Finding Your Own Leadership Style
Finding your own leadership style is much more effective in the long run than just adopting one from a book or another leader.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style

You could fill a library with all of the books about leadership styles and why each is the best. I’ve seen a lot of them come and go and they all have pros and cons. The leaders I respect most have developed their own unique style, rather than adopting someone else’s. When we try to adopt a leadership style that doesn’t fit who we are, we get that queasy feeling and second guess ourselves. Taking on a style that’s incongruent with our personality leads to inconsistent decision making and additional stress. These tips will help with finding your own leadership style for today and the leader you want to be in the future. To learn more about leadership styles, download our Leadership Style Guide and Worksheet.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #1 – Know Your Values

Values are our own guiding principles for life. We get them over our lifetime from parents, teachers, leaders, and others who have influenced us. In addition to our personal values, our companies and organizations have values. They may be stated or unstated. Sometimes the values of an organization are unstated, which makes it difficult to promote those values. An even more extreme case is when there is a set of published values, but the leadership doesn’t practice them.  To develop your leadership style, it’s important to understand your personal values and how they mesh with the organization’s values. Try this short exercise to determine your values.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #2 – Determine Key Leadership Traits

Traits are parts of your nature that allow you to align your actions with your core values. They’re things like honesty, commitment, decisiveness or even humor. To live our lives according to our values, we must have certain traits. As we’ve mentioned before, if our traits and actions don’t align with our core values we have internal conflict and conflict with others. We second guess ourselves and get that feeling in our gut something is wrong. Traits are not just things that you’re born with, you can grow and develop them, but it takes time and conscious effort. Think about building traits like trying to build a new habit. Think about the leaders you admire and what leadership traits they have. What traits do you think you need to be a successful leader? What are you strong at, where do you need work on them?

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #3 – Determine Key Leadership Skills

This is the most nuts and bolts part of your leadership style. What skills do you need to get your mission done? Do you have the skills you need to develop your team into future leaders? What skills do you already have? Are there any key skills you feel like you need to develop? Consider soft skills as well as technical skills. The technical skills that got you this leadership position may not be the same skills you need to effectively lead your team.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #4 – Know Your Personal Communication Style

Important to understand your own communication style. Do you talk more than you listen? Learn to listen, it’s hard, SUPER hard for me and it’s still something I have to consciously work on. Do you get all your thoughts together first and then speak? Or do you think out loud fostering discussion to get to the best idea. One isn’t better than the other but it’s important to know. I tend to think out loud. If I’m not careful it can lead to conflicting messages to the rest of my team. At the end of a meeting or conversation, I summarize the main points and the direction I want the team to go in.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #5 – Know Your Priorities

What are your priorities for yourself and your team? Accomplishing your mission is almost certainly number one, but what’s next? Is it developing your team members into future leaders? Maybe efficiency on your team is important to you? Developing camaraderie on your team might be one of your priorities. There’s no right answer to what your priorities should be, although your boss might weigh in with their opinion. What’s important is that you have consciously thought about them and communicated them clearly to your team. As time goes by your priorities may shift. This isn’t something you want to do on a daily basis, but is good to revisit every few months or year. If events warrant a shift, give it some thought, make a decision and communicate the new priorities to your team.

I hope I’ve convinced you that finding your own leadership style is much more effective than just adopting one from a book or another leader. That’s not to say those leadership styles are bad. You should definitely look at the pros and cons of each and include the best aspects that work for you. In the downloadable guide, there is a list of pros and cons for each style as well as some areas for you to write down the different aspects of your style. Don’t worry if you don’t figure it all out in one sitting. Finding your leadership style takes time and self-reflection. Just keep asking yourself the questions “Who am I?” and “What kind of leader do I want to be?” and it will come to you!

Giving feedback is hard, a lot of us have an aversion to it. These 5 tips for giving great employee feedback can make the conversation a pleasant one.

Giving Great Employee Feedback – 5 Tips for a Positive Experience

Giving feedback is hard, a lot of us have an aversion to it. Partly because we have had some bad experiences getting feedback ourselves, partly because we don’t like to give other bad news and almost certainly because we want people to like us. Giving feedback doesn’t have to be unpleasant. We can take a few steps to make a conscious effort to give effective feedback. These 5 tips for giving great employee feedback can make the conversation a pleasant one.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #1 – Focus on Improvement, Not Criticism

When we’re giving feedback, we want to build people up, not tear them down. The Sandwich Method is a really effective technique. Start the feedback with something positive, follow it with the area that needs improvement, then end with something positive. This structure helps keep our feedback focused on improvement, not just the deficiencies. There are times when the sandwich method isn’t always appropriate. Usually, there is at least one positive things to build on when giving feedback.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #2 – Choose the Right Venue

Where we give feedback is just as important as the feedback we give. It’s important to make a conscious decision whether to do it in public or private. If you have to talk about an individual’s areas of improvement,  your office might be the best choice. Recognizing a team member for excellent performance usually works best in front of the rest of the team. In the Air Force, we had a general rule of praise in public, punish in private. This works pretty well in most situations, but there are times that something negative might have to be discussed publicly. In a safety or security situation, it may be important to get critical information out quickly to the whole team in public to stabilize the situation.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #3 – Focus on Expectations

Did the employee meet, exceed or fall short of expectations? This step gives you a chance to see if you communicated the expectation clearly. Realizing the expectation wasn’t clear creates a whole different conversation. You may have different opinions on how clearly the expectation was communicated, but that can be part of the discussion as well. If the expectation is set clearly and communicated, now it’s a discussion of how well the expectation was met. Here’s a chance to build on the positive achievements and then talk about how to address what fell short.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #4 – Don’t Make it Personal

Address the behavior, not the individual. Although we might feel personally hurt or disrespected, we don’t want to attack them personally. Don’t tie their value as a human being to their performance. When we insult people or judge them, they tune out the important feedback we have for them. Even in cases where someone has done something egregiously bad, if we’re trying to improve them, insults and judgment don’t help. Stick to the behavior and not the person.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #5 – Have a Plan Going Forward

What will we take going forward to improve? If this was good news, what will we do to continue excellent performance and help it spread throughout the team? Don’t feel like you need to build this plan all by yourself. You can use this as an opportunity for leadership development. Give the team member an opportunity to develop their own improvement plan. This will keep them invested in their own growth and also help them get a better idea of the big picture.

I presented these 5 tips like you’re a manager giving feedback to one of your team members, but they apply just as well if you have to give feedback to a peer or even your boss. Telling your boss that their idea may not be the best approach is difficult, but these 5 tips can give you a structure to do it diplomatically. Apply these tips next time you have to give someone feedback on a task or project and see if that makes the experience more positive for both of you.

Last week we talked about the 10 steps it takes to do all the homework for pitching your ideas. All that work doesn’t matter unless we communicate our ideas effectively though.

Pitching Your Ideas – 5 Tips to Get Everyone on Board

It takes a lot of preparation to make a convincing pitch, but the presentation is just as important. Last week we talked about the 10 steps it takes to do all the homework for pitching your ideas. All that work doesn’t matter unless we communicate our ideas effectively though. If you missed last week’s post, you can jump to it here also get the pitch worksheet that will guide you through the steps. This week’s tips help you communicate all your hard work effectively to decision makers.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #1 – Know Your Audience

Right off the bat, you’ve got to understand who you are pitching to. What is their background? Are they an expert in this field? Will you have to do a lot of explaining of detailed technical pieces? What is their real interest in your idea? Have you pitched ideas to them before and what have you learned from it? Does the decision maker like a bottom line up front? Or maybe they like to be led through each piece of info and build to a conclusion? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, try doing a little research about your audience before presenting.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #2 – Be Clear About Your Purpose

I found this really effective when I was in the Air Force, especially when briefing senior leaders. I would usually open with, “Sir, I’m Lt Col Jason LeDuc. I’m here to brief you today on this topic. I’ll recommend courses of action and ask you to decide which one to pursue.” I saw many presentations where the decision maker wasn’t clear on the purpose. The speaker didn’t make it clear they needed a decision. Many times it turned out that the briefing was just informational. Leaders are usually pretty busy people and their time is valuable. We want to make pitches when we really need them to make a decision and should avoid basic information presentations unless we’re asked for it.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #3 – Start With the Problem

This is where all that prep work you did using the worksheet from last week pays off. Present your clearly defined problem, including the why, who, what, when, etc. Make sure that the decision maker understands the problem. Look for some recognition in their words and body language that they also believe it is a problem that needs to be solved.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #4 – Build Your Case

Now it’s time to build the case for your solution. This can be highly variable and depends on your audience. After you state the problem, you could present background information, move into the potential solutions and make a recommendation. Or you could talk about the people who this is a problem for and how they are impacted, views of what a successful solution would look like and make some recommendations. There’s a huge number of possibilities. You’ll have to decide for yourself which approach to take, but have a plan going in. One piece of practical advice I can give is to support your assertions with evidence. If you say that your solution is going to cost $1 million, you should have some reasonable, thorough estimates that you can show in your pitch that back up that number.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #5 – Make The Ask

All too often I’ve seen someone give a really great convincing presentation and then just kind of wrap up without really clearly asking for that decision they need. I’ve even done it myself. It’s so important to make that ask and get that decision before the decision maker leaves the room. You don’t want to put any undue pressure on them, but clearly make the ask. They may not be ready to make a decision at that point. If that’s the case you have a new ask to make. Find out what questions the decision maker needs to be answered and when they want to reschedule. Be prepared to make that secondary ask if you need to.

So there are 5 tips for making a really great pitch presentation. While these are general, they’ll help to get you in the right mindset for making a pitch. Iff you’ve done the prep work we talked about in last week’s post, you should have all the material you need to make your case. You just need to decide how to build the story that will get your message across most effectively. I know you can do it!

These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you've got great teamwork skills.

Followership – 4 Tips to be a Great Team Player

In our last post, we talked about how managers can understand Millennials, as well as build strong working relationships with them. Working relationships and respect are a two-way street. This week we’ll talk about how to be a great follower and team player. This is important for everyone, no matter what generation. Whether you’re Millennial, Boomer or Gen X, these tips are going to help you be a great team player. Even if you own your own business, you are still responsive to customers, clients, and possibly even investors. These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you’ve got great teamwork skills.

Followership Tip #1 – Know Your Organization’s Mission

We all get really head-down sometimes working on our tasks. Sometimes we divert in a direction that’s not really productive because we’ve lost focus on our mission. We focus so much on details, we forget we’re serving a larger purpose. That’s why we’re part of a team, to achieve something that we couldn’t do on our own. Recognize what your organization’s mission is. Focus your efforts on enhancing that mission. Don’t be afraid to speak up if an idea doesn’t align with the mission. Work with the people around you to ensure all your ideas and efforts serve your organization’s mission.

Followership Tip #2 – Know What Your Boss is Held Accountable For

Do you know how your organization measures your team for success? You may all be working towards a stated mission, but your team leader might be accountable for things outside of what your awareness. Your boss’s boss may be measuring the success of your team and your leader on other factors. What is your boss held accountable for? It may not just be what’s going on your team. Understand the metrics used to measure your team. Keep track of the metrics that senior leadership uses to measure success for the whole organization. You will learn how your leadership makes decisions as well as how to present your ideas so they will be well received.

Followership Tip #2 – Show Initiative

There’s always a lot of tasks to do in any organization. We all appreciate the people who step up and do them. Those people show strong leadership potential and we select them to be team leaders in the future. Find uncompleted tasks and do them. Don’t worry if it’s not in your job description. Or put together a small team inside your team to get it done. This comes back to what your boss is held accountable for. If there are things that are falling by the wayside, show some initiative and get them done. Show senior leadership you’ll be a great leader by exhibiting good followership.

Followership Tip #4 – Present Fully Formed Ideas

Last week we talked about how leaders should be coaching and mentoring young Millennials to fully form ideas before presenting them. Ask for mentoring and coaching, but also try to meet your boss halfway. Be as thorough as you can when you put together ideas to pitch to your boss. Recognize what the impacts will be, not just to you, but to your team as a whole. Also, consider impacts to other stakeholders outside of your team. Define those impacts in terms of money, time or any other important metrics, as well as solicit the perspectives of others. Talk with the other teams and find out how your proposal will impact them. Will they support your proposal? Bring all the relevant information and perspectives together and present it in a clear and easily understandable format. This will help you make a very strong case for your idea to your boss.

Followership is the core of leadership. In the Air Force, we worked very hard to create great followers that understood the principles of good leadership and became great leaders later on. and I hope that works for you too. Next time you want to propose something to your boss use these tips to make a strong case. Show initiative and put together a really well thought out plan. By meeting your boss halfway, you’ll have more conversations about great ideas, instead of just getting quick yes or no answers.

It's definitely challenging keeping a team focused when traveling. Here are some business travel tips I found effective when leading from the road.

Business Travel Tips – 4 Tips for Leading From the Road

I used to travel a lot for work when I was in the Air Force. We called it TDY, which was short for temporary duty. At one point I was traveling 3 or 4 days each week, at least 3 weeks out of the month. In this assignment, I was Director of Operations for a squadron. I kept 60 people all moving in the same direction to accomplish our mission. It was amazing to travel to all those places, but it’s definitely challenging keeping a team focused when traveling.  I found these four business travel tips effective when leading from the road.

Last week we talked about some tips for leaders when taking some time off. Those tips were mainly about disconnecting effectively. This week we’ll focus on staying connected, but some tips from last time are still valuable in this case too.

Business Travel Tip #1 – Prepare Your Team

Have a plan before you depart, just like when you’re heading out the door for vacation. Make sure you know who is handling each of your responsibilities before you go and make sure they know! Get that positive handoff we talked about last time. Make sure they know where to find all of the information they might need to make a decision. Delegate authority to make decisions while you’re gone and be clear what they need to contact you about. Provide a way for your team to reach you in an emergency. Just like last week, discuss what constitutes a real emergency so they don’t contact you over every little thing that pops up.

Business Travel Tip #2 – Stay Connected

Tip #2 is to stay connected. This is a lot easier now than it was 10 years ago. Back then even with a cell phone and Blackberry, it was challenging to communicate and get information to make decisions. You couldn’t really read attachments on a blackberry, coverage was spotty and public wi-fi was rare. It’s a lot easier now with cloud storage, smartphones, and video chat. Take advantage of all of the tools you have at your disposal to connect and communicate with your team. If you’re not using these tools and you travel a lot, consider trying them out next time you travel.

Business Travel Tip #3 – Stay Engaged with Your Team

Staying connected is about more than just using the latest tools. There’s some time management that goes along with it. Plan time during your trip to connect with your team members. You may not need to connect each day with everyone, but checking in while traveling is a good practice. You may be uniquely suited to solve a problem for your team because you’re in a location where you can address the issue face-to-face.  I know how tiring travel can be. The last thing you want to do make calls or read email after traveling all day, but the insight you’ll get from your team can make your trip even more productive. It’s okay to be selective with what you discuss with your team. If it’s a conversation that can wait until you get back, it’s okay to say so.

Business Travel Tip #4 – Use Downtime Effectively

Travel is almost always an exercise in hurry up and wait. Flights get delayed, we wait for cabs and ridesharing. There’s always a few minutes here and there to take care of little things. I will usually triage emails and do social media engagement when any time I’m waiting. This downtime is great for taking care of quick little tasks that often fall by the wayside. If you know ahead of time that you have a longer period of downtime, you can plan on doing a larger task. You can even use this downtime to engage with your team to answer their questions or give them some guidance.

There you go, 4 tips to help you lead your team while you’re traveling. Nothing is ever a perfect solution and these aren’t substitutes for being at home face to face with your team, but these 4 tips can help you stay connected and engaged with your team while you’re gone and I know they’ll appreciate it!

Most of us dread going to meetings. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

Effective Meetings – 4 Tips for Great Meetings

Most of us dread going to meetings because we feel like they’re going to be a waste of our time. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

When I was a young Lieutenant in the Air Force I was talking to one of the other Lieutenants. He said, “I try to keep all of my meetings to an hour or less. I feel like any meeting that runs over an hour isn’t productive”. Looking at my experiences at the time, I found that I agreed with that philosophy. This became one of the main guidelines I used for meetings throughout my career. It’s not always possible to keep a meeting to an hour or less. Here are 4 tips to have an effective meeting, no matter how long it is.

Effective Meetings Tip #1 – Have a Clear Purpose

The most important tip for effective meetings is to have a clear purpose. Make sure everyone coming to the meeting knows that purpose. Meetings sometimes drag on because attendees bring up topics that aren’t related to the purpose. People often see an opportunity to handle an issue while others are together in the room. As the meeting leader, it’s our job to keep the meeting on purpose and avoid extraneous conversations.

We need to make sure we’re calling a meeting for the right reasons. Meetings are for making decisions or bringing together work that individuals can’t complete on their own. All too often we end up doing work at the meeting that should have been prepared ahead of time. This can prevent us achieving the purpose of the meeting and often is a waste of time for the attendees. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a group together to complete the work that will support a decision. In this case, we must be clear that the team will present this work to support a decision in another meeting.

Effective Meetings Tip #2 – Have an Agenda

Creating an agenda for a meeting is more work up front, but it pays off during the meeting. Add each decision required to the agenda. Also, include any presentations or information that support those decisions. It’s important to set not just a time limit for the meeting overall, but also a time limit for each item on the agenda. There are times that should extend a topic because it is critical to making a decision. As the leader of the meeting, it’s our job to make sure that we stick to the agenda and keep things moving in line with the meeting purpose.

Effective Meetings Tip #3 – Manage the Guest List

To successfully achieve the purpose of our meeting, we need to make sure that we have invited all of the people who have a stake in the outcome of the meeting. The meeting organizer should invite the decision maker, presenters, and people impacted by the decision. It’s also important to keep people out of the meeting who don’t have a contribution to make. In large organizations, people will often show up to a meeting because they heard it was happening. These individuals sometimes cloud the information being presented by the meeting and often derail the agenda because they aren’t up to speed on the topic. The meeting organizer’s job must bring all the right people to the meeting and keep the wrong people out.

Effective Meetings Tip #4 – Don’t Speculate!

Speculating about facts or information can impact the decision-making process and often result in bad decisions that are costly or time-intensive to fix.  When leading a meeting we must avoid speculating about facts and discourage others from speculating. If information critical to making the decision has not presented, we need to go get it. We may be able to do this in real-time. If not, adjourn the meeting and reconvene later when the facts are available. Speculation often turns into circular arguments and people trying to prove each other wrong. Taking the time to get and verify the information we need will result in better decision-making.

These 4 tips have been mostly focused on someone who is a meeting organizer. If you find yourself in a meeting that is going off the rails, try to use some of these tips to help the leader get things back on track. Following these tips will help your next meeting be productive and efficient. Your teammates will thank you for being considerate of their time and making it a valuable experience.

The last fear that we're going to cover is the fear of saying no. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Saying No: Facing Fear

All through October we’ve been talking about the things that frighten us and how to face them. The last common fear that we’re going to cover is the fear of saying no. We all have it. This is one that I have a particularly hard time with. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Why is it so hard for us to say no to people? Often we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or we’re afraid they won’t like us anymore. Saying no to our boss comes with some concern about how it will affect our career. The likelihood that someone will stop being our friend just because we said no to them is actually pretty small. Our real friends will understand if we can’t say yes to what they’re asking for. When we explain our reasons, they’re usually pretty cool with it.

As human beings we have empathy for those around us and we don’t want to hurt others feelings. We should consider though, will we be hurting that person more if we DON’T say no in this case? And when it comes to saying no to our boss, we could actually be hurting our company, department or our boss even more by holding back.

Saying No Scenario #1 – Peers

Have you ever had one of your peers ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?” Sometimes it’s not a good idea. The extreme cases are actually a little easier. “I’m going to stand in a bucket of water and hold on to these electric cables, do you think that’s a good idea?” That’s pretty easy to say no to. When the request is a little more nuanced it can be difficult to say no to our peers. We want them to like us. We want them to think we’re a team player and we want them to like us! How do we say no when our teammate has an idea that is not in the best interest of the team?

One way is to look back at our mission. Does this idea fit into that mission? Is it in the best interest of the team, the customer or the people we’re trying to serve? If the answer is no, that can be the basis for how to say no. You don’t have to limit yourself to just saying no. Thoughtful feedback to your coworker can get their idea more aligned with team goals.

Saying No Scenario #2 – As a Leader

Saying no if you’re the boss can be harder than it looks. Especially if you used to be on the team and then were promoted to being the boss. Looking  someone you used to work with in the eye and telling them what to do can be challenging.  Sometimes the people on your team will take actions or have ideas that you need to say no to. Just like with our peers, keeping the mission and best interest of the team in mind will help. Avoid being arbitrary about whose ideas you listen to and whose you reject. We want to evaluate suggestions and solutions based on merit, not on who brings them forward.

Sometimes you have access to information about the big picture that you should take into account when making your decisions. You may or may not choose to share this information depending on the situation. Don’t forget that one of our duties as a leader is to develop our team, so when you have to say no, keep giving that feedback on how that individual can make their idea or suggestion better so you can say yes in the future.

Saying No Scenario #3 – To our Boss

If saying no to our peers and our team is hard, saying no to our boss can be downright impossible. We owe it to our boss to ensure they have complete information or understanding of the impacts of a decision. We can ask, is this in alignment with our mission and in the best interest of the team? A lot of times the answer is maybe. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. If the decision won’t cause catastrophic failure or isn’t a clear violation of laws or regulations, maybe we let it go. If there will be a serious breakdown in accomplishing the mission or a clear conflict of our organizational core values, it’s time to speak up.

A technique that we’ve talked about before is the one challenge rule. The boss makes a decision, you speak up once to make sure that the boss has all the information. If the boss decides to go forward anyway, you said your peace and aired your objection. This may not result in the decision you wanted, but at least you tried to help your boss and your team accomplish their mission.

Saying No with Dignity and Respect

These are just a few examples of times you might need to say no to someone, but the principles are the same. When we do say no to someone, whether it is our peers, our team or our boss, we always want to do it with respect and dignity. Coming from a place of fear or anger can distort our message and break down relationships instead of making them stronger. We should always strive to build better connections with the people, even if it means telling them no.

One thing that absolutely terrifies most people is getting up in front of a group and speaking. I’ve heard that many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. If that’s the case for you, we have some tips today to help you out.

Public Speaking: Overcoming Our Fears

It’s almost Halloween and all this month we’re talking about things that scare us. One thing that absolutely terrifies most people is getting up in front of a group and speaking. I’ve heard that many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. If that’s the case for you, we have some tips today to help you out.

There are a lot of reasons we get nervous about speaking in front of a group. First, It’s hard for us as human beings to single ourselves out and face a group alone. It can feel really lonely when you’re up on that stage without anyone else next to you. It often feels like we don’t belong on stage, or we don’t have enough expertise in what we’re speaking about. We think no one wants to hear what we have to say or that they’ll make fun of us. Many of us have had bad experiences and are afraid we might forget everything, say the wrong thing or just mess up really bad.

All of these feelings are perfectly natural. Even people who have a lot of experience with public speaking feel this way sometimes. If you are terrified of getting up on stage to talk, we can work with these feelings. We can use them to prepare ourselves to get our message across to our audience. Keep in mind that public speaking is about communicating and that your message is important to others.

Public Speaking Fear #1: I don’t belong on this stage

Let’s start with the idea that we don’t belong up on stage or telling other people what to do. When we feel this way, we need to ask ourselves, why am I giving this speech? Did someone ask me to do it and why did they ask me to do it? If your boss asked you to speak, it’s because they believe you have insight to share. They believe in you and you’re not on stage with no support. If you decided to give this speech, consider your original motivations and intentions about why you wanted to do it. Is there information you feel like you need to share? Do you have unique expertise that can help the group solve a problem? Keep that reason in mind through all of your preparation right up to the moment you start talking.

Public Speaking Fear #2: I’m Not an Expert

It’s easy to feel like we’re not enough of an expert to speak publicly, but we don’t have to be. When we’re getting ready to speak it’s helpful to remember that we are sharing not just what we know. We share our perspective, opinion and recommendation on a topic. It’s very similar to sharing what we think with our friends or coworkers on the subject. If we’re worried we will get asked a tough question, we can always do more research and preparation. In fact, we should be doing research, even if we have extensive knowledge on the topic. Understanding the views of others, confirming facts and how they support our position is great preparation.

Public Speaking Fear #3: I’ve Had Bad Experiences

Bad experiences can make us more reluctant to speak in public. We remember when we forgot what we were going to say, dropped our notes all over the floor and people laughed, or that time we completely got off track. These things happen to even the most polished speakers. but we can learn from these experiences to improve. Practicing our speech keeps us from getting off track or forgetting what we wanted to say. If we practice enough, we probably won’t need notes, so we won’t drop them. Use your phone to video your practice and you’ll get a good idea of how you look while speaking. It will probably be uncomfortable to watch. I hated watching myself when I first started making videos, but you’ll get more comfortable with it over time. You can also enlist coworkers or friends to watch you practice and get helpful feedback that will improve your speech.

Public Speaking: Next Steps

We really just scratched the surface today and you may be saying “I’m still not ready to speak in front of a group!” and that’s okay. These are very natural feelings, it’s important that we don’t ignore them or try to push through them, but that we understand and embrace them to help us improve. Remembering that we have an important message to share as well as the expertise to convey that message will help us feel like we belong on that stage. Doing research and preparing ourselves for tough questions from others will give us confidence in that message. There’s no substitute for practice to help us build good habits that will help our audience stay focused on our message. Try these three tips before you give your next speech in front of a group and let us know how it goes for you!

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 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.

 

 

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