As a leader, how do you handle working with a difficult colleague?
Working with a difficult person can be distracting and draining.
Next time a colleague irritates you to no end, try these three things:
Manage your reaction. If someone annoys you, don't focus on the behavior.
Focus on how you react, which is usually the only thing you can control.
Keep it to yourself. Emotions are contagious, so complaining about a
co-worker can bring everyone down. And it can reflect negatively on you.
If you must vent, do it outside the office.
Work together. It's counterintuitive, but by spending more
time together you may develop empathy for your colleague. You might discover
reasons for the behavior: stress at home, pressure from someone else, or some other cause.
"How to Work with Someone You Hate" by Amy Gallo.
As a leader, do you continue to 'practice' the art of leadership?
Leadership is not an innate
trait that you're born with. It can be learned. The key is to practice before
you have the official title. In fact, even leaders in the role need to continue to practice. Start by focusing on the choices you make now,
such as who to put on your team or who needs to participate in your projects.
Recognize that you likely don't know everything. Making decisions based on
incomplete information is a skill that every leader must master. Once you've
acted, ask yourself: Was that the right decision? Could you have done something
differently? This will get you comfortable with making decisions, acting upon
them, and reflecting on their outcomes. Then, learn from your inevitable
mistakes. You will build knowledge and skills as you work up to the larger
decisions with broader consequences that all leaders have to make.
"Wilderness Leadership—on the Job" by John Kanengieter and Aparna
As a leader, do you stay true to your own protocols?
As leaders, one of the things we are often asked to do is to establish protocols - routines for day-to-day work. We sometimes do this on our own and sometimes with contributions from individuals or teams from our workplaces. But there is a caution..... It's sometimes tempting not to follow our own protocols. It's easy to slip into situations where we feel pressed for time and feel that we need to respond quickly to an issue and we neglect the very protocols we established. We need to be very cautious of such behaviour. It undermines the contributions others have made to the protocols established. Worse than that, it undermines trust in you as a leader.
Next time you are tempted to skip a protocol or routine because you feel pressed for time, think of the impact on your staff. The cost to your credibility is simply too high.
As a leader, how do you keep your focus in an age of multi-tasking?
Multitasking may speed you through your to-do list, but it also makes you more likely to make mistakes and less likely to retain information. Here are three ways to focus:
Think good thoughts. Positive emotions improve the brain's executive function and encourage creative and strategic thinking. Improve your emotional balance by taking short breaks and thinking about things that make you happy.
Ban distractions. Be aware of what steals your attention. When disrupted, make a conscious choice to return to the task at hand. This may mean shutting off your Blackberry/Smartphone.
Leave things behind. When you turn to a new task, part of your brain is still thinking about the last one. Before starting something new, go for a walk, climb stairs, or do some deep breathing to clear your head.
Adapted from "Train Your Brain to Focus" by Paul Hammerness, MD, and Margaret Moore.
It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.
As a leader, are your planning sessions strategic or haphazard?
Planning fails when it has unclear objectives, too many people, a rushed schedule, and is not strategic. When your school/organization faces uncertainty and needs to develop a strategy fast, do it the right way:
Define the challenge. Your team can't settle on a path forward unless everyone agrees on the problem you're trying to solve. Once you are aligned, focus on core questions and avoid meandering discussions.
Identify the destination. Define the future state and how to get there. Don't try to please everyone; make the hard choices that lead to a clear strategy.
Develop options. Changes in the workplace or broader environment are inevitable. Come up with alternative approaches that will help you to respond to uncertain events.
Adapted from "Six Strategy Insights RIM's New CEO Can Use" by Steve Wunker.
As a leader, how do you handle harsh criticism of you or your work?
Whether it's a workplace rival or a well-intended colleague, someone will likely say something punitive or hurtful to you at some point in your career. When it happens, remember:
Don't respond right away. Resist the temptation to snap back. There is no use in getting angry or creating a nasty paper trail. Take time to cool off, consider your response, and then reply cordially.
Determine if you're overreacting. Ask yourself whether the comment was really that bad. Sometimes a thoughtful offer to help or a comment about something you've done can seem like an insult.
Forgive, but remember. Don't hold a grudge, but keep in mind that this person has done this to you. Might they do it to others? Forgive, but remember that this person has this potential to hurt and those you lead may not handle it as well as you do.
Adapted from "How to Deal with Critics" by Dorie Clark.
As a leader, can you find success through problems and not your passion?
When it comes to our work, we're often told to follow our passions. But you might find greater satisfaction - and improved results - if you work on problems in your school/organization. Choose a problem that you care about — personally — and let this dilemma be your compass. Get out of the office, meet people who are affected by the problem, and connect with those working in this area. Doing so shifts your attention from yourself and your own work to that of others. By becoming less focused on yourself and your own work, you may become more successful with the work of your school/organization.
Adapted from "To Find Happiness, Forget About Passion" by Oliver Segovia.
As a leader, is your default response listening......or.....???
It might be tempting as a leader to talk - initiating conversations, responding with directions or explanations, or verbally 'taking charge' of situations. This is quite commonplace and people have often come to accept it as the behaviour of a boss. However, it's not the behaviour of a leader. Leaders listen.....and then listen more. Leaders listen for a number of reasons....in order to understand.....to get the whole picture......to get a range of perspectives......to collect valuable insights or ideas. Leaders also paraphrase - not 'parrot' - what they hear in order to be sure they understand and to send the message that they are listening and value the thoughts of others.
If you're not already doing so, make listening your default behaviour. You just might be surprised how much more effective you - and your school/organization - can be when you talk less!
As a leader, what strategies do you use when asking doesn't work?
Getting people to do what you want is difficult, especially if you lack sufficient authority......or the environment is very political. When direct techniques like asking fail, try more subtle approaches:
Talk less, listen more. Colleagues are less likely to resist when you've taken the time to acknowledge their concerns. Listen to their worries and make sure your solutions recognize them.
Help them to like you. It's hard to say no to someone you like. We tend to like people who share our background and interests, or who show interest in us personally. Recognition of good work also works. If your colleague does a good job, tell him.
Do a favour. Doing something for someone gives you influence and helps colleagues see a different side of you. Everyone understands the need to repay what another person has given them.
Adapted from Guide to Managing Up and Across (HBR Press).
As a leader, what thinking and processes do you use before reorganizing?
Many leaders love to reorganize, but few employees like being reorganized. Structural changes provoke anxiety and confusion. Before you decide to redraw the org chart of your school or organisation, consider these three things:
What problem are you trying to solve? Are you trying to focus more on those you serve? Do you want to reduce costs or make better use of resources? Has structure become overly complex? There might be good reasons, but before you leap into a reorganization, be clear on the goal.
Is reorganization the only solution? Reorganization might solve many problems but it's rarely the only solution. Consider alternatives first, especially ones that entail less risk on impact on those involved.
Seek input from those affected. Actively - and systematically - seek input from everyone who might be affected or impacted by the reorganization. Seeking input demonstrates your desire to lead an effective school/organization. But more importantly, it solicits the best thinking available to you.
Adapted from "Reorganizing? Think Again" by Ron Ashkenas.
As a leader, are you accessing mentors who can provide you with a variety of perspectives?
Many of the jobs that Baby Boomers will vacate over the next two decades will go to up-coming new leaders. The right mentors can help you improve the quality of your learning along the way. Consider contacting the following types of people to serve as your mentors:
A senior executive with experience in an area where your school/organization is focusing. These people can help you develop a big-picture mind-set.
A high-performing peer. Gain a broader perspective within your field by asking a highly-effective peer to be a mentor for you.
A person whom you serve. . Get into your parents' / clients' shoes and see how the school/organization looks from the standpoint of those being served by it.
Adapted from Guide to Getting the Mentoring You Need (HBR OnPoint Collection).