leadership effectiveness

Investing In Yourself

I’d like to challenge you to think about how you’re investing in your professional growth and development. When was the last time you really took the time to focus on this? Perhaps when your company asked you to fill out your goals as part of the performance management process?

Well, I want to give you a few simple ideas to consider so you can start taking action today:

1. Put your strengths into play more powerfully.

Most people pay far more attention to their developmental areas than their strengths. But focusing on your strengths can give you that extra edge to take your performance to new heights. So, take a minute and jot down your top three strengths.

When I work with my clients, I help them recognize their strengths by connecting the dots between feedback from others, what I notice in the assessments they take, and common themes that emerge in our coaching. Even if you’re not working with an executive coach, you can take online assessments like the Strengths Finder or the VIA to give you additional insight and perspective.

Once you have identified your top strengths, ask yourself, “What one or two things can I do to put these strengths into play more powerfully, in the context of my current professional goals and role in the organization?” Just asking yourself this question will help you become more intentional about using your strengths.

2. Ask how you can be more effective.

Opening yourself up to feedback can be painful, but invaluable. When I conduct 360-degree interviews as part of the coaching process, I always ask the feedback providers what my client should start, stop, or keep doing to be more effective. You can do this on your own if you have the courage to put yourself “out there” and receive the input, and feel confident that people will be candid. So, think about who you would want to ask for input and how often.

Also, remember that asking for input from others can create a solid image about your leadership style, as long as you keep your defensiveness in check. Just know that you probably will not agree with all the input, and unless you plan to do something with it you’re better off not asking for it.

3. Think about how you want to stretch yourself.

Finally, as you look ahead to the next six months or a year, how do you want to stretch yourself? What skills or expertise do you want to further develop? What does the business really need? How will an investment in those skills or expertise enable stronger business results and advance your career?

By getting clear about the answers to these questions you will begin to formulate a business case in your own mind about how you want to invest in yourself, and the resources you may need from your company to do so. Neither you nor your company will invest time or money if there’s no ROI, so get clear about the outcomes you want to achieve.

Hopefully these three tips have stimulated some ideas for you. I want to challenge you to pick one area to take a small step towards this week. Remember, that small steps can lead to big results.

Making Change Stick

When my son learned to tie his shoelaces, I distinctly recall that intense look on his face as he focused so hard on each step in the process to make sure he did it all just right.

I’m sure you haven’t had to put that level of energy and focus into tying your shoes in years because you have reached that point of unconscious competence (where it’s second nature). However, you may have other things you want to master or change to take your leadership and performance to the next level.

When I coach leaders, my goal is to help them make the desired changes, and make them stick. As you might expect, there is a method to the madness. So, today, I want to share three tips that may expedite the change process for you.

1. Remind yourself what’s at stake.

Usually when you want to make a change in behavior, it’s because something much bigger is at stake. Let me explain what I mean. For example, I recently coached a client who is so smart that he often goes into mindreading mode. In other words, he keeps interrupting others because he “knows” what they are about to say.

He has finally come to realize the negative impact that this has on his relationships and wants to make a shift. At the end of the day, this isn’t about him wanting to be more polite and waiting patiently for others to finish. As a leader, this is about him building commitment by showing respect and valuing his team’s ideas. And for the business, it’s about delivering on the business goals as efficiently and effectively as possible. By keeping in mind what’s really at stake, he is much more motivated to follow through.

2. Recognize that others won’t notice immediately.

As you put in the time and effort to change your behavior, you might feel frustrated when others just don’t seem to notice. Remember that with the day-to-day distractions in their lives, most people will take a while to notice. And when they do, it may take time for them to trust that you can sustain the behavior change—and that has less to do with you and more to do with human nature.

3. Set aside time to assess your progress.

Last but not least, take time to understand what’s working for you and what’s not. By deliberately looking for the evidence, you will notice what’s working and will think about how to more proactively put it into play. Although change takes time, this approach will make change stick much faster.

So, whether you are making change on a small or large scale, identify one strategy you want to put into play for yourself this week. What small step will you take to make change stick?

How Are You Getting In Your Own Way?

When you’re a high performer, you may have a relentless drive for results. Your expectations of yourself may be much higher than what others expect of you and failure is usually not an option. Although you have a remarkable ability to get results, you may fall into some traps that limit your effectiveness. Read through the traps below to see if any apply to you.

1. I mind read.

If you frequently interrupt others because you know what they are going to say, I urge you to simply notice the impact your behavior has on them. Pay attention to how they react including their body language, tone of voice, actions, and words. What do all those things tell you? I would guess that you are sending them some messages you had not intended to: “What you have to say doesn’t matter.” “My opinion carries more weight than yours.” “I don’t have time to listen to your input.”

2. I always know the right answer.

If you fall into this trap, you may have a high aptitude and can come up with the right answer most of the time (and usually much faster than others). So, you may not see a strong need to solicit input from others or explain the assumptions and facts behind your recommendations or solutions.

Although you may have the “right” answer, ask yourself what will maximize your effectiveness as a leader. How much of it is about getting to the absolute best solution, even if others won’t implement it? How much of it is about getting to a workable solution that others can support?

It often helps to go back and think about what happened the last time you pushed really hard for what you thought was the right answer. Remember that how you share your ideas is just as if not more important than the idea itself—and that you can do it in a way that engages others and leverages your expertise.

3. I set the bar really high.

Having high expectations of yourself and others can bring value as long as you do it in a way that still motivates and energizes others. Remember that not everyone views their careers in the same way you do. Some may see it as a source of security rather than a source of fulfillment. By understanding what motivates each of your team members, you will have valuable information that will help you develop an effective approach and minimize your frustration.

4. I take over when others don’t do things the way I would.

Micromanaging is a common trap that can completely distract you from making the highest and best use of your talent and skills. Remember to ask yourself what you’re giving up when you say “yes” to spending time creating a perfect deliverable when someone else could have done it well (just not as perfectly as you). Did it mean you had to work later to get to the higher priority work you should have been doing instead? Did it mean you couldn’t exercise or spend as much time with your family?

If you fall into one more of these traps, remember that we all do things that get in our own way. I urge you to identify one small step you will take this week to make a change in the right direction to avoid falling into the same trap again. And be sure to tell someone else about it so they can encourage you and assess your progress.