Tag Archives: corporate leadership

Effective Leadership – Building Trust

Effective Leadership-BuildingTrust

It’s a basic necessity for good relationships, so it makes sense that trust is a key contributor to a leader’s effectiveness.  Think about it… Would you follow someone you don’t trust? The trust that is critical to being an effective leader involves much more than honesty, though. Leaders usually act a little shocked—act as if their character has been assaulted—when I ask whether people trust them. They hear the question as something akin to, “Do you lie to people?” I ask leaders whether they are trusted so that they will focus on the following key questions. The answers to which all need to be, “Yes.”

Do people trust that:

  • You have their best interests at heart?
  • You will follow through on your commitments?
  • You know what you’re doing?
  • You will make sound decisions?
  • You’ll keep your cool?
  • You’ll be honest with them?

Recent psychological research provides a key pointer toward what leaders can do to earn the trust of the people who work with them: people begin to trust you when they see you demonstrate self-control, i.e. avoid doing what is not beneficial and do more of what is, even if there will be a little pain involved. People look for clues about your trustworthiness in all that you say and do. If you tell everyone you are on a diet, but snack on the office goodies routinely, people will file that away as evidence that you either don’t mean what you say or you don’t have the strength to make hard choices…neither behavior being very leader-like, of course.  Imagine if you also then tiptoe around a difficult team member who is not carrying her weight on projects. Once again, others will conclude you can’t make tough decisions for the ultimate benefit of the team.

Earning trust can take time, but it’s possible to speed things along a bit if you put your mind to it. If you’re in leadership, and wondering what proactive steps you can take to earn others’ trust sooner rather than later, try out some of these:

  • Seek out information that can answer questions or ease concerns your team has expressed and pass that information along to them.
  • Start and end meetings on time, and if you must deviate from the stated agenda, make it clear why.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to advocate for your employees with others in the company.
  • Pay close attention to what you tell people you will do—even the trivial things—and do them or tell them why you can’t.
  • Keep a lid on your emotions when reacting to news, situations, etc. Besides not throwing tantrums in the office, we’re talking about keeping your less-measured editorial comments about people or events to yourself.
  • Admit when you don’t know something and demonstrate a commitment to learn it.

Obviously, none of this is rocket science; you just have to decide you’re going to take these steps. After all, building trust is as simple as staying away from the cookies when you’re on a diet.

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

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Effective Communication: It May Seem Simple, But It Ain’t Easy

Communication

 

“Take that skeevy dust bunny and throw it on the devil strip.” (For translation see www.wordnik.com)

Ever felt like you have no idea what the heck your coworker in the next office (or spouse, or friend) is talking about? You hear what she’s saying, and she’s speaking English, but geez…she makes no sense!

Welcome to the mystifying world of interpersonal communication.

We all communicate in different ways, use our common language differently, read others differently, and have different ways of judging whether we’ve been understood. The opportunities for misunderstandings and miscommunications in the workplace are endless.

Especially if you’re in a leadership position, it’s incumbent on you to do everything possible to ensure effective communication happens. These four rules will help you to set the right communication tone, no matter the situation:

Assume nothing:

Just because you know what you’re saying doesn’t mean anyone else does. Assuming others understand you is dangerous. You also can’t assume you always got the same message a speaker intended to send.

Always give the benefit of the doubt:

One of the quickest routes to a toxic environment is for people to attribute motives to each other erroneously.  Terse emails and throwaway remarks are responsible for countless conflicts because people jump to negative conclusions rather than believing the other person is well intentioned, but not necessarily always well spoken. You have the opportunity to urge people to check their responses until they’ve clarified what someone else meant.

Encourage candor:

Candor clears clogged communication lines. People who say what they think, speak directly to difficult issues, and aren’t afraid to disagree keep communication lines open and keep issues from festering. If you expect and model communication that includes respectful candor, you will set the right tone in your relationships.

Put a premium on clarification:

A simple recap at the end of every conversation will go a long way to minimizing misunderstandings.  Take a few seconds to summarize the key discussion points and takeaways; ask others for confirmation or disagreements, and prod those hesitant listeners to speak up about what they heard.

If you’re not sure you can remember all four, then focus on the last one and get it right. It will save you a world of missteps.

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

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The Simplest, and Best, Career Advice I’ve Got

Advice

How often are you asked for advice by those in your profession who are just starting out?  I get that a fair amount, more so from women because I am in the traditionally male-dominated field of engineering.  When asked (and, even when I’m not on those occasions when I think it might be useful!) I offer the following three-step advice:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Earn it.

And…. Wait for this…

  1. Ask for it.

In my experience, it’s that third step that just doesn’t happen.  Most people, women more often than men I’m afraid, think that if they work hard and earn their achievements, advancement will naturally follow.  Wrong! But it’s not necessarily because you don’t deserve it.  Nine times out of ten, whoever is in the position to make this decision simply hasn’t thought about it.  Yet, by asking and making a respectful, well thought-out case for yourself, you might give them just what they need to move forward.

Just remember: You have to EARN it first.  Once you’ve earned it, go for it!

Oh, and what happens if you are told, “No?” In my experience, even if your proposal gets a “No,” it was usually given respectful consideration and, as a result, some other opportunity will arise, because good employers really don’t want to tell good employees, “No.”  The new opportunity might not be what you had envisioned, but take the opportunity, perform well as you always do, wait for the next opportunity, and ask.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s one top leader’s account.

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways http://www.ttlusa.com can help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

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Nice Girls

Corner office istock

There are lots of leadership books out there. Every once in a while, one comes along that hits the nail on the head and raises the bar. Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office did that about 10 years ago. This week a great article came out that that outlines a few tips from this classic.

Here’s the article. You’ll like it, and most likely learn something. Pay particular attention to “Mistake No. 1. ” It is one of the most common mistakes I see in my work with executive women. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it!

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

 Photo credit: istock: BCFC

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Savvy Leadership: The DIY Way to Learn How Well You Lead

DIY Leadership Evaluation

Are you making the impact you think you are? Do you wonder how people perceive you? As a leader, you’re undoubtedly curious about how you’re doing, and like most people you get feedback on an irregular basis. In fact, you’re lucky if you get useful feedback even once a year.

No need to wonder anxiously until your next performance review; here are 3 easy steps to conduct your own leadership skills evaluation:

1. Set the criteria

What leadership skills does the company expect? Are there competencies outlined for your position? What leadership skills have you heard about that resonate with you? Name the leadership skills you want to strengthen and make sure you have behavioral definitions for each; in other words, specify what those skills look like on the ground, day to day, as you do your job. Make those behaviors both your goals and the criteria against which you’ll ask others to evaluate you.

2. Ask

Stick your neck out and invite people to give you feedback on those behaviors. Be prepared: most people would rather be anonymous, say nothing, or just complain about you in the restroom. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get much in the beginning, especially from peers and direct reports. Your boss should be able to give you something useful, however, even if he or she is not the best at it. These three tips will help your asking be more fruitful:

  • Give them a heads up. Tell your boss, directs, peers, etc., you’re going to start asking for feedback regularly, tell them why you’re doing it, how you’re going to do it (via email, in person, etc.), and stress how much you appreciate their taking the time to respond. Invite them to be as candid as they feel comfortable, emphasizing how helpful their input will be to making you a better boss/team member/direct report.
  • Be specific. Ask people about one or two particular skills, or ask for feedback on a specific project, or for a specific period of time. A blanket, “How am I doing?” is likely to elicit polite reassurances, which make you feel great, but are not exceedingly helpful.
  • Don’t ask too often. You run the risk of wearing people out or appearing insecure if you ask for feedback every week or every month. Once a quarter should be the absolute maximum. If you like the idea of gathering feedback after every project, formalize that process and make it multi-directional, rather than only encouraging feedback from others to you. (Bonus hint: this is a super way to ensure you will give regular feedback to everyone else as well. It also sets up a feedback-rich culture, which is crucial to good performance.)

3. Thank, Rinse & Repeat

Always thank folks who send feedback your way, even if you didn’t like what they sent. In most cases, they’re taking as much risk in telling you what they think as you are in asking them. The greatest thank you is to let them know how you’re putting their suggestions into practice. Then, when time comes for you to ask for feedback again, they can let you know whether they see a difference.

There are definitely more robust ways to conduct a leadership skills evaluation, usually involving a 360° survey, some other assessments, and maybe an executive coach. If you don’t have access to those the DIY method is a great alternative. Instead of leading in a vacuum, you’ll know more about where you stand.

Lead on!

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

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The #1 Leadership Advantage Women Have Over Men

Deb Fish 6-22-14

So much is said and written about what makes women more or less effective leaders than men. It is, after all, still a man’s world when it comes to most leadership positions. Women’s leadership aptitude is compared to men’s because—like it or not—men have set the standard.

But there is at least one area where women arguably beat the standard the men have set: women are better listeners on the whole, and listening leaders earn their followers’ trust most readily and engender more support from them. Indeed, effective listening is integral to many of the leadership competencies at which women have been found to excel.

Let’s face it, you are only a leader if other people are following you and you are influencing their direction. A title does not confer leadership, even if it confers some authority, so you can’t rely on a nifty title to make people follow you. Plus, even without a title, it’s possible to be a very effective leader.

Being an effective listener doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily quieter than others, though it might. What it really means is that you respectfully attend to what’s being said and not said, you ask questions to clarify what you hear, and you respond in ways that make the other person feel heard.

As a woman, here’s how your natural aptitude for listening can set you apart as a leader:

• You will understand better than others how your colleagues view initiatives, their roles, company objectives, etc. You will be tapped into all of the talent around you.

• You will be aware of what factors affect your colleagues’ commitment to, and effectiveness in, their roles.

• You will be known as someone who values others’ opinions and input, thereby making others trust you, seek out your counsel, and be more inclined to embrace your ideas over others’.

• You will more often meet your business objectives because people will work harder for you and you will have their allegiance.

All of this extra effectiveness comes from one skill; a skill that women come by naturally. Leverage this talent you have; don’t discount it; use it wisely to create real value for your organization.

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