(Why we need to stop asking people if they are a manager or a leader)
There are an endless number of articles around how leadership concepts have changed over the years - and now “transformational” and “servant” leadership are all the rage. But these concepts are still only being discussed and taught to senior management and those in charge.
Why is this important?
Whilst we might not all be in positions of authority; we can all have a positive leadership influence on the people around us. By increasing awareness of our own leadership skills, we can apply them to everyday situations – which benefits everyone.
Why not spend the time teaching your whole team about emotional intelligence, empathy, ways to have better conversations, and how to deal with conflict?
Now, I realise that you can’t have a whole practice full of “leaders” and that there needs to be people with the ultimate responsibility of making decisions and deciding on the strategies and goals for the business. Despite this, however, I would like to challenge all of us to learn skills that can help us develop our interpersonal relationships.
I first came across the concept of everyday leadership, watching Drew Dudley’s TedTalk
He proposes that leadership shouldn’t be reserved only for those in authority. He also suggests that in order to keep ourselves on the right path to being everyday leaders, we should ask ourselves these 6 questions every day.
The 6 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day to be a Leader
1. Impact – What have I recognised in someone else’s leadership today?
2. Continuous Improvement – What have I done to make it more likely I will learn something?
3. Mentorship – What have I done to make it more likely someone else will learn something?
4. Empowerment – What positive thing have I said about someone to their face today?
5. Recognition – What positive thing have I said about someone who isn’t in the room?
6. Self-respect – How have I been good to myself today?
While I like Drew’s concepts and agree with his overall concept, I find the challenge of being true to these 6 questions every day is a bit daunting. In my search for a more practical approach, that can be applied to the entire workplace team, I came across a study by the Harvard Business Review that identified the skills and behaviours most important in leadership.
Reflecting on these, I would like to propose that these are important skills for all staff.
Let’s take a step back, and think about what a “model” employee might look like:
They are the ones that come to work, are motivated, have an inspiring “can do” attitude that radiates throughout the team.
These are also the employees that continue to work tirelessly even when the “bosses” are away. They are conscientious and will admit when they have made a mistake.
They also come to you with ideas on how to make a process better or a new idea all together. They are not afraid to think outside of the box - or of failure – “nothing ventured – nothing gained” sort of approach.
These employees love it when KPI’s are set so they have a goal they can strive towards. They often even exceed that goal. They are also great at getting the rest of the team motivated and excited about working towards that goal.
They have a considered approach when communicating with others. They understand how best to communicate so that everyone is informed, on the same page and understands what is needed of them to make the day run smoothly. They also keep the team up to date if anything changes in the plans for the day.
Asking for help or advice is never an issue. Getting the right people involved at the right time to foster a spirit of teamwork and to improve efficiencies comes easy to them.
Given all the above, their behaviour and attitude builds trust and respect which fosters great relationships with the team and the clients.
Then last but certainly not least they have the technical skills and abilities to perform their job well and are eager to continue to learn new skills and share them with the team.
My guess is, if you think about it long enough, you might have come across people like this in your places of employment. I certainly have, and they are a joy to work with. We all have our bad days, and no one is perfect but people with a combination of the above characteristic stand out.
So, the question is…. how do we get all of our employees to be “model” employees?
Well if we look the concepts above – it could conceivably boil down to teaching all of our employees “leadership skills”.
Here are a few general concepts I recommend, to teach and adapt to your everyday cultural norms in order to build a culture of leadership.
1. Learn self-reflection. We need to understand ourselves, our reactions and how think about how well we adapt. How do you react to conflict in your workplace – when the boss is upset at you, or when you are upset with one of your team members? Is it fear? Anger? Frustration? Until we can notice and temper our own fear (keeping in mind that anger is a fear reaction) we will struggle to display leadership qualities.
2. Empathy. Have the ability to take on someone else’s perspective and see things from a different point of view. Empathy is a key skill to understanding others and learning to adjust and adapt our thoughts and reactions.
3. View mistakes as learning opportunities. True leaders accept mistakes are a learning opportunity – both for themselves, and for their team-mates. Avoiding destructive criticism, is a constructive approach that encourages accountability and the taking of responsibility.
4. Be able to ask for and take in feedback from others. Without becoming defensive. This is another fundamental leadership skill, that is definitely harder than it sounds.
5. Learn to communicate with people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, religions, political stripes and personality types and learn to be open to a wide range of perspectives. It takes patience and focus to step out of our traditional biases and recognise our own subconscious bias’s as well.
6. Be able to have a “difficult” conversation, even with those in a more senior position
7. Understand how to build trust and a sense of community. Without trust, a practice will not function to its full capacity.
8. Stay curious. Ask questions and be patient enough to wait for others to answer.
There are any number of ways to learn the above-mentioned skills, free online courses, webinars, workshops, YouTube, etc.
Including my upcoming workshops in Sydney, Melbourne in Brisbane, for more information and tickets, go to my OnPoint Practice Coaching Events page
I would suggest starting with understanding emotional intelligence and how your behaviours impact those around you.
I love using this free Johari Window tool to get feedback on how others perceive you.
After you have done some background work and as Drew Dudley suggests: once you understand and are confident in the values you stand for, you can then go about selecting specific skills or behaviours that you would like to improve on.
The other bit of practical advice is when choosing a new skill to learn, set a specific goal. For instance, I would like to encourage my colleagues to be better problems solvers. I am going to give myself the goal that every time someone asks me a question, my first response is going to be – “What do you think would be a way of going about fixing this issue?” Instead of giving them the answer or doing it myself. I am going to continue practicing this skill until it becomes automatic. I will create a scorecard for myself to complete at the end of the day reflecting on how many questions I asked as opposed to how many answers I gave. Only after I have 1 month where I have consistently asked more questions will I move on to my next new skill.
As with all learning, once you have decided you really want to make a change, it’s time to jump in and give it a go. I also recommend telling your colleagues you are going to be trying a few new things and welcome feedback.
This quote resonates with me, as I truly believe that we all want to make a difference in the lives of pets and the people around us, which in my mind cements the reason why I think Everyday Leadership is so important to embrace.