Building rapport with yourself is not often mentioned as a skill important to leadership, but it should be at the top of the list.
Christine Comaford is a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold five companies. She’s a columnist for Forbes, the bestselling author of SmartTribes and Rules for Renegades, and a leadership coach. Her latest book, Power Your Tribe: Create Resilient Teams in Turbulent Times shows you how to bring a tribe together to tackle challenges.
Know Who You Are
Why is it important to increase rapport with yourself?
Knowing who we are, what makes us tick, what triggers us is essential in order to lead effectively. To do this we must become more emotionally intelligent. There are two aspects of emotional intelligence: 1) Personal Competence: where we understand what we’re feeling and how to regulate/navigate our emotions and 2) Social Competence: where we discern what others may be feeling and how to navigate their feelings. Personal Competence is a precursor to Social Competence. The greater the rapport we have with ourselves, the more we understand our feelings and can navigate them, the more we can respond to what is happening outside of us versus compulsively reacting. The greater the rapport we have with ourselves, the more curious and compassionate we can become with others and their, at times, challenging behaviors.
“It’s a myth that a leader’s personal qualities must remain separate from their professional identity.” You share a story of an awful tragedy and how you kept that private during a leadership retreat. Tell us more about the intersection between the personal and professional.
The core premise of my work is that leaders personal and professional identities aren’t separate. They are inextricably linked. Leaders have been fooled into thinking that being impersonal and rational leads to success. It doesn’t. Poor engagement and alienation results. Without personal qualities, leaders are faceless bureaucrats, and their staff find it difficult to connect with them. Our experience of being with any leader is greatly influenced by their personal qualities.
My book deals with leaders’ professional identities. By thoughtfully choosing what is personal, what is private, and what they let come to the foreground in their interactions, leaders influence how others experience them. I coach leaders to bring helpful personal qualities into their interactions. Leaders with personal qualities like contempt, demanding, and cold create anxiety and emotional turmoil around them. People don’t like working with them. Leaders with personal qualities such as being insightful, approachable, and succinct have powerful effects in inspiring others to action.
The secret in my book Leadership Material is that if you don’t know who and what has shaped you as a leader, you won’t be able to lead people. The key lever for developing as a leader is through your earlier life experiences. By uncovering the likely source of unhelpful behaviors, you then have a choice of your current authentic response which builds relationships and produces results.
“When people feel understood and accepted, they flourish.” –Diana Jones
Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach specializing in executive communication. You may have read one of her articles in “Forbes” or encountered her other book, The Power of Presence. Her extensive research and survey into what inspires people was fascinating. I recently asked Kristi about her latest work on inspiration in the workplace.
“When we highlight potential, we boost confidence.” -Kristi Hedges
Tell me more about the four factors that enhance our inspirational effect, what you call the Inspire Path.
The Inspire Path puts a structure to the research I found that uncovers what communication behaviors inspire others. It’s a guide to increase inspirational impact. While we can’t force someone to be inspired—and if we try to push, it backfires—we can create the conditions that foster inspiration. People are most often inspired through certain types of conversation with others. If we want be more inspiring, we should focus on being:
“What we concentrate on gets stronger.” -Kristi Hedges
Are you a leader who has had some success but now feel stuck?
What’s your leadership gap?
Understanding yourself is the beginning of influence. You must understand you before you can possibly understand others and how to influence them.
If you’re a leader of leaders, you want to understand your team, how they interpret the world, their unique way of leading. A powerful team is made up of a diverse group of leadership styles.
Lolly Daskal’s new book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, introduces her system to help executives discover their own leadership style and how to leverage their strengths. If you’re a leader who has reached a point where you’re confused why your success is stalled, this is for you. If you’re wondering what’s stopping your upward climb, this is for you. If you want to take your career up a notch, this is for you.
Lolly is not only a personal friend of mine, but she has racked up numerous awards and accolades ranging from Inc’s Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts to Huffington Post saying she is the most inspiring leader in the world. She’s coached some of the world’s most prominent leaders for years.
“A leader must always set the standard of what they want to see in others.” -Lolly Daskal
You’ve worked with many leaders all over the globe. What are some of the qualities that you notice that makes a leader stand out?
For over three decades, I have worked as a leadership coach and business consultant around the world, spanning 14 countries and hundreds of companies. Many years ago when I first started, I found an interesting pattern that was showing up within everyone I was working with, even across cultures. Over time I distilled that pattern into seven archetypes, each archetype with its own quality that sets it apart.
First, there’s the leader I call the Rebel, who leads with confidence and wants to make an impact in the world. And Rebels do start revolutions—but not through revolts and uprisings. Rebels are the quiet warriors who embark on quests to achieve remarkable things. They overcome formidable obstacles to save the project, the team, or the company. They ask, “How can I push the envelope?”
Rebels need confidence to succeed—not the kind of confidence that means standing in front of the mirror and saying, “I’m the best and the brightest,” but knowing your capabilities and competencies, knowing what you are good at, and what skills you have mastered. Confidence is simply knowing what you’re able to do. So the more skill and talent you have, the more competent—and ultimately confident—you feel.
“Confidence is simply knowing what you’re able to do.” -Lolly Daskal
Second is the Explorer, who leads with intuition. Explorers always want to try something new. They enjoy navigating through uncharted waters with innovation and creativity, using their intuition to test the boundaries and limits of what is known. They reject the status quo and doing things the way they’ve always been done. They ask, “What can I discover?”
Explorers listen to their inner voice and their gut, and use their inner knowledge to make decisions. Instead of relying only on rational thought, they balance their thinking with intuition. They think well on their feet and are decisive.
Third is the Truth Teller, who leads with candor. Truth tellers believe they owe it to those around them to always be open and honest, even when their candor makes people uncomfortable. Even so, their honesty isn’t cruel but comes from a sincere desire to help and serve. They view speaking up as a duty. Truth tellers ask, “Where should I speak up?”
Fourth is the Hero, who leads with courage. Heroes are the ones who don’t hesitate to act while others stand on the sidelines trying to figure out what’s going on. Heroes are willing to put their entire vision and mission at risk for a shot at greatness. Heroes act in spite of fear and overwhelming opposition. They ask, “Where is courage needed?”
Fifth is the Inventor, who leads with integrity. Inventors are constantly working to improve processes and products and to perfect their craft. They are experimenters who make many small bets and are willing to fail in pursuit of big wins. they ask, “How can we make this better?”
Inventors seek quality and excellence, always grounded in integrity. They don’t compromise on what they want to achieve, and they give it their best. They’re never satisfied with the status quo but always aspire to a higher standard of excellence.
“Inventors seek quality and excellence, always grounded in integrity.” -Lolly Daskal
Sixth is the Navigator, who leads with trustworthiness. Navigators know where they need to go, and they inspire others to trust and follow them. Navigators give trust as well as they receive it, keeping things simple and understandable as they masterfully steer their organization and the people within it. Navigators ask, “How can we get to where we need to go?”
The seventh and final leader is the Knight, who leads with loyalty. Knights are primarily associated with chivalry and protection; they’re willing to go to battle to defend their beliefs and are devoted to the ideal of service. Knights display fierce loyalty and partnership with others while protecting people and bringing them together.
Knights believe leadership is based on loyalty—reliable and dependable and dedicated. Knights will stand beside you and will serve you, before they serve themselves.
What makes a leader successful over the long haul?
Most leaders believe that to be successful they need to know all the elements of how, what, when, and where. But I’ve found that the game changer comes when a leader knows who they are—because getting the foundational element of the who prepares you for the how, what, when, and where—and even the why. As we know, the first step to successful leadership is taking responsibility for ourselves.
“Everyone has the power to inspire and serve the world.” -Lolly Daskal
Eventually, you say, leaders likely face a leadership gap where they are stuck and their success wanes. Tell us more.
Most successful individuals have a certain set of skills that got them to the top of their game. But there comes a time that those same skill sets stop working, and you have to learn to pivot to keep succeeding. Most of us rely on what we know and expect it to be sustainable, but if we are not changing, evolving and growing, we are not going to remain successful leaders.
Within the seven archetypes, this principle is expressed as shadows or gaps that exist within each:
The Rebel who needs to be confident has a gap of feeling like an Imposter, paralyzed by self-doubt. This gap often takes the form of negative internal messages: You are not smart enough, good enough, bright enough to make a big impact. You didn’t go to good schools or get the right education. People are judging you.
The Explorer, who is all about using intuition, has a gap of being the Exploiter, who manipulates. Exploration means letting go of control, and those who struggle with turning loose often try to find their way by manipulating and exploiting others.
The Truth Teller has the gap of becoming the Deceiver, who creates suspicion. This one is easy to spot. It’s the leader who withholds information, the boss who tells half-truths, the manager who doesn’t address concerns. When people don’t know what they need to know, rumors and speculation run wild, creating a culture of suspicion and paranoia.
The courageous Hero has the gap of becoming the passive Bystander—someone who does and says nothing regardless of what they see or hear. Driven by fear, the Bystander plays small and stays stuck where they are.
The Inventor, who is all about integrity, has the gap of being the corrupt Destroyer who is focused on doing things cheaper and faster. The Destroyer’s lack of integrity permits quick fixes, cutting corners and compromising quality and standards.
The Navigator, who focuses on giving and earning trust, has the gap of coming across as the arrogant Fixer. The Fixer tells people what to do instead of navigating with them and is so aggressive that people dismiss them as arrogant by nature. Fixers see the needs of others as more important than their own, and they move from wanting to help to needing to help. They primarily want to be needed.
Finally, the loyal Knight has the gap of becoming the self-serving Mercenary. Without the understanding that leadership is about serving others, they can’t engender loyalty from those they lead. Leadership grounded in self-absorption or self-obsession can never succeed.
Leverage Your Gaps
Is there a way to avoid or move quickly past a gap?
It’s important to learn how to leverage your gaps:
For instance, if your leadership style is in line with the confident Rebel, you need to learn to leverage the Imposter within you. There are several things you can do to leverage this particular gap when you begin to lose confidence in yourself.
“Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your own improvement.” -Lolly Daskal
First, you need to stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your own improvement and leadership development.
Second, to avoid focusing on your failures rather than your successes, make a list of your accomplishments and place your wins in plain sight so you are reminded of them regularly.
And finally, remind yourself that perfection is unattainable and aiming for it sets you up for continual frustration and disappointment.
When you’re aware of your gaps, you know what messages to counter them with. Rebels can remind themselves that, even if they feel like an imposter, they should never underestimate themselves or their capabilities.
I’m a big believer in managing to strengths, and your book provides a set of tools for doing this effectively. What’s a quick definition of an attribute? How is that different from a skill?
An attribute is an inherent, instinctive trait. Think of it like the wiring of a person’s internal microchip. Attributes determine our perceptions of the world and the way we behave toward it.
It’s not surprising that people can sometimes confuse attributes with skills. Here’s the key: skills are learned and practiced rather than instinctive.
For example, a person with a high Relational attribute exhibits an innate sensitivity to other people and their feelings. This person can’t help but feel sad when others are sad, happy when others are happy, etc. That’s not a skill; it’s a natural attribute.
Now let’s say that this same person wants to really leverage her Relational attribute, so she decides to practice some related skills. She might choose to hone her effective listening skills, to help her tune into other people for even more profound insight.
In this way, skills can enhance our strongest attributes. But they’ll never replace those innate characteristics.
“Skills enhance our strongest attributes.” – Bill Munn
You talk about 3 forces that fuel some negative biases. Let’s focus on #1: the myth of well-roundedness. It seems that this appears everywhere. Why is this one damaging to professional growth?
The myth of well-roundedness pervades our world today—this idea that we’re somehow supposed to be good at everything. What a damaging theory! That’s not how we’re built.
Just look at the most successful people—those you know, those in the public eye, those who have defined history. They’re full of flaws and failures, and they’re full of greatness. Do they become successful by trying to become well rounded? No. They focus on what they’re great at, so they are great.
“Successful living requires prioritizing.” –Bill Munn
The fact is, successful living requires prioritizing. If we were immortal, we could waste years trying to get a little better at our challenge attributes. But we have limited time. And if we focus on optimizing our power-alley attributes, we’ll see a much higher return on investment for the effort expended. Our teams and companies benefit much more from this approach—not to mention our own careers (and personal lives).
Think of it this way: An eagle could probably improve its swim stroke a bit, to become a more “well rounded” creature. But with that same effort, think what it could do for its flight speed and soaring height. So when was the last time you saw an eagle working on its backstroke?
“Don’t become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific.” –Zig Ziglar
Never! I love that example. Would you share an example or two of an attribute from the inventory?
Developer is our term for one who naturally encourages, teaches, and prioritizes other people’s growth and development. This person prefers working behind the scenes, rather than getting the spotlight for himself. Actually, Skip, Developers make great leadership bloggers—or coaches, teachers, mentors, etc. They’re also great leaders, because when people care about your growth, you want to follow them.
A Logician perceives the world in terms of cause, effect, and logic. She assumes that events flow rationally and that people do things for logical reasons. (As you can imagine, she’s an opposing attribute to the Relational we talked about earlier, who is so tuned into emotion and other “illogical” factors.) The Logician looks for data and analytics to describe situations and assumes that solutions lie in the facts.
How do I find out my own high and low attributes, my profile?
We actually use an array of tools to do this, including a questionnaire, assessment, and analysis exercises that you can do on your own or with a partner. The goal of all these tools is to help you define your own profile, which will consist of a few different categories:
Power-alley attributes: Your most natural traits, the attributes you basically exhibit no matter what – in fact, it would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for you to avoid demonstrating these traits.
Functional attributes: These attributes (which we break down further into 3 functional levels) are like tools you keep in the garage rather than on your tool belt – they’re available to you, but it takes a bit of extra effort to access them.
Challenge attributes: These are the 1 or 2 attributes at the bottom of your list – the things that you just don’t do really well, no matter how hard you work at it.
When I’m working with others, knowing their attributes is as important as knowing my own. What’s the best way to do this (if I can’t have them take a test)?
This is where our tools for listening (and watching) for revelation become so valuable. Since our attributes are inherent and ingrained, we reveal them constantly in the things we do and say.
It’s analogous to a radio station constantly broadcasting. But to hear it, we have to tune in. Same with people. We constantly “broadcast” our attributes through our descriptions of events, our stories about people we liked or disliked, our reactions to outside stimuli – in short, through our response to life events.
Effective listening focuses on accurately tuning into the content of what the speaker says. That’s essential and always important. Listening for revelation, however, is an additional step that goes beyond content and unearths the speaker’s attributes.
First, you teach your team that the attributes they find so irritating in others are actually the very traits (and people) best positioned to help them better perform, grow, and develop.
Second, you emphasize that there are no “good” or “bad” attributes. Each attribute brings something important and valuable to the table. This perspective helps people become intrigued by others’ behaviors. Team members soon stop thinking in terms of who they “like” and start supporting one another in incredible ways.
That’s the big picture. There are also many nuts-and-bolts tools for applying this concept in building, balancing, and growing your teams—team attribute matrices, team-building ideas, hiring practices, etc.