Friday, 30 March 2012

Balancing Motivation and Follow Through for Yourself

As a leader, how do you balance the need to self-motivate vs. follow through?

When approaching a difficult task—getting to the gym, writing an important presentation, attending to an issue in your workplace — you may chide yourself for lacking motivation to get it done. However, it's often not a question of motivation, but follow through. You may want to do the task—you know it's important—but your brain talks you out of it. You tell yourself you can do it tomorrow or you have more urgent things to do. Don't let your mind sabotage your aspirations. Make a specific decision about what you want to do - by a fixed time - and then don't question it. Tell yourself: I will work out tomorrow at 6 AM or I will finish the presentation by Tuesday at 1 PM. If your mind starts to argue with you, ignore it.

Adapted from "Your Problem Isn't Motivation" by Peter Bregman.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Are you Mentoring? If not, why not?

As a leader, are you mentoring the next generation of leaders?

It's rewarding to become a mentor and it's a role that every leader should take on. But you can't take every young, aspiring leader under your wing. Ask yourself these three questions to choose the right protégé:
  • How motivated is the mentee? Assess the reasons for the junior person's drive to become a leader. Your mentee has to be motivated if you're going to have a successful relationship.  Do your values align? 
  • How far is there to go? Where is the mentee in terms of experience versus where she wants to be? You should take someone on with developmental gaps that you can help fill.
  • Do I have the relevant experience and time? You never want to shortchange a mentoring relationship. Be sure you can effectively support the mentee in terms of knowledge and effort.  Remember, you're 'serving' be ready to provide the time, energy, and skills needed to help.

Adapted from "Get the Mentoring Equation Right" by Whitney Johnson.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Planning Strategically for Meetings

As a leader, are you planning strategically for your meetings?

From the moment you send a meeting invite, as the meeting organizer you are responsible for setting the right tone and making the meeting a success. Here are three things you should do before people get in the room:
  • Clarify the objective. Make sure people know why they're invited. If it's to make a decision, give participants the time and materials they need to prepare.
  • Prep important people. Talk with key participants about agenda items ahead of time. You may hear insights that could change how you run the meeting.
  • Include everyone who needs to be there.  Think carefully about who needs to be there.  Who truly cares about the topics?  Who has valuable knowledge insights?  Who might bring valuable divergent thinking to the group?
  • Expect full participation. Ask attendees to do their homework, come with relevant materials, and show up ready to contribute.

Adapted from Guide to Project Management (HBR OnPoint Collection).

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Committing to Continuous Personal Growth

As a leader, how have you committed to continuous personal growth?

Early in your career, you may ask mentors to help you with specific skills. But as you face mid-career challenges, you need mentoring that's tailored to your individual strengths and learning goals. And, you need mentors who can increase your access to leader-learning opportunities. Work with advisers who can help you take the skills you've honed in your current role and apply them to broader challenges in order to increase your effectiveness. Attract these mentors by demonstrating your experience and articulating your eagerness and commitment to continuous personal growth.

Adapted from Guide to Getting the Mentoring You Need (Harvard Business Review Press).

Monday, 26 March 2012

Say Less and Convey More

As a leader, did you keep your communications concise and focused on your key messages?

When you're giving a presentation and nervousness kicks in, it's tough to be brief. But, your audience expects you to state your conclusion and stand behind it, not ramble on aimlessly. You can only do that if you zero in on the purpose. When you prepare for your talk, work backwards. Before you put anything down on paper, know the key messages you want your audience to remember. Ask yourself: If my presentation were 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes, what would I say? Force yourself to summarize your key points. Once you've done that, think through what other information you'll need to support that point and build your presentation from there.  Remember.....less is more.

Adapted from "In Presentations, Learn to Say Less" by Ron Ashkenas.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Providing Effective Feedback

As a leader, how effective are you are providing feedback?

Feedback is problematic. Leaders often dislike giving it and the members of your staff rarely get enough to help them learn and to change their behaviors. But feedback, both positive and negative, is an important tool for learning, effective work, and career growth. Next time you talk with someone about their performance, follow these four steps:
  • Be specific. Feedback needs to be actionable. Use concrete examples to back up your observations. Avoid generalizations. Instead, describe the behavior clearly and specifically.
  • State the impact. Tell the person how his behavior is affecting you, the team, or the school/organization.
  • Prescribe. Be specific about what needs to change. Often employees won't know what to change unless you tell them.  Be sure to check for understanding.  Does your staff member truly understand what you expect of them?
  • Do it often. Get in the habit of praising good performance and identifying troublesome behavior.

Adapted from Guide to Giving Effective Feedback (HBR OnPoint Collection).

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Using Clear, Precise Language

As a leader, are you using clear, precise language.....or filler?

Meaningless phrases, such as "To be honest" and "Like I said," or euphemisms often creep up in meetings and presentations. Using these expressions undermines your credibility. Try replacing this filler language with meaning by doing the following:
  • Switch from conditional to declarative. Couching statements with phrases like "I believe" or "We think" weakens your argument. Strengthen your points by cutting to the chase. If you must use the conditional, try the stronger "We're confident" or "We expect."
  • Be positive. Negative statements sound defensive and fail to provide information. Instead of saying "What we're not is…" tell your audience exactly what you are.
  • Lose the euphemisms.  Use clear, precise language that means something to participants.  Euphemisms suggest that you're unsure or you're hedging.   

Adapted from "Replace Meaningless Words with Meaningful Ones" by Jerry Weissman.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Working On What Really Matters to You

As a leader, how do you know if you are truly working on what matters most?

Do you truly understand how you spend your time? Most people assume they dedicate more hours to strategic work than they actually do. Look back on the past month in your calendar. Add up the time you spent on your strategic priorities. Was it enough? It's likely less than you thought. That's because most people tend to do the most urgent things instead of the most meaningful things. Identify your top five priorities for the coming year, and each month make sure you spend enough time on those priorities. If you don't, it's time to cancel some meetings and build in time for the things that matter.

Adapted from "Make Time for Time" by Anthony K. Tjan.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Building Capacity by Giving Away Responsibility

As a leader, do you build capacity by giving things away?

Entrusting the responsibility for a project to someone else can be tough. But if you don't rely on others, you'll always end up doing everything yourself...and you don't build capacity within your school/organization.  Essentially, you'll shortchange those who could learn by taking on new tasks. Once you delegate something, don't be tempted to micromanage the process. Agree on the expected outcomes and just let go. If you've asked a team member to take care of an important presentation, don't spend endless time on edits and corrections. Be clear on the parameters and remove yourself so she can do it her way, not yours. This is much more efficient than taking over, and the end product will likely be better.

Remember.....great leaders are always trying to do themselves out of a job.

Adapted from "Be More Productive by Making Better Daily Choices" by Ana Dutra.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Ensuring Better Attendance at Meetings

As a leader, how might you ensure better attendance at meetings?

No matter how well you've prepared your meeting, things will go wrong. One of the more common disruptions is attendees showing up late. If people belatedly walk in, try these three things:
  • Don't recap. Resist the temptation to catch up latecomers. Keep moving forward. You can update them afterward.
  • Assign a job. If you sense someone might be late, give her something to do during the meeting. If she has a job, she's more likely to show up on time.
  • Walk him there. Physically help a chronic latecomer get to the meeting. Stop by his desk at the appointed time and ask if you can walk together.  It's the courteous and respectful way to do it.

Adapted from Guide to Making Every Meeting Matter.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Reducing Fear of Public Speaking

As a leader, how effective are you when speaking in public?

All leaders need to speak to groups small and large.  Good preparation reduces performance anxiety. Next time you need to present to an audience, follow these four steps:
  • Be confident in your topic. Your audience already believes that you're the expert, so don't try to bluff. If the people you're presenting to feel you're unsure of your material, they'll lose trust in you.
  • Imagine questions people might ask. Construct answers before you give your presentation. Either incorporate the answers into your presentation or be ready to provide them during Q&A.
  • Memorize the first minute of your presentation. You experience your greatest anxiety at the beginning of a presentation. Knowing the opening of your presentation will give you a good start.
  • Once done, look back.  Once you're done, reflect on what you accomplished.  What went really well that you can do again another time?  What might you change next time you need to speak?

Adapted from Guide to Persuasive Presentations (HBR OnPoint Collection).

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Engaging with Social Media - Do It...but Wisely

As a leader, are you wisely engaged with social media? 

Social media is not just for socializing. When handled correctly, you can use it to enhance yourself personally, establish your expertise, engage in learning, or demonstrate your digital fluency. Commit to using social media for professional reasons but be proactive about managing your activity and image. Consider what potential employers or colleagues will see—you don't want them to discover only pictures of you and your dog, or worse. Make sure at a minimum you have a LinkedIn - or similar - account with a completed profile. Try tweeting or blogging about your area of expertise, thereby creating content that others can forward, retweet, or repost. This can help you establish yourself as an expert and a leader who is truly passionate about your work.  As well, be sure to access the knowledge of others who are also engaged!

Adapted from "Boost Your Career with Social Media: Tips for the Uninitiated" by Amy Gallo.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Leading Meetings When No One Wants to Talk

As a leader, how do you handle meetings when participants don't want to speak up?

Discussions during meetings can be feast or famine. Either you can't get a word in edgewise or no one speaks up. Next time your meeting falls silent, try these tactics:
  • Let it be. Wait a moment before breaking the silence and offering a suggestion. The group may need time to reflect on an idea.
  • Name it. Call out what's happening, and ask the group about it, "It seems we've gone quiet. Does anyone want to talk about what's going on?"
  • Take a break. Sometimes a short break gives people the chance to refocus.
  • Think facilitation.  Rethink the processes used in your meetings.  Do your meetings included facilitated discussions?  If not, this might be just what you need to balance the amount of conversation.

Adapted from Guide to Making Every Meeting Matter (HBR OnPoint Collection).

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

As a leader, do you ask the right questions to move forward the work of your school/organization?

As a leader, you have responsibility to set direction, sustain the vision of your school/organization, develop the people within the organization, lead and manage your core business, and secure accountability.  It's a tall order for anyone.  All skilled leaders know that facilitated processes are the most effective to build depth of understanding of issues, to create strategies for moving the work forward, and for ensuring buy-in on the part of staff.  It's a lot to do but this picture is a common one for knowledgeable leaders who get results. 

But something's missing.  Even if we demonstrate these behaviours, we may miss the mark with our facilitated processes if we don't ask the right questions during the processes.  This became painfully evident for me very recently at a facilitated session.  Without the right questions even the most dedicated members of staff can take your school's/organization's work off in different directions. 

Next time you call people together for a facilitated process - regardless of the purpose - be absolutely certain that you're working with the right questions.  If your question isn't finely tuned to your school's/organization's needs, you'll end up with high-quality work......but it won't be the work you need. 

It just might be time to brush up on your facilitation skills or to invest in the skills of a well-experienced outsider.  A misguided facilitation can get you going quickly in the wrong direction.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Leadership Presence

As a leader, how do you build your leadership 'presence'?

Simply because you hold a leadership role, it doesn't mean that you have 'leader presence'.  Leader presence is not an innate quality; it is a set of behaviors that you can learn over time. Whether you are a natural wallflower or a social butterfly, you can enhance your presence by doing the following:
  • Focus and relax. Calm is the foundation of presence. Use your breathing as an anchor that you return to when you get stressed or start to lose focus.
  • Gain awareness. To change your behavior, you need to know how you are perceived. Pay attention to how people react to you and ask for candid feedback from those you trust.
  • Practice with support. Telling a colleague or mentor you're working on presence can boost your skills and confidence. The feedback you receive can also reinforce momentum.
  • Start by buying time. One of the first behaviours to demonstrate presence is informing those who ask questions that you need some time.  Try saying this:  "This is important.  I want to give it some thought and to check with some others.  I don't want to rush my response.  I'll get back to you tomorrow."  Comments like this build your presence by indicating that you take time, you see what's important, you think things through, you reflect, you consult when necessary, and you'll respond when you are ready.  Each of these is an aspect of 'leader presence'.

Adapted from "Developing Executive Presence" by Joshua Ehrlich.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Embracing Distractors

As a leader, do you encourage or discourage distractors in the workplace?

Recent studies have revealed the productivity cost of interruptions in the workplace. But as the world gets more distracting, can we truly uphold the ideal of undivided attention?   In fact, is undivided attention even desirable?  Not all disruptions are negative. Gazing out the window allows your brain to come up with new ideas or process information. Logging on to social media for a few minutes can give you a much-needed break so you return to work in a better, more productive mood. Instead of barring things that take attention - your own and that of the staff you lead - away from work, try creating and embracing positive interruptions. You might even want to talk with people to find out how they use distractors to help them be more effective in their work.

Adapted from "Three Skills Every 21st-Century Manager Needs" by Andrew L. Molinsky, Thomas H. Davenport, Bala Iyer, and Cathy Davidson.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Engaging an Audience with your Message

As a leader, how do you engage an audience when communicating?
As a leader, you need to communicate with individuals, small groups, and large groups on a regular basis. To capture any audience's attention, you must frame your message properly. Whether you're making a presentation, composing an email, or talking with your boss, here's how to convey your idea:
  • Start with what you want. Busy colleagues don't want to wait for the punch line. Provide the most important information up front.  Don't leave them guessing what your message is leading up to.
  • Explain the complication. Give the specific reason for your message. What prompted you to deliver it?  Why is it important?
  • Connect to the big picture. Explain why your audience should care. Point out what is relevant to them and how it links to their goals.  Where does this fit in to the bigger picture?
  • End with a call to action. Once you've set the context, reiterate what you need or possible actions that you're recommending. 

Adapted from Guide to Managing Up and Across (HBR OnPoint Collection).

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mentoring - Maintaining a Valuable Relationship

As a leader, how do you sustain a learning relationship with your mentor?

Securing the right mentor is a major hurdle, but maintaining the relationship can be just as challenging. To keep the mentoring relationship going, try these three things:
  • Provide structure. Set up regular meetings with agendas so your conversations don't degenerate into aimless chitchat. Make sure each meeting moves you toward your goals.
  • Expect rigor. If your mentor doesn't provide regular assignments, ask for them, and work them into your agenda.  You have a mentor for learning so ensure that the learning occurs.
  • Know when to move on. Once you've achieved your goals, move on before the law of diminishing returns kicks in. But stay in touch. Your mentor may become a valuable supporter of your 'leader learning' even once your formal relationship ends.

Adapted from Guide to Getting the Mentoring You Need (HBR OnPoint Collection).

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Mentoring - Getting the Right Start

As a leader, do you take advantage of mentoring to build and refine your skills?

Leaders need mentors.  Few of us can truly be as effective as we'd like without a solid mentoring relationship in place.  Once you've secured a mentor, kick off the relationship the right way. Here are three things you can do as a mentee to help create a successful partnership:
  • Get to know your mentor. Don't immediately ask for advice. Take the time to acquaint yourself with your mentor. Ask questions about her experience and working style, and share in return.
  • Air concerns. You may be nervous about admitting your mistakes and fears. Establish an expectation of confidentiality up front, and remember this discretion should be mutual.
  • Set milestones. To gauge progress, set goals and chart a path to achieve them. To expedite the process, draft a list of milestones and ask your mentor for feedback.
Adapted from Guide to Getting the Mentoring You Need (HBR OnPoint Collection).

Monday, 5 March 2012

Getting Comfortable with Collaboration

As a leader, are you truly comfortable with collaboration?

We praise and encourage collaboration for improving problem solving, increasing creativity, and spurring innovation. Done correctly, it does yield all these benefits. But it can also be scary for us as leaders. Here are three facts you have to accept, and embrace, about collaboration before it can work:
  • You won't know the answer. There's no point in collaborating on a complex problem if you know how to solve it. Be comfortable with ambiguity and accept that you aren't necessarily the expert.  The wisdom is in the room because it is a collective wisdom.
  • Roles will be unclear. Responsibilities are often fluid. Be ready for the role you play to change with each phase of the work.  That said, addressing who is responsible for what can be helpful in moving work forward.  It just doesn't need to be you, as leader, who determines who does what.
  • You will fight. If you avoid conflict, nothing will happen. Knowing how to debate tradeoffs between options means knowing how to productively argue.  This may take some practice for the whole group.  Establishing norms for processing different opinions is very helpful.  Effective processes also allow for a range of voices.

Adapted from "Eight Dangers of Collaboration" by Nilofer Merchant.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Helping Your Team Define How it Will Work

As a leader, how do you help your team define how it will work?

Most leaders know to help their team define goals, but the conversation shouldn't stop there. You also need to agree on the mechanics of how the team will get the work done. Here are four things that need to be clear on every team:
  • Roles and responsibilities. Every member needs to know their tasks and how their work will contribute to the overall goals.
  • Work processes. You don't need a notebook full of procedures, but agree on processes to carry out the basics—such as decision-making or communicating.
  • Rules of engagement. Establish a constructive team culture. Discuss the shared values, norms, and beliefs that will shape the daily give-and-take between team members.
  • Performance metrics. How will you measure team progress? Define the measures for meeting the goals, and the consequences for not meeting them.

Adapted from "For Your Team's Success, Remember the How" by Linda Hill & Kent Lineback.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Leveraging Your Digital Network

As a leader, how do you use your digital network to accomplish your goals?

Most leaders understand how to use online tools, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, to build their networks. But few use these networks to gather information and provide influence. Here are three things you can do with a strong digital network:
  • Test ideas. Test proposals and strategies both inside and outside your school/organization. Float an idea to see how many "likes" it gets or to direct people to a survey.
  • Broker connections. Increase your influence by positioning yourself as a bridge between unconnected groups. Identify potential collaborations and make introductions.
  • Get feedback. Good networkers rely on their contacts to provide feedback on challenges. Post a message about your struggle and solicit input.

Adapted from "Three Skills Every 21st-Century Manager Needs" by Andrew L. Molinsky, Thomas H. Davenport, Bala Iyer, and Cathy Davidson.