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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

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Leaders are confident that they are capable, through their actions and attitudes, of creating a healthy work environment. They foster open communication that encourages employees to freely ask questions and discuss any concerns.

True leadership requires open and regular interaction between leaders and employees. Leaders understand that they cannot lead from their office or behind a desk: to get a sense of what is actually happening in their organization, they must be actively involved.

It is important to understand that good leadership doesn’t demand leaders directly help employees perform their jobs. Rather, by simply maintaining an active awareness of what is going on in their organization, leaders can anticipate problems and opportunities, and respond accordingly. Furthermore, when leaders communicate and maintain a presence with their employees, they establish great rapport. As a result, employee trust and loyalty deepens and organizational cohesiveness broadens.

Leaders can encourage open communication with their employees by practicing the following techniques.

Encourage Questions

Leaders work with employees who have various levels of self-confidence and self-esteem. They must encourage everyone to regularly ask questions. This kind of interaction makes employees more comfortable with the concept of speaking up, and it also gives them confidence to approach the leader without hesitation or procrastination when the need arises.

Besides vocally encouraging employees, leaders must also support their people with actions. Specifically, leaders should be open and receptive when approached with a question, no matter how trivial the subject. Leaders who simply brush-off the questioner openly convey that questions are not welcome or there is no time to discuss them. Consequently, they undermine the process of open communication.

Look for Opportunities to Ask Questions

Leaders must not passively wait for their employees to come to them with questions. The nature of leadership demands being out among employees, asking questions and soliciting input. In this fashion, leaders can communicate their interests to each employee while keeping tabs on the activities and direction of the organization. Thus, they can anticipate and handle an issue before it explodes into a major problem.

Moreover, when leaders actively solicit questions and answers, they communicate care and concern for their employees and the entire organization.

Ask ‘Personally’

In the age of instant electronic communication, it is important for leaders to ask questions in person. Email doesn’t communicate the tone and nonverbal cues that people often require to fully understand a question. Additionally, face-to-face questions give leaders the opportunity to clearly explain their intentions and get a more comprehensive answer.

While email may be efficient, leaders should understand that not all employees are good writers and, therefore, some may not have the ability to communicate adequately in this medium. Many employees who are uncomfortable with email might not even attempt to reply unless forced to; in which case, responses will tend to be short and/or incomplete.

Respect the Questioner

In the daily workplace routine, it is not uncommon for a leader to hear a range of questions, from trivial to extremely important. In an open communication environment, leaders know they must treat every question and questioner with respect, even if the topic is trivial or lacks urgency. Rather than embarrass or alienate the questioner, good leaders validate the specific question and thank the employee for bringing it to their attention.

Listen Actively

When approached with a question, leaders know that it is important to give the employee their undivided attention. However, if the leader’s attention is necessitated elsewhere, they should ask the employee if the question could be discussed later, at a specific time convenient for both. The time selected must be sufficient for a full discussion, without any urgency to hurry the process along. Once the appointment is set, leaders make a point to keep it.

Again, effective leaders strive to always encourage open communication through their actions and receptivity to questions. However, circumstances and the workplace environment may not always make this practical. In such cases, rather than be short and appear to disregard the employee’s question, leaders need to explain that the timing is simply not right and that they would like to talk when they can provide the needed time and attention both the employee and the question deserves.

When finally discussing a question in-depth, leaders should paraphrase parts of the question or the entire question back to the employee to help clarify and understand the concerns being raised.

Be Cooperative

In most workplace environments, leaders are dealing with daily problems and issues that produce varying degrees of stress. Under these circumstances, it is easy for any individual to appear defensive or adversarial when asked a question, especially an unexpected one.

Effective leaders, however, will maintain a consistent attitude and posture that fosters a cooperative spirit within their organizational unit. They keep a friendly and open demeanor with their employees by paying attention to their own moods, habits, attitudes, body language and tone of voice.

Take Responsibility, But Don’t Solve Every Problem

All people in every organization have limits and responsibilities. When approached with questions, a leader should not respond by doing the employee’s work for him or her. But there are times when the leader is responsible for developing a solution. The key is to understand the appropriate response for the particular question.

Leaders need to set firm and fair limits on what they are willing and able to do so that employees don’t place unreasonable demands on their time and energy. At the same time, it is unrealistic for leaders to expect their employees to solve every problem without guidance. Generally, the appropriate course of action is somewhere in the middle, where the employee and the leader brainstorm to arrive at an acceptable solution.

Follow Up

Open communication demands that leaders follow up on their responses to employee questions by making sure the solution is understood, acceptable and implemented. Obviously, the degree of follow-up needs to be proportionate to the question’s impact and importance. That is, small problems probably only need a simple follow-up question to make sure that things are going alright, while bigger problems could necessitate a series of subsequent meetings.

Follow-up keeps communication with employees open because it often triggers additional questions, input and feedback. In this way, the communication process becomes a continuous, effective loop.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on improving communications within 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:

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

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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Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

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Effective leadership is an active, not passive, process. Leaders get involved in the day-to-day challenges and inspire employees to take risks and rise above the ordinary in their thinking, attitudes and actions. Leaders know they are not always the innovators, Most believe that workplace innovations and especially daily task-related decisions should be made by the employees doing the work. They fully support the actions of their employees and see that they are given the opportunity to create, innovate, and adopt new ideas and methods.

One of a leader’s primary tasks is to develop a sincere interactive leadership style and work climate focused on their employees’ advancement and attainment of goals. Creating a supportive work atmosphere becomes a main ingredient for achievement. Without daily interactive leadership support, very little gets accomplished within an organization.

A totally supportive leadership climate implies establishing shared power, shared risk and shared accountability. It visibly supports all employees’ actions through mutual respect and trust. Only in this way will there be a willingness on the employees’ part to make the organization a top priority with a shared desire to strengthen it.

Interactive leadership focuses on making the organization’s welfare the number one priority by cultivating each and every employee to support its direction and efforts. Supportive leaders continually emphasize the fact that if the organization wins, everyone wins. Every employee activity that assists and promotes this belief must be nurtured and encouraged.

The thrust of leadership is to support all employees effectively and passionately enough to instill the belief and trust that attainment of collective goals will benefit all involved. To see employees reach this level of trust and security, leaders can do the following:

Link Collective and Management Goals

It is essential that interactive leaders support their employees in all their efforts, especially when it comes to identifying and attaining goals. Before goals can become a reality, leaders must instill in their employees a desire and passion to think in terms of the organization’s best interest. Organizations and companies do not just “pocket profits,” they provide people and families with jobs with which to earn a living. It is in this light that every activity and action needs to be focused on the organization’s advancement.

In order to best support their employees in this effort, leaders must make certain that they develop specific strategies for linking management goals to all individual and collective employee goals. In this way, as the organization succeeds, so do they.

Build a Mutual Interactive Support Network

Interactive leadership and its support is a relationship between leaders and the employees they seek to lead. A failure to understand that leadership is a shared responsibility easily breaks down the support process being actively built within an organization.

Interactive leaders don’t attempt to become heroes by accepting full responsibility for their departments, thinking they should be aware of everything going on and able to solve every problem that arises. They realize this mindset inhibits personal and employee progress and development. It disintegrates the shared vision intended to direct, guide and support every unit member toward each goal’s attainment.

Help Employees Realize Their Goals are Cooperative

Leaders interactively support their employees by helping them realize that their goals are cooperative. This is accomplished through applying day-to-day organizational norms, expectations and standards that encourage them to share information, consider each other’s ideas, exchange resources, and respond to each other’s requests through positive interdependence. Doing this ensures the building of a mutually interactive employee support network.

Effective leaders plant “seed” questions that require employees to gather input from peers before responding. This technique serves to create an environment of active communication on all levels, which instills a high degree of mutual support within the specific organizational unit.

Offer Direct Help and Provide Necessary Resources

Providing ongoing, direct assistance and the resources needed to do the job are concrete signs of cooperative goal attainment. Imparting information on how a newer technology might facilitate completion of an assignment, or offering suggestions as to how to increase personal productivity or decrease wasted time and energy are visible examples of a leader’s desire to actively support all members of their work unit.

This strategy also serves to unify the entire unit, as it actively promotes the general welfare of the employee as well as the organization. It emphasizes that even though assignments vary, everyone has the same basic goal. All tasks and individuals become interdependent in the name of advancing the leader’s vision and organization’s cause.

Distorting or withholding information is a clear sign that an active undermining of a leader is taking place within the organization. This destabilizes the motivational framework within individual work units. It also instills a sense of competition between leader and employees, and manifests a lack of trust on the leader’s part.

Promote Cooperation

Leaders support each individual member in words and actions demonstrating respect, warmth and personal acceptance. They resist the urge to make competitive comparisons among employees. Effective interactive leaders reward productive individual and cooperative efforts to develop and attain specific goals and objectives.

The key to moving the organization forward lies not in promoting competition, showing preference for one employee over another or overpowering people to gain compliance, but in winning their employees’ complete cooperation, trust and loyalty.

In order to do this, leaders must foster an atmosphere that secures collective participation among their employees. Actively supporting cooperation built on mutual interdependence is the most effective strategy for creating and sustaining strong collaborative relationships. This strategy is successful because it demonstrates both a willingness to be cooperative and an unwillingness to be taken advantage of.

Interactive leaders need to recognize and encourage ongoing positive interaction among employees. This implies actively working to instill cooperative reciprocity that establishes deeper bonds of trust. During this process employees begin to openly acknowledge that all goals and work-related assignments are collaboratively essential and equally important.

One of the most effective strategies for eliciting cooperative efforts and to display active employee support is to enlarge the “screen of the future.” In other words, leaders must promote the realization among employees that they can expect to be working together as an ongoing group in all future assignments, tasks, decision making, goal setting and planning.

Employees are much more likely to support one another and their leader when they know they will be involved with each other on a continual basis. This is because an expectation of future interaction encourages employees to actively support and cooperate with one another in the present. Active support on all levels becomes far more common and enduring.

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

Related:

Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

Do You Clearly Establish Employee Expectations?

Do You Have Faith in Your People?

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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The Roadmap to Effective Leadership

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Leadership effectiveness can be thought of as “an influencing relationship process among leaders and employee followers who work collaboratively to effect real and necessary changes.” These changes tend to reflect shared purposes, goals and efforts. It is a dynamic action process focused on mutual understandings and beliefs between leaders and employees.

As there are specific rules and principles that tend to guide leadership vision and actions for effectiveness, leaders need to consider certain questions that ultimately forge their roadmap for success.

The journey toward leadership effectiveness should always begin with a question such as: “What improvement is needed within the organization, and what specific steps do I need to bring it about?” Though senior management typically passes down mandates, timelines and expected goals, it is the individual leader’s responsibility to put them into a time lined and vision-directed framework in order to generate positive results.

The roadmap for effective leadership also includes developing higher levels of self-direction, vision, planning and goal achievement, which comes from inspiring others and building cohesiveness, as well as maintaining personal accountability.

In order to begin the path for leadership effectiveness it is important to ask another question: “What’s possible here, and how does the organization and its members stand to benefit?”

A leader’s roadmap to effectiveness consists of a series of factors that motivate people to follow. There are four basic qualities that help develop a focus on individual efforts that consistently will lead all involved workplace members beyond routine thinking and performance.

Leader effectiveness is not simply defined by actions made in response to obvious or crisis situations and circumstances. In reality, true effectiveness centers around the ability to move from a “mission impossible” to a “mission outcome” stance. To move consistently forward, leaders need to rely on specific procedures and actions encompassing multiple areas of skill and direction.

Elements of management and leader effectiveness often tend to overlap. However, leadership effectiveness is defined in a completely different context. Instead of focusing on basic management principles, practices and procedures as a roadmap for success, the four elements that leaders focus on are self-direction, goal achievement, flexibility and inspiring others to attain greatness. As an integral part of focusing on these factors, leaders recognize the importance of:

Gaining the Cooperation of Others

Establishing and cultivating a cooperative spirit is one of the primary means of increasing leadership effectiveness. Leaders use it to generate and maintain personal and employee enthusiasm for task and project facilitation. This spirit drives an organization and its people to higher levels of productivity and accomplishment.

Building and establishing a cooperative spirit takes concerted effort and begins with understanding basic human needs and desires. Effective leaders use needs and personal desires to nudge employees in the right direction, while constantly detailing and emphasizing just how motivation works to everyone’s benefit.

Making emotional connections is part of the process. This implies being able to evaluate performance and results by measuring them against one’s own expectations and goals. It also means acknowledging that as a leader, one needs followers. A truly effective leader builds a sense of workplace interdependence, which is able to gain and produce more in the long term than all combined individual efforts.

The basis for establishing a cooperative spirit lies in examining and analyzing how best to initiate and excel in tasks. Leaders need to be continually identifying their weakest areas, and, in order to improve upon them, need to set specific goals to turn them into strengths. Excelling in tasks and in implementing procedures and assignments helps leaders feel more in control over work-related situations and occurrences, which tends to increase their personal job enthusiasm and stamina.

Related: Interactive Leadership is the Practice of Leadership By Example

Leaders Gain Cooperation by Understanding Their Employees

Beyond workers with a job, effective leaders know their success is inextricably tied to their employees—who like them have concerns, hopes and aspirations. As such, they take the time to converse with and ask questions of their employees. They find out what motivates as well as hinders, frustrates or concerns them. This brings information, concerns, ideas and perspectives to the forefront in order to identify problems, opportunities, and the best actions to take in regard to them.

Related: Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Effective Leadership is Predicated upon the Ability to Listen and Learn

Continuous learning and listening needs to become a top priority if leaders are to excel. Effective leaders never forget where they have been, and use their own as well as others’ experiences to dictate where they should go, and why. Learning from past errors in judgment prevents similar types of problems and negative consequences from occurring.

It is essential for leaders to have their ears and eyes on every person, process and situation, not in a controlling sense, but in order to listen for ideas, impending concerns, problems, successes and unhappiness. Effective leaders absorb everything and act on the knowledge they gain to prevent conflict or work slowdowns from occurring. They are watchful for opportunities to make people feel successful, competent and comfortable in the work environment.

Effective leaders further recognize they are not reactive, but proactive by nature, where good listening and learning habits set both a positive example in the workplace and the foundation for corrective action before problems can take root and sap productivity.

Effective Leaders Sacrifice Self to the Needs of Others

Acknowledging and taking the stance of self-sacrifice is what separates leaders from the rest of the pack. Good leaders set their egos aside. They are not afraid to get involved and help out in various projects or situations alongside the people under their direction. They are flexible, continually slowing down or speeding up as they assess their employee’s productivity and individual efforts.

Skilled leaders never set or rescind a rule that becomes disruptive to workplace harmony or to any individual employee. Placing employees’ needs first means keeping tasks clear, simple and obvious, which makes for a committed workforce. It means making sure employees know exactly what is expected of them and how to complete the tasks assigned. They also focus on ways to make their own assignments and projects simpler, more direct and clearly defined.

Related: Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

Success Springs from a Consistent and Positive Workplace Example

Accepting others as they are and embracing differences and unique qualities tends to generate mutual respect and open communication. Thus leaders work at building cohesiveness through cooperative efforts and hold employees and themselves accountable to achieving their goals and vision.

Positive examples can only be set when outward actions correspond with words and do not send a mixed message. Success is entirely dependent upon following through with promises and commitments without deviating from what was promised, even under stress and adversity. Therefore leaders remain inwardly and outwardly genuine, and use discretion in everything they plan, say and do.

Related: Seven Ways to Lead by Example

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

November 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

with 10 comments

Leaders are confident that they are capable, through their actions and attitudes, of creating a healthy work environment. They foster open communication that encourages employees to freely ask questions and discuss any concerns.

True leadership requires open and regular interaction between leaders and employees. Leaders understand that they cannot lead from their office or behind a desk: to get a sense of what is actually happening in their organization, they must be actively involved.

It is important to understand that good leadership doesn’t demand leaders directly help employees perform their jobs. Rather, by simply maintaining an active awareness of what is going on in their organization, leaders can anticipate problems and opportunities, and respond accordingly. Furthermore, when leaders communicate and maintain a presence with their employees, they establish great rapport. As a result, employee trust and loyalty deepens and organizational cohesiveness broadens.

Leaders can encourage open communication with their employees by practicing the following techniques.

Related: Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

Encourage Questions

Leaders work with employees who have various levels of self-confidence and self-esteem. They must encourage everyone to regularly ask questions. This kind of interaction makes employees more comfortable with the concept of speaking up, and it also gives them confidence to approach the leader without hesitation or procrastination when the need arises.

Besides vocally encouraging employees, leaders must also support their people with actions. Specifically, leaders should be open and receptive when approached with a question, no matter how trivial the subject. Leaders who simply brush-off the questioner openly convey that questions are not welcome or there is no time to discuss them. Consequently, they undermine the process of open communication.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Look for Opportunities to Ask Questions

Leaders must not passively wait for their employees to come to them with questions. The nature of leadership demands being out among employees, asking questions and soliciting input. In this fashion, leaders can communicate their interests to each employee while keeping tabs on the activities and direction of the organization. Thus, they can anticipate and handle an issue before it explodes into a major problem.

Moreover, when leaders actively solicit questions and answers, they communicate care and concern for their employees and the entire organization.

Ask ‘Personally’

In the age of instant electronic communication, it is important for leaders to ask questions in person. Email doesn’t communicate the tone and nonverbal cues that people often require to fully understand a question. Additionally, face-to-face questions give leaders the opportunity to clearly explain their intentions and get a more comprehensive answer.

While email may be efficient, leaders should understand that not all employees are good writers and, therefore, some may not have the ability to communicate adequately in this medium. Many employees who are uncomfortable with email might not even attempt to reply unless forced to; in which case, responses will tend to be short and/or incomplete.

Related: Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Respect the Questioner

In the daily workplace routine, it is not uncommon for a leader to hear a range of questions, from trivial to extremely important. In an open communication environment, leaders know they must treat every question and questioner with respect, even if the topic is trivial or lacks urgency. Rather than embarrass or alienate the questioner, good leaders validate the specific question and thank the employee for bringing it to their attention.

Listen Actively

When approached with a question, leaders know that it is important to give the employee their undivided attention. However, if the leader’s attention is necessitated elsewhere, they should ask the employee if the question could be discussed later, at a specific time convenient for both. The time selected must be sufficient for a full discussion, without any urgency to hurry the process along. Once the appointment is set, leaders make a point to keep it.

Again, effective leaders strive to always encourage open communication through their actions and receptivity to questions. However, circumstances and the workplace environment may not always make this practical. In such cases, rather than be short and appear to disregard the employee’s question, leaders need to explain that the timing is simply not right and that they would like to talk when they can provide the needed time and attention both the employee and the question deserves.

When finally discussing a question in-depth, leaders should paraphrase parts of the question or the entire question back to the employee to help clarify and understand the concerns being raised.

Related: Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

Be Cooperative

In most workplace environments, leaders are dealing with daily problems and issues that produce varying degrees of stress. Under these circumstances, it is easy for any individual to appear defensive or adversarial when asked a question, especially an unexpected one.

Effective leaders, however, will maintain a consistent attitude and posture that fosters a cooperative spirit within their organizational unit. They keep a friendly and open demeanor with their employees by paying attention to their own moods, habits, attitudes, body language and tone of voice.

Take Responsibility, But Don’t Solve Every Problem

All people in every organization have limits and responsibilities. When approached with questions, a leader should not respond by doing the employee’s work for him or her. But there are times when the leader is responsible for developing a solution. The key is to understand the appropriate response for the particular question.

Leaders need to set firm and fair limits on what they are willing and able to do so that employees don’t place unreasonable demands on their time and energy. At the same time, it is unrealistic for leaders to expect their employees to solve every problem without guidance. Generally, the appropriate course of action is somewhere in the middle, where the employee and the leader brainstorm to arrive at an acceptable solution.

Related: Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Follow Up

Open communication demands that leaders follow up on their responses to employee questions by making sure the solution is understood, acceptable and implemented. Obviously, the degree of follow-up needs to be proportionate to the question’s impact and importance. That is, small problems probably only need a simple follow-up question to make sure that things are going alright, while bigger problems could necessitate a series of subsequent meetings.

Follow-up keeps communication with employees open because it often triggers additional questions, input and feedback. In this way, the communication process becomes a continuous, effective loop.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on improving communications within 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.

______________________________________________________________________________

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

July 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

Four Concepts Define Key Leadership Responsibilities

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Managers learn the rules that define their basic responsibilities by responding to this question: “What’s wrong, and what specific steps do I need to take to fix it?” So, when senior management passes down mandates, timelines and goals, the manager’s job is to work within the prescribed corporate framework to produce results.

Leaders, on the other hand, self-direct, craft a vision, make plans, achieve goals, build cohesiveness and inspire others while holding themselves personally accountable for their area of the company. The question they respond to is: “What’s possible here, and who cares?”

Related: The Roadmap to Effective Leadership

A leader’s responsibilities are defined by a set of concepts and qualities that motivate people to “get on board” with his or her vision. In fact, there are four basic concepts that help leaders develop the creative energy needed to focus on everyone’s efforts, which guides all employees beyond routine thinking and performance.

Unlike a conventional manager, a leader’s responsibilities are not defined by one question. Generally, a leader’s central responsibility is to move his or her unit from a “mission impossible” to a “mission outcome” stance. This shift requires leaders to embrace multiple areas of skill and direction. To constantly move forward, they focus on specific concepts to help define their key leadership responsibilities.

Management and leadership responsibilities often overlap, but leadership is defined in a completely different context. Leaders’ responsibilities lie in four key areas: self-direction, goal achievement, flexibility and inspiring greatness in others. Leaders recognize that these responsibilities are taken care of through the four actions outlined below.

Related: Do You Have Faith in Your People?

Gain the Cooperation of Others

Establishing a cooperative spirit is the primary responsibility of leadership. This spirit drives an organization and its people to higher levels of productivity and accomplishment. For leaders to be effective they must build a cooperative effort by relying on the following techniques:

  • Leaders understand basic human needs and desires and nudge people in the right direction. They know how motivation works to everyone’s benefit.
  • They make emotional connections. An effective leader connects with people under their direction to build an interdependence that fosters more long-term gain than individual efforts would.
  • They acknowledge the need for followers.
  • Leaders understand their people. They take time to converse and ask questions that bring information, concerns, ideas and perspectives to the forefront. Then, they act positively upon them.

Related: The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Listen and Learn Well

  • Leaders never forget where they have been, and use their experiences to shape where they are going, and why. They place learning and listening at the top of the list in terms of building skills and ability. Learning from past errors in judgment prevents their repetition.
  • They listen to everyone and everything. Leaders have their ears and eyes on every person, process and situation. They listen for ideas, impending concerns, problems, successes and unhappiness in their employees. They absorb everything and act on the knowledge gained to prevent major problems from occurring.
  • Leaders seize all opportunities to make people feel successful, competent and comfortable in the work environment. Excellent leaders are not reactive, but proactive by nature.

Related: Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

Put the Needs of Others First

  • Effective leaders separate themselves from the rest of the pack through self-sacrifice and by setting their egos aside. Good leaders are never afraid to work alongside their people to finish a project or resolve a situation.
  • Leaders are flexible, slowing down or speeding up while assessing their employees’ productivity and efforts.
  • Leaders understand that keeping tasks simple and obvious makes for a committed workforce. Employees desire to know precisely what is expected of them and how to complete their assigned tasks. A leader focuses on ways to make their assignments and projects more direct and clearly defined.

Related: Do You Have the Talent to Execute Get Things Done?

Performing Consistently

  • By understanding that people are different, leaders solidify mutual respect and communication, and maintain openness and fairness with every employee.
  • Leaders build cohesiveness through cooperative efforts by holding employees and themselves accountable. They know this is necessary to achieve their goals and ideals.
  • Effective leaders realize that their actions and words must not send mixed messages. Leaders should stay the course, even under duress or in the midst of adversity. They must remain genuine and use discretion in all judgments they make. Excellent leaders will reinforce their motivation, inspiration and expectations to maintain a strong leadership position.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on leadership roles and responsibilities to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Leadership Roles & Responsibilities: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.
________________________________________________________________________

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

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Effective leadership is an active, not passive, process. Leaders get involved in the day-to-day challenges and inspire employees to take risks and rise above the ordinary in their thinking, attitudes and actions. Leaders know they are not always the innovators, Most believe that workplace innovations and especially daily task-related decisions should be made by the employees doing the work. They fully support the actions of their employees and see that they are given the opportunity to create, innovate, and adopt new ideas and methods.

One of a leader’s primary tasks is to develop a sincere interactive leadership style and work climate focused on their employees’ advancement and attainment of goals. Creating a supportive work atmosphere becomes a main ingredient for achievement. Without daily interactive leadership support, very little gets accomplished within an organization.

A totally supportive leadership climate implies establishing shared power, shared risk and shared accountability. It visibly supports all employees’ actions through mutual respect and trust. Only in this way will there be a willingness on the employees’ part to make the organization a top priority with a shared desire to strengthen it.

Related: Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

Interactive leadership focuses on making the organization’s welfare the number one priority by cultivating each and every employee to support its direction and efforts. Supportive leaders continually emphasize the fact that if the organization wins, everyone wins. Every employee activity that assists and promotes this belief must be nurtured and encouraged.

The thrust of leadership is to support all employees effectively and passionately enough to instill the belief and trust that attainment of collective goals will benefit all involved. To see employees reach this level of trust and security, leaders can do the following:

Link Collective and Management Goals

It is essential that interactive leaders support their employees in all their efforts, especially when it comes to identifying and attaining goals. Before goals can become a reality, leaders must instill in their employees a desire and passion to think in terms of the organization’s best interest. Organizations and companies do not just “pocket profits,” they provide people and families with jobs with which to earn a living. It is in this light that every activity and action needs to be focused on the organization’s advancement.

In order to best support their employees in this effort, leaders must make certain that they develop specific strategies for linking management goals to all individual and collective employee goals. In this way, as the organization succeeds, so do they.

Related: Do You Have Faith in Your People?

Build a Mutual Interactive Support Network

Interactive leadership and its support is a relationship between leaders and the employees they seek to lead. A failure to understand that leadership is a shared responsibility easily breaks down the support process being actively built within an organization.

Interactive leaders don’t attempt to become heroes by accepting full responsibility for their departments, thinking they should be aware of everything going on and able to solve every problem that arises. They realize this mindset inhibits personal and employee progress and development. It disintegrates the shared vision intended to direct, guide and support every unit member toward each goal’s attainment.

Help Employees Realize Their Goals are Cooperative

Leaders interactively support their employees by helping them realize that their goals are cooperative. This is accomplished through applying day-to-day organizational norms, expectations and standards that encourage them to share information, consider each other’s ideas, exchange resources, and respond to each other’s requests through positive interdependence. Doing this ensures the building of a mutually interactive employee support network.

Effective leaders plant “seed” questions that require employees to gather input from peers before responding. This technique serves to create an environment of active communication on all levels, which instills a high degree of mutual support within the specific organizational unit.

Offer Direct Help and Provide Necessary Resources

Providing ongoing, direct assistance and the resources needed to do the job are concrete signs of cooperative goal attainment. Imparting information on how a newer technology might facilitate completion of an assignment, or offering suggestions as to how to increase personal productivity or decrease wasted time and energy are visible examples of a leader’s desire to actively support all members of their work unit.

This strategy also serves to unify the entire unit, as it actively promotes the general welfare of the employee as well as the organization. It emphasizes that even though assignments vary, everyone has the same basic goal. All tasks and individuals become interdependent in the name of advancing the leader’s vision and organization’s cause.

Distorting or withholding information is a clear sign that an active undermining of a leader is taking place within the organization. This destabilizes the motivational framework within individual work units. It also instills a sense of competition between leader and employees, and manifests a lack of trust on the leader’s part.

Related: Do You Clearly Establish Employee Expectations?

Promote Cooperation

Leaders support each individual member in words and actions demonstrating respect, warmth and personal acceptance. They resist the urge to make competitive comparisons among employees. Effective interactive leaders reward productive individual and cooperative efforts to develop and attain specific goals and objectives.

The key to moving the organization forward lies not in promoting competition, showing preference for one employee over another or overpowering people to gain compliance, but in winning their employees’ complete cooperation, trust and loyalty.

In order to do this, leaders must foster an atmosphere that secures collective participation among their employees. Actively supporting cooperation built on mutual interdependence is the most effective strategy for creating and sustaining strong collaborative relationships. This strategy is successful because it demonstrates both a willingness to be cooperative and an unwillingness to be taken advantage of.

Interactive leaders need to recognize and encourage ongoing positive interaction among employees. This implies actively working to instill cooperative reciprocity that establishes deeper bonds of trust. During this process employees begin to openly acknowledge that all goals and work-related assignments are collaboratively essential and equally important.

One of the most effective strategies for eliciting cooperative efforts and to display active employee support is to enlarge the “screen of the future.” In other words, leaders must promote the realization among employees that they can expect to be working together as an ongoing group in all future assignments, tasks, decision making, goal setting and planning.

Employees are much more likely to support one another and their leader when they know they will be involved with each other on a continual basis. This is because an expectation of future interaction encourages employees to actively support and cooperate with one another in the present. Active support on all levels becomes far more common and enduring.

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

If you are seeking proven expertise and the best practices of interactive leadership and organizational empowerment to train or educate your employees in this area, refer to Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________

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 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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