5 Tips to Transform Your Leadership Burden
How many have you…? (0:20)
1. Don’t swing at every ball (1:20)
2. Listen more than you talk (3:45)
3. Look for the Third Door (6:10)
4. Let go of being the expert (8:45)
5. Don’t take things personally (11:10)
Your turn… (13:40)
5 Tips to Transform Your Leadership Burden
How many management or leadership classes have you participated in?
If you are like most people I work with, your answer is more than six. And if you’re wondering why managing and leading people still feels burdensome – even after taking all those trainings, going to all those classes, and reading lots of books – you’re not alone.
I have worked with so many leaders and managers who come to me because they want to make leadership more easeful, more rewarding, and less tiresome, and so today I’m going to share my top tips from 20 years of experience and learning in this field.
Are you ready to hear them? Okay, here we go…
1. Don’t Swing at Every Ball That’s Pitched to You
As an aspiring leader, you really want opportunities to prove yourself – right? I know that I sure did!
So, I raised my hand every time a project was discussed or a task force was created. In fact, I volunteered so often that my plate was soon overflowing. I was involved in so many initiatives that my participation in each of them was diluted because I was a part of all of them.
A wise leader in the company I worked for sat me down one day and said, “Beth, if you continue to swing at every pitch, your batting average is going to go way down. The way to be seen is to wait for the perfect pitch, and then hit it out of the ballpark.”
There’s a young man I’ve been coaching who is facing a similar challenge. His philosophy was that he needed to show up and prove he was willing to take on everything that came his way.
However, in that process, the development of his own direct reports was being neglected. It didn’t take long for him to become known as someone whose team was struggling instead of someone who had great leadership potential.
He was grateful that our work together helped him dispel his thinking error – that leadership means being the first to volunteer for whatever is offered, and that not volunteering means others will see him as a weak leader.
Does this situation show up or resonate for you?
2. Listen More Than You Talk
I’ve had so many thoughts and ideas that I couldn’t wait to share in meetings. I was always afraid someone would say my idea before I could get it out, so I was always eagerly vying for airtime.
I was the first to jump in whenever someone asked, “Does anyone have anything to add to this?” I also wondered why, so many times, my ideas didn’t seem to get the careful consideration that I felt was warranted.
At the time, I sat on a team of managers who met weekly to work on cross-departmental challenges. What I did notice was that one of my peers never said much; she didn’t jump in at the beginning of discussions to offer her two cents.
Instead, she listened … she observed … and sometimes she asked a curious or clarifying question. When she did have something to add, people stopped talking and gave her their full attention.
Frequently, what she brought to the table was brilliant! Usually, it was pretty brief. Oftentimes, it included a little summation of what she heard others saying, an explanation of how she integrated all those thoughts, and then she presented an idea that had been revealed to her – and then a nice tidy bow to wrap it all up, and then she paused.
She quickly became revered as the person to go to when you needed that kind of wisdom, when you wanted to bounce an idea off of somebody.
I watched her as she modeled this behavior, and I watched how people responded. I quickly became determined to practice listening more than talking.
3. Look for the Third Door
Leaders who are skilled at helping their teams navigate and resolve conflict are people who know it is always best to seek out Third Door options. Lindsay Pera, a well-known business coach and mentor, first introduced me to the concept of the Third Door during a meeting I was facilitating.
The Third Door is the place between yes and no. It’s on the spectrum between a right answer and a wrong answer, it’s in the middle of my way and your way, and it rests in between either and or – it’s where the magic of a new solution or approach lives.
When I was younger, I spent so much time arguing for my perspective or my viewpoint or my values or my truth because my ego wanted to protect me from being wrong.
Now, I am able to see that my perspective or belief about the correct approach or answer is simply a starting point. After others add their perspective to my vision or viewpoint, that’s when we can begin exploring to discover the Third Door.
The Third Door is exponentially the best answer – it is the evolved solution. The Third Door is the place that innovative approaches are born, and it’s through the Third Door that we get further than any one of us can get by ourselves.
I encourage you to be the leader who helps teams, groups, and individuals explore the Third Door options.
4. Let Go of Being the Expert
Do you remember years ago, when all the information known to man was published in leather-bound books called encyclopedias? I sure do!
Twenty-six volumes of The World Book of Knowledge were displayed proudly on our family’s bookcase. Every time I had to write a report or do a project, I started with The World Book. It was an awesome resource.
Imagine if someone today thought, “Hey! I’ve got a great idea! I’m going to collect all the knowledge in the world, and I’m going to bind it into 26 volumes, and then I’m going to sell the set to people.” Before the first 25,000 words were written, they’d likely be obsolete. Why?
Because information is changing in the blink of an eye: country boundaries are shifting, leading technology comes and goes, new scientific discoveries are being made, and new words and phrases are coined – every minute of every day.
Leaders in today’s world who try to hold on to being an expert also quickly become obsolete. Today’s leader must be continually learning, partnering with their colleagues, and relying on staff who have different strengths and intelligence types, and who know different kinds of information.
The most successful leaders today are curious learners. More than making important proclamations, they ask important questions – and they encourage those who work for them to do the same.
If you want leadership success in today’s world, let go of trying to be an expert, and, instead, become a curious learner who asks important questions.
5. Don’t Take Things Personally
This last tip is the most important piece…
Your ego is constantly on guard, striving to do two things for you—
Protect you from getting hurt, and
Help you elicit more positive strokes.
It’s pretty simple.
And that’s why when someone doesn’t do what we expect them to do, or when someone on your team chooses to not be accountable, so often it feels personal.
This also explains why being direct and clear with negative feedback is something many leaders try to avoid. So often I am called in to work with a problem employee, and the truth of the matter is their leader has not been able to be upfront and direct with feedback. Instead, they try to manipulate and coerce the employee into doing their job.
We believe that when we avoid giving tough feedback, we’re protecting the employee – that’s our mistake. I’ve heard all the reasons—
“Her husband has cancer.”
“He has worked here for 20 years, and this will be embarrassing for him.”
“She will be sad and disappointed, and it will make her cry.”
“Everyone likes him, and I don’t want the team to be mad at me.”
…and on and on and on.
But in reality, in each of these cases, we are not trying to protect the employee. We are truly trying to protect our own ego from feeling badly.
We are taking it personally when the truth is if we aren’t direct and clear with people about how their behavior and the actions they choose either support the work that needs to be done or diminish it, we aren’t doing them or ourselves any favors.
In fact, we’re not doing our job.
I’d love to hear how any of these resonate with or speak to you. The best leadership is truly based in self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
I teach all these concepts and more, with lots of time to practice, in the Navigating Challenging Dialogue® Leadership Certification workshop.
If you’re tired of going to trainings and reading books but still feeling a burden when working with people, then I encourage you to join me for the next Leadership Certification workshop.
p.s. Do you have some thoughts about this that you’d like to share? Do you want to know what like-minded people are thinking? Join the conversation in our Navigating Challenging Dialogue Facebook group » https://www.facebook.com/groups/435404623902975/