How Great Leaders CommunicateDo you ever think about taking all the great leaders you’ve had the pleasure of working for or with and putting them in one room for a day?

What if you took all the traits that made each of them who they are and combined them into one person, creating a sort of all-star team of leadership traits?

Gretchen Rosswurm's article Leaders Communicate and Communicators Lead inspired this idea.

She looked at the many executives she’s worked with over the years and drew some common denominators.

Five Ways Great Leaders Communicate

What would you add? What great leaders inspire you?

Thanks to Eyetalk for the image.

The Confident Leader and The Competent LeaderIf one searches for lists of the top characteristics of leaders, it is likely that many would include confidence. This makes sense: If leaders are uncertain about themselves and their decisions, how can they instill confidence in their employees? It seems a confident leader could readily inspire, self-assuredly take risks, and assertively address organizational conflicts and issues.

What if a confident leader was asked to rate her competence? Would she over-estimate, under-estimate, or fairly assess her level of competence?

Interesting question.

What are the chances that a confident leader is overly-confident in certain areas due to the fact that she is confident to begin with?

Inability to Assess One’s Competence Accurately

In many intellectual and social domains, most people tend to overestimate their abilities. They tend to believe they are better than average. This is referred to as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Those who overestimate their abilities face two major consequences. First, they lack the insight to recognize their true or objective competence level. Second, their lack recognition of this fact may lead them to make poor decisions.

Leaders’ Coaching Abilities

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman published their results of a study that asked leaders to evaluate their coaching competence.

Data was collected from a pool of 3,761 leaders. Participants were asked to self-assess their coaching competence. After their self-assessment, their coaching competence was evaluated by others.

On average, leaders who were confident in their coaching competence tended to overrate their abilities in the self-assessment. They scored below average (by others) in coaching effectiveness (32nd percentile).

Leaders who underrated their coaching proficiency scored above average (by others) in coaching effectiveness (57th percentile).

Is Competence the Wellspring of the Confident Leader?

We assume confidence comes from competence.

It’s an assumption we cling to regardless of whether we are choosing a handyman, an accountant, or a mechanic.

This assumption also occurs in the workplace. It manifests itself through hiring decisions, and our assessments of our coworkers, direct reports, and superiors.

The assumption is simply wrong.

As we have seen, a confident leader or a leader who has poor self-assessment skills, or is trying to compensate for a certain ignorance is frequently one who over-assesses his abilities.

If confidence is not a great indicator for competence, what is?

The Competent Leader

If confidence has mixed reviews when determining a leader’s competence, what characteristics of a leader may indicate a better measure of competence or at least the likelihood that this leader is not suffering from an overestimation of abilities? Three characteristics immediately come to mind.

To avoid the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a leader must continually evaluate his/her strengths and weaknesses. No leaders have all the answers. Many competent leaders are aware of this fact.

Self-awareness is important for leadership. Know your blind spots. Remember mistakes and learn from them. Do you lack these insights? Then try these free online tests Myers Briggs, DISC, and Strengthsfinder.

True or deep listeners have the ability to listen intuitively to someone’s conversation while evaluating its true depth and meaning.

The good listener listens to discover “How can I help the other person?”

Ask for feedback and constructive criticism from everyone: Coworkers, subordinates, customers, and even friends. Ask that it be unfiltered and honest. Each criticism allows for self-growth and self-awareness.

Become A Confident Leader by Improving Competence

Notice how the three measures of competence above involve external sources, which help inform your internal self-assessment.

They provide the dose of objectivism you need to continue along the path of competent leadership and avoid the pitfalls of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

As Bertrand Russell once said: “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Team Members Every Business NeedsTeam building is both an art and a science. It takes great leadership to build a high-performing team. It requires leaders who aren’t afraid to make difficult decisions and establish standards of performance. And who hold their team accountable when those standards aren’t met.

To build an effective team, you need to understand people: Their strengths, weaknesses, and what gets them excited to work with others. Build your team by matching people’s strengths to their jobs and give them responsibilities based on their skill set, not who you like the most.

Alan Hall, contributor to Forbes, says he views a business leader as a coach. “The job of the coach is to recruit and hire the right people to accomplish given assignments."

He shares the most critical team members any organization must have to be successful.

Five Executives Every Team Needs

The Leader

The leader encourages, motivates, rewards, and provides feedback on job performance. They also aren’t afraid to correct mistakes and let their team learn and grow. “This leader knows if he takes care of his employees, they will provide superior service to customers, who will, in turn, continue to buy and tell their friends to do the same,” says Hall.

The Expert

“Great business leaders succeed because they hire people who know the industry: The trends, the competitors, the market place, the customers, the products they sell, the vendors, and investors,” says Hall.  Experts have experience and bring deep knowledge to projects, they guide the team on what works and what doesn’t, and they mentor others to learn the business.

The Financial Officer

Every successful business needs a talented and experienced financial officer.  “No company can survive or prosper without a person who understands accounting, finance, strategy, and cash flow management,” says Hall. He also suggests having regular meetings between the financial officer and the rest of the team so everyone is aware of where the company is financially and what must be done to be successful.

The Strategist

Business owners are busy taking care of the day-to-day, so they need a strategist to report on the industry trends, changes in customer behavior, and new competitors. Someone who can comprehend and report on opportunities and challenges they see in the present and down the road.

The Executer

This person is typically the chief operating officer. They own the responsibility to execute and implement company plans. They know what needs to be done, when, and how. They hire a staff of employees with specific duties to accomplish the company’s vision and goals. This staff is “the heart of the organization and deliver what customers want and buy,” says Hall.

Building and growing a company requires the know-how to build strong teams. If you want to be successful, you need to bring on others to help. You can’t do everything on your own.

Does your business have these five executives?

Leaders - Five Things Your Team Hates about Your Leadership StyleNo matter how much you try to create an open workplace culture, encourage debate, those lower down the office hierarchy have a natural tendency to cover up reality for those towards the top.

Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies Ltd. and contributor to HBR Blog Network, conducted a flash survey of his social media universe and asked, “What’s the one thing you’d like your boss to stop doing?”

He asked on Facebook, Twitter, and the internal social media platform at HCL.

He shares the top pieces of advice.

Tell it Like it is

Don’t worry if you’ll hurt people’s feelings and let them know where they stand.

Some of the responses Nayar received from his community were:

Nayar says, “No rose-tinted spectacles for today's employee; they have the pluck to look at their failures and successes and have little patience for circuitous comments.”

It’s hard to give constructive criticism, but it’s important to let your team know exactly where they stand. If you don’t, it will just annoy them and they’ll undermine your trust and leadership.

Coach, Enable, and Support

Don’t tell your team what you know. A young lady on Facebook said, “Give us freedom, exposure, and guidance.”

Nayar suggests leaders move from being knowledge-providers to enablers. “Create the platform for your team to perform and back them by providing guidance and support,” he says.

Leaders also need to not only provide feedback to their team, but also solicit it from them.

Practice What You Preach

In comments such as “Do away with the lack of congruence between your actions and your words because I need to trust you.,” it’s evident they are looking for role models, Nayar says.

Leaders must inspire and teach through their own actions. As a leader, you need to be a role model for your team.

Don’t Play Favorites

We have measurable goals so it’s no longer okay for an employee with weak performance to rise up the ladder.

Nayar says, the need to measure and be objective cannot be stressed enough. This is evident in one comment, “Reward performance, not sycophancy.”

Encourage your team more and take an interest in their development.

Be a Leader

Lead by example, not by rules,” wrote someone on Facebook.

Another respondent quoted Gordon Selfridge: “A boss inspires fear, a leader inspires enthusiasm.”

Employees want respect-worthy leaders.

If you see a decline in your employee’s enthusiasm you may want to see if there is disconnect between your leadership style and your team’s expectations, suggests Nayar. Simply ask them, “What’s the one thing you want me to stop doing as your boss?”

You might be surprised at what you find out.

Do you have the courage to ask your team this question?

How Leaders Can Get Out of Their Own WayBeing a leader is challenging in the best of times. Leaders are only as good as the information they receive (which is rarely complete or conveyed in a timely manner) and the resources they can marshal (usually, it seems, never enough). In the midst of execution, communications with the team can sometimes be misleading, imprecise, and just plain wrong.

Given all that, says Les McKeown, a contributor to Inc., why do so many leaders compound the difficulty “simply by getting in their own way?”

It happens when leaders add “self-imposed—albeit unconscious—constraints on their ability to lead well,” he adds.

According to McKeown, a bestselling author and CEO of Predictable Success, three scenarios in particular occur with such frequency we should look more closely at how we sabotage our own best efforts.

Victims of False Assumptions

Executives gather to address a pending key decision. Their discussion is candid and straightforward. People are engaged and forthcoming with ideas. So what’s the problem?

The problem is, as McKeown puts it, the discussion only covers “about 20 percent of the waterfront.” One or more of the leaders involved come to the discussion burdened with presuppositions that grow out of their personal experience and preferences, “some or all of which may or may not be relevant to the matter under discussion,” says McKeown. As a result, a range of potential solutions never get brought up at all.

Assumptions lurk in our subconscious, meaning we don’t usually hold them up for examination (even though we believe deeply in them).

McKeown suggests this corrective action: The next time you face an important decision, take a few minutes to think about all the presuppositions you might have concerning this issue. Write down your thoughts without editing or defending them. Share them with your colleagues at the meeting. A “much deeper, richer and effective discussion” will likely ensue he adds.

Make Your Plans Based on People, Not Roles

Rather than take actions based on the proper response to market demands, many leaders make key strategic decisions based on what they think their team can deliver. McKeown warns against lowering your standards and expectations because of your team’s limited range and abilities.

“If you have people in roles that aren’t capable of delivering what that role should be, your first priority is to upskill, coach, mentor, or hire that skill into your organization,” says McKeown.

If this sounds too intimidating to pull off, remember your competitors have no such hesitations. If they’re beating you in the marketplace, it’s because they’re tapping into their team’s best resources and they refuse to compromise on their strategic goals.

Delegate Only to Those You Trust

Trust is hard to come by, but when a team member has earned that trust, he or she falls into your mental “go-to” category. When an important task needs to be completed, leaders tend to assign it to that trusted colleague, regardless of the situation. This tendency “makes leaders lazy and teams weak.”

There’s nothing wrong with relying on a person you can trust, but this person can’t do everything. Others on the team will become resentful and demoralized, particularly if they don’t see a way to break into your trust-system.

When you fall back on one person to get things done, McKeown says, “You’re subconsciously abdicating one of the most important tasks of leadership: The hard work involved in building and spreading trust in your team as a whole.”

Leading isn’t always easy, and we often get in our own way. They key is to recognize when we make our already stressful job more complicated.

What assumptions are getting in your way as a leader?

Thanks to Ego Friendly for the image.

How Can Leaders Avoid Burnout: Part OneLeaders in their quest to move the business forward, get to the point where they exhaust themselves. The business they started with passion is eating all their time, they work more hours and days without taking time off.

This article in Forbes talks about how leaders can avoid burnout.

We're certainly in a position to be doing more with less...and have been for a few years now. So what are we to do about it?


Ten Ways Leaders Can Avoid Burnout

Well, the article's author suggested 10 tips:

  1. Get in the Right Mindset
  2. Establish Fair Expectations
  3. Make Progress with Small Steps
  4. Keep Your Goals in Mind
  5. Prioritize What You Do Best
  6. Create a Support Team
  7. Set Strong Boundaries
  8. Shake Up Your Routine
  9. Indulge Guilty Pleasures—Daily
  10. Take Time Off

Today and tomorrow we'll explore each.

Get in the Right Mindset

Leading, and growing, a business is a marathon. Just like training for such a race, you need to have strong and long weeks with taper weeks and rest days in between. During the next 30 days, choose three days that you aren't going to take any meetings, phone calls, or interruptions. You're at your desk solely to get things accomplished. Those can be considered your long runs.

Establish Fair Expectations

By now you're accustomed to forecasting and re-forecasting and re-forecasting again. Be fair in your expectations, both of yourself and of your team members. Be aggressive, but not unrealistic.

Make Progress with Small Steps

There are business leaders who set aside one day a week to work on the business, instead of in it. The appointment is on their calendars and nothing gets in the way of it. It may take a little bit longer to accomplish things this way, but some entrepreneurs have been able to launch a second business using their one day a week mantra.

Keep Your Goals In Mind

It's easy to be distracted by the economy, the shiny newest tool in social media, or the latest customer fire. If you know what your goals are for leading the business, you'll make more informed decisions when under pressure.

Prioritize What You Do Best

It's sometimes easier to just do things yourself, but does that mean you're the best person for the job? It may be as tactical as sitting at your desk, outlining everything on your to-do list, and determining who is the best person in your office to do the job. If you don't have someone to do something, such as administrative work, consider outsourcing.

Tomorrow we'll explore the last five tips. In the meantime, are there tips you have that work well for you, as a leader?

Leaders: Five Transitions Great Ones MakeThe most successful business people recognize that leadership ability is the sum of experience and perspective. So what sets successful leaders apart from the average?

In a Forbes post from 2013, contributor and leadership advisor Mike Myatt outlines five transitional phases that all great leaders move through to go from good to great.

Leaders Find Purpose

The best business leaders recognize the importance of common purpose and shared values to the success of their organizations. Purpose is a defining characteristic that shapes passion, and helps dictate a strong work ethic.

Myatt points out that those driven by profit may find themselves successful for a short time, but “great leaders make the transition from profit to purpose.”

He notes that a lesson many average business people miss is the role of profit in a company’s success. While all businesses exist to make money, great leaders recognize that purpose at the personal and organizational level is the key to prolonged success.

People First

For Myatt, the role of a leader is inspiring change and helping others recognize value in themselves, and the organization.

“Average leaders spend time scaling processes, systems, and models — great leaders focus on scaling leadership.”

Being a great leader involves some level of introspection and humility, and recognizing that trust, loyalty, and respect from your employees are earned through the way that you lead.

Develop Awareness

“Great leaders are self aware, organizationally aware, contextually aware, and emotionally aware.”

They embrace an open leadership style focused on learning and listening from everyone in their organization, and aren’t threatened when their decisions and positions are challenged.

Leaders who are unwilling to change their minds when challenged by their employees won’t grow and develop as leaders.

Shun Complexity

Great innovators are continually looking for ways to simplify the way they do business, for the benefit of their customers and their employees.

Myatt argues that complexity in the organization stifles innovation and negatively impacts culture. Think about the way that your organization delivers value to clients, partners, and employees.

If a process can be streamlined for efficiency without sacrificing quality, simplify.

Get Personal

“Great leaders understand nothing is more personal than leadership, and they engage accordingly. The best leaders understand a failure to engage is a failure to lead,” says Myatt.

Businesses are human-powered enterprises, and truly effective and mature leaders demonstrate empathy and compassion at every turn. They listen carefully to those around them, coach employees through complex problems, and always look for opportunities to learn from their teams.

Performance is achieved by helping others become successful.

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