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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Improving Leadership

shaking-hands

Ever witnessed a child being told they must share their toys with another child? Their reaction to this news wasn’t too pretty, was it?

Although we’ve grown to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around us and we don’t always get our way, that small child’s voice is still inside us, protesting whenever things don’t go how we want them to.

But the truth is, in order to lead in any real sense of the word, you must learn the art of making compromises. It’s easy to say that, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but how do you actually do it?

1. Express yourself fully, and listen intently. Explain your reasoning behind your viewpoint. Often our views are skewed by our emotions, which make it harder to make effective decisions. Articulating your view to another person forces you to take a good long look at your position, and in many cases this allows you to see where your view may not be perfect. By the same token, listen to what the other person is actually saying, not what you think they’re saying. Hear them out before you rush to judgment. Open communication is crucial to getting things done.

2. Think from the other person’s perspective. If it continues to be difficult for you to accept the other person’s position, do your best to put yourself in their shoes. What’s the reasoning behind their thoughts, ideas, and opinions? Even if you disagree, can you see why they hold these views?

3. Be committed to results. Compromising pushes two opposing viewpoints past a gridlock into a region where they can move from ideas into actions. In this way, compromise is one of the most powerful tools we have to getting results. A compromise is a mature way of acknowledging that we can never fully get what we want all of the time, but we can get more of what we want if we work together to achieve it.

4. Be prepared to be disappointed, but give it time. At first, you’ll only see what you didn’t get out of a compromise. This is understandable, but don’t give up on it just yet. In the longterm, compromising pays off for both parties, as you’ve established an alliance and proven to one another that you are capable of working together and taking steps forward.

Have a great week!

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critic

If you’ve noticed more than one voice in your head, fighting for your attention, don’t worry: you’re not crazy. In fact, it’s quite normal to experience these different voices popping up at random moments and influencing how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

To be more accurate, these “voices” are thought patterns we form over a long period of time. Oftentimes, we can tell what circumstances prompt one voice to start talking. Our inner cheerleader comes out when we accomplish something we’re proud of, for instance. Other times, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what exactly triggers a certain thought pattern, and if you’re not careful here, it becomes difficult to discern between what’s real and what’s a lie the voice in your head is telling you.

I want to talk about the worst liar of them all. In my book, I call it the “self-saboteur.” He/she is the voice that whispers, “You’re not good enough. Nobody will trust you. Nobody will notice you. It won’t work, it never does, you might as well stop trying, it’s hopeless.”

The self-saboteur is crafty, resilient, and an almost universal phenomenon. How do you keep this negative voice in check?

In his article on negative thinking patterns, life coach John-Paul Flintoff advises that we externalize the self-saboteur. The brain is flexible, and continues to develop past childhood. We can take advantage of this and disrupt negative thinking patterns. “The first step,” says Flintoff, “is to become aware of your automatic negative thoughts–and for me, anyway, that’s much easier (and more fun, actually) if I personify the inner critic, with a sketch, and give him/her a voice.”

Flintoff’s inner critic is shriveled and bald, with dark shadows under his eyes. He looks worried and avoids eye contact. He stays in the shadows but comes out to whisper hurtful things.

By creating such a detailed image of his self-saboteur, he is able to distance himself from this bad thinking pattern. It’s not him talking, it’s the shriveled liar in the corner.

Externalizing your self-saboteur takes practice. Old habits, and thought patterns definitely count as habits, take time and effort to break. But once you begin distancing yourself from your negative inner-critic, this thought pattern loses an incredible amount of power. As you continue learning to identify when and how the critic starts talking, you’ll get better and better at learning how to stop listening.

Another suggestion of Flintoff’s (which I find quite wise) is to think of someone in your life you greatly admire. The next time your self-saboteur takes the floor, imagine that this person is defending you. What would they say? If you’re honest (this is your defender’s turn to talk, so don’t allow the inner-critic any influence here), you’ll find that your defender has a great deal to say on your behalf. By doing this simple mental exercise, it becomes clear that most of the time, your self-saboteur is talking utter garbage, and you’re giving him/her a platform to let it get to you. Don’t do that! You’re so much more valuable, so much more loved, and so much more worthy than your saboteur will ever give you credit for, so stop wasting your time listening and put a sock in that liar’s mouth.

 

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creativity

Here’s a scenario: You bolt awake at night, with the solution to a problem clear as day in your mind. Familiar with this type of experience? If so, congratulations, you’ve had an epiphany.

Now, you must show your coworkers–and more importantly, your boss–what makes your idea so great. Here is where many people stumble. It’s great to have ideas. It’s even better to believe in yourself and be convinced that your idea will really work. But the hard part is pitching it to those who have the power to either make your idea a reality, or push it off into the reject pile.

So, how do you sell an idea to your boss?

1. Know Your Boss

What are your boss’s priorities? What are they passionate about in the business? What are their hot button issues? By knowing your boss, you’ll know how to pitch the idea in a way that makes the maximum impact on them.

2. Know Your Business

How does your business run? Do you know the in’s and out’s of how things get done? Familiarizing yourself with the entire business–not just your part in it–will make your proposal much more appealing.

3. Timing Is Key

Do you approach your boss while their busy with five other projects, or do you wait for the opportunity to have their undivided attention? Of course, different bosses work differently, so you know better than I do when the optimum time to approach them is. Don’t mention your idea until you’ve found that perfect time to do so, because you want the idea to have the biggest impression possible.

For tips on drafting a proposal and presenting it, you’ll have to stay tuned for next week’s post!

 

 

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Leadership_Scrabble

I stumbled upon a great blog post this week by life coach Chris LoCurto on what leadership is, and what it is not. As I’ve discussed before, effective leadership depends on support, compassion, and trust, not on strict rules or fear tactics.

According to LoCurto, leadership is:

not a title

not a dictatorship

not selfish

not a blame game

Okay, so that’s what leadership isn’t. What about what it is? LoCurto says leadership is:

-Selfless

-Visionary

-Accountable

-Rewarding

What are good descriptors of leadership that come to mind for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week!

 

 

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july-4th-tempe-town-lake

On this Fourth of July, I hope you’re taking time to get outside, enjoy time with friends and family, and see some fireworks. But the holiday also offers us a chance to look back on the country’s history and see what kind of lessons and insight we might take from it. In particular, what can we learn about leadership from the first American leaders?

This is the topic of a blog post from Harvard Business review blog: here’s the link.

In contrast to the way we see the Founding Fathers–great, infallible men who did no wrong–the article points out that each founder had both brilliant areas of expertise, but also glaring weaknesses. “Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, was superb with a pen,” writes Jeffrey Gedmin, CEO of Legatum Institute. “He was a notoriously poor public speaker, however.” Similarly, John Adams was extremely intelligent and courageous, but suffered “extreme mood swings” that made him difficult to work with.

So while we may view the Founders in a heroic light, the truth is they too were normal people with normal strengths and weaknesses. The success of the country came not from strength or genius of individuals, but from the power of cooperation and complementary skill sets.

Just a little food for thought. Have a great holiday weekend!

 

 

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time to adapt

I once collaborated on a project with a few people from my department. We all had different areas of expertise, so we relied on each other equally in order to get it off the ground.

The problem was, our visions of not only how we were going to execute the project, but what the project even looked like, were all over the board. It took weeks of frustrating debate just to come to an agreement on the project itself.

Then, there was the tug-of-war between us at every step of the process. One person wanted to draft specific, detailed assignments for each of us to follow verbatim. Since a few of us worked better in a more fluid, open style, that became a point of contention. Another member of the team insisted we meet in person multiple times a week, while there was one individual who thrived working on her own time.

Of course, we eventually got the job done. Once we had time to settle down and look back on the project, we admitted we could have all been more flexible.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision in situations like these. So easy, in fact, that I’ve witnessed the calmest, most professional leaders become almost hysterical when they’re in the middle of a collaborative project. Why is this?

I think it’s mainly due to pride. When we have a task before us, we all visualize how the end result will look, which is very necessary. But we unintentionally force our personal vision onto everyone else, even when we’re unaware that we’re doing it.

Think of a time when you resisted a suggestion from someone in a collaborative situation. I’m willing to bet that your resistance to their suggestion wasn’t necessarily because it was a bad idea. I’ll go so far as to say you objected because deep down, you were convinced that your vision was inherently better than theirs.

This is where the tunnel vision happens. Assuming that you have the better vision, you are unwilling/unable to truly give their idea a fair chance. Often, you’ll realize after the fact that they actually had a great idea, and you may scratch your head and wonder, “Why didn’t I see that at the time?”

The remedy? Remind yourself every step of the way that your vision isn’t inherently perfect. Remind yourself that you are one person, working in a team. Listen to your collaborators. Accept that the product won’t ever be exactly as you envision it. Allow yourself to change your mind and see alternatives.

The good news: having this skill enhances your end product. Flexibility leads to innovation and dynamic results well past what you expected. This is because the ability to be flexible unleashes the awesome power of collaborative work between many talented minds.

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Business confrontation.

There are times when an unpleasant confrontation with someone in your business is unavoidable. As much as we’d like to sweep the issue under the rug, hoping the problem fixes itself, as a leader it’s gotta be you who deals with the issue.

Years ago, I made the mistake of ignoring a problem. A team member, who usually did top notch work and who I greatly valued, began to underperform on a consistent basis. I didn’t want to say anything: she was a great person, she’d done great work in the past, and we all gathered that she was having some personal issues. So, at first I chalked it up to a temporary lull in her performance and decided to ignore the red flags.

But then she began to miss meetings, show up late for work, and generally appear to be unfocused and uncommitted. As a result, my supervisors began to confront me, wondering if I needed help getting my team’s performance back on track. It was only then, weeks after this whole thing started, and after our performance suffered enough that my supervisors took notice, that I finally decided to have a sit down with the problem person.

Everything got straightened out and the team was soon back to performing well. But I learned then that the longer you put off a confrontation, the harder you make it on yourself.

So, if you need to confront someone, do it right away. The pressure is low, and hopefully there isn’t much tension between the two of you at this point. If you let it go, you run the risk of giving the offending person more space to continue on a damaging path.

Secondly, be clear and specific when you have the sit down. When someone is being confronted, they take the defensive and often misconstrue what you’re saying. They may generalize and take it as an attack on them as people, for instance. To avoid this, lay out the parameters: “In these areas, I’ve noticed that you have not met your marks…”

However, the confrontation must be led by your heart, not your head. While it’s crucial to show the person exactly where they are not meeting expectations, don’t make this the only factor. After all, we’re humans, not robots. Put yourself in their shoes. What might be going on in their life that may be influencing their work? Is there anything you can do to help? Offer support. Reiterate that you are there for them, and that the confrontation is happening out of loving concern, not reprimand.

Finally, make a joint game plan that lays out how the two of you will resolve the issue. Include a timeline if need be. This doesn’t have to be a written document, of course. But it should be specific and clear. And it should above all serve to encourage the individual to seek out support and build trust between you.

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