Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘open communications

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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Seven Ways to Lead by Example

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peopleinteracting

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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Leading By Example

with one comment

mantalking

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:

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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Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

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Warren Buffett (L), chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and David Rubenstein (R), president of the Economic Club of Washington, participate in a discussion during the 25th anniversary celebration dinner of the Economic Club of Washington June 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Warren Buffett (L), chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and David Rubenstein (R), president of the Economic Club of Washington, participate in a discussion during the 25th anniversary celebration dinner of the Economic Club of Washington June 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) remarked, “‘It’s vital to be able to communicate well… Just being able to communicate with others on the job adds at least 50% to your value.” Open and effective communications at all levels solves many problems and reduces conflict before it even occurs. Lee Iacocca (Chrysler) declared, “A leader has to communicate. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth…

Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it’s painful.” Iacocca notes the importance of intellectual honesty as part of the communication process. “Iacocca says he’s not talking about verbosity or sound bites. He means facing reality and telling the truth, even when it’s painful. If you apply spin, people will know—they’re not stupid—and they’ll stop listening.”

“Peter Drucker [felt] the most valuable asset in a firm is the collective knowledge of its employees. But to realize that value, the people in an organization have to be able to share that knowledge. That means ‘them that’s got it’ have to be able to give it to ‘them that don’t.’ And that transaction requires two-way communication between inspired transmitters and welcome receivers.” The great leaders understood this. In fact, most spent a great deal of their time on the “factory floor” meeting with managers, supervisors and employees to see firsthand what is happening and to understand the problems and issues facing their companies.

At Hewlett-Packard it was discovered that “‘Management by Walking Around’ improves communication, improves quality, improves teamwork, and improves profits. Hewlett and Packard’s visible presence and easy availability (they insisted on a company-wide open-door policy, believing that interruptions were a small price to pay for the advantages of open and frank communication with the talented people they hired) earned them deep credibility with their co-workers. A drill press operator on the outskirts of the factory knew that the CEO and President understood what he did and appreciated his contribution.”

As was previously pointed out, John Patterson (National Cash Register) actually moved his office into the middle of his factory floor. While other leaders, such as Henry Heinz (H.J. Heinz), Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire), William Proctor (Proctor & Gamble), and George Westinghouse (Westinghouse) did not go to that extreme, they still remained highly visible, and openly and frequently communicated with their employees. In recognition of his frequent presence on the factory floor, Harvey Firestone’s casket was walked through his factory one last time, at the time of his death.

The great leaders spent the majority of their time traveling and communicating with employees and key constituencies. This allowed them to become personally acquainted and to influence employees on all levels. It also provided them with the opportunity to elicit feedback to make more accurate and fact-based decisions.

Fredrick Crawford (TRW) spent “much of his time speaking to employees and projecting the force of his ideas and his personality. One observer called him ‘a natural leader of tremendous vitality, self-assurance and singleness of purpose.’ But there was more to the Thompson program than Crawford. At all levels of the organization, managers tried to convince workers that the company had their best interests at heart…

Thompson managers referred employees as ‘members of the Thompson family’ and tried to minimize status distinctions between managers and workers… the firm’s policies were guided by an effort ‘to eliminate class lines and have our relationships on a first name basis.’”

While this may appear commonplace, some influential leaders like Cary Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard), Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers) and Roger Smith (General Motors) avoided meeting with their employees. Not only that, they strictly limited their accessibility to them. These leaders, among others who exhibited this characteristic, experienced substantial problems on multiple levels.

Related:

The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

The Capacity to Face Reality

Don’t Push Out Figures When Facts Are Going in the Opposite Direction

References:

  1. Stein Ben, Ben Stein: More from My Dinner with Warren (Fortune Magazine, January 7, 2010)
  2. Iacocca Lee, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (Scribner, 2007)
  3. Iacocca on the Need for Leadership Now (Business Management Daily, March 31, 2010)
  4. Willax Paul A., To Communicate Better, Improve Your Listening Skills (New Hampshire Business Review, September 28, 2007)
  5. Orfalea Paul, Helfert Lance, Lowe Atticus and Zatkowsky Dean, Inspirational Figures David Packard (West Coast Asset Management)
  6. Jacoby Sanford M., Reckoning With Company Unions: The Case of Thompson Products, 1934-1964 (Industrial and Labor Relations Review, October 1, 1989)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

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

Interactive Leadership is the Practice of Leadership By Example

with 3 comments

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.

Related: How Well Are You Communicating Your 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.

Related: How Credible Are You as a Leader?

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.

Related: Seven Key Benefits of an Empowered Workplace

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.

Related: Linking Structure to Action

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.

Related: Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

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.

Related: Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

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.

Related: 16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

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

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

Interaction is a Necessary Component of a Vibrant Workplace

with one comment

Astute leaders guide and direct from the front lines of the company. Leaders are continually present and interacting with their employees in order to see what is slowly transforming and changing and what is causing unit frustrations. Frontline guiding and directing is a necessary process enabling leaders to apply their abilities to moving the organization forward.

There is a critical difference between the roles of a manager and a leader. While many managers are considered leaders, some not totally committed to sound leadership principles choose to direct from behind their desks. This results in relinquishing the advantage gained by immediate, firsthand knowledge of their organization’s daily activities, progress or frustrating hindrances.

Related: Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

Ongoing interaction with employees is the active practice of visible leadership. Leaders cannot lead from their office. They must continually be in the midst of their employees, seeing for themselves what is happening and what is holding their unit back.

Frontline guiding and directing is a critical concept for leaders to understand and apply. In order for employees to be comfortable with change and transformation within their organization and the constant risk taking that goes with it, leaders must be ever present to train, direct, and reassure each individual member. They must be there to cheer every accomplishment, no matter how small. This can only be done successfully when leaders are continually involved in their employees’ daily activities.

Practical leadership demands that leaders have an active, ongoing presence within their organizational units. This presence creates a visible strength achieved through openly and consistently interacting with all employees. When leaders develop an interactive presence and work to achieve active visibility, they have the ability to fully apply their leadership skills and capabilities. Effective interaction allows leaders to:

Understand Frustrations

Only when leaders are constantly interacting with their employees can they fully understand the daily frustrations they are experiencing individually and as a group. While often minor, these frustrations serve as mini-barriers to productivity and efficiency.

Frustrations are often not known about unless a leader takes the time to observe what is actually occurring. They may be considered minor parts of the work process that employees fail to mention due to their insignificance. However, when considered collectively and cumulatively, smaller frustrations have the power to hemorrhage an organization’s productivity.

Related: The Value of Personal Experience and Expertise

Observe Firsthand What Is Occurring

Reports and meetings cannot take the place of the leader personally observing what is happening within their division or unit. A casual walkthrough does not provide sufficient opportunity to clearly observe and internalize what is actually occurring at any one point in time.

Close observation allows leaders to identify certain occurrences that produce either a positive or negative impact upon the organization. Only when leaders practice visible leadership and openly interact with their employees will a true picture of the organizational unit’s overall progression and advancement emerge. Without this firsthand insight and knowledge, leaders cannot effectually move any part of their organization forward.

Encourage Open Communication

Visible leadership and open interactivity brings leaders out of their comfort zones and away from their desks. Being an interactive leader puts them on an equal plane with their employees, which makes them much more accessible and approachable. When this occurs, employees feel more comfortable to talk about frustrations, concerns, problems and issues that may not otherwise be disclosed. This open communication directly drives the free-flow of knowledge and information that leaders need to be successful.

Related: Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Provide Insight into Solutions

When leaders become fully interactive, and observe and communicate with their employees, they gain insights into existing problems. Leaders use these insights to much more easily reach solutions to the immediate and pressing problems facing their employees. Minor frustrations are quickly remedied and eliminated to minimize productivity losses.

Change transformations in any organization entail countless daily decisions. Open interaction facilitates the decision making process by encouraging employees to make cooperative or independent judgments in the name of reaching objectives and eliminating needless frustrations.

Provide Insights into Problems and Opportunities

Leaders typically have the advantage of the “macro view” of their organization. Sometimes they are focused on this larger picture to the extent that they forget they can—and should—look for and watch what is actually transpiring in their front lines. While this field of vision will vary by the level occupied in the organization, leaders do have the advantage of obtaining increased knowledge through a wider perspective that is not available to their employees.

Leaders who are active and visible in their organizations have the ability to witness what is happening and can identify potential problems and opportunities because of it. Their position often allows them to act on this knowledge to either eliminate a potential problem or tap an opportunity. In either case a frontline perspective helps leaders and employees save their company money. The only sure way to accomplish any of the above is to take full advantage of applying all the available knowledge obtained from a more “micro view” of the organization.

Related: Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Share in Successes and Failures

An essential role for leaders is to act as a motivator and cheerleader. While corporate leaders may not like to think of themselves as cheerleaders, the meaning goes beyond the term to the bottom line. When leaders are actively present and daily interacting with and encouraging their employees, they are in the best position to motivate and inspire them to achieve beyond expectations.

As their presence creates an impact on the organizational unit, leaders are able to share in the successes and failures of their employees as they test new ideas and concepts and help their organization adapt in the face of change. Doing this creates a bond of loyalty between leaders and employees as it steadily and securely increases the organizational unit’s cohesiveness.

Related: Motivation Is More Than Money

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

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

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.

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.

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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

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