Positive Influence Leader Interview with Glenn Parker

Positive Influence – an Interview with Glenn Parker


Be ready to take notes as Glenn Parker shares the four ways you can help people to become their best self, why this is such a critical leadership skill, and a master-class in leading through any crisis.

Connect with Glenn:

Positive Influence Website: https://thepositiveinfluenceleader.com/

LinkedIn: Glenn Parker https://www.linkedin.com/in/glennparker/

Get Glenn’s Book:

positive influence leader book cover

How to keep your unique leadership promise

What is Your Unique Leadership Promise?

Your Leadership Promise Might Not Be What You Think

In the age of Twitter and Instagram, you hear so many people talk about “authenticity” – but what does that actually mean for you as a leader? It’s probably not awkward social media posts. Recently I interviewed master-performer, emcee, and keynote speaker, Jason Hewlett, about authenticity. For Jason, authenticity is all about keeping your leadership promise.

Your promise is what makes you uniquely you. Here’s one example:

(You can watch or listen to my entire interview with Jason here.)

Your Leadership Promise

Maybe you don’t sing – it’s not my thing (though Karin Hurt does), but you definitely have a unique set of characteristics, talents, and values that make you the leader you are when you’re at your best.

For me, it’s teaching. My promise, the part of me that is so authentically me, is that I will invest in people and help them become the best version of themselves. It’s why I do the work I do. When I don’t live up to that best part of myself, I don’t lead well.

Teaching is my leadership promise; what’s yours?

One way Jason suggests you can identify your leadership promise is to think about who you promised yourself you would be when you were early in life. Are there areas where you’ve let that authentic-you hide? If so, it’s a great place to look for your leadership promise.

When you’re wondering how to show up authentically as a leader, think about the commitment you’ve made to your team. You might have made it years ago. Maybe you’ve never said it aloud. Regardless, that’s the authentic you. Own it and you’ll have more influence with your team and positive impact in the world.

Your Turn

Check out Jason’s interview – he’s an incredible example of what it means to keep your promise. Then, I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment and share with us: What is your authentic promise to your team?

Leadership mistakes you make when you’re scared

Leadership Mistakes You Make When You’re Scared

 

Are you holding back? Is fear keeping you from leading well, advocating for your team, or confronting a poor performer? Or are you worried about making a mistake or how you’ll look?

In this episode David examines how fear can cripple your leadership and steps you can take to move through it and be a leader your team respects and wants to follow.

danger when leader is always right

The Danger When a Leader is Always Right

When a leader is always right, they’re not effective.

If you had been with me early in my career, you would have seen my growing frustration. My first job out of grad school was teaching and I had a class of students who consistently:

  • came to class
  • participated and engaged with the material
  • worked to learn the subject matter

However, when it came time to display their knowledge, they struggled to do better than F or D level work.

My team and I labored over our review sessions, making sure we were not missing any content. Nevertheless, the class as a whole did not improve.

Concerned about my effectiveness as a teacher, I began experimenting with different instructional and review methods.

With one of them, student performance improved overnight – from Fs and Ds to Bs and even a few As!

Does It Work?

As it turned out, this group of students learned better through the act of guided writing than any other technique.

The students did not know it themselves, and my team and I only learned it through trial and error.

What I remember most about this incident was the response of another teacher. When I shared my discovery with her, she said:

  • She was covering the necessary material.
  • Her instructional methods were perfectly sound.
  • Students should take responsibility for their own learning.
  • She saw no reason to change.

Of course, she was “right.”

“Right” in so far as yes, her instructional methods were good, and yes, students ultimately should take responsibility for their own learning.

What bothered me, however, is that she was consciously choosing being “right” over being effective. What we’d been doing did not work. Why on earth would we keep doing it?

The Perils When a Leader is Always Right

One problem when a leader is always right is that they lose their influence.

I never did succeed in persuading my colleague to change her teaching methods. I was young and I made the same mistake she did with the students. I dug in, confident in my “rightness” and continued to point out how she was wrong.

No surprise – it didn’t work.

Convincing someone that you’re right and they’re wrong almost never changes their behavior. People are stubborn and we cling to our misconceptions, just because they’re ours.

One time I stubbornly argued with the cashier at an airport’s Chinese takeout counter because they wouldn’t give me extra vegetables. I was willing to pay for them, but they insisted it couldn’t be done (despite having done it before).

Fortunately, Karin was there and was able to talk some sense. “David, you’re right – and we’re going miss our flight. Just order a vegetable dish and mix them.”

Now that was effective!

Another danger when a leader is always right is that you don’t get what you need from your team. When you’re always right (or just act like you are) your team will quickly stop sharing ideas and sink into minimal performance.

Influence requires more than being “right.”

The Antidote to Being Right

As a leader, your goal is to achieve results. Maybe you want to increase revenue, grow your team’s capacity, or change the world.

It’s vital that you keep those goals in front of you and regularly ask yourself what it is you really want. Asking what you really want is the antidote to always being right.

Many new leaders (and more than a few experienced leaders!) get stuck because they cannot see past their own “rightness” and do the things that will help them be effective and achieve results.

Here are a few examples:

  1. “Why should I have to tell them again? I said it once.”
    Yes, you did – three months ago. People have many priorities competing for their attention and important items often need multiple repetitions in multiple forums.
  2. “Why should I encourage/thank them? They’re just doing their job.”
    Yes, they are. Yet people are more engaged when they feel appreciated and are seen as a human being and not just a cog in a machine.
  3. “Why should I hear opposing viewpoints? I’m an expert in this subject and I’ve looked at all the options.”
    Yes, you are and I’m sure you did a thorough analysis, but if you want to make the best decision and have your team to be committed to the idea, their voices need to be heard. Besides, you might be surprised by someone else’s perspective.

Your Turn

It takes courage and humility to look honestly at what you’re doing and ruthlessly assess whether or not it’s working. And it’s something the best leaders do regularly.

If you want to achieve results and have more influence, look for places where you’ve clung to being “right.” Then let it go…and choose to be effective.

Leave a comment and share your best practice to keep from getting stuck in being “right.”

one easy way to have more influence

One Easy Way to Have More Influence

More influence isn’t always about what you say.

I knew Gary wasn’t happy.

During my first time in a mid-level management role, one of my team leaders was clearly struggling. He looked frustrated, sounded frustrated, and it didn’t take a genius to know something was bothering Gary.

So I asked if I could get him coffee and hear what was on his mind.

He sipped a cappuccino and shared his troubles: he’d been disrespected and abused by a senior manager, his team wasn’t doing as well as he hoped, he wasn’t sure the company’s vision matched his own, and so on.

Gary appreciated my invitation to coffee and the opportunity to be heard. Then I tried to be helpful.

He was halfway through his first issue when I interrupted and offered solutions, tried to help him see the issue or person differently, or pointed out where he might be responsible.

Finally, he looked at me and said, “David! You asked me how I was feeling and what’s bothering me…quit arguing. I’m just trying to answer your question.”

He had a point.

A Common Influence Mistake

Gary might have needed help, or it could be that just talking through what was bothering him would do the trick. Your team may need help, but you won’t be able to help them if you make the same critical leadership mistake I did.

I didn’t keep my mouth shut long enough. I wasn’t truly present with Gary. I had jumped ahead to my own response.

Most leaders think of influence as talking – or maybe leading by example. We see rousing speeches in movies, we remember key pieces of advice we’ve heard from our mentors, and we know we have something worthwhile to share. However, when you think of influence only in terms of what you say, you leave out the most critical piece:

Listening.

A Columbia Business School study found that when it comes to influencing others, your listening skills outrank your verbal ability. It makes sense. Listening builds trust and helps you get the information you need to offer your conversation partner what they most need.

When it comes to helping someone, good intentions don’t make the difference. Effective action, what you do that works, means everything. I’d intended to help, but in my youthful rush to show what I knew and be valuable, I’d missed the most important thing I could have done.

5 Ways to Listen Influentially

Your team needs you to regularly ask, “How can I help?” When you ask, be sure to really listen. Here are a few tips to improve your listening skills and build your influence.

1. Put down the phone.

Seriously. Put it on silent, put it face down or stash it in a bag. Get rid of it.

You simply can’t give someone your full attention with the mental stimulation of email, voice messages, and texts. Put it away and focus on the person.

2. Maintain eye contact.

Don’t be creepy, but maintain eye contact. For that time, there is nothing else going on and no one else in the world, but the person you’re talking to.

3. Empathize

Empathy communicates that you understand how the other person feels. You’re not agreeing or sanctioning – just recognizing their emotions. For example:

  • “That must have been frustrating.”
  • “Sounds like you felt like no one else cared?”
  • “That would be upsetting.”
  • “Wow – you must have been excited.”

4. Summarize

Before going any farther, take a moment to check for understanding about what the other person said. Use your own words and ask if you’ve got it right. If not, ask questions or encourage them to help you get it. Fully connect with their emotions and thoughts. Until you’ve done that, you haven’t listened.

5. Ask permission.

Once you’ve fully connected to the emotion and the thought, if you feel you have something helpful to add to the conversation, ask permission to share it. This is a huge integrity move and demonstrates tremendous respect for the other person.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Something like, “I appreciate you trusting me enough to share those things. Would you be interested in hearing ways you might address that or is it enough to get it off your chest?”

Your Turn

When you fully connect and have acknowledged the other person’s dignity, then you’re in a position to be truly helpful. Leave us a comment and share a time when you were influenced by a powerful listener, or your best practice to ensure others are heard.

courage

Leaders Share about Courage, Influence and Hope: August Frontline Festival (with video)

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on courage, influence, and hope, celebrating our new book for kids, Glowstone Peak. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on these topics.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about collaboration.

New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts in this video!

Frontline Festival August 2018

Courage

Cynthia Stadd of TheActsofCourage.com offers The Eating Disorder that Brought Me to my Knees, and How I Found the Courage to Be Healthy.  She shares her journey openly, how courage became part of dealing with the issue, and the steps that helped her toward healthier living.  Connect with Cynthia.

Wendy Dailey of My Dailey Journey gives us It’s Hard to Speak Up.  It’s hard to speak up when someone says or does something that makes you uncomfortable, but we need to hear these stories. Not just the stories of harassment, but of all bad behavior that we need to stop tolerating in the workplace. Follow Wendy.

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer shares THAI THIS: Resiliency Lessons from Underground. We saw an amazing rescue in Thailand, and there are several lessons we can learn about courage from those involved.   Follow Eileen.

Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group presents Be Brave. Show Up.  She shares that when something comes our way that we don’t know how to handle,  just showing up may actually be all we need to do. Or sometimes even just to being willing to show up. Because each time we simply show up, we grow, and we get braver and stronger and begin to lead more effectively.

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC  offers How to Pursue Customer Conflict Resolution with a Level Head. Anyone who tackles conflict-related problems needs the courage and humility to understand and address the other party’s pain points. Learn how to achieve customer conflict resolution in your small business.  Follow Rachel.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group provides Times of Change Call for Increased Levels of Communication and Courage. In times of change or uncertainty, organizations need leadership more than ever. This is the time for courageous conversations and straightforward communication. Get insights on what to share with employees and why it’s important. Follow David.

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture provides his Culture Leadership Charge: Drive out Fear.  In this three-minute video episode, Chris shares the open secret of WD-40 Company’s tribal culture–replacing fear with learning moments.  Follow Chris.

I did leave, but then I came back to tell you that if you were brave enough, I could be brave, too.”  – Gnome

Influence

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding shares a short video on influence.  As a Winning Teammate, what is the ONE way for to be most effective and consistent in influencing your team? How does courage create that opportunity?  Follow Sean.

Ronni Hendel of InsightOut Leadership gives us a touching Tribute to My Teacher in memory of  Doug Silsbee. Doug wrote and taught about presence for many years, most recently in the context of being in hospice and facing his own death. Sadly, he passed away on August 1st. His courage remains a source of inspiration for which Ronnie is immensely grateful.   Follow Ronni.

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen provides Underneath the Drywall. All of us are individuals of many layers, some of which aren’t obvious to the casual observer. It is what we infuse in those deeper layers that influences who we are and the long-term effect we have on the world.  Follow Paula.

Oh and as a bonus… check out Paula’s video and review of Glowstone Peak.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives us Words Matter: Three Steps to Using Words to Get What You Want. In this post, Shelley reminds us of the power and influence of words on ourselves and those we lead.  Follow Shelley.

Miles Anthony Smith, MBA of Milesanthonysmith.com shares 29 Leadership Experts Share Their Top 19 Leadership Competencies & Behaviors for Success.  If you want to have a positive influence on your team and others, this list will inspire you.  Follow Miles.

Let’s go together. What are we waiting for? – Mother Gnobuck

Hope

Glowstone Peak What makes you hopefulNate Regier of Next Element Consulting offers The Discipline of Optimism. In it, he encourages us to not just see the glass as half full, but do what it takes to fill it up.   Follow Nate.

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  gives us Quotes on Hope. Napoleon once said that leaders are dealers in hope. With that in mind, here are some of his very favorite quotes on hope.  Follow Skip.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds provides Who Knows What Employees Really Want? One thing that fuels hope in the workplace is when leaders know what employees want and help them make it happen. This post explores possibilities and simple processes leaders can use to powerfully support employees and contribute to a hopeful environment. Follow Julie.

And yes, ANOTHER BONUS… Thank you Julie for the opportunity to share our thinking on Questions to Develop Leadership in Children as part of our Glowstone Peak Launch.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited gives us How the HOPE Family Encouraged Me.  During a season of discouragement in her business, Beth experienced personal hope and uplift from other professionals. She shares about what a gift that was. Follow Beth.

The answer is up there, somewhere.  – Selvia

Your Turn.

Are you working to grow courage, influence, and hope in young leaders? We’d love to hear from you and your children. Check out our Glowstone Peak activity page for ways to celebrate children living these values. Or to order a copy of Glowstone Peak click here.

5 Ways to Gain More Influence and Impact

5 Ways to Gain More Influence and Impact

Jessica approached me after my keynote last week. “My boss is about to make a REALLY big mistake and I don’t think I have the influence to stop it. What can I do?”

She continued:

My boss says we need to eliminate my team due to cost reasons. But that’s a terrible mistake! It’s not so much the people I worry about. They’re highly qualified and will find other roles in our organization. It’s that the work we do actually saves the company money, not to mention how much we enhance the customer experience. I care so deeply about this organization, and I want my boss to be successful too. He doesn’t see it.

The truth is, I don’t think he has any idea all the gaps we fill. But I feel like when I’m advocating for this, it looks like I’m just trying to save my team. The organization is really going to suffer if we go down this path.

How do I get my boss to hear me? How can I influence him to do the right thing?

Of course, after a ten-minute conversation,  I can’t claim to understand all the financial and other nuances of this decision. But as she continued, I WAS convinced she had a solid argument worth hearing out.

I asked:

What if you approached your boss exactly like you just spoke to me? Come from a place of deep concern for the bigger picture. Acknowledge the need for financial savings AND paint the picture of a future where your team is not in place? Is it possible to outline the downstream financial consequences of both scenarios?

She smiled. “Yup. I can do that. And I think it’s worth a try.”

Of course, it’s worth a try.

What’s worth a try for you? And where are you holding back?

What truth would you share if you only felt you had more influence?

5 Ways to Up Your Influence and Accomplish More

If you’re not having the influence you desire, start here.

1- Meet Them on the Path They’re Already On

Jessica’s boss had a clear MIT (Most Important Thing) on his mind–to drive costs out of the business. Jessica needed to meet him on the path he was on. If Jessica tried to take her boss down the “let’s improve the customer experience path” while he was racing down the “cost savings road”, she would likely be ignored. She had a solid argument that eliminating her team would cost more money in the long-run. She should lead with that. The customer experience point is influence gravy.

You will have more influence when the people you’re trying to convince know that you “get it,” with “it” being whatever it is they most care about.

2. Ask Great Questions

This HBR article explains why.

Questions give you the chance to hear what the other person is thinking, giving you more opportunity to accurately determine his or her influencing style. By really listening to the person’s response, you will know whether you can move on to your next point, or if you need to back up and readdress something in a way that helps the other person see your perspective and brings him or her closer to your position. According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, when people feel listened to by those trying to influence them, their liking of, commitment to, and trust in the influencer increases — all of which strengthen your influencing capability in the situation and overall.

3. Echo Back the Smart Words They Say

Great listening is more than half the influence formula. If you’re trying to influence someone, start by listening deeply and reflecting back what you hear. People will listen when they know they’ve been heard.

4. Build Trust By Being a Truth Teller 

Do you have someone in your life you can always count on to tell you the truth? Be that guy for others. Trust breeds influence. I love this point in the Inc.’s article 7 Way to Build Influence in the Workplace, 

If you want a healthy and influential working relationship, you’re going to have to cultivate trust. The easiest way to do that is to be open and honest, no matter what. State your opinions, disclose your apprehensions, and don’t keep secrets. It’s as simple as that.

5. Rock Your Role

Although competence does not necessarily lead to influence, it’s a necessary place to start. Results buy freedom, and they also build influence. You can never go wrong by being the guy everyone can count on to hit it out of the park.

See Also:

The Winning Well Leadership ModelGlowstone Peak Available Now (quick video overview)

Why Bother Speaking Up (our very popular post on FOSU– Fear of Speaking Up)

The V.O.I.C.E. Approach to getting your voice heard.

How to P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. your boss

And if you’re looking to help your children think more about courage, influence, and hope, check out our new children’s book, Glowstone Peak.

How to make real change happen when you're not ceo

How to Make Real Change Happen When You’re Not CEO

Let’s Grow Leaders Q&A

In a recent post we invited you to send us your biggest leadership challenge. We received a great question from a healthcare leader in the United Kingdom. It’s a question we hear all the time from audience members and workshop participants around the world about how to make real change happen when you’re not in charge.

(Please, continue to send in your questions and leadership challenges – yours may be the next one featured here).

Dear Karin & David:

I’m an innovation team leader in healthcare and we’re tasked with delivering a new model of care. It has met with some resistance – change is quite challenging in some parts of our industry and I don’t have the power to enforce these changes. How do you challenge and convert mindsets to change? How do you change cultural norms? How do you make real change happen when you’re not the CEO?

Dear Healthcare Leader:

Creating change from within an organization is often challenging.

It can be frustrating when the benefit of a new way seems so obvious to you, but is not obvious to others. Most human beings are “wired” to keep doing what they did yesterday because it costs less energy and is safe (after all, what they did yesterday got them safely to today, so why change?).

You ask two questions. I will take them in reverse order:

How do you change culture norms?

The short answer here is often: slowly.

Particularly if you’re not leading the entire organization.

Both Karin and I have made significant changes in internal cultures, but the work starts with the culture you build within your own team.

When people who interact with your innovation team come out of those interactions saying “Wow – that is an awesome group of people doing amazing work. I want to be treated like that, treat others like that, achieve results like that, and be a part of something fantastic!” – then your culture will start to spread.

We call this a “cultural oasis.” You create a culture within the team for which you are responsible. You may have to coach them to remain positive and to stay focused on results and relationships when others in the organization don’t understand them or minimize their work.

Summary: Changing a culture from the inside takes time and starts with the culture you create within your team.

How do you challenge and covert mindsets to change?

From your description, it sounds like you’re hoping others will accept the changes your innovation team is proposing. If that is your goal, I invite you to think differently about “challenging and converting” mindsets. People almost never change their mind because they were challenged.

The good news is that there are several ways you can make it more likely for change to be adopted:

  1. Answer the Question

When we’re asked to change, every human being has one overriding question: “Why should I?”

So answer their question. Before proposing a specific change, take the time to connect-the-dots: What about the current situation isn’t working? How will this change improve their life? Their patients’ lives?

When people buy-in to the “why” moving on to the “what” is much easier.

Know your audience here: one person might care more about that data and research while another is more concerned about the institution’s reputation and a third might be more focused on how changes will affect people.

  1. Make Them Partners

People don’t argue with their own input.

After you’ve shared the problem you hope to solve or the results you want to achieve, ask your peers for their ideas about how to make it work. Acknowledge the limitations and competing priorities they face. Ask “How do you think we can do this AND meet your objectives? What might that look like?”

As they share, find ways to incorporate their ideas. Now you’re all implementing a shared solution, not just something you’ve put on them.

  1. Demonstrate Success

Related to connecting what-to-why: Can you pilot the change in one area to demonstrate how desirable it would be for others? Can you find people in that test-case who can be ambassadors for the change with their colleagues and talk about what it’s doing for them and their patients?

  1. Leverage Leaders

Lateral change is easier to accomplish if your supervisor is supportive and reinforces the message. You may have to ask for exactly what you need. e.g.: “I’m hearing regularly from colleagues that these other initiatives are higher priority. Can you clarify for all of us the order of implementation?”

If your supervisor isn’t supportive, take the time to connect your initiative to their goals. What keeps them up at night? What goals do they need to achieve to be successful? Demonstrate how your changes will help them achieve their goals. Then enlist their aid with colleagues.

Here is an article that discusses these conversations with your supervisor or colleagues in more depth: PERSUADE Model

  1. Make Real Change Happen More Easily

People often resist change because they don’t know how to do it. We are more likely to adopt small behaviors than large ones. To make real change happen, ask yourself: Is there a way to focus on one or two fundamental behaviors and then build from there?

  1. Make It the Norm

The brain takes two shortcuts to figure out what to do: the environment and what other people are doing. What in your physical environment can make the change the default action? Consistently keep the new way of doing things in front of people. Tell the stories about how different people are implementing. They should see it every day so that it becomes the assumed “this is how we do things.”

  1. Share the Score

Find a meaningful way to publicly track progress. It may be a scorecard, a weekly video, or stories from patients. When people look at a score that tells them they’re 70% successful, but their colleagues are 92% successful, they often work to close the gap.

  1. Celebrate Success

Acknowledge people who are doing it well, tell the stories of how it’s working for colleagues and patients. Be specific about what people are doing and why it is important. Celebrate in ways that are meaningful to the people you’re acknowledging. This can help win over some of the reluctant people.

Those are a few thoughts to get you started. If I were in your shoes I would start with a conversation with my supervisor about goals and how these changes are supported.

Remember: it takes time to to make real change happen from within an organization. It is also a fantastic way to build your leadership, influence, and credibility.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share: How do you create meaningful change with your peers and colleagues?

(And don’t forget – we’d love to hear your biggest leadership challenge!)


Creative Commons Photo by Mattanalogue

10 questions managers should ask when their teams won't listen

10 Questions Managers Should Ask When Their Team Won’t Listen

One of the most challenging management experiences you’ll encounter is when it feels like your team won’t listen.

  • You share your vision of the future, what the team’s capable of achieving…and are met with shrugs and silent stares.
  • You share a new process to improve results…and everyone keeps on doing what they’ve always done.
  • You make recommendations grounded in real data…and they are ignored.

Leadership Opportunities

These times when it feels like your team won’t listen are great opportunities to build your influence. You might be tempted to turn to fear, power, and a raised voice to get things done, but I invite you to pause and look at what’s happening before you do.

When you learn from these moments your effectiveness will soar, but if you allow yourself to get so frustrated that you turn to fear or power to get things done, you lose credibility and trust.

Here are 10 questions to ask when you feel like your team won’t listen:

1) What do you want?

Whenever you have leadership challenges, the first thing to examine is your own desire.

There’s a big difference between wanting what’s best for the team and wanting what’s best for you. So what is it you really want?

If the answer is compliance “When I say jump, they better ask ‘how high?’ on the way up” – then you’re never going to have a team that truly listens. They will do things out of fear when they must and ignore you when they can.

However, if what you want for the team to achieve great results together…then keep reading.

2) Are you speaking their language?

Do the actual words you use mean the same thing to your team that they mean to you? Are you sharing numbers and facts when stories and demonstrations are needed, or do your stories need more data and explanation?

3) Have you listened?

When you don’t hear what people tell you, they naturally think you don’t care, they lose heart, and they’ll stop caring.

Not sure if your team is being heard? Ask a few team members to share with you: “Is there anything you’ve been trying to tell me that I’m just not hearing?”

Be quiet and listen. Thank them for sharing…and respond in time, even if it’s to explain constraints or why you’re taking a different direction. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to hear.

4) Are you credible?

If your people can say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about” and they have evidence to back up their conclusion, well, expect to be ignored.

You build your credibility. You can’t demand it. Can people trust you? Can they rely on you? Take a moment and seriously consider the answer to these questions. If you were on your own team, would you trust you, based only on what you see and experience?

5) Do you know what matters to your people?

If the values you’re promoting conflict with your team’s values, you’ll have trouble being heard. I worked with a CEO who was disappointed that her employees were leaving work when they were scheduled to leave. She wanted people who valued going the extra distance to get things done. Her employees loved their work, but they also valued their family and friends and considered it nearly immoral to sacrifice family relationships for work.

6) Are you ordering people or inviting them?

Look at both the literal words you’re using as well as the attitude behind them.

Do your words and attitude communicate dignity and equal worth? Or do your words and attitude suggest that you’re better than everyone else and they should just do what they’re told?

7) Have you explained why?

Your team’s lack of response may be because they don’t understand the consequences. Why is this important? How does it make a difference to other people? To the bottom line? Even military briefings include the reasons and objectives behind the orders.

8) Did you check for understanding?

When you share a task and ask “Are there any questions?” you will likely be met with silence.

Don’t assume that silence means they get it. Silence could mean confusion, embarrassment, or that they think they understand.

Rather, ask your team something like: “Let’s make sure we’re on the same page. What are the three things we’re doing coming out of this meeting? Why does this matter? When will these be finished? Make sure they received what you thought you communicated.

9) Have you said it often enough?

I have coached many frustrated leaders who complain that their team is insubordinate or unresponsive.

So then I ask “When was the last time you shared this task or explained what was supposed to happen?”

Some of the answers I’ve heard include:

  • “At that off-site year before last…”
  • “We were in the hallway six months ago…”
  • “At the company meeting last January…”

If you’ve communicated something once, you haven’t communicated.

As hard as it may be for your ego to accept, your team members have other lives. They have constant challenges confronting them every day.

It’s unrealistic to believe that something you said one time, last year, is on everyone’s mind. If it’s important, be the drummer. Keep the beat and consistently communicate the MITs (Most Important Things.)

10) Have you said it in different ways?

People receive information differently. I’m a reader first, audio second, and video third. But many other people get much more from video or other visuals.

As you reinforce the MITs, use different communication techniques.

We recommend 6×3 communication. The idea is to repeat critical information at least six times through three or more channels. For example, you might use a staff meeting, a video, and one-on-one meetings for your three different channels.

Your Turn

When it feels like your team won’t listen, it is easy to get frustrated and give in to the temptation to yell louder. But effective leaders know that when it seems no one’s listening, there are likely other issues that need to be resolved.

If you feel like your team won’t listen, ask yourself these ten questions…and listen to your answers.

Leave us a comment and share: How do you ensure you’ve been heard when communicating with your team?


Creative Commons photo by Bryan Katz

Who’s Influencing Your Leadership?

Pleased to welcome this guest post from Bruce Harpham.

In the world of music, composers and performers are influenced by each other every day. I was recently reminded of this tendency when I enjoyed a performance by pianist Richard Rubin. He showed how Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Broadway composer behind The Phantom of the Opera and other works, liberally borrowed from musical works. In some cases, it is clear who influenced Weber’s work.

Scientists are also heavily influenced by their peers. Ground-breaking scientist Isaac Newton observed, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That is a powerful idea for all leaders to consider. However independent minded you are, others influence your leadership approach.

Choose your leadership influences carefully.

The Rule of Five: Understanding Your Influences

If you take pride in your independence, this section may be hard. As a leader, you are constantly influenced by those you lead, fellow executives and others. Influences are inescapable.

In our complex world, it is challenging to imagine all the influences that impact you. The country you live in, your education, your age, and your leisure pursuits are some of the influences that leave lasting traces.

The most important influence on your leadership is the people all around you. Answering the question “Which five people do I spend the most time with?” is the easiest way to understand your influences. Don’t worry if you don’t like the answer! That discontent gives you the fuel to make a change.

Tip: Start small by changing your focus. Use the final section of this article to find one new person to provide positive leadership influence.

Growth Is Not Automatic: Harness Helpful Influences To Grow

John C. Maxwell’s excellent book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth emphasizes the importance of growth. Maxwell points out that growth happens naturally in childhood. In adulthood, growth is not automatic (except around the waistline!)

You may grow occasionally when a new obstacle comes your way. Accidental growth is not reliable. Would you buy a car that only worked “on occasion?” Not if you valued your time. In order to grow your skills to reach new goals, you must grow intentionally.

With the right influences, greater growth will come fast and furious. Mentors, coaches, sponsors and others can bring new perspectives, questions and resources.

With the wrong influences, your leadership will never grow. Even worse, the constant doubts and negativity will undermine whatever leadership qualities you have.

Accessing New Influences

By this point, you’re convinced about the importance of influence. Even more, you understand that the right influence can push you toward your goals. Read on for ideas to cultivate positive influences.

Books (Hint: Go Beyond The Business Section!)

For years, I have accessed new influences, ideas and opportunities through books. I often find myself browsing through the business section at my bookstore. For growing leaders, that is only the beginning. I also strongly encourage you to read widely – consider Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for Moral Biographies for example.

Here are two book suggestions to bring new influences into your leadership thinking.

  • Tribes by Seth Godin

Godin is best known for his expertise in marketing and the Internet. Tribes is Godin’s contribution to leadership. He points out that today’s tool makes it easier to build a tribe of followers behind your ideas. The only barrier is you. Do you have the skills and commitment to lead?

  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

Known to many for his studies in electricity, Franklin has much to teach us. Franklin regularly changed his occupation: from entrepreneur publisher, to diplomat and American statesman. For those interested in personal development, I also encourage you to read Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography – Franklin’s desire to better himself through self-education, study and moral discipline is well worth studying.

Consulting and Coaching

Once upon a time, accessing consulting was out of reach for most people. That is starting to change. Today, you can hire coaches and consultants for reasonable rates. For less than $500 using a website like Clarity FM, you can obtain helpful, customized recommendations to help you reach your goals.
For the best results, prepare and send out a written agenda for your first meeting. Bring several written questions that you can reference. Now is not the time for an unfocused conversation. For the best results, I recommend bringing a paper notebook (I prefer Moleskine notebooks for their durability and easy-to-handle size) and pen rather than an electronic device.

Follow these seven steps to get the most out of your time working with a coach. I recommend having at least two coaching sessions, with an interval of one to four weeks in between.

  1. Decide on a single goal to pursue, preferably with a clear measure (e.g. “to sell 1,000 copies of my book” or “to land my first executive management role in the financial industry”).
  2. Study your coach’s materials before you contact them. (e.g. visit the person’s website and read multiple articles. If they strike you as promising, I suggest buying and reading one of their books next). Take notes as you study their material. If they cannot clearly communicate their abilities, I suggest you move on.  Tip: Search for coaches and consultants on Google by searching for “keyword coach” or “keyword consultant” (e.g. “project management consultant” or “productivity coach”)
  3. Based on steps 1 and 2, decide whether this coach can help you in your current quest. If yes, continue to the next step. Otherwise, return to step two to review another person.
  4. Prepare for your first meeting with the coach. Complete any forms or questionnaires. Make a list of your goals and questions in writing.
  5. Attend the first meeting with your coach. State your goals clearly and ask for specific homework – vague suggestions such as “work harder” need to be refined and made specific (e.g. improve your ability to give feedback to staff).
  6. Work on your homework from the first session. Make notes on what you achieve and what you want to discuss next time.
  7. Attend the second meeting with your coach. Review your first meeting, homework completed and discuss your next challenge.

Learm more about Bruce here.

5 Ways To Define Your Seat At The Table

You’ve finally got a seat at the table, but your chair feels uncomfortably small. Perhaps you’re sitting in for your boss, or holding an acting assignment. You’ve got an amazing opportunity to impact and influence. Couple your authentic power with a more powerful chair, you’ll be unstoppable. Lead with your whole heart and head.

A Bigger Seat at the Table

A careful approach will improve your influence, impact, and career.

  1. Understand the norms – However silly they may seem, there are likely norms. Approach the scene like kids playing jump rope on a playground. Watch the rope spin a few times before jumping in. How does communication flow? Is there a seating arrangement? Don’t let a silly mishap leave you looking like the rookie.
  2. Do your homework – Knowledge inspires confidence (in you and from them). Carefully review agendas in advance. Talk to your peers to get up to speed on unfamiliar topics. Prepare beyond expectations. Hustle. Learn what you must to lead effectively in this context.
  3. get a seat at the table

  4. Stakeholder your big ideas – If you’re just sitting in for a meeting, talk to your boss about using this as an opportunity to bring up that new idea. If it’s a longer term gig, you’ll have a window to showcase even more capabilities. Take time to stakeholder your ideas offline one-on-one with opinion leaders. Ask them to help you fine-tune your thinking and presentation. You will feel more confident, and the idea will sell better, with a few key supporters.
  5. Speak up – Leaders often waste their seat at the table. Sure they take good notes, and report back, but they don’t influence. You have great insights. Share your truth. Resist the urge to just nod in agreement.
  6. Build deeper relationships – However temporary, a seat at the table is a great way to build deep connections. Build relationships and professional intimacy with your temporary peers. Let them know who you are and what you value. Be extraordinarily helpful.

Open-Space Leadership: When Less is More

Sometimes leadership is just about creating an open-space and getting out-of-the-way.

I love using Open-Space Technology with a large group to generate ideas. It’s an amazing, high-energy, low-cost way to hold a powerful meeting. Participants essentially create their own agenda and self-organize into groups to discuss topics that matter to them. Although it’s useful to have a trained facilitator help with the effort, I have found it works just fine with the leader serving both as host and organizer.

“We have discovered, through countless pointed lessons, that there is precisely one way to mess up an Open-Space and only one way. And that is to think that you are in charge of what happens, or worse yet, to act that way. Truthfully, the facilitator has little if anything of a substantive nature to contribute. No fixes, no interventions or at least not of an obvious sort. For a brief time at the beginning, the facilitator holds center stage (literally), and then it is essential to get out-of-the-way.”
~ Harrison Owen, Founder of Open-Space Technology

Open Space in Action: One Example

Last week, I held an Open-Space Meeting with over 100 participants discussing the topic: How Can We Be More Influential Leaders?

We started in a big circle, set up the process and guiding principles and we were off (see resource links in the post for more how-tos). WIthin 15 minutes we had generated 18 fascinating topics to be discussed throughout the next 3 hours in concurrent sessions. Team members stepped up to own and facilitate topics. Participants could move freely from session to session. The conversation was robust. We then ended back in the circle where each participant-turned facilitator shared highlights from the conversation and next steps.

The topics were an interesting mix of leadership development, business-processes, how-tos, and best practice sharing. Some topics were inspired by challenges, others by success. Some chose to teach and share, while others chose to facilitate through lots of questions. We ended with many ideas and actionable next steps.

The spirit and the energy in the room was palpable. This was a group inspired to change things.

Why it Worked

I asked the team why it worked. Here’s some of the thinking:

  • I had a chance to think about the topic I would share in advance, and I came prepared with some ideas on how to facilitate the discussion
  • I chose a topic that I was passionate about it was cool to see how many others shared that same interest
  • We got to talk about exactly what we needed to, with the people we needed to
  • It was intriguing to see where the interest was which topics attracted the biggest following.
  • Now we know what matters most to our organization for future work
  • It was cool to see how many people in our remote group are all sharing the same experiences.
  • I found kindred spirits
  • I was heard
  • Some fantastic ideas were shared that I can take back and use immediately
  • Even though only a few people showed up to my session, we got started on some important work and I have already set up a follow-up conference call to build on our actions

A Leader’s Perspective

Our topic of “Influence” lent itself well to this technique. By stepping back as the leader and providing space for the conversation to emerge, I could model some of the most important parts of influence– listening and understanding. The team became the teachers. The spirit of this exercise can be translated in other ways as they go back to their daily work and provide influence in those environments.

We also set this up in advance as an important developmental opportunity for the team. Open-space sessions are a gentle and friendly way to practice facilitation and public speaking. I was delighted with the preparation and delivery of the team.

I was inspired by the opportunity to travel freely from session to session as a participant. It’s great to experience such inspired thought leadership from people at all levels and roles within the organization. If I had built the agenda myself, I would have overlooked some of the most popular topics.