Status-Quo – How to Keep it from Holding You Back
Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Status-Quo – How to Keep it from Holding You Back

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I’ve fought against those words for most of my career.  As leaders we often want to improve our teams and keep them from being held back by outdated practices. I know how it feels to come up against the resistance from others when we see better ways of accomplishing our mission. When we challenge the status-quo, it’s usually because we want to make things better for our team, not worse. If this is really our primary interest in making a change, then it’s helpful for us to understand what causes this resistance and makes the status-quo so powerful.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately  lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Questions for Challenging the Status-Quo

  • “What if?” helps us to think about outcomes that might be better than the current outcomes
  • “Why?” helps us to identify challenges we may face as we try to bring about change 
  • “Who? Where? When? How?” help us put together details that will make the change a reality

It’s possible to answer these questions and decide that no changes to the status-quo are necessary at this time. Also, we could decide that the solution will create so much dissatisfaction that an alternate solution might be better. Change for the sake of change has destroyed many teams even though the intentions behind it were initially very good.

The take-home lesson today is that even though change is difficult for many people, as leaders, we can’t be afraid to challenge long-held ideas or practices that no longer serve our mission. We must approach change in a thoughtful and empathetic way to get the improvement we are looking for.

Many of us often feel like we are prisoners to some of the day-to-day aspects of our jobs. Almost every day, I find myself talking about how much time administrative tasks take away from the aspects of my business that really excite me. We know that as leaders we need to be delegating, not just to free up our time, but to develop our team members' leadership skills as well. Delegating is an important skill to have, but to do it effectively we need to be truly empowering others.

Empowering Others to Get Your Time Back

Many of us often feel like we are prisoners to some of the day-to-day aspects of our jobs. Almost every day, I find myself talking about how much time administrative tasks take away from the aspects of my business that really excite me. We know that as leaders we need to be delegating, not just to free up our time, but to develop our team members’ leadership skills as well. Delegating is an important skill to have, but to do it effectively we need to be truly empowering others.

Considerations Before Empowering Others

In order to empower others successfully, we need to think deliberately through a few questions before delegating. If we aren’t thorough about setting expectations, we might find that we’re spending more time supervising instead of focusing on the priorities we wanted to free time up for in the first place. Here are 6 questions we can ask ourselves before assigning priorities to one of our team members to help ensure that we’re freeing ourselves from the task and not creating an even bigger time sink:

  • What is the task, project or responsibility we want them to take on?
  • To what degree are we going to hold them accountable?
  • What resources will they need to accomplish the task?
  • What decisions are we willing to let them make on their own?
  • How much autonomy are we willing to give them?
  • How will we measure progress and success?

Trust is the Key to Empowering Others

It quickly becomes apparent that empowering others depends on trust. If we don’t know them well or trust is low, we’ll be reluctant to give them more autonomy and authority. If we have a strong relationship with them, we’ll be much more willing to let them run without a lot of supervision.

To reap the benefits of empowering others, we need to build trust with our team members from the very beginning. Waiting until we are task-saturated before delegating guarantees we’ll be spending more time supervising than focusing on more important priorities. Empowering a team member today starts freeing up our own time as well as builds strong leaders for the future.

In honor of 4th of July, we're going to talk about all kinds of ways we can tackle winning our independence. Not just our independence in terms of being able to do what we want to do when we want to do it; but winning our independence from tasks that don't help us accomplish our mission. As leaders, we should strive to gain the freedom to make independent decisions that help our team reach the best possible outcomes, as well as, becoming independent thinkers who are not afraid to challenge the status quo when it is appropriate.

Winning Our Independence – July Challenge

In honor of 4th of July, we’re going to talk about all kinds of ways we can tackle winning our independence. Not just our independence in terms of being able to do what we want to do when we want to do it; but winning our independence from tasks that don’t help us accomplish our mission. As leaders, we should strive to gain the freedom to make independent decisions that help our team reach the best possible outcomes, as well as, becoming independent thinkers who are not afraid to challenge the status quo when it is appropriate.

Take the July Challenge – Winning Our Independence!

The first step to winning our independence is to challenge ourselves to critically assess our team and our current processes. Our challenge this month is to find one process or practice that we can let go of or update. When we cling to practices that have become outdated, we reduce their effectiveness and hold them back. If all of our processes are rock solid and don’t need improvement, another way to complete this challenge is to let go of some of our own responsibilities and empower others. By delegating to members of our team, we are winning our independence from the tasks that keep us from focusing on the big picture. A great advantage of empowering others is that it helps develop their critical thinking and leadership skills as they learn how to navigate their new responsibilities.

Tell us in the comments what you decide to let go of as part of winning your independence. It doesn’t matter what you choose to let go of, it can be a big task or just a small item. You could lead your team through transforming old business practices, or develop your team members skills by empowering with some of your key responsibilities. Whatever you choose, think it through before implementing to be sure it will give you and your team additional freedom!

Many times, we passively collect the information makes it through our ears and into our brains and, as a result, we don't fully understand the message. We engage in active listening when we treat listening as a conscious effort to understand what is being said.

Active Listening & Non-Verbal Communication

For the past few weeks we’ve focused on the internal aspects of communication that influence how others receive our message. We’ve also discussed the barriers and filters that keep us from understanding others when they communicate with us. This week, we talk about practical actions that will improve our external communication skills by taking an active role in hearing others through active listening in addition to observing non-verbal communication.

Many times, we passively collect the information makes it through our ears and into our brains and, as a result, we don’t fully understand the message. We engage in active listening when we treat listening as a conscious effort to understand what is being said.

Active Listening Tips

Active listening doesn’t always come naturally, yet there are steps we can take to improve our listening skills. Making a conscious effort to listen ensures that we understanding what others are trying to tell us which consequently leads to making more informed decisions. We also can learn to recognize if others are actively listening to our message and really understanding us. These four practical tips will help transform our listening from passive to active and, as a result, improve our communication:

  • Avoid communication barriers
  • Take notes
  • Summarize, ask questions and clarify points
  • Observe non-verbal communication cues

Non-Verbal Communication as Part of Active Listening

Non-verbal cues convey a great deal about how well we are communicating with others and give us an indication if they are understanding our message. In the video, Jason talks about four different kinds of non-verbal communication behavior and how they pertain to active listening. He even demonstrates non-verbal cues that engaged and non-engaged listeners show.

  • Eye contact
  • Smiling
  • Posture
  • Mirroring

Finally, if you’re interested in finding our more about active listening and non-verbal communication, there is some great information on the site Skills You Need. There are some additional skills for you to try, as well as a few more types of non-verbal communication you can take a look at.

 

 

Sometimes, we can make understanding others even more difficult by unknowing putting conversation filters in place that impact how we understand others. These conversation filters can prevent us from fully grasping the message that others are trying to get across to us. In addition, these filters can negatively impact our professional relationships because we are perceived as someone who doesn't listen. Innovation and initiative often suffer on teams where the leader doesn't listen because team members have little incentive to offer ideas.

Conversation Filters That Obscure Communication

Communicating effectively is one of the most important leadership skills and can be difficult even under the best of circumstances. As we talked about in last week’s video, there are many barriers to communication that come from external sources. Sometimes, we can make understanding others even more difficult by unknowing putting conversation filters in place that impact how we listen. These conversation filters prevent us from fully grasping the message that others are trying to get across to us. In addition, our team members might perceive us as someone who doesn’t listen if we fall victim to these filters. Innovation and initiative often suffer on teams where the leader doesn’t listen because team members have little incentive to offer ideas.

Conversation Filters

There are many conversation filters that limit our ability to understand the message that others are trying to get across. In this week’s video, Jason talks about three of the most common filters that you may experience, how to recognize them and how to deal with them effectively if you run into them:

  • Correcting – interrupting others to interject our view of what the facts are.
  • Interrogating – drilling down with questions to trap someone or place blame
  • One-upping – emphasizing our own accomplishments over others

We gathered a lot of the information we used in this video from a post by Peter Vjada. If you’d like to learn about more conversation filters and how to keep them from impacting our understanding you can check out the article here.

Effective communication isn’t just about how well we speak. How we listen to others is often more important to leadership than what we say.  Leaders must create a climate where ideas are listened to without bias in order to encourage creative solutions. To improve communication on our team we need to understand conversation filters and how they impact our ability to listen.

As leaders we spend a lot of time communicating with others. We communicate with the members of our team, peers, more senior leaders, customers and stakeholders. Effective communication is vital to ensuring that everyone on our team fulfills their role and accomplishes their part of the mission in conjunction with all the other members of the team. Even the most skilled communicators run up against communication barriers when they speak with other people. What makes these leaders such effective communicators is that they recognize these barriers exist and find ways to break them down.Perhaps an even bigger challenge is to notice when these barriers exist inside ourselves and prevent us from fully understand what others are trying to communicate to us.

Communication Barriers – Video Guide

As leaders we spend a lot of time communicating with others, whether we are trying to convey information, persuade others to support our position, or tell others about a decision we have made. We communicate with the members of our team, peers, more senior leaders, customers and stakeholders. Effective communication is vital to ensuring that everyone on our team fulfills their role and accomplishes their part of the mission in conjunction with all the other members of the team. Even the most skilled communicators run up against communication barriers when they speak with other people. What makes these leaders such effective communicators is that they recognize these barriers exist and find ways to break them down. Perhaps an even bigger challenge is to notice when these barriers exist inside ourselves and prevent us from fully understand what others are trying to communicate to us. Without the ability to recognize these communication barriers we run the risk of others misunderstanding what we are trying to communicate to them, or we may miss critical information or context that others are trying to communicate to us.

Communication Barriers

There are many barriers to communication and in this week’s video, Jason talks about a several of the most common barriers  that we might encounter in our day-to-day interactions with others. He’ll discuss each of the following communication barriers in detail as well as how they come to occur in our daily communications:

  • Language
  • Power Dynamics
  • Beliefs and Values
  • Age
  • Gender
  • State of Mind
  • Emotions

Jason also talks about the challenges of recognizing some of these barriers within ourselves and others, as well as practical steps we can take to overcome each of these communication barriers when they arise. Learning to identify communication barriers in ourselves and others can help us become master communicators that use our skills to lead others to achieve highly successful outcomes and accomplish our missions.

 

It's pretty clear to most of us that effective communication is essential to becoming a great leader. Whether we are the boss or just want to influence others on our team to contribute to a successful outcome, we need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely using a variety of methods.

Effective Communication – June Leadership Challenge

It’s pretty clear to most of us that effective communication is essential to becoming a great leader. Whether we are the boss or just want to influence others on our team to contribute to a successful outcome, we need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely using a variety of methods. Without effective communication we can find our team headed off in a direction different from the one we intended them to take, or we may need to give them much more supervision than we originally intended because we weren’t clear in our intentions for them.

Effective Communication Challenge

This month our challenge is to take a look at the ways we communicate with each other most frequently and to assess how effective our communication is. What is our most common method of communication? Face-to-Face? Email? Social Media? Phone? Something else? Do we think we are getting our message across clearly and concisely? Are other confused about what we are saying and have a hard time understanding what we want them to do? Do we often find that others come back to us with questions or need clarification? Sometime, does our team execute exactly what we said to do, but we maybe didn’t say clearly what we mean for them to do?

Our goal for this challenge is to consciously understand how we communicate most frequently with our team and start to determine if we are effective using that method. If we find that we might not have as effective communication as we would like, we can make adjustments and improvements now that we are aware of it. This month at Evil Genius Leadership Consultants we’ll be putting out more videos to help us address the areas we find from this challenge and become more effective communicators!

Photo Credit: By Nbostonstudio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This week we're going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we've started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Avoiding Groupthink – Video Guide

I hope everyone had a peaceful Memorial Day weekend and got to spend time with family and friends as we all remember the sacrifices that great men and women made in service of our nation. We’re wrapping up our month discussing topics about being courageous leaders. So far we’ve mostly talked about how to get in a healthy frame of mind to help us act courageously so that we can solve problems and make decisions courageously. This week we’re going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we’ve started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Groupthink occurs when members of the team are afraid to speak up or hold back information that is critical to the discussion because there may be social consequences for speaking out against the group. It can be very challenging for many people to contradict a position that the group has arrived at, especially if we are new in the group or we think that what we have to say will be unpopular with the other team members. As leaders, our job is to watch out for groupthink on out teams and cut through it to make sure that we’re getting all of the relevant information to make decisions.

In this week’s video, Jason discusses why avoiding groupthink is important for every team and describes some methods that we can use to recognize and avoid groupthink.

Avoiding Groupthink as Team Members

  • Speak up!
  • Include all relevant information
  • Be respectful of others
  • Employ Intellectual Honesty
  • Encourage others to speak up

Avoiding Groupthink as Leaders

  • Be prepared and research the topic
  • Understand different stakeholder interests
  • Insist that assertions are supported with evidence
  • Ask probing questions
  • Actively solicit information and perspective from quiet individuals
  • Consider the decision carefully before implementing

It’s also true that in many cases a group can reach a decision with a consensus without getting caught up in groupthink. Just because our team might come to an answer quickly and unanimously doesn’t mean that we have encountered a groupthink situation. As leaders, what we really want to ensure is that the group arrived at the result through a rational decision-making process and employed intellectual honesty in coming to a resolution.

Photo Credit: By Shane T. McCoy (U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Acting with courage can be difficult when the time comes, especially if we know that our decision will be unpopular with our team or other stakeholders. Courage, like other leadership traits, can be developed but it is very much like trying to build up a muscle. We need to exercise our courage frequently in everyday situations so that it is strong and well-developed for the occasions when we really need it. One of the ways we can start building up the muscle for courage, or any other leadership trait, is by developing a courageous mindset that helps us to know what acting courageously is and gives us a guide and example to follow.

Courageous Mindset – Video Guide

This month we’ve been talking about courageous leadership and how important it is to step out of our comfort zones or use courage to make decisions and take actions consistent with our core values. Acting with courage can be difficult when the time comes, especially if we know that our decision will be unpopular with our team or other stakeholders. Courage, like other leadership traits, can be developed but it is very much like trying to build up a muscle. We need to exercise our courage frequently in everyday situations so that it is strong and well-developed for the occasions when we really need it. One of the ways we can start building up the muscle for courage, or any other leadership trait, is by developing a courageous mindset that helps us to know what acting courageously is and gives us a guide and example to follow.

Developing a Courageous Mindset

In the video Jason goes provides some tips to help develop a courageous mindset. He goes into detail on how we can all help ourselves think and act more courageously when we are in the middle of making a decision. We can approach a difficult or unpopular decision by keeping some of the following ideas in mind while we work through our decision-making process.

  • Remember the mission
    • What are you trying to accomplish?
    • Who are you trying to accomplish it for?
    • Why is it important?
  • Keep Core Values in Mind
    • Personal
    • Organizational
  • Intellectual Honesty
  • Treat others with respect and dignity

It can be really challenging to make a decision or take an action that requires courage, especially if we have to face our teammates or peers afterwards. By taking an approach to act courageously in all of our decisions and actions, we start to build that courageous mindset and exercise those muscles so that we are prepared to make tough decisions and be held accountable for them in the future.

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Intellectual Honesty – Video Guide

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision-making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Components of Intellectual Honesty

  • Not letting beliefs interfere with seeing the truth
  • Including all relevant facts in our decision
  • Presenting facts to others without bias or misleading
  • Giving credit to others for their work

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_honesty

Being aware of these concepts as well as our own biases helps us to make decisions based on all of the relevant facts and not just on the ones that support our position while leaving out facts that go against our argument. Even if we are not the decision maker, we can apply the principles of intellectual honesty when we present information to others who are making a leadership decision.

Jason goes on to talk about some practical tips you can use from Good to Great by Jim Collins in order to help you and your team adopt the principles of intellectual honesty in your day-to-day activities. Applying intellectually honest principles to our information gathering and decision-making processes helps us to make better decisions that stand up to external scrutiny and stand the test of time.

Photo Credit: By European People’s Party [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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