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Take the initiative with confidence and humility to lead other leaders

This question came in from a member of the Let’s Grow Leaders community and it’s such a fantastic opportunity to lead that we wanted to share it with you. The question is about leading other leaders without excess drama.

Here’s how Maria describes the situation: “We work in a 24 x 7 environment with multiple shifts. Each shift has responsibilities to clean, restock, and prepare our workspace for the next shift. Sometimes, my team will find something isn’t done quite right. No big deal. But it often happens that we show up to a situation that causes real problems in our ability to do our job. I want to bring it up in our leaders’ meeting, but I worry about creating nitpicking or shift vs shift dynamics. Do you have any suggestions?”

Maria’s challenge is common. Leaders at a peer level experience challenges with one another’s work product and it affects their work. Perhaps your manager can’t or won’t address it right now. This is one of those challenges that creates a fantastic opportunity to lead. Specifically, you have a chance to lead other leaders and build a collaborative culture.

Leading Other Leaders Starts with Confident Humility

Before the conversation, take time to center yourself in confidence and humility. You see a genuine issue. You didn’t imagine the negative effects on your team.

It takes confidence to bring it up with the other leaders–to share a vision of what’s possible or address a breach of understanding. Temper that confidence with the humility that you don’t the other leaders’ realities. Come to the conversation with a genuine curiosity and hope for what’s possible.

Assume Good Intent

Another mindset shift that can make these conversations collaborative and help you to lead other leaders is to assume other people want to do a good job. It’s unlikely that another leader woke up that morning thinking about how they could make life difficult for your team. They’re struggling through and trying to make it work.

This isn’t a conversation about blaming others for problems. It’s a chance to look forward together. Starting with confidence and humility while assuming good intent will help avoid nitpicking or antagonism. There’s nothing to pick at…just an opportunity for us all to help one another succeed.

Tap Into a Shared Understanding of What Success Looks Like

Where you start the conversation depends on what standards, agreements, or expectations already exist. If there is a defined process and one leader isn’t following it, you might talk with them directly and have an INSPIRE conversation. (Check here for more on how to hold an effective INSPIRE conversation to address performance challenges or misaligned expectations.)

For example: “I want to make sure that we are setting one another up for success. Three times over the past ten days we’ve come in and here’s what we’ve found. I know our expectation is that we’re doing X. Here’s the impact on our team. I’m wondering how it looks from your perspective?”

And then, “Is your team experiencing anything similar from our team? What do you think we can do to ensure we’re putting one another in the best position to succeed?”

When you have these INSPIRE conversations, the more detailed S-Support you can bring the conversation, the better. Photos and specifics about the impact on your team’s work can help.

Finally, make sure you don’t put it all on their shoulders. You might ask, “What can I do to help? I want to make sure my team’s setting you up similarly. Are there any opportunities you see?”

Leading Other Leaders When There Is No Shared Understanding

However, when there is no agreement or expectation for how things should work, you have an opportunity to create a shared understanding. Start these conversations with shared realities.

For example, “I’ve noticed that my team spends forty-five minutes doing X with a consequence of Y. I’m curious what you’re experiencing?”

As the conversation proceeds, you can suggest a solution. “What if we were to agree to always set one another up for success by doing these three things? If would take our teams 15 minutes but save everyone a ton of time.”

Escalate When Necessary

Sometimes you’ll discover that your peer doesn’t have the same understanding you do. They might say something like “That checklist is a suggestion if we have time, not a commitment we have to do every day. When things get busy, I’d rather my people focus on taking care of our clients.”

In these situations, it’s appropriate to invite them to talk together with your manager. You have different views of what your manager expects and need to resolve that difference.

For example, “Got it–sounds like we understand the expectations differently. Let’s go talk with our manager and sort it out.”

They may not choose to go with you, but you’ve given them respect by inviting them. You’re not going behind their back or complaining about a peer. You had a direct and transparent conversation. You’ve approached the scenario with confidence and humility, focused on relationships and the results you need to achieve.

Your Turn

It’s easy to be frustrated when a colleague’s team isn’t performing at the level you expect. But it’s also an opportunity for you to build a shared understanding, influence your peers, and create collaboration.

We’d love to hear from you: what’s one of the most powerful ways you’ve seen someone (or maybe you did it) leading other leaders to address performance issues.

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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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