Starting Difficult Conversations – Video Q&A
There is nothing more rewarding than helping young leaders successfully navigate the challenges they face every day and providing that kind of assistance is exactly why we started Evil Genius Leadership Consultants. We love it when you send us your questions and we try our best to provide you with thoughtful answers and practical steps you can use to solve the problem. This week's video answers a question by Felix M. who would like some advice on starting difficult conversations with his team members. In the video we show the steps you can take to plan any difficult conversation to help it go more smoothly as well as some key tips for execution of the conversation.

Starting Difficult Conversations – Video Q&A

There is nothing more rewarding than helping young leaders successfully navigate the challenges they face every day and providing that kind of assistance is exactly why we started Evil Genius Leadership Consultants. We love it when you send us your questions and we try our best to provide you with thoughtful answers and practical steps you can use to solve the problem. This week’s video answers a question by Felix M. who would like some advice on starting difficult conversations with his team members. In the video we show the steps you can take to plan any difficult conversation to help it go more smoothly as well as some key tips for execution of the conversation.

Starting Difficult Conversations – Building a Plan

  1. Figure out exactly the message you want to get across. Think through all of the main points that you want or need to make as part of the conversation.
  2. Determine who needs to be part of the conversation or hear what you have to say.
  3. Consciously choose the location for the conversation. Find a place without any distractions like active work spaces or high traffic areas.
  4. Timing of your conversation is also critical to keep the other members of your conversation focused on your message.

You can find more details on how to build an effective plan for your difficult conversation in the video. We also talk about why these kinds of conversations can be difficult to help get you in the right mindset to craft your message and the tone of your discussion. Also check out the end of the video for a few key tactics to use during your difficult conversation to keep it moving smoothly while addressing the concerns of your team and getting your message across at the same time.

 

Photo Credit: By Lourdes S. (Day 14: I Don’t Know ANY of This!) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Just as we talked about getting in the right mindset to give feedback to others, it's important to prepare ourselves and set our frame of mind for receiving feedback. Before we start to solicit feedback from others it's important to understand the purpose of feedback. Jason explains in this video why we ask for feedback, who we should ask for feedback from and how we should begin to implement feedback. He also addresses the challenges that come with receiving feedback from our team, our peers and our superiors as well as the difference between formal and informal feedback and why we should be implementing both types into how we evaluate ourselves as leaders.

Receiving Feedback – Video Guide

Just as we talked about getting in the right mindset to give feedback to others, it’s important to prepare ourselves and set our frame of mind for receiving feedback. Before we start to solicit feedback from others it’s important to understand the purpose of feedback. Jason explains in this video why we ask for feedback, who we should ask for feedback from and how we should begin to implement feedback. He also addresses the challenges that come with receiving feedback from our team, our peers and our superiors as well as the difference between formal and informal feedback and why we should be implementing both types into how we evaluate ourselves as leaders.

Tips for Receiving Feedback

  • It’s important to be in the right mindset to receive feedback. Don’t ask the question if you can’t handle the answer.
  • Be open-minded, listen and accept the feedback as it comes.
  • Don’t be reactive or defensive. Except in very urgent situations there’s no need to act right away
  • If someone is offensive or abusive that does need to be addressed, but address that behavior not the feedback itself
  • As you continue to get feedback from others, consider it all in the big picture and act from that perspective.

The most important thing to take away from all of this is that receiving feedback is important to evaluating ourselves and our team and if we don’t ask for it, we’ll never get an accurate picture of how well we’re achieving our goals.

In this video, we share our philosophy on mentoring and the rewards that come to individuals and organizations from applying mentorship effectively.

Mentoring

In this video, we share our philosophy on mentoring and the rewards that come to individuals and organizations from applying mentorship effectively. There are many misconceptions about what mentoring is and how to be a mentor. We point out several of these misconceptions and highlight ways to build a positive mindset in order to become a better mentor.

Tips for Effective Mentoring

If we want to be good mentors we need to remember that true mentoring comes from a mindset where we are genuinely interested in the success of another person and want to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. Building a strong rapport our protegé is key to the success of the mentoring relationship. Without this rapport it becomes difficult for the mentor and protegé to be open and honest with each other and share experiences and perspective. As mentors, we should seek to help our protegé by “telling our own story” and passing on the wisdom and lessons that the protegé can apply to their own situation. Seeking out protegés who come from different background and experiences than our own helps both of us expand our perspectives and come up with better solutions to the challenges we face.

One of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is to develop other leaders who can someday take our place and grow to achieve their own successes. While it doesn't usually come with increased pay or benefits, developing leaders on our team can be one of the most personally rewarding endeavors we can undertake. To effectively develop our team members into strong leaders we need to be genuinely and authentically invested in their future career success as well as the short-term benefits that they can bring to our team.

Developing Leaders on Your Team

One of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is to develop other leaders who can someday take our place and grow to achieve their own successes. While it doesn’t usually come with increased pay or benefits, developing leaders on our team can be one of the most personally rewarding endeavors we can undertake.  To effectively develop our team members into strong leaders we need to be genuinely and authentically invested in their future career success as well as the short-term benefits that they can bring to our team.

The Challenges of Developing Leaders

Helping people on our team grow into strong leaders for the future comes with it’s own set of challenges and hurdles. The first is that most companies and organizations don’t have a great deal of money dedicated for leadership development and training at all levels. Many companies focus on spending resources to improve leadership at the highest levels, but it often doesn’t make it’s way down to the front lines where it is needed most. Consistent leadership development activities can fall by the wayside when unexpected high-priority tasks pop up. It can also be difficult to demonstrate to the members of our team exactly why having solid leadership skills benefits them as individuals as well as advances the mission of our team. All three of these challenges can derail even the most dedicated leader from fully realizing their goal to turn their team into great leaders. It’s important that we commit ourselves through assigning the resources we do have and making the time necessary to help the individuals on our team grow into strong leaders that will carry our organization into the future.

We often talk about setting priorities as a way to achieve work-life balance. A healthy approach to setting priorities and following through on them can help us achieve this balance. If we neglect certain areas of our lives when we are setting our priorities we can find ourselves out of balance very quickly. It’s important that we take into account all the aspects of our lives that are important to us when we are setting priorities. Here are 6 suggestions for areas to include in your list of priorities. They’re in no particular order, and it’s up to you to decide for yourself if these areas fall into a certain priority order for you.

Setting Priorities – 6 Areas to Achieve a Healthy Balance

We often talk about setting priorities as a way to achieve work-life balance.  A healthy approach to setting priorities and following through on them can help us achieve this balance. If we neglect certain areas of our lives when we are setting our priorities we can find ourselves out of balance very quickly. It’s important that we take into account all the aspects of our lives that are important to us when we are setting priorities. Here are 6 suggestions for areas to include in your list of priorities. They’re in no particular order, and it’s up to you to decide for yourself if these areas fall into a certain priority order for you.

Setting Priorities for Career

When it comes to the big picture of what we want out of life, career is usually in the #1 or #2 slot on our list of priorities. This makes a lot of sense because most of us will have to work for a living to pay our bills and we are all looking for a degree of fulfillment from our occupation. Recognizing that career is a place where spend a good deal of our waking hours, it only makes sense to include it in our list of priorities. Where we often come into conflict is where to place our professional life in relation to our other priorities. Consciously deciding how career fits into the rest of our priorities can help us make decisions each day about how to arrange our priorities.

Family and Friends

For most people this is the other priority that takes either the #1 or #2 spot depending on where that person places career in their priorities. The people that we enjoy spending time with are what makes life truly worth living and neglecting them or our need for that nourishment of human interaction can throw us out of balance over time. Setting priorities that include the people who are most important to us can actually make it easier to achieve our other priorities with the support of others. One really easy way to tell if we are out of balance in this area is if we are spending almost all of our time by ourselves or solely with people from work, school or one of our hobbies to the detriment of our other relationships. Maintaining contact with a good mix of people from the different areas of our life helps us keep balance and perspective.

Education

Investing in ourselves is an important aspect of leadership development. If we want to advance and grow as leaders we can’t let our skills and abilities remain stagnant, we always need to be learning. Education doesn’t have to be formal. We don’t all need to enroll in an MBA program to become better leaders or entrepreneurs. Education can come from seminars, workshops or just spending time talking with people who are knowledgeable about the areas we feel we need to learn about. There are an incredible amount of free resources online that we can take advantage of to further our knowledge as long as we invest the time.

Health and Fitness

Our health and fitness is often neglected for other priorities, but taking care of ourselves provides the foundation for being able to achieve our other important life goals. Making sure that we are eating right, exercising, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep are all important to make ourselves strong and healthy enough to have the energy to devote to achieving our other priorities. One of the great things about making our health and fitness a priority is that we can do this by spending time with our family and friends. Preparing meals together is a great way to get a variety of health foods into our lives. Working out together, hiking, biking or playing sports as a group also helps to build strong bonds with the other important people in our lives as well as meeting our own personal fitness needs.

Spirituality

While many people make their beliefs about their place in the universe and their role in it central to their lives, some neglect this aspect of life as they deal with more day-to-day concerns. No matter what your beliefs about a higher power, it is important make time to connect with yourself and what you believe. Even if we don’t have all the answers in life, taking time to explore our purpose and the way we live our lives each day to achieve that purpose can help us to interact better with others in the world and show some compassion and empathy when we face a difficult situation

Recreation and Hobbies

All work and no play…you know the rest. It’s important for us to have a recreational outlet that we enjoy in order to keep from getting burned out. Much like our health and fitness, this an aspect that we often neglect when things get busy in the other areas of our life. Also like health and fitness, we can further our priorities for friends and family by taking part in recreational activities together. No matter what activities or hobbies we enjoy, we need remember them when we are setting priorities and make time for them in our calendar to maintain that healthy balance.

Keeping these six aspects of life in mind when we are setting priorities can go a long way towards keeping a healthy balance between the areas of our lives and help us reduce stress, tension and conflict. By consciously writing down how all of these priorities fit into our lives we have a much better chance of ensuring that we don’t neglect any of them. Openly sharing our priorities with the important people in our lives helps us all understand each other better and deal with conflicts among priorities in a mature and healthy way.

Tell us in the comments what other aspects of life you include in your priorities.

Photo Credit: By Earl McGehee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your team is to clearly define what you believe your leadership role is. People who are recognized as great leaders, such as Larry Page of Google and Sir Richard Branson, have taken time to very carefully consider what they bring to their organizations through their role as a leader. If you’re looking to maximize the performance of your team, investing some thought into your leadership role is an important start. There is no standard statement of a leadership role, but here are five aspects you might consider including in yours based on your mission and situation.

Five Aspects You Should Consider for Your Leadership Role

One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your team is to clearly define what you believe your leadership role is. People who are recognized as great leaders, such as Larry Page of Google and Sir Richard Branson, have taken time to very carefully consider what they bring to their organizations through their role as a leader.  If you’re looking to maximize the performance of your team, investing some thought into your leadership role is an important start. There is no standard statement of a leadership role, but here are five aspects you might consider including in yours based on your mission and situation.

Setting the Vision for Your Team

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many leaders get caught up in the management and reporting of day-to-day tasks and never consider how to translate the big picture of what the team is supposed to be accomplishing into a clear, coherent vision. Leaders at every level should be able to take the guidance they’ve been given by higher level executives and turn that into a unique vision for their team to rally around. Looking at it another way, is it important for you to be able to set the vision of how the team will accomplish their mission, or would you rather let someone else’s opinion determine this for you?

Fostering Innovation

Larry Page believes his role is to develop his employees and empower them to have great ideas and also to implement those ideas to make the world a better place. He’s not focused on how things get done, but the talented people who get them done and the impact they make on society.

Larry Page believes his role is to develop his employees and empower them to have great ideas. Photo credit: By Marcin Mycielski, European Parliament (Stansfield) (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

The degree to which innovation is required or desired also depends on the mission the team has been given to carry out and the methods which they use to do it. Some missions and objectives require more rigid adherence to process and procedure than others, but keeping an eye towards improvement and increasing efficiency is useful even in the most process driven team. Some leaders are lucky enough to have team members who are always coming up with new ideas and initiatives, or new ways to use existing technology and resources better. Do you see your role as a leader to encourage these behaviors? If you have a team that is not so forward-looking, does your role need to be more focused on challenging them to look at their jobs in new and innovative ways?

Empowering as Part of your Leadership Role

In order to be focused on implementing your vision and helping your team come up with innovative ideas to face the challenges that you share, you may find it necessary to free up your attention from tasks that your team members can be taking on for themselves. If empowering your team members to operate autonomously without direct supervision is important to you, you’ll need to critically assess their ability to handle the increased responsibility you intend to give them. Are do they have the skill, experience and judgment to make decisions without your approval? Which decisions are you willing to delegate down to them and which do you want to reserve for yourself? Usually, not every team member is ready for the same level of responsibility, so consider how you will help each one grow into the role you have envisioned for them.

Developing the Talent on Your Team

 

One way that you can get your team ready to handle all of the increased responsibility you’ll be giving them through empowerment and delegation is to develop their skills and competencies. Providing each team member with a clear expectation of the proficiency level you expect them to have in their jobs and helping them build a development plan that grows their skills to the required level is a great way to start developing their talent. It’s also important to consider how much of their development you expect them to perform on their own initiative. Share with your team your view of how they should be developing themselves, what role the organization will take in their training, and how you will mentor and guide them.

Building future leaders

: Branson’s view of his role a leader is very similar to Larry Page’s. He’s focused on the people who do things, not how they do them. And he’s also focused on the personal and professional development of his employees to grow them into leaders as well.

Sir Richard Branson is focused on the personal and professional development of his employees. Photo credit: By Land Rover MENA (British Polo Day Morocco) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Developing the future leaders of your organization is one of the most important challenges you can take on as a leader. Growing one or two of your team members to be able to be effective deputies is another way you can delegate some responsibility and free yourself up to focus on the things you believe are most important for you to handle personally. Many of us hope to advance in our careers and take on leadership positions with increased responsibility and the members of your team are no different. Giving them a path to meet their future career goals also provides your organization with a variety of qualified candidates for your position when you are ready to move on to an amazing opportunity.

Of course, there are other aspects that you might find more important than these five to incorporate into your leadership role. It all depends on the mission you are setting out to accomplish and the skill and talent level of your team. Try approaching it much like a mission or vision statement with the goal of creating a specific and descriptive statement that provides a strategic foundation for the rest of your leadership philosophy and style.

Share in the comments other aspects of your leadership role.

 

Main Photo Credit: By Teak Sato (http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=147870) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Defining your role as a leader is an important step towards developing your leadership philosophy that can help frame and prioritize your daily decisions and actions. Steps for Defining Your Role as a Leader In this video our goal is to get you to ask yourself the question, "What kind of leader do I want to be?" Jason shows you two examples of successful leaders, Larry Page and Sir Richard Branson, who have really thought through their leadership role and apply that role to leading others. After considering these examples, there is an exercise for you to do that challenges you to define your role as a leader based on your current leadership responsibilities and also focuses you on the kind of leadership you'd like to practice in the future.

Defining Your Role as a Leader

 

There are a lot of aspects of leadership I end up discussing with people as I work with them on becoming stronger and more effective leaders. Some new leaders need some help developing their soft skills like communication and public speaking, some need help developing tools and systems for managing all the information inputs and outputs they need to deal with and some are looking to further define the mission and vision for their team. As I dig deeper into their individual needs, I very often find that many of these leaders have not thought deeply about how they see their role as a leader in their organization and communities. Defining your role as a leader is an important step towards developing your leadership philosophy that can help frame and prioritize your daily decisions and actions.

Steps for Defining Your Role as a Leader

In this video our goal is to get you to ask yourself the question, “What kind of leader do I want to be?” Jason shows you two examples of successful leaders, Larry Page and Sir Richard Branson, who have really thought through their leadership role and apply that role to leading others. After considering these examples, there is an exercise for you to do that challenges you to define your role as a leader based on your current leadership responsibilities and also focuses you on the kind of leadership you’d like to practice in the future.

Developing strong skills that support your leadership philosophy and style is a little more straightforward than some of the deep personal reflection we've been doing, but just as important. Your leadership skills are a key piece to exemplifying the leadership traits and core values that you identified to be important to your success. Leadership skills are different from your leadership traits because skills are more of an intellectual pursuit while traits are a little more internal and personal.

Leadership Skills – How to Assess and Build Them

Developing strong skills that support your leadership philosophy and style is a little more straightforward than some of the deep personal reflection we’ve been doing, but just as important. Your leadership skills are a key piece to exemplifying the leadership traits and core values that you identified to be important to your success. Leadership skills are different from your leadership traits because skills are more of an intellectual pursuit while traits are a little more internal and personal.

Leadership Skills Self-Assessment

In this video, Jason walks you through an exercise you can do to determine the kinds of skills you’ll need to take more of a leadership role in your career and personal life. The key to this exercise is to think about where you want to be in the future, not where you are now, and picturing the skills set that the perfect candidate for the job would have. Another important to this exercise is to be honest in your self-assessment of how good you are at these particular skills. You might even want to ask for some candid feedback from a trusted friend or colleague to get a second opinion about how strong your leadership skills are.

Leadership as a Discipline

Great leaders treat leadership as a discipline that needs continual study and reflection. Honestly assessing your leadership skills is a great first step to developing a mindset of life-long learning about leadership that will improve your ability to meet your goals and have stronger connections and relationships with the people around you, both professionally and personally.

A more solid approach to developing your leadership style is to take a much more conscious and deliberate method towards choosing the leadership traits you want to exhibit as part of your leadership philosophy and style as well as those traits you don’t want to exhibit. Much like determining and articulating your core values, this takes careful consideration and self-reflection.

Leadership Style – Tips for Developing Your Key Leadership Traits

When it comes to developing your own personal leadership style there are two common approaches. The first is to default to your natural personality in all situations and let your current mood have a big influence over your decisions and actions. The disadvantage of this approach to developing a leadership style is that it often results in inconsistent decisions and knee-jerk reactions that are frequently out of alignment with the qualities the leader openly states that he or she values. While it may sound counter-intuitive, falling back on your natural personality often results in a perception of inauthenticity and a lack of trust from the team because of these disconnects between words and actions. A very few leaders are the exception to this rule because their true personalities and core values revolve around authenticity and trust.

A more solid approach to developing your leadership style is to take a much more conscious and deliberate method towards choosing the leadership traits you want to exhibit as part of your leadership philosophy and style as well as those traits you don’t want to exhibit. Much like determining and articulating your core values, this takes careful consideration and self-reflection. Additionally, because your leadership traits are reflected in your behavior, it can take conscious, sometimes significant effort to really authentically adopt some leadership traits if they are not part of our inherent personality.

Identifying Your Key Leadership Traits

One of the most effective ways to determine which traits you’d like include in your leadership style is to observe other leaders and make a list of the positive and negative traits that they exhibit. There’s no standard list of traits that all leaders should have, although you will probably find similar traits among most leaders such as integrity, drive and commitment, but there are always exceptions. And since none of us are perfect, you’ll probably observe a few negative traits in leaders as well. It’s not critical that you try to emulate the traits of one particular leader exactly as much as the idea is to observe many leaders, see what traits make them effective or ineffective, and consciously choose for yourself the combination of leadership traits that you want to exhibit to make yourself a successful leader.

It’s important that your leadership traits are consistent with your core values. Many leaders have strong leadership traits that work really well for them, but will be of limited effectiveness in your leadership style if they are not aligned with your core values. For example you may have a hard time authentically exhibiting a trait of transparency if integrity is not one of your core values.  A good exercise that you can do after you’ve built your list of traits is to take each one of those traits and link it back to one or more of your core values. If you have a trait that doesn’t map back to a core value it’s probably worth exploring if you have missed a core value that is critical to you. If you have a core value that doesn’t have any traits mapped back to it, it’s probably worth some self-reflection on traits you can adopt to exemplify that core value in your daily words and actions.

Additionally, if you’ve identified some traits you have that you believe may be negative and that you want to remove from your leadership style, look back at your core values and recognize how these traits conflict with them. Trying to hold to your core values can provide strong motivation to improve in the areas you feel are important.

Incorporating Your Leadership Traits into Your Leadership Style

After doing some honest self-assessment about the traits you have on your list, you may find that you may not be as strong in some of those traits you admire and respect as you would like to be. There’s nothing wrong with this because being a great leader is all about determining the areas you feel like you need to grow in and taking action to make that growth happen.

Building a plan to develop those leadership traits you desire can be intimidating, but an easy first step you can take is to go back to your notes about effective leaders and the traits that they have. Ask yourself what behaviors they exhibited that exemplified those traits and try to work those behaviors into your daily routine. If compassion is a trait you want to grow in yourself, try asking people about their day and what they have going on and actively listen and be genuinely interested in the answer. It may be hard at first, but with practice and commitment (another great leadership trait) you can see some real growth in this area.

Figuring out those key leadership traits you most want to demonstrate is an important step towards developing your own personal leadership philosophy and leadership style. Making a conscious effort will help you make more considered and reasoned decisions and prevent falling back to knee-jerk reactions or overreactions.

Tell us in the comments which leadership traits you believe are most important to effective leadership.

Photo Credit: “Solar Eclipse in Iceland – Staring at the sun”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_Eclipse_in_Iceland_-_Staring_at_the_sun.jpeg#/media/File:Solar_Eclipse_in_Iceland_-_Staring_at_the_sun.jpeg

Every leader has their own unique leadership philosophy and style that is partially defined by the leadership traits the exhibit. We all have a combination of positive traits that make us successful as leaders and negative traits that might be a barrier to successfully leading others. Great leaders are conscious of their leadership traits and continue to develop themselves to make their strong, positive traits stronger and improve upon or eliminate negative traits from their leadership style. Another key understanding that great leaders have is that in order to be effective leaders, their leadership traits, leadership philosophy, and leadership style need to be in alignment with their personal core values.

Leadership Traits

Every leader has their own unique leadership philosophy and style that is partially defined by the leadership traits the exhibit. We all have a combination of positive traits that make us successful as leaders and negative traits that might be a barrier to successfully leading others. Great leaders are conscious of their leadership traits and continue to develop themselves to make their strong, positive traits stronger and improve upon or eliminate negative traits from their leadership style. Another key understanding that great leaders have is that in order to be effective leaders, their leadership traits, leadership philosophy, and leadership style need to be in alignment with their personal core values.

Leadership Traits Exercise – Observe and Report

In the video,  Jason describes an exercise that you can do to start gathering information on the leadership traits that you might want to include in your leadership philosophy and style (and which ones you might want to leave out). The essence of the exercise is to spend a week observing leaders in your community and record their positive and negative leadership traits. Once you have a good sample of traits, decide which traits you would like to include in your own leadership style and which you would like to leave out. Don’t forget to observe the informal leaders in your community as well as the formal leaders that have official authority over others.

Honest Self-Assessment

Once you have your list, the next step is to honestly self-assess how well you exhibit these leadership traits in your daily words and actions. This can be difficult even for the most experienced of us, so it may make sense to ask a friend to assess you in the same areas after you’ve done your own self-assessment. Most importantly, don’t worry about having a certain set of traits on your list. Use this as a fun opportunity to get to know yourself a little better and to help you think about the kind of leader you aspire to be!

Share in the comments your experience doing this exercise!

 

 

 

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