by not speaking up in that moment and later sharing privately that you had major concerns? Regardless of your intent, how were you viewed? Did some think you were being passive-aggressive or maybe not assertive enough? Did others wonder, “Why didn’t she just say something when we were all there? It could have saved us a lot of time.” Also recognize that others may have unvoiced concerns, so by speaking up you might just give them the courage to share them.

Finally, remember that you can express a different point of view in the moment without turning it into a big deal. For example, if your concerns will warrant a lot more discussion, you can suggest an offline discussion with a smaller group if that makes sense. The next two strategies might also help.

2. Frame your disagreement as “Yes and…”.

Before you highlight points of concern, acknowledge areas of alignment. By first demonstrating that you “get it” (i.e., that you understand the other person’s point of view and what could work well) others will be more open to your perspective.

Some people fall into the trap of jumping straight into what they think won’t work, which can trigger defensiveness — and then they entirely forget to point out what they do like about the idea. So, challenge yourself to say, “Yes and ...” instead of “No, but ....”

3. Depersonalize your comments.

Finally, remember to keep it objective by evaluating each idea against the intended outcomes. In other words, point out the criteria for success (stated or implied) and help others understand how the ideas on the table do or don’t satisfy them. This makes the evaluation of the ideas feel much less personal, and the originator of the idea is less likely to feel attacked when you give your feedback. By framing your suggestions in the context of the group’s objectives, others will be more receptive to what you have to say.

Sometimes saving your disagreement for another time is indeed the best option. But in many cases, it may not be. I challenge you to be more assertive in expressing your views while considering the impact on how you’re viewed as a leader. Take a minute now to identify one step you’ll take to put these ideas into play this week.

Three Key Questions from David Novak

At the 2012 sold-out national Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) Conference in Dallas, I had the opportunity to hear David Novak, CEO of Yum! Brands and author of Taking People with You, speak. He shared several insights he has gained throughout his years at PepsiCo and Yum! Brands, some of which he learned from making big mistakes.

As he spoke about leadership, David reiterated that it all starts with focusing on being your best self. Not only does this mean raising your self-awareness, but also recognizing the impact you have on others and asking them for their perspective.

David mentioned three important questions we should all ask:

1. What do people appreciate about me as I am today?

Sometimes we take our own skills and strengths for granted, especially if we have been using them for years. Do you know how you are viewed by others, and what capabilities they really value? If not, take the time to find out what people appreciate about you and the impact you have on others, business results, and the company. The more specific the feedback, the more value you will get from it.

2. How can I be more effective?

When I conduct 360-degree feedback interviews, I typically ask what my client should do more of or less of to be more effective. By asking the questions this way, I get people into a forward thinking mindset. Take the time to ask yourself and others these questions on a periodic basis to keep your own effectiveness front and center.

3. If a “hot shot” came in to replace me today, what would they do?

This question can push you out of your day-to-day mindset. David has used it to challenge himself, incentivize fresh ideas, and seek out people who will help him elevate his game. Although you may not be able to get a meeting with Warren Buffet each year to get his thoughts as David does, you can evaluate the breadth and depth of your network and how you can stretch yourself and your team.

The three questions above will help you focus on how to put your strengths into play more powerfully, minimize less effective practices, and challenge yourself and your team. David writes the answers to the first two questions on an index card that he keeps on his desk as a constant reminder of what he should be doing. This week I want to challenge you to answer at least one of these questions. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

Lessons from Hall of Famers Aikman and Staubach

I heard Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman speak in an intimate setting at a United Way Tocqueville event. As a young girl relocating from England to Texas in the late 1970’s, I became a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. So, it was exciting to hear personal stories from two people that I admire and respect.

Scott Murray moderated the discussion, asking Troy and Roger what shaped their careers, who has had the biggest impact on them, and what led them to get engaged in the community. As I listened to them speak, there were three things that really jumped out at me, and they may serve as important reminders for you:

1. Be open to the possibilities.

When asked whether they thought they would ever play football professionally, let alone be quarterbacks, Troy and Roger both said no. Troy said that he knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a professional athlete, but like Roger his passion was baseball.

Roger talked about how his coach saw potential in him and encouraged him to try out for quarterback. When Roger resisted and asked, “Why do you think I’d make a good quarterback?” his coach explained that the other players always listened to him. His coach recognized Roger’s innate leadership ability.

In Roger’s story, it was clear that his coach’s interest and guidance led him down a path he would never have chosen for himself. But Roger was open to the possibilities and was willing to take a chance. His choice is what ultimately made a difference—and the payoff was huge.

2. One person can make a huge difference.

When asked who has influenced him the most, Troy spoke from the heart about his mother. As an adult and parent, he now fully recognizes her sacrifices, her commitment to his rigorous schedule of practices and games, and her support throughout the years. This in turn has shaped his relationship with his daughters and increased his desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

As you know, there are many small ways that you can show your support each day—whether it’s taking five minutes to lend an ear, share your wisdom, or acknowledge what you appreciate about someone. If you have ever been on the receiving end of this, you know it can have a huge impact for a small investment of time. What will you do this week to acknowledge that person who has most influenced you?

3. Remember to pay it forward.

Troy and Roger are prime examples of people who have put their celebrity to good use, to give back and affect change in their communities. Troy Aikman co-chairs the Healthy Zone Schools community initiative to reduce childhood obesity and he and Roger are both major philanthropists.

As you think about yourself, what legacy do you want to leave? Who could benefit from your natural talents, skills and passion? Could it be the person next to your office struggling with a tough issue at work, a teenager who needs guidance and direction, or someone else right under your nose? Take time to notice others around you and use your wisdom and experience to help them.

Although you may not be a Hall of Famer like Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach, you do have the power of choice—in how you allow others to challenge you and take you in directions you never imagined, and in how you “bring others up.” So, I want to challenge you to take one small step in one of the three areas above. You know I’m a firm believer that small steps can lead to big results.

© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Do You Recognize the Impact of Your Strengths?

After facilitating a couple of workshops based on the book, Stand Out by Marcus Buckingham, I continue to notice that high performers often take their own strengths, or the impact of their strengths, for granted. If you consider your strengths as a mere reflection of “who you are” rather than something that truly sets you apart, read on.

Unlike Now, Discover Your Strengths, which focuses on individual strengths, Strategically Standing Out talks about Strengths Roles. Buckingham has identified nine roles that reflect a combination of your talents and skills and describe how you instinctively provide value. The roles are derived from a timed assessment that asks how you would respond in a variety of situations.

As we all know, identifying your top Strengths Roles is just the beginning. To really put them into play you have to understand what they really mean for you—their impact. Whether or not you decide to take the assessment, try this simple exercise.

1. Identify your top three strengths, or top two Strengths Roles (if you take the assessment).

2. For each, describe what you say and do when you are playing to that strength or Strengths Role.

3. Identify the impact.

Let me bring this to life with an example of a client, who we’ll call Susan.

Strengths Role

Susan is a Connector, someone who brings ideas, things, or people together to make something bigger and better (refer to Strategically Standing Out for more detail on a Connector).

What she says and does when she’s playing to this strength/Strengths Role

Susan listens, asks thought-provoking and targeted questions, absorbs information, eliminates the “noise,” and sees linkages that others don’t see. She also consistently introduces people who would benefit from meeting each other.

The impact

Susan has insights that others don’t have. She helps the team focus on the core issues buried within the information they have, which helps them make faster decisions with her involvement.

She has strong relationships and a solid network of support, which helps her get things done faster given her access to valuable information, people, and resources. Susan initiates collaboration where none would otherwise have existed.

Remember, it’s much harder to help others understand how to leverage your strengths (or for you to integrate your strengths into your leadership brand) if you don’t understand them yourself. If you believe that success comes more from playing to your strengths, rather than focusing most of your efforts on improving your development areas, consider reading Strategically Standing Out.

If nothing else, try the simple exercise above this week and discuss it with someone who knows you well. You might be surprised at the impact you are having—on others and results.


© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

What Is Your Risk Taking Profile?

I recently had a conversation with one of my female executive clients about the topic of risk taking as a leadership competency. I would venture to say that most of you probably don’t sit around contemplating whether or not you are a risk taker and what that really means, especially if risk taking comes naturally to you. As I helped her think through her upcoming presentation on the topic, we discussed a few ideas you may appreciate.

Many of us have negative thoughts when we think about risk. But at its core, what is risk management all about? Some might say it’s all about minimizing losses. But my client, whose role centers around risk management for her company, explained that risk is all about uncertainty—in the context of value protection and value creation. In other words, as you contemplate whether or not to take a risk, you weigh the potential loss against the potential gain. Either way, you consider what is at stake and it impacts how you “show up” and how others view your leadership.

To give you more insight about your appetite for risk taking, take a look at the scenarios below and notice how many of these would be true for you:

  • I confidently voice my opinion even when I know it is counter to what others think.

  • I would raise my hand for that stretch role or assignment knowing I haven’t mastered all the requisite skills.

  • I willingly ask for what I want and need—like that promotion, pay increase, or developmental opportunity.

  • When there aren’t enough seats at the boardroom table for everyone, I would take the one at table instead of the one against the wall.

If risk taking makes you uncomfortable, here are four targeted strategies that can help you push the envelope a little more:

1.Gather data.

Relevant information can help you weigh the pros and cons of a particular situation and make more rational versus emotional decisions.

2.Build personal capital.

Invest in developing your leadership brand. It can help others correctly link your actions with your intent, so when you do go out on a limb it’s not as risky.

3.Create a strong network.

Surround yourself with people who will challenge your perspective, ideas, and ways of thinking. Their influence may lead you down a different path than you might have otherwise chosen. Also, be sure to consider individuals with influence and power, so they can help you mitigate personal risk.

4.Visualize success.

Let yourself imagine what it would mean to you and for the company if you achieved the goal for which you are taking risks. How would it feel? What might happen?

Whether or not you view yourself as a risk taker, hopefully your wheels are now turning about how you can integrate more risk taking as part of your leadership style and approach. I want to challenge you to come up with one action you can take this week to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and use one of the strategies above to help you. You never know where it might lead.

  © 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

What Leadership Levers Do You Need to Pull?

This week, I would like you to take a few minutes to assess yourself against the Ten Leadership Levers below. Each of these can dramatically impact your performance. So, take two minutes to see how you’re doing.

Leadership Lever Self-Assessment

1 (Low) – 10 (High)

1. I focus on the “right work” (the 3-4 areas that will drive the biggest results)

2. I consistently reinforce my leadership brand

3. I proactively manage my energy to stay productive each day and avoid burnout

4. I clarify my intentions so others know how to interpret my actions

5. I invest time each month to network/build stronger relationships

6. I track my accomplishments so I can easily share them with others

7. I tastefully toot my own horn in a way that is relevant to others and fits who I am

8. I connect my ideas and suggestions to the bigger picture

9. I make it easy for my advocates/sponsors to help, by sharing the information they need

10. I communicate clearly and concisely by starting with the headlines and sharing details as needed

As you read through the levers above, what did you notice? Remember, that this is just as much about noticing what you’re doing well and putting that into play even more as it is about identifying the opportunities for improvement. I urge you to identify one area that you’d like to focus on and come up with an action step that you can take this week. Remember that small steps can lead to big results.

Being Strategic About Performance Feedback

One thing I know from my experience leading Performance Management & Career Planning at Deloitte is that most people dislike giving feedback. And it can be equally challenging on the receiving end if you disagree with someone’s point of view or don’t understand what their feedback really means. Despite the challenges, feedback can give you valuable insight about your leadership style and strong indicators about what others value.

If you aren’t taking advantage of opportunities to get input from others, here are three questions that may help you be more strategic in your approach:

1. What should I do more or less of?

If you’re like most people, you only focus on feedback when it’s that formal time in the performance management process. Beyond that, you may have little to no conversation about how others view your business results, strengths and areas for development. If this description fits you, set aside even just 15 minutes each month to share your results and simply ask what you should be doing more or less of to be more effective. It can go a long way and you might be surprised at what you find out.

2. How can I make it easier for others to give me feedback?

Be mindful of how you respond when others do give you their views, because it will impact whether they give you candid, constructive feedback in the future. Consider the following questions to help you do this:

  • How much do I focus on understanding the underlying issues or intent behind the feedback?

  • Approach the feedback from a sense of curiosity rather than judgment. Are you asking the right questions?

  • How much information do I share when responding to feedback?

  • Remember that although you may be merely trying to explain your actions or behavior to others, your comments could be perceived as defensiveness.

  • How well do I manage my emotions?

Visible anger, frustration, or tears can make anyone reluctant to give you feedback in the future. Recognize when you need to discontinue the conversation to allow yourself time to process the feedback.

3. How can I make the most of feedback I disagree with?

When I conduct 360 feedback interviews for my clients, I encourage them to focus less on whether the feedback is right or wrong and more on how it impacts their leadership effectiveness.

Remember that when there are different views of your performance, a skill gap may exist or a communication issue may exist. In other words, you may need to more consistently communicate how you are making a difference and your results.

In either case, what can you learn from the feedback? What action do you want to take as a result? And how will you follow up with people who have given their input so they know you’ve taken it seriously and can support you going forward?

Don’t forget that feedback is all about perception, and understanding that perception can give you valuable insight to make strategic changes. Before you dive into the rest of your week, identify one step you will take to get or share information about your performance. You never know where it might lead.


© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders

I had the privilege of attending a workshop led by Jim Kouzes, the co-author of The Leadership Challenge. For those of you who have not heard of this book, you should take a look. Based on over 30 years of research, he and Barry Posner identified five common practices of leaders who make extraordinary things happen.

Before we review the five practices, let’s first define leadership. Kouzes & Posner define a leader as someone whose direction you would willingly follow. In other words, you can’t be a leader without followers. To further define leadership the authors asked, “What do you look for and admire in a leader?” Here are the top four attributes and the percentage of respondents who mentioned them:

  • Honest (85%)

  • Forward looking (70%)

  • Inspiring (69%)

  • Competent (64%)

Over the 30 years that they have asked this question, the authors have consistently gotten the same top four responses in the same order. When you look at these four items collectively, they underscore the importance of credibility when it comes to leadership.

So, now let’s take a look at the Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders.

1. Model the way.

This practice is about establishing principles and standards for how people should be treated, and how goals should be pursued. As a leader, you must first clarify what you believe in and what you’re willing to take a stand for before you can articulate it to others. Then you need to align your actions with what you believe in (i.e., do what you say you will do).

2. Inspire a shared vision.

Through their research, Kouzes & Posner note that what distinguishes leaders from colleagues is their ability to be forward looking. Leaders can envision the future and create a compelling image of what the organization can become—and they truly believe that they can make a difference.

Contrary to what you may think, a leader does not have to originate the vision of the future. In fact, leaders may develop their vision by carefully tuning into what they hear from others. No matter where the vision comes from, the leader must be able to help others see it, engage them in it, and help them understand how they fit into it.

3. Challenge the process.

As you might expect, leadership is not about maintaining the status quo. Leaders Challenge the Process by experimenting, taking risks, and accepting disappointments as valuable learning opportunities. On a weekly basis, you can keep this exemplary practice at the forefront by asking, “What have I done this week to improve so that I’m more effective than I was last week?”

4. Enable others to act.

At the core of Enabling Others to Act is mutual respect and trust. Leaders understand that this can sustain extraordinary efforts, so they strive to create a trusting environment and take time to develop others.

In the workshop, Jim Kouzes challenged each of us to ask ourselves before every interaction with every person in our organizations, “What can I do in this interaction to make sure this person feels more capable as a result of what I say and do?” I would challenge you to do the same.

5. Encourage the heart.

The last practice is Encourage the Heart. Research shows that the highest performing leaders are more open and caring, express more affection, demonstrate more passion, and are more positive, grateful and encouraging than lower performers. Knowing that achieving extraordinary results takes hard work, strong leaders understand the power of recognizing and celebrating how others are making a difference.

Now that you’ve read about each exemplary practice, identify which ones you already do well and choose one practice to emphasize further. Remember that these practices don’t have to be time consuming—it’s all about taking small steps that lead you to big results. So, I urge you to choose a small step to implement from this list below or identify one of your own:

  • Think about when you performed at your best as a leader. What did you do in that situation that you can leverage today (you may have used several Exemplary Practices)?

  • Take 5 minutes to talk to your team about exciting possibilities you see for the future (Inspire a Shared Vision)

  • Ask, “What have I done this week to improve, so that I’m more effective than last week?” (Challenge the Process)

  • Ask, “What can I do during this interaction to make sure this person feels more capable as a result of what I say and do?” (Enable Others to Act)

  • Ask, “What can I do this week to encourage my team, so that they perform at a higher level?” (Encourage the Heart)