What is the authentic leader?

ball logoI was smiling at some biographical details which were provided for a presentation I was giving at a women’s conference where I was answering the question: How can I be an authentic leader and still retain my female self?  The question suggests implicitly that authentic leadership leans more towards male characteristics than female.

Authentic leadership requires the best of all that we can bring to it including but not restricted to the following:  our best intelligence, our best emotional intelligence, our best conversational intelligence, our best values, our best sense of self, and our best mission and passion.

None of the above characteristics are exclusively male or exclusively female!

For me, authentic leadership begins with the authenticity of the leader.  We are best served by leaders who are clear about their mission and vision, and work hard to be the best they can be in the role. Imitations have never been high on my list of attractions… paper roses, plastic flowers on garden centre tables (!!), fake decorations that look glitzy and cheap.  So my best advice to leaders everywhere is be your essential self, and then look at the talents you have that you can develop, the skills that you can learn, the knowledge that you can acquire and last but not least the people you need on your team to challenge you, complement you, and share the journey.

So whatever else you do today – be yourself!

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Knowing me – Knowing you

ball logoHow many times over your career have you had a manager or leader who was completely blind to the impact he or she was having on those around them?  Well, guess what… as a leader it is likely that you too will have your blind spot and try as you will, you may not be able to see it for yourself.

So here’s a couple of ideas to help you get looking:

(1) Revisit psychometrics and undergo some personal profiling

(2) Work with a coach to help you look at your behaviour and learn how you may modify aspects which other people find challenging

(3) Undergo 360 Feedback on a reasonably regular basis – always with feedback being returned to a central independent person qualified to analyse and give feedback

(4) Make asking for feedback an ongoing part of what you do, and take care to see it simply as useful information which you may choose to use or not

And the bonus… the more you can become self aware of your own traits, behaviours, and preferences, the more you may be able to appreciate the traits, behaviours and preferences of others.

Knowing other people begins with knowing yourself.

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5 Confidence Builders for Leaders

ball logoConfidence is a critical factor in high performers, and in high performing teams.

It goes without saying that if you are a leader… you will have followers.  The size and scope of your leadership role will to some extent be determined by how well you engage others, and the performance of those others will have a direct impact on your ability to achieve the outcomes you want.

Based on some research I carried out a few years ago, here are five things you can actively do to build confidence in your team, or in individuals who work for you.

1. Other people’s negativity is known to drain energy and confidence.  Be a positive influence in your environment.  Display optimism and hopefulness in your team, be an encourager and demonstrate faith in their ability to deliver what you require.  If this is challenging because you don’t have faith in them… then it’s time for you to start coaching them, and to consider how you can more effectively influence and enhance their performance.

2. Excessive Challenge diminishes confidence if that challenge is not met.  Be aware that you are the leader and if they were able to meet all of the challenges that you can, you may not be!  Ensure that the challenges you set for the team are Stretching but not so stretching that you have everyone in the panic zone where nobody is performing well.  The best performance happens when people are being stretched and can still benefit from a sense of achievement rather than a fear of failure.

3. An unrealistic workload will over time wear down the most confident person, where the only reward for completing a task becomes the arrival of the next deadline.  Over time this will end in burn out or stress which will eventually have health consequences and performance consequences.  Help your team and your colleagues get clear about their priorities, by being crystal clear about your own, and communicating them well.

4. Lack of Control can be a confidence stealer.  Let people have clear boundaries, and the ability as far as possible to control their own destiny.  Work towards your delegation to your key team being delegation of task and responsibility.  This too will require you to be clear about expectations and in particular expected outcomes, and to convey this clearly.

5.Lack of Feedback generally speaking means that people default to assuming the feedback would be negative if it were given.  Ensure that your staff are not left wondering what you think about the significant contributions they make.  Positive affirming feedback appropriately and sincerely  given is one of the quickest ways to build confidence.  Take every opportunity to give affirming feedback to those that work for you.

So, if people are not demonstrating confidence around you, take a look at yourself and start building confidence in your team with intention.  The results will be well worth the effort.

Posted in Confidence, Uncategorized

Why ‘sheep-dipping’ doesn’t produce world class leaders…

39244 sheep shape no outline FRONTIn a crisis leaders emerge.  Whether a leader is the appointed leader or an emergent leader, true leaders, and by definition successful leaders, have some shared characteristics.

Given the cost of Leadership Development, it is important to know that as far as leaders are concerned a sheep dipping approach simply won’t work.  A ‘peas in a process’ approach to Leadership Development delivers little in terms of developing world class leaders.  Increased knowledge, models and theories are no substitute when isolated from practising the act of leading, and working on real time problems.

Like any development, leadership development is a journey.  It is an organic process using the raw materials that exist at the point of intention.  Much has been written in recent years about the importance of identifying and building on strengths in the harvesting of human potential, rather than working to shore up skill deficits. This approach is critical to sustainable leadership development.  So where to begin?

A tailored approach to Leadership Development will begiball logon with a period of taking stock of the individuals who are about to participate in the experience, and also clarifying the context within which they are expected to exhibit leadership and deliver results.  This in depth gathering of information at an early stage, will ensure that any leadership development activities will be relevant to the person, and take account of the culture and environment within which they operate.

Once a clear baseline is formed, we can turn our attention to the activities and learning which will take the ‘leader’ to the next level.  This will inform the “How?” of Leadership Development, which will often be a mix of individual and group activities.  But what are appropriate leadership development goals?

Let me suggest 5 key goals for any Leadership Development project.

Self-awareness:  A smart leader will invest in exploring his or her own personality traits, and will welcome feedback from others as a positive gift from which to modify, change and enhance behaviour.  Executive Coaching is now recognised as an effective tool for raising self-awareness, and helping leaders to understand their impact with regard to others.  Combined with psychometrics, this offers a confidential and safe space to explore in depth the raw material available to the leader in pursuing personal growth and leadership development.

39244 sheep shape no outlineBACKDeveloping followers:  The measure of a leader is the extent to which people are prepared to follow them in the face of challenge, obstacles or fear.  Since leadership is about inspiration and setting direction, it is a fairly pointless exercise if there are no followers.  Critical to success in this area will be the leader’s ability to understand and motivate others.

Motivating others requires careful attention to their ‘map of the world’ and adopting the skill of integrating their values and drivers with the leader’s vision and direction.

Thinking skills:  The third goal of Leadership Development is supporting the development of critical thinking skills.  Effective planning and organising comes into this area, as does the ability to make effective decisions under pressure.  There are a number of useful development tools available to facilitate leaders to practise these skills in real time and working on real business problems, whilst supported through the process by an external facilitator.

Leading change: The Chinese have a foundational belief that Change is a constant, it is not an event.  There has been unprecedented change in technological advances in recent years, and more and more there is a need for leaders to be able to provide stability in a complex changing environment.  Recognising the transitional and recurring nature of change, understanding the different stages of change and how change impacts on others is pivotal to navigating through organisational life.

Cultural awareness: The fifth goal of Leadership Development is to equip leaders to understand the nature and power of culture, and the skills involved in either shifting culture or trying to embed a particular culture in a company.  Like change, culture exists as a result of hundreds of actions in an organisation.  Every action says something about the culture, and a strong Leader will know how to influence culture to alignment with strategic goals.ball logo

Leadership Development is not simple, but it is a simple truth that Sheep-Dipping won’t work and nothing but a tailored approach will do!

This article was originally written for the business section of the Summer 2013 edition of Aberdeen Airport’s upBEAT magazine.

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Great day yesterday

Great day yesterday delivering another Conversational Intelligence day in Aberdeen. Don’t you just love reading the Feedback/Evaluation forms? One participant said “Very inspiring and interactive. This should become mandatory for all existing and potential leaders.” Changing the world – one conversation at a time… If you missed the day look out for more dates. If you want to know how to improve your Conversational style invest in a personal Conversational Catalyst survey and personal feedback session. Know how to make your conversations more effective! And if you join us on a future day we can guarantee (apart from the learning and tools to use immediately) and lot of fun! http://ow.ly/i/vo7ui

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Excited to be delivering another C-IQ Day

Excited to be delivering another Conversational Intelligence Introduction Day tomorrow in Aberdeen… If you want to join us this is your last chance to reply… or email Jillian at jillian@harveymcmillan.co.uk Actually delivering two separate days this week. Early adopters catching the wave! #conversationalintelligence #leadership #buildingtrust http://ow.ly/i/FwFY3

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Wisdom of the 5 Brains

It has been fascinating to ask people in our Introduction to Conversational Intelligence® events if they can think of a time when someone really pressed their buttons, or if they can think of a person who seems to have this skill in abundance!  Go on, have a think about it yourself.  Can you think of a time?  Who presses your buttons?

As we explore these occurrences, it is astonishing to hear the strong emotions that are identified.  Emotions like anger, frustration, betrayed, annoyed, confused, shocked.  What is equally astonishing is that some of these instances which remain a trigger for strong emotion took place years ago!

And just as interesting, as you will see from the list above, most people default to a negative memory… not one filled with joy, hope, positive anticipation, and feel good.

Knowing how to build conversations that create space to transform, trigger more useful parts of the brain, and be self aware about our own conversational style and its impact on others is at the heart of Conversational Intelligence®.

The brain is of course not easily represented in a picture as we lose the dynamic three dimensional complexity.  As a result of all we are now learning in the field of neuroscience, we now know a great deal about the neurochemistry of the brain when in different kinds of conversation, and know how to get the best out of our conversation by giving the brain the best chance of an effective conversation.

5 Brains

In Conversational Intelligence® we are interested in these 5 areas:

  • The reptilian brain – the most primitive part of the brain
  • Heart brain – enables us to connect all our internal systems and connect to others
  • Limbic brain (Amygdala) stores a history of all emotional experiences, nurtures and builds relationships
  • Neocortex – hardwired for language, storing information, basic reasoning
  • Prefrontal Cortex – the executive brain, hardwired for higher level co-ordination of the whole brain

This is a tiny peep at neuroscience.  When we link all that we know about neuroscience and the opening up of more and more information about the brain – we can use this powerful body of work to look at how to have the most effective conversations, how to identify our own conversational style through using one of the survey tools, and equip ourselves with effective skills and behaviours for great outcomes in relationships, teams and organisations.  Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ) tools and models also allow us to be more skilful at navigating conflict in a more productive way.

Our clients and participants in our one day Introduction to C-IQ events are learning the skills to transform relationships and organisations.  We hope this blog will give you a glimpse of the possibilities of Conversational Intelligence®, confidence that the work is based on evidence based research, and a desire to join us in applying the tools and models to our mutual future success.

For dates of forthcoming Introduction to C-IQ days drop us an email.  We are also happy to travel for groups of 6 or more.  We are also in the process of setting up a closed online group for further development and discussion for those who have attended one of our days to embed the learning and share experience of using C-IQ.

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Have the courage to face the truth

beach-ball-vector-movesb-copy1[1]There is a saying that someone I know said a couple of years ago and it is one I find myself either thinking or saying with some regularity.  “You can’t read the label when you’re inside the jar!”  How true this is.

So when it comes to challenging ourselves to face the truth, before we get into ‘I always face up to the way things are’, pause for a moment and consider what you may be ignoring which is staring everyone else in the face.

We all have our blind spots and one of the characteristics of great leaders is that they have an alertness and awareness of themselves, of their impact on others, and of their own personality and behavioural characteristics… including those that they have to manage rather than allow to flourish.

So have the courage to face the truth… and take the time to listen to the feedback of others in order that you can make a more honest assessment and be more self aware of your blind spots, whether in relation to yourself, your team, of some circumstance within your organisation.

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Have the courage to say ‘No’

beach-ball-vector-movesb-copy1[1]Leadership is about many things.  One of the critical skills of leadership is learning how and when to say ‘No’.  This operates at many levels and includes sometimes saying ‘no’ in order to say a greater ‘Yes!’.

Saying No is sometimes linked to integrity and doing the right thing: Sometimes it is linked to commerciality and the viability of a project: Sometimes it is about setting a boundary for self, for colleagues, or for an organisation.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that always saying Yes is aligned to Can Do thinking.  Sometimes its just a way of avoiding conflict, and sound judgement.

So when it’s appropiate…. Have the courage to say No!

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Where does leadership development begin?

beach-ball-vector-movesb-copy1[1]Over the next week or so, our blog will be focussing on the leadership journey.  It is our view that as soon as you begin to think about leadership development, it is necessary to establish where the development is starting from… and we have a particular resistance to sheep dipping!

In our work with leaders, and emerging leaders, we are confident that the best development needs to be built on a clear understanding of the current capabilities and capacity of the individual.   Tailoring a Leadership Development experience is eased by clarity around the person’s preferences, skills, abilities, and strengths, even if these are still emerging rather than fully formed.  And ‘fully formed’ is a phrase that perhaps will never be used accurately when describing leaders.

Putting energy and effort into identifying the starting point for leadership development will ensure that the resources are used to best effect and the greatest benefit to the individual and the organisation will be achieved.

So before you decide on where you want to go with Leadership Development, get clear about the where the starting line is.

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