New Leaders – Get Good Information and Build Relationships

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

New Leader Challenges

Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It acknowledges that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and provides greater visibility of your actions and style.

Whether you are new to a department, new to a company or just received a promotion; the challenges are very similar. It is important to establish your style, values and culture effectively and quickly. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So what are some techniques to quickly establish your leadership style and lead effectively?

Much of my career has been serving in interim executive positions or as interim CEO for various companies, where I often entered the organization as the “new guy” in charge. Here are the fundamental areas that I have found helpful for your initial focus to be an effective leader:

  • First Impressions
  • Information Gathering and Relationship Building
  • Open Communication
  • Decision, Delegation and Empowerment
  • Action and Accountability

In this post, I will discuss techniques for:

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Open Communication

The techniques in these areas will establish the foundation to develop a culture of decisiveness, empowerment, accountability and action. I will discuss these attributes in a future post.

First Impressions

Whether you are in a new leadership role as executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader, people will watch closely to understand your style. A few of the things people will evaluate include:

  • Are you decisive? How do you make decisions?
  • How do you take action?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • Do you hold people accountable?
  • Can you be influenced? Will you listen?
  • Are you approachable?
  • How do you react to bad news?
  • Do you focus on big picture or detail?
  • Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
  • How do you deal with good or poor performance?
  • How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
  • How do you gather information?
  • What are your values?

As the organization’s employees and customers observe these traits, it is important to remember: They will listen to what you say, but it is what you do that counts the most to establish culture.

 

“What you do, not what you say, is what establishes culture.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

So, where do you start? I suggest you initially focus on the following characteristics as the most important:

  • Gather reliable information
  • Communicate openly
  • Be decisive
  • Delegate and empower others when possible
  • Encourage action
  • Require accountability
  • Satisfy customers

To lay the groundwork for these cultural practices, you must first have good information, form relationships at all levels and communicate openly. The next two sections provide some techniques.

 

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Before a new leader is able to decide, initiate action or communicate intelligently, he/she needs good information quickly. It is vitally important to have information from different perspectives and different levels in an organization. Just getting information from one person/place can lead to narrow, sub-optimized decisions. Here are some mechanisms to obtain good information and simultaneously form relationships:

  • Skip-Level Meetings: Go to department staff meetings at all levels of the organization, starting with your direct reports, if you are a manager. This also works for project team leaders. You may simply listen during the meeting, but a simple round table discussion also works very well. Popular questions are: what is working; what is not working; what is frustrating; what should we stop doing; what decisions are holding up progress?

 

“It is vitally important for leaders to have information from different perspectives and levels.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

There are several benefits to skip-level meetings. Not only do you get good information from “the front line,” but it is also a good place to find things that people can be empowered to fix, thus setting the tone for delegation, action and decisiveness. Two fundamentals: 1) Always listen and question; 2) Be cautious not to manage around the team leader.

  • “State of the Union” Meetings: These are short one-on-one meetings for a person to give you a summary of the situation for a group, team, department or project. It does not have to be a polished presentation, just a discussion from an outline that covers: priorities, issues, decisions needed and what to start, stop or keep doing. Basically, let the person tell you what they are doing, what is going well and what needs attention. Again, look for opportunities for decision and action.

Top Reasons for Leadership Fails

This is a guest post by Alison Brattle. Alison is a marketing manager with AchieveGlobal (UK) Limited. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Reducing the Risk of Leadership Failure

The world’s greatest leaders know that success is fleeting and that no amount of success in the present can prevent a future failure. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it can’t happen to you, but the truth is, it’s much easier to fail than you think. An essential part of leadership development is understanding the warning signs that indicate potential problems; learn what they are and how to combat them to reduce the risk of a leadership failure.

 

Leadership Question: Are you able to write down your focus area in just a few words?

 

Your Focus Shifts

A focus shift can happen in many ways. Some leaders lose sight of what’s important; they get caught up by the pressure that leadership brings, and they lose the focus that they had on the job. In some cases, leaders start to focus too much on the finer details of the job, they start micromanaging, and they end up taking over tasks that are better carried out by other people.

What’s your primary focus in terms of your leadership role? If you can’t write it down succinctly in just a few words, you may be losing focus. Remember that you should be concentrating on leading, not on micromanaging.

 

You’re Communicating Poorly

If you’ve lost focus as a leader, you’re going to have a very hard time communicating your vision and intent to other people. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your team will automatically know what you’re talking about or know what you want without being told.

 

Leadership Trap: thinking your team automatically knows what you are talking about.

 

You’re Afraid of Failure

A good leader is driven by a desire to succeed, but sometimes, doubt and uncertainty creep in, and that desire for success turns into a fear of failure. Past success starts to feel less like achievement and more like pressure, and for some leaders that translates into a fear of taking reasonable risks and a fear of innovating.

Are you still comfortable with risk? Good leaders aren’t reckless, but equally so, they’re not afraid of taking on a reasonable level of risk.

 

Leadership Question: Are you taking the appropriate amount of risk?

 

Your Personal Integrity is Slipping

5 Tips to Master the Art of Power Listening

Power Tips from Ken Abraham

What does it take to land on the New York Times Bestseller’s list nineteen times, with three books hitting the number one spot?

This is the current record of one of my friends, Ken Abraham.  Not too long ago, I sat down with Ken to ask him about his phenomenal success.  Ken’s specialty is collaborations.  He works with celebrities, politicians, sports heroes and others to tell their stories.  He writes authentically in their voice, not his own.

I have known Ken for some years and will tell you a few things that he would never say, but they are characteristics that fuel his success.

Ken is what I call a “power listener.”

Power listeners:

1. Know that it is all about you.

Too often we listen faintly as we form another question or clever comment in our mind. We wait for the person to breathe so we can get our point in. Learning to listen well, extraordinarily well, has been a long-term goal of mine. I’m not even close to attaining it. Ken is a master.

Despite Ken’s success, he is one of the most humble people I know. That humility seems to work especially well in his work because Ken is more interested in learning about you than in talking about himself.

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” –Doug Larson

 

 

2. Are able to communicate what they heard accurately.

Good communication is not about saying something. It’s not about the audience hearing it either. It’s when the listener understands your message and can repeat it back. It’s when that person understands the nuances, the emotion, and the content.

Ken’s ability to do this propels him to the top of the world’s greatest listeners.  His writing skills are amazing, but I believe it starts with his unique listening skills.  He can only capture an accurate and authentic story because of his listening mastery.

“I think part of my gift..is that I love listening.” –Eric Clapton

 

3. Stay in the present.

A good listener is not thinking about tomorrow’s to do list or yesterday’s meeting. A good listener is with you, in the moment, practicing the power of now.

When you speak with Ken, you just know he is right there. He is with you in the moment, listening and learning.

“So don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself.” -Matt 6:34

Leaders Never Expect Logic Alone to Persuade

This is a guest post by Dianna Booher. Diana is the bestselling author of 46 books with nearly 4 million copies sold. Her latest book is What More Can I Say?: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It.

Logic and Emotion

Peers expect you to build logical business cases, of course. Just don’t expect logical arguments to win people over to your way of thinking. Even in large corporations that focus on very logical approaches to strategy, culture, and analysis of data, change happens because the leaders find a way to help people see problems or solutions in ways that influence their emotions––not just their reasoning.

Research overwhelmingly confirms that people base buying decisions on emotion, and then support them with logic.  Or to put it as eloquently as poet Richard Bach did: “Compelling reason will never convince blinding emotion.”

 

“Compelling reason will never convince blinding emotion.” -Richard Bach

 

Obviously, an emotional appeal may be misused to manipulate others. In such situations, the very fabric of influence becomes flawed. But used with wisdom and integrity, emotional appeals can have tremendous power to sway people to change for the better. Here’s how:

 

Speak to the Heart

People often cannot hear logical reasons for change until they work through emotional issues surrounding that change.  In What More Can I Say?: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It, I elaborate further on these emotional issues surrounding a logical need for change:

  • the message itself
  • the way the message is phrased
  • the character and personality of the leader
  • the listener’s interactions with the leader
  • the actual setting (physical, emotional, timing)

Analogies, illustrations, and metaphors matter a great deal in your phrasing.  Body language communicates caring, confidence, competence—or incompetence. Where and how you deliver the message determines if it hits a receptive or raw nerve.

Whether you’re talking about change, political campaigns, or charity, when you want to move people to action, speak to evoke emotion—to inspire, to call out their best, to appeal to a cause, to stand united.  To see how well emotional appeals work, look no further than the streets during a crisis.

 

Calm the Emotional Reaction of Fear

“That’s too hard.” “I can’t master this job.” “I can’t change that habit.”

29 Ways to Celebrate World Hello Day

World Hello Day

 

Hallo. Ciao! Hallo. Ni hao! Hola. Marhaba! Shalom. Bonjour!

November 21 is World Hello Day.

What are you supposed to do on World Hello Day? Greet 10 people. That’s it.

 

“For every goodbye, God also provides a hello.” –Donna Gable Hatch

 

The idea is to encourage the resolution of conflicts through communication instead of force. Sure, we can all point to examples where this is not possible. We may call it idealistic. Still, I like having a day where we can celebrate the power of communication. It’s easy to cite the examples where it is difficult, but there are far more conflicts resolved through negotiation than any other method.

 

“Don’t tell your friends about your indigestion. ‘How are you’ is a greeting, not a question.” –Arthur Guiterman

 

Let’s celebrate that today by sharing World Hello Day with others.

 

29 Ways to Celebrate

Here are a few suggestions on how to make World Hello Day worthwhile:

Greet others enthusiastically today.

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” -Jimi Hendrix

 

Introduce yourself to strangers and tell them about World Hello Day.

Share this post with someone you haven’t said hello to in a while.

Let someone cut in front of you in line.

 

“Send out a cheerful, positive greeting, and most of the time you will get back a cheerful, positive greeting.” –Zig Ziglar

 

Make today a day of happiness.

Spend some extra time with a good friend.

Have your team at work write down five things that you are grateful for.

Encourage someone.

Radiate peace and joy.

Make today the day that you forgive someone for good.

 

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” -Gandhi

 

Allow a driver into your lane.

 

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” –John Muir

 

Send Facebook messages or Tweets to 3 people who you admire.

Compliment others sincerely today.