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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

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Effective leaders know that communication must be personalized to be effective. Each situation encountered in the workplace needs to be addressed at a level comfortable for everyone involved. Leaders must communicate messages and gain feedback with confidence and care. As such, in order to be effective at conveying their message, leaders must pay close attention to individual differences and situations that provide them with a specific context to communicate in.

Leaders must rely on communication to resolve issues that negatively impact the workplace environment and their leadership image. By using persuasion, consultation and empowerment, managers can effectively lead people and positively influence the work environment. In order to successfully present their thoughts and ideas to subordinates, it is important for leaders to fully utilize these three basic communication styles.

How and when leaders apply the styles depends upon the particular situation and the motivation for using them. The three styles are discussed below in more detail.

Persuasive Communication

Persuasive communication is the cornerstone of motivation and task accomplishment. Leaders who use this style are influential in fostering positive change in the workplace. Part of persuasion entails utilizing motivational comments like, “This is great. Let’s do it!” Persuasive communication is most effective in the following situations:

  • Leaders often look to gain a commitment or agreement from their employees. This style works effectively for introducing new ideas, altering performance, deviating from an ineffective course of action, or adapting to various changes in the workplace. Persuasive communication focuses on influencing others in a positive and exciting way.
  • Leaders may need to complete a task or assignment in a given time frame or with particular outcomes. Persuasive communication helps define the importance of a given task or situation. A leader’s effectiveness at attaining employee cooperation depends upon the excitement imbued in the message and its delivery.
  • When leaders want to encourage a higher level of trust from their employees, they deliver a series of persuasive messages and actions that reinforce employee confidence, abilities and involvement.

Consultative Communication

Consultative communication is effective for building and maintaining involvement. It cements employee loyalty in the leader. This style utilizes open-ended questions like, “What do you think needs to be done here?” Such questions unearth hidden issues and personal agendas. This style helps define the direction to take related to the following circumstances:

  • Sometimes there is a need to shift an employee’s thinking away from a particular idea. Consultative communication can also help redirect an employee who is doing something that is not productive.
  • Employees need to know they play a key role in determining a direction, course of action, or outcome. Consultative communication is primarily used to build trust. It is also effective when defining goals, objectives, performance standards or specific expectations.
  • Leaders often want to increase their employees’ participation. This style is effective for securing involvement in a task or assignment that may be intimidating because of either change or the employee’s uncertainty about the abilities or skills that they need to complete a task.

Empowering Communication

The empowering style is effective when leaders want employees to accept responsibility. Leaders utilizing this style tend to use phrases such as, “do as you see fit” and “make decisions you think need to be made” along with words such as, “effectively” and “efficiently.” This style is best used in the following situations:

  • Leaders require cooperative efforts. When situations necessitate the employee work with little direction to complete a task, this style can be used to cement their confidence and help them attain self-motivation. At the same time it helps equalize employee workloads and instills the desire in people to achieve or surpass expectations.
  • Leaders may need to delegate. In this situation, the empowering style is especially effective when combined with the consultative style. Used together, leaders don’t defer responsibility, but acquire commitment to their goals and tasks by fostering respect and harmony between themselves and their subordinates.
  • Leaders demand improved outcomes and standards from employees. The empowered style works to motivate, amplify efforts and multiply results. It is very effective at gaining trust and respect while motivating people to perform at higher levels.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on effective communication practices in the workplace to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series.Click here to learn more.

Related:

Focusing Your Employees on Common Goals

Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Ten Steps You Need to Take to Effectively Sell Your Ideas

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Employing an Effective Feedback Process

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For feedback to be useful and productive, coaching managers need to pay close attention to possible consequences that can occur once it has been provided. Constructive feedback tends to enhance employee relationships by generating higher levels of trust, honesty, and genuine concern for another person’s welfare, professional development and growth.

Feedback continually needs to be checked in order to determine its degree of agreement, which is referred to as “consensual validation.” This consensual validation is what tends to define feedback’s value to both the sender and receiver.

If the receiver of feedback is uncertain as to the giver’s motives or intent, the uncertainty itself constitutes feedback. This is why detailing the need for feedback should be revealed before multiple problems begin to occur. It is always important to check one’s feedback for message content, sequencing, structure, and factual data to ensure that clear communication is taking place. One way of doing this is to ask the receiver to rephrase the feedback. Remember, regardless of feedback intent, it still remains potentially threatening and is subject to a great deal of distortion or misinterpretation.

Predicting How the Feedback Receiver Will React Is Part of the Process

As a coaching manager it is important to be aware of various types of negative responses to feedback in order to react to them appropriately when they surface. Following specific guidelines for offering effective feedback can go a long way to limit many kinds of negative reactions to it, especially critical or necessary intervention types of criticism.

Managers as coaches can expect numerous employees (as well as themselves) to automatically react in a negative manner to what they feel is intimidating, hostile or threatening feedback. This reaction can take various forms, such as:

  • Doubting the giver’s intentions or motives
  • Selectively receiving or perceiving the feedback message in a biased manner according to how the person feels it is intended
  • Rejecting or contradicting the facts or validity of the data that is applied or used within the feedback
  • Reducing, lessening or diminishing the feedback’s impact
  • Arguing, criticizing or verbally attacking the individual that is offering the feedback

Steps for Receiving Feedback in a Positive Manner

The first step to receiving usable, reliable feedback is to solicit it. As part of the process make certain to:

  • Maintain your self-confidence and self-esteem when listening to feedback
  • Maintain good rapport with the individual giving the feedback
  • Apply active listening during the feedback discussion, such as paraphrasing and stating your understanding of what you are hearing
  • Make sure to summarize the information and data
  • Give a good example of how to effectively receive and accept feedback

Key Strategies to Help Give and Get Effective, Reliable Feedback

There are several key strategies that tend to enhance the productive feedback process:

Focus the discussion on the information needed. For example, when bringing a situation to the attention of an employee, begin the coaching process by saying something like: “Samantha, I’ve noticed in the past several weeks that you’ve fallen behind on keeping the project assignment schedule up-to-date. Let’s figure out what we both can do to get the scheduling process back on track.”

Always remember to apply open-ended questions as they work best to continually expand the discussion. Ask something like: “You have always done an exceptional job of maintaining the schedule correctly and up to the minute—until about two weeks ago. Why has there been such a change?”

Use closed-ended questions to prompt for specific responses, such as, “What other projects are you currently working on that are taking away valuable time from working on this project?” When taking this approach remember that closed-ended can end up disguised as open-ended inquiries, like: “Are you going to struggle or have a problem when it comes to the completion of this project?”

Promote ongoing dialogue through eye contact and positive facial expressions. The process involves nodding in agreement, raising the eyes, smiling, leaning forward more closely toward the other person, and making verbal statements in order to acknowledge that what is being said or stated, is heard.

State your understanding of what you are hearing by briefly paraphrasing what the other person is saying. After the key points have been summarized, try to get some agreement on the next steps. In addition, make certain to show appreciation for the effort made so far.

Best Practices for Offering Feedback

The following suggestions should be employed when offering feedback:

  • Make it a point to reveal and describe your own reactions or feelings as the feedback process progresses
  • Make certain to describe objective consequences that have or will occur
  • Stay clear of accusations
  • Focus on specific behavior the feedback is intended for, not the person
  • Make certain to present data to support your input
  • Be prepared to discuss additional alternatives
  • Rephrase comments to sound less intense, critical or insensitive
  • Take into account the needs of both the receiver and giver of feedback
  • Make certain that feedback is directed toward a behavior or action that the receiver can do something about or has control over

Avoid These Feedback Pitfalls

When you find yourself receiving feedback, especially critical feedback, it is important to avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Becoming defensive and closed-minded.
  • Not checking for possible misunderstanding. Instead always use a paraphrasing technique that begins with something like, “Let me repeat what I am hearing you say…”
  • Failing to gather information from other sources. It is far more advantageous to get as much input as possible from others to weigh and analyze the initial feedback received.
  • Overreacting, since it closes down constructive discussion, and hinders trust building and fact verification.
  • Not asking for feedback message clarification. It is essential to ask the person what the intent is behind the feedback in the first place, as well as making certain that there is total understanding on your part.

Related:

Supporting Employees’ Need to Achieve Maximum Results

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

Assessing Employee Growth and Development

Nine Rules for Coaching Your Employees

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Four Attitudes That Hinder an Empowered Environment

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The forces requiring companies to continually change, transform and improve are becoming progressively more compelling in today’s business environment. This is the result of a globalized economy, the shifting sands of deregulation and regulation, accelerated technological advances, and the competitive challenges posed by emerging companies.

Dealing with these forces can precipitate a crisis atmosphere in many companies as they attempt to retain market share in the midst of breakneck industry changes and political shifts. As these challenges have a definite effect on organizations and their ability to remain flexible and competitive, leaders can easily stumble into any number of pitfalls when striving to meet them. Empowerment is needed for an organization as a whole to surmount problems, issues and events that surface without warning, and to achieve the necessary growth these new pressures demand.

It is important for an organization and its top leaders to understand that power needs to flow to lower-level leaders and employees whose tasks, projects and assignments are needed to deal effectively with critical problems. The capacity of a company to strengthen itself comes from the empowerment of its members, which has its origin in the degree to which the organization is willing to share power with its leaders and employees.

In today’s climate, “power” is not found in controlling events and circumstances within the organization or outside its boundaries. Power is not focused on the personal gain, recognition or advancement of its individual leaders. It is a collective synergy found among all organizational members, a dynamis, or tireless energy that permeates the atmosphere. This is the inevitable result of delegating and including all leaders and employees in all processes that move the organization forward.

Pitfalls emerge when organizations fall short in actually sharing power where and when called for. This is most often the reason why the concept of empowerment fails to take root in an organization and become a concrete, beneficial driving force.

Many organizations often hold beliefs and views that run counter to empowerment. They are often shortsighted and ignore the fact that collectively, their members are the most critical resource they have to move forward. When organizations take a myopic view they fail to realize the actual potential strength they have at their disposal, and do not utilize their leaders and employees to their best advantage. They often claim leadership and empowerment as primary goals, but fall short in actual attempts to develop a climate conducive to supporting them. This is generally the result of falling into common pitfalls.

Maintaining that Power Is a Fixed Sum

Traditional organizational thinking promotes the idea that power is a fixed sum; i.e., if one person has more, others have less. Organizations and individuals within it who share this belief are also reluctant to share power. They hold on tightly to it. However, this philosophy seriously retards the accomplishment of extraordinary things through mutual, collective efforts. This is the real barrier to empowerment: when managers and even employees hoard whatever power they have.

This generates powerlessness in others. In turn it generates organizational systems where political skills become “business as usual.” These are actively used to “cover oneself” and “pass the buck.” They become the preferred styles for handling interdepartmental differences and lagging productivity and results. At the same time these actions and their motives create disharmony and hindering roadblocks to cooperative and creative efforts for necessary innovation. An organization will find its products, quality, and services suffer when these wanting political skills are consistently applied, and where eliminating them is overlooked or ignored.

Failing to Provide Organizational Discretion and Autonomy

Applying discretion and autonomy within an organization comes from actively supporting its members and trusting in their ability to take decisive action whenever and wherever necessary. It includes the right to exercise independent judgment, and to make decisions that affect how one does his or her job without having to check in with upper levels every time issues and concerns surface. Without embracing and promoting elements of discretion and autonomy, an organization’s total support network is diminished and ultimately destroyed.

The opportunity to be flexible, creative and adaptive is what enables an organization to make most productive use of its resources in moving ahead and overcoming challenges. If organizations allow for individual discretion, leaders and employees will have greater opportunity to apply their creativity and collective intelligence. They will have more choices about how to successfully accomplish given goals and objectives.

In addition, when an organization practices flexible discretion, it generates higher levels of responsibility and a greater sense of obligation among all members, as all individually feel more powerful and in control of events and circumstances that would otherwise overwhelm them.

Falling Short in Identifying the Real Sources of an Organization’s Power

Within an organization, traditional power is generally thought of as having and maintaining control over its resources. However, the real power of an organization is found in its individual leaders and through their employee groups. This is where the organization’s crucial problems can be solved to ensure its long-term success and viability. An organization can emphasize its willingness to acknowledge the power of its leaders and employees by:

  • Involving all members in its planning and directives.
  • Allowing delegation to be an active part of its culture with full trust and confidence that goals and objectives will be met.
  • Creating and implementing an empowered spirit and team attitude throughout the organization.
  • Finding unique ways to reward leaders and all other members for accomplishments large and small.

Being Reluctant to Give Power Away to Strengthen Others

Upper management must embrace the idea that the only potential market power and strength they have is maintained by the mutual efforts of their subordinate leaders and employees. It is dependent upon a positive interconnection and interaction among all three parties. Organizations must recognize the necessity of giving power away to others. Upper management must actively practice four principles that strategically strengthen the organization and the members within it. They include:

  • Giving leaders the power to use their own personal judgment in the delegation of critical assignments and decision making. This includes them then empowering their employees to modify methods and processes to increase quality, productivity and innovation.
  • Allowing leaders and other members greater discretion and autonomy over resources, projects, direction and outcomes.
  • Developing an atmosphere that builds relationships, connecting leaders and employees with other powerful people within the organization that can mentor, sponsor and coach them.
  • Promoting visibility and strengthening people within the organization by sharing information and increasing flexibility in work-related activities. Top management must be able to actively enable others to act with the organization’s best interests at heart, with realistic levels of accountability and without the risk of potential negative consequences.

Excerpt: Empowerment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Seven Ways to Lead by Example

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A developmental milestone is reached when the leader is able to build trust and motivation with their employees to the degree that they are willing to openly follow their direction regardless of circumstances. This is not achieved until a leader is able to demonstrate—through personal example—that they have earned their employee’s respect and admiration.

The practice of interactive leadership provides leaders with a distinct set of advantages that cannot be realized without their active presence. This enables them to establish trust, credibility and respect. These are all elements that buttress a leader’s ability to personally lead their organization and motivate his or her employees to follow.

It is one thing to lead an organization and quite another to motivate individuals to follow. The practice of interactive leadership demonstrates the character, ability and integrity of a leader and motivates individual employees to follow.

The practice of interactive leadership spotlights the individual leader and gives them the platform to shine by motivating their employees and effectively moving the organization forward. Interactive leadership is also the practice of leadership by example, and places all a leader says or does under the close scrutiny of their employees. Effective leaders use this to their advantage by practicing the following techniques:

Sell the Vision

In the storms of change and transformation, the leader’s compass is his or her personal vision of the organization, its goals and potential accomplishments. Interactive leadership provides leaders with ample opportunities to “proselytize,” or sell their vision to their employees every time the opportunity arises. This often means leaders are constantly talking about their vision and the positive changes that will take place when it is achieved.

The importance of a leader selling his or her vision cannot be overemphasized. As a leader, the goal is to motivate and lead employees. An essential part of motivation is selling employees on the vision and getting them to individually accept and “buy into” that vision as their own. Since organizational transformation in the face of change is normally a lengthy process, leaders must take every opportunity to remind their employees of the direction in which they are headed, and motivate them to continually work toward the accomplishment of their shared vision.

Walk the Talk

Interactive leadership places leaders under the microscope of employees who are continually assessing integrity and credibility. The practice of interactive management allows leaders to demonstrate their true character and build trust and loyalty with their employees. This is accomplished by a consistency in words and actions—the measure employees use to gauge a leader.

Consequently it is crucial for leaders to make certain they follow through on what they promise. If this is not possible, they have a good reason and take the time to explain why their promise cannot be kept.

Trust, credibility and loyalty are established when employees, associates and superiors know they can take what a leader says “to the bank,” and that what he or she promises will be done. This trust is strengthened and a strong bond created when a leader clearly demonstrates by actions that he or she places their employee’s interests above their own personal agenda.

Empower and Delegate

The practice of interactive leadership strengthens trust between leaders and employees when leaders actively empower employees and delegate tasks and assignments as needed. Empowering employees, groups and teams “on the fly” and delegating assignments when feasible allows leaders to swiftly respond to the rapid pace of change—as well as resolve problems and frustrations as or even before they occur.

Create Urgency

The rapid pace of change creates its own sense of urgency, but as transformation often takes time, leaders must motivate employees by further instilling this sense in them. This is best accomplished when leaders introduce new ideas and concepts, test them quickly, learn from the failures and move on to the next idea. It is through this process of continual adaptation and refinement of ideas and concepts that a sense of urgency is developed that keeps the organization moving forward toward transformation. In the absence of this sense of urgency it is easy for employees to fall into complacency.

Openly Communicating

Interactive leadership is built upon open communication and the ability of leaders to actively listen and respond to feedback and ideas offered by subordinates. This allows leaders to use all of their physical senses to observe and learn firsthand what is happening within their organization and to minimize the distortion of information.

Removing Obstacles

When leaders are ever-present and openly and actively interacting with their employees, they are able to identify and remove frustrations and barriers impeding forward movement.

Leaders openly empower their employees to overcome barriers and delegate the creation and implementation of the solution to them. Often these barriers come in the form of minor problems and issues that can be handled by frontline employees without the direct intervention of the leader. This enables the organization to be more responsive and productive.

Celebrate the Little Successes

The open presence of the leader among his or her employees allows them to plan for short-term wins and successes. These are important since the lengthy term of transformation can cause employees to lose sight of their goals and motivation. The celebration of short-term and minor successes maintains employee focus and keeps them motivated to continue to work toward the long-term success of the organization.

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

“Dissent, Even Conflict Is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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The Value of Sacrifice

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Whether effective or ineffective, individuals viewed as leaders are models of behavior that are closely observed and judged by others. Inherent expectations of leaders include personal sacrifice. They are expected to sacrifice for the benefit of others within their organizations. Leaders who expect sacrifice from their employees, stakeholders or constituencies and yet refuse to make the same personal sacrifices are judged as hypocrites.

Nothing undermines organizational leaders more than an attitude of “do as I say, not do as I do.” This is clearly demonstrated during the current recession when jobs are cut, wages frozen and budgets slashed. As individuals suffer from the consequences of these actions, they become enraged at the excesses displayed by their so-called leaders who collect large bonuses and spend monies for parties and expensive trips and dinners. There is no sacrifice displayed, while others have to pinch their belts. This destroys credibility and undermines trust.

When leaders demonstrate a posture of shared sacrifice, a term I don’t like to use due to its political and progressive definitions, this builds loyalty and trust that can be built on when its needed to rebuild the business.

Leaders need to model sacrifice within their organizations if they expect their employees to sacrifice during difficult times.

Sadly, too many high profile leaders ignore this. However, many others do, so I can’t make a broad accusation. Yet this is one of the reasons for the demise of leadership and its failure. Too many leaders take care of themselves, while ignoring the needs of those they are tasked to lead.

If you would like to learn more about the great American leader’s personal sacrifice, through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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