7 questions to ask yourself to be a better leader

7 Questions to Ask Yourself to Be a Better Leader

To be a better leader, start with you.

When we work with leaders, the first questions we ask usually produce a pause, followed by a thoughtful, “That’s a great question.” If you want to be a better leader, you can use these same questions to examine your motivations and focus your work. Your influence starts with how you lead yourself. Reflecting on your answers to these seven questions will give you a strong foundation to influence others:

1) What do I really want?

When priorities multiply and you’re reactively running around, stop and clarify the M.I.T.  What is the Most Important Thing that you can achieve right now? In the middle of a leadership crisis, nothing provides clarity like this question.

Asking “what do I really want”  helps cut through drama and confusion. What do you want to happen because of your leadership in this situation? Sometimes you’ll find that you’ve been acting from an entirely different set of motivations than what it is you want deep down, where it matters. Many leaders sacrifice influence because they try to be “right” – to prove something, but underneath all that,  what they want is to be effective and accomplish the mission.

2) What are my values and personal mission?

Self-leadership strengthens when you know your own values and understand your purpose—what matters to you, what makes your heart sing when you are most alive. When you work from this energy, it’s naturally attractive to like-minded team members and you motivate almost without knowing it. If you haven’t done this work, it can be worth finding a coach or mentor to help you explore what matters most.

3) Am I choosing problems or trying to avoid problems?

Solving problems is central to meaningful leadership, but many leaders fall into a trap of trying to avoid problems. You don’t get to choose whether you’ll have problems, but often you DO get to choose which set of problems you’ll have. Effective leaders don’t waste time and emotional energy trying to avoid problems. Rather, they put their energy into working on the right set of problems—the ones that get them closer to their vision.

For leaders, it’s not IF problems, but WHICH problems.

For example:

  • Do you want the discomfort of learning how to address poor performance or do you want the discomfort of a team with poor morale and worse results?
  • Do you prefer the pain of changing your strategy or the pain of discovering your team is no longer relevant?

4) Am I willing to pay the cost to be a better leader?

In question #1, you looked at what you really want.

Now it’s time to look at the cost.

When you work to be a better leader and change things, it will include risk, discomfort, being misunderstood, and sacrificing other goals. Are you willing to accept the consequences of pursuing your vision? If not, you can’t possibly expect your team to come along with you.

5) Am I working for my team or myself?

Time to take a hard look in the mirror. No one will truly know the answer to this one but you.

When your decisions are in your heart and your head before you’ve given them a voice, do you filter them through what’s best for you – or best for your team? Are you saying “I”… or “we”?

It’s okay to include your own well-being in your decisions (you are one of the team after all!) But you won’t have influence if your team isn’t at the center of your leadership decisions.

6) How can I achieve the results I want to see?

We love this one because it puts you in the driver’s seat.

When you find yourself frustrated at circumstances, upset that people “just don’t get it”, or discouraged that things didn’t go as you hoped, you’ve got a choice:

Bemoan the unfairness of the universe (which inspires no one) or look at the situation and see where you can take action. Just asking the question completely reframes the situation and can transform a gloomy attitude in seconds.

7) Are my people better off because of their time with me?

This is a critical question if you want to be a better leader and have more influence. When people know that you care about them, that you help them grow, and that they’re more capable, they’ll follow you.

If the answer is yes, keep going. If the answer is no, examine the reasons.

Do you need to improve your skills? Do you need to wrestle with the earlier questions we listed?

Your Turn

We’ve used these 7 questions regularly to help us adjust and refocus when our leadership feels dull or confused.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share: What questions do you use to lead yourself and maintain your influence?

What To Do When You’re Losing Your Soul

 

 

What do you do when you feel like you’re losing your leadership soul? You don’t like how you’re treating people. You’re not living up to your own values. Or you’re overwhelmed and not sure you can get the results you’re accountable to achieve.

Most leaders experience these feelings of isolation, bitterness, or burnout at some point in their career—but you don’t have to stay there. In this episode you’ll get practical ways to figure out why you feel like you’re losing your soul and what you can do to reclaim it. You can achieve breakthrough results—without sacrificing your humanity in the process.

Tools from this episode:

how to discuss expectations violations

5 Stages of Manager Soul Loss pdfFive stages of manager soul loss

inspire your team and double productivity

Start Here to Inspire Your Team and Double Productivity

 

As a leader, there is one connection you can make that will do more to inspire your team and increase productivity than anything else you might say. In fact, when you move from none of this to all of it, you can double your team’s productivity.

 

6 steps help team navigate change

6 Smart Steps to Help Your Team Navigate Change

Change is Inevitable, Strategic Change is a Choice

It’s a hard truth that confounds many leaders: continued success requires continued change.

But change isn’t easy. For most people (and therefore most of your team) it’s more comfortable to do what you did yesterday than to do something new today.

One of the critical roles every leader plays is to help their teams to navigate change successfully. Not just change for the sake of change, but strategic change that achieves breakthrough results.

Transforming results requires every heart and brain working together. Change requires confidence and inclusion, not selling. When you take your audacious vision and make it feel real, practical, and achievable, your team will be energized and ready for what’s next.

1. Establish a clear vision

Be crystal clear about what you want to accomplish. Communicate and reinforce your vision through every medium possible. When you’re sure everyone’s got it, communicate even more. It’s important to explain the reasons behind a change as well as to identify the specific behaviors you need from employees in each role.

2. Be honest about the benefits

The notion that all that employees care about is WIIFM—what’s in it for me?—is BS. Sure, employees want to know what’s in it for them. They equally want to know what’s in it for you and for their customers.

It’s not enough to be clear about the “What?” – they’ve got to know the “Why?” as well. In the absence of information, people often jump to the most pathological conclusion. Leave out key information and they fill in the blanks with assumptions (e.g., “the next thing you’ll do is downsize.”) They want to know that you’ve thought this through with your brain and not just your pocketbook.

3. Start small

Don’t advocate for an idea or change that’s half-baked or full of flaws. Test it first with a small group, take their feedback seriously, and get it right. It’s tough to regain credibility. “Oh yeah, I admit it stank before, but now it’s better,” only leaves people wondering why some bozo made a choice to sing praises for an idea, system, or process that was full of problems in the real world.

Even if it looks great on paper, your boss is sold, and it worked well in the IT war room, field test the change first.

Yes, this takes time. Go slow to go fast.

Take the risk of making some waves to make it easy for your team. You might be slower out of the gate than others, but when you get it right and everyone owns it, you’ll sustain your results and be ready for the next change.

4. Establish easy-to-access listening posts

This is perhaps the most important part. Really listen to what your people tell you. Respond to feedback with solutions, not selling. When you fix something, communicate it back using the 5×5 method – 5 times, 5 different ways. Ask, “How can we address this and make the change serve its purpose?”

5. Leverage reluctant testimony

Share as many testimonials as you can, especially from people who were doubtful at first. Get your most excited employees showing how your new idea, system, or process changed their world. Your most influential stories will come from the least likely suspects: the sales guy who never bothered with this stuff before, the new rep who’s now running circles around the old-timers because she uses the new system, the supervisor who got his entire team (including the union steward) performing acrobatics with the new process.

6. Involve the team in key decisions

No one wants stuff done to them, or even for them. With them goes a lot further. Ask employees, “What’s working well and how do we leverage it? What enhancements do we need? Where should we head next?” All these questions go a long way. Include employees by involving them in your change efforts.

Your Turn

Leave a comment and share with us your best leadership strategy to help your team navigate change.

Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development