Keeping Power in Perspective

Becoming a new leader or manager can be an ego boost, but that ego can get out of hand if not self-managed.  There are some basic strategies leaders can use for keeping power in perspective. 

Keeping it Authentic

You were hired or promoted because of your strengths, but don’t change into someone you think you are supposed to be. Learn your personal leadership style. 

Learn Empathy

Power can diminish a leader’s empathy if the leader is too focused on their own thoughts. Understanding another’s vantage point and how it feels to walk in their shoes gives a leader the ability to communicate in a more profound way. 

Accountability

Accountability can be overlooked by leaders. Yet it builds the foundation for productive and engaged teams. Make effective requests and deliver promises to get results and generate trust with your team. 

Comfort with Conflict

Not all conflict is bad and can lead to great progress. However, many leaders shy away from confrontation in fear it will get emotionally messy. Ignoring conflict lets problems fester, snowball and create resentment among your team. Acknowledging and addressing differences in opinion will lead to growth and deeper connection.

Understanding Power

There’s a big difference between dictate and lead. While there are times to be directive in a crisis or when a quick decision is needed, always taking an authoritative stance is the least effective leadership style. You have the ability to teach, inspire and engage people. Now that is true power. And it is a gift.

Leading A Cross-Functional Team

Leading a team is a challenging task, but have you led a cross-functional team? The challenges of leading a team of individuals from a cross-section of your company are manifold. But so are the advantages. Since cross-functional teams are, by definition, made up of individuals with different skill sets working toward a common goal, in order to effectively lead such a team, a leader must exercise superb organizational and leadership qualities. Keeping some strategies in mind will help you avoid some common pitfalls of cross-functional teams.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

When working with a cross-functional team, make a concerted effort to keep all lines of communication open between team members and between leadership and the team. Set up short meetings to get project status reports and resolve any issues that are holding up the project. Team members should feel comfortable communicating with each other throughout the project timeline as well as reporting any issues that arise. Encouraging effective use of project management software can help mitigate a lack of communication that can happen when team members are working on a wide variety of tasks.

Evaluate and Reevaluate

Cross-functional teams require flexibility to run smoothly. When several people with expertise in different disciplines come together, creative solutions to existing problems can arise. Embrace this unpredictability – it truly is the beauty and benefit of organizing a team of people from diverse professional backgrounds. This unpredictability, however, can sometimes present a challenge to leaders.

When such a moment arises, the entire project timeline may have to be reevaluated. Take the time to think through new ideas and decide whether they are valuable to the project. If they are, rethink the project timeline and individual team member tasks. Then, once the new plan has been in effect for a sufficient amount of time, reevaluate.

Team Building

If you are leading a cross-functional team, chances are team members will not be familiar with each other. Making sure your team members are aware of what other team members’ tasks are can help keep things on track. Team building exercises can help team members get to know one another’s work and help them form bonds that make work more effective. Social events and in office happenings can help to strengthen your team by creating a more harmonious workplace.

Go One-on-One

 Take the time to meet with your team members one on one. This is a great way to ensure that any potential challenges of the cross-functional team are nipped in the bud. Speaking to a team member one-on-one can also reveal any internal dysfunction occurring within the team. Identifying these challenges can help you set new goals and tasks that can help mitigate some of the difficulties found within cross-functional teams.

It is important not to let technology replace face to face communication. Not only will your team members feel appreciated and heard, the team will run more smoothly if leaders get the opportunity to speak in person with every member of the team.

Cross-functional teams are an ideal organizational structure for creative projects and innovative work. Being an effective leader of a cross-functional team can be a challenge that allows you to reap many rewards. Well-led, cross-functional teams can provide a great benefit to the company.

4 Traps to Avoid as a New Leader

There are four traps many new leaders fall into.  Whether you are new to a company or to your role, the first 90 days can be the most impactful.  When you are new to your leadership role, you don’t know the players and the landscape.  Don’t inadvertently sabotage yourself by not paying full attention and not being fully present to avoid these leadership traps.

“I am going to impress you.”

If your attention is on how to make yourself look good or impress others, then you might as well not be there because you’re in your head, not in the room. Instead of others being impressed, they will simply notice you trying too hard, and wonder, what is this person trying to cover up?

Instead, during this time, pay close attention to cultural norms.  How to people interact with one another?  What is the tone? 

“I’m scared out of my mind.”

When all your thoughts are focused on how others will find out how much you don’t know, that’s exactly what they will see.  Because of this, you will avoid opportunities to speak up and contribute value because you are so fearful.  People will lose confidence in you even when they don’t have a reason to do so.   

What can you do when this thought creeps in?  Focus on language – both verbal and non-verbal.  Use language familiar to the organization.  For example, do they typically use “we/our” or “me/my”?  Also, pay close attention to how the physical environment is set up and the amount of personalization other leaders have in their workspace. 

“I know”

You think you were selected for this role because you know more than the others that work there.  Perhaps you even think you were brought in to fix, rescue or save. Even if your job is, in fact, to turn around an underperforming group, if you act like a know it all, your attitude will communicate arrogance and will not generate the respect that you need.

Look at key processes – what is working well and what could be built upon?  Watch your staff in key meetings to see if they are well prepared.  If not, take time to mentor them on how to be prepared so they gain respect from key stakeholders. 

“Who’s important”

If you come in with an agenda to quickly identify the most powerful people and visibly align yourself with them, you are only going to hurt yourself in the long run. As a newbie, you need to be able to talk with everyone and glean useful information from them. By prioritizing the powerful people, you’re sending a clear message to everyone else that you don’t need them.

It is natural to want to figure out who are key players.  Instead, focus on inclusion.  When you include others, they will naturally include you when important decisions need to be made.

Your first 90 days as a new leader can be intimidating.  Take the time to learn, learn, learn while establishing key relationships within the organization.  Treat each conversation like it’s the most important one and absorb everything.  Asking open-ended, inviting questions will help everyone feel more at ease and allow you to learn much more quickly. 

Creating a High Functioning and Inviting Home Office

Working from home sounds great – the lack of commute, dress code and the ability to structure your day how you see fit all make telecommuting an aspiration for a lot of workers. Getting the right set up at home can make or break your routine, though. Placing an office in a highly trafficked area of the house or setting up too small of a workspace are simple mistakes with big consequences. There are plenty of elements to consider when you are setting up a high-functioning and inviting home office. Take the time to create a plan for your new workspace – this will save you time and make you more productive in the long run.

Identify Your Must-Haves

The first step in creating a great home office is drafting a list of must-haves. These include the basics such as a desk, phone, computer and other office equipment. Other needs will vary by industry and your own personal preferences. Consider this: if you are in a creative industry, do you need a large desk workspace where artwork can be stored? Or if you prefer to keep some paper documents confidential, do you have a need for more storage space than the average home office? All of these items should go on your must-haves list. Making sure they are available to you before you start working from home can streamline the transition.

Choose the Right Space

Not all home offices have a room of their own, but that does not mean that there is no thought put into their location. If your home is bustling with family and pets, but you prefer to work in a quiet environment, placing your office near the kitchen or another highly trafficked area of the house will not result in effective work. Choosing a tranquil area, such as a guest room can yield much better productivity.

Keep in mind how much equipment and storage you will need. If you require several large electronics or a large desktop workspace, a kitchen nook workspace will simply be too cluttered. Workspaces with many pieces of equipment and storage would be better off in a separate room.

Make it Inviting

Last but not least, make your office space an inviting place. If you think that the décor won’t make a difference in your productivity, think again. The most innovative companies in the world invest in creating open and inviting workspaces. This is because appealing offices make for happier, more productive workers. Working from home means that you can be your own innovator. Choosing a workspace that has lots of natural light, placing a few appropriate plants and keeping things neat and tidy can go a long way toward helping you stay focused throughout the day.

Setting up a plan for creating an inviting, functional home office is a simple and effective way for freelancers, consultants and telecommuters to ensure their productivity when working from home. It’s a simple step that shows a small amount of planning and foresight can lead to positive results.

Saving the Planet While At Work

You already know saving the planet is the right thing to do.  But did you know you can make an impact on the environment while you are working?  Making an office “green-er” isn’t a hard.  Here are a couple of ideas to get you started today. 

  • Keep your own utensils on hand. 
  • Bring your own lunch.
  • Reduce electricity by being mindful of unnecessary lights that remain on.
  • Don’t print everything.
  • Set printer settings to use both sides of the paper.
  • Buy a plant for your desk.
  • Consider commuting, walking, biking or taking public transportation to work.
  • If you purchase office supplies, buy remanufactured ink and toners.
  • Bring your lunch to work.
  • Set up or suggest setting up recycling bins.
  • Talk to others about your environmentally friendly initiatives.
  • Power down and unplug your computer when possible.

Which items can you start doing today?  Get your team on board and run these ideas past them.  With everyone’s help the earth can be a greener place thanks to you.

How to Show Your Boss You’re Ready for a Promotion

If you have put in the hard work and are hungry for more responsibility, you may be ready for a promotion. Moving up the corporate ladder might have been your goal from the beginning, or perhaps you started to recognize the value of your work at your current position through positive supervisor feedback. No matter how you decided that a promotion is your next career move, showing your boss that you are ready to move up is a crucial step.

Here’s how to make sure your boss notices you are ready for more responsibility.

Be A Creative Problem Solver

If you have your eyes set on a promotion, you may already be one of the top performers if your department. Simply accomplishing your day to day tasks might not be sufficient to climb up to the next rung on the ladder. Thinking of smart ways to improve existing company processes can be a great way to make you stand out in the crowd. Everyone wants to be more efficient, and if you are the one providing the solutions, chances are you have what it takes to be in a leadership position.

Master the Art of Tough Conversations

Successful leaders know how to communicate well with others. That means talking through difficulties too. If you are looking to get promoted, knowing how to phrase not-so-great-news is a skill worth working on. Bosses appreciate team members who have the initiative to approach them about project issues and offer innovative solutions. Even if the problem is especially tough, asking the right questions shows your supervisor how motivated you are to fix it. That kind of commitment rarely goes unnoticed.

Have A Clear Strategy

If you know your goal is to move up in the company, having a clearly defined strategy can get you there faster. Take note of any weaker areas in your company or department. What role could you have in strengthening these areas? If your skill set aligns with the challenge, propose a new responsibility or set of tasks that aims to bridge the gap. Even if your higher ups are not quite ready to redirect your role, they will see your initiative as a positive.

Ask for Feedback

It should go without saying that checking in with your boss every once in while is crucial to your career’s future. Asking for feedback not only gets you the information you need to succeed in your role, it also puts you on the radar. Request a meeting with your boss to go over recent projects. During the meeting, jot down any suggestions your boss may have and implement them. Next time your supervisor sees your work they will be pleased that you listened carefully to their feedback.

 Show Your Work (Confidently)     

Even if you are a top performer, your supervisor may not know everything about your accomplishments. This can be especially true if you have recently been assigned new projects which are typically outside your scope. Take the time to compile your accomplishments into easy to digest metrics. That way, next time you get a chance to show your boss your achievements you can be confident in the value of your work.

Climbing up the corporate ladder can seem like a daunting process, but by following a few simple guidelines and keeping the lines of communication open between you and your higher ups, you can ensure your career success.

 

 

Preparing for A Tough Conversation

Every day, we engage in dozens of conversations around the office. Most of these are positive and support existing relationships. Talking to our team members can help us further our work on a project or get us out of a creative rut. Despite all of these positive interactions, there will inevitably come a time when we must have a tough conversation with a boss, colleague or someone we manage. Though these discussions can seem daunting, with a little preparation you can face these difficult discussions with confidence.

Focus on the Facts

Before you have a face to face with the person who has prompted the difficult conversation, make sure you have all the facts. Run through any previous conversations you may have had with this person and make note of your own part in the matter. While it may in fact be an emotional situation, focusing on the issue at hand, then laying out potential outcomes will lead to better results.

 Approach the Topic with Compassion

If the conversation seems tough to you, chances are the other party feels the same way, too. It may be helpful to imagine yourself in their shoes—how would you want someone to handle the issue at hand? Zeroing in on how you would want to be treated may ease any frustration you encounter before heading in to the conversation.

Try to end on a positive note. Mentioning where the relationship or project can go from here will give you both actionable steps you can take to improve the current situation.

 Go in with an Open Mind

Setting expectations is a key part of preparing for a tough conversation. Taking the time to clear our head of expectations allows you to approach the situation with a fresh perspective. That way, when the difficult discussion happens, you can adapt to any new information you receive. Many times, the issue which led to the difficult situation has multiple solutions. Remaining open to suggestions and feedback means you will be able to recognize when a valuable idea has been shared.

Leave Them with Something Positive

Difficult conversations are even harder when you have to let a team member know they will no longer be able to participate in a project or have access to a workplace benefit they enjoy. Asking them if there is anything that could assist them to help correct the situation can ease any lingering tensions. It also ends the meeting on a positive note. Another benefit: your generosity will be remembered and will motivate them to succeed.

No matter what your leadership style is, chances are you have had to have a tough conversation somewhere along the way. Luckily, with a little compassion and an open mind, you can handle difficult talks with ease and confidence.

 

Helping Others Develop Leadership Skills: Why You Should Do it and How

As a leader, you know that developing leadership skills was an integral part of your career advancement strategy. But many people just starting on their career journeys have not yet taken the initiative to develop these skills. Helping others advance up the career ladder might seem like a lot to take on in addition to your already demanding job, but the hard work does pay off. Successful leaders know how to develop and nurture talent, strengthening their teams along the way.

There are many ways to help those around you develop the leadership skills they need to succeed. With a few simple rules, you too can cultivate leadership talent.

Trust Your Team

To become leaders, team members will first need to feel confident about their work. If they have been in their role for a while, chances are they are quite confident at how well they can perform. Yet, they may not take initiative to perform tasks slightly outside their role’s scope. Giving a team member the ability to try something new shows that you trust their performance. The simple act of giving a team member more responsibility can help to give them the confidence they need to pursue greater leadership roles within the team.

Give Credit Where It Is Due

Professionals early in their careers need recognition and feedback in order to know they are on the right track. A positive remark or regularly scheduled recognition of a job well done can lead team members to aspire to something greater. Just as leaders seek crucial feedback from their teams to improve metrics and performance, team members want to know their instincts are aligned with the company’s goals. Once they do, they may be ready to pursue a greater leadership role within their current team or department.

Be Patient

When you were becoming the leader you are today, you undoubtedly faced pitfalls and challenges. It can take years of hard work for a promising upstart to become a successful and confident leader. Trying not to rush the process when you have already been through it yourself can be difficult. It is essential, though, to be patient with team members as they grapple with some of the same issues current leadership dealt with at the beginning of their careers. Even if you have a team member in mind for future leadership opportunities, remember that they have to learn for themselves what leadership truly means.

Those in leadership positions would do well to help team members develop their own leadership skills. Coaching newcomers by building confidence and recognizing talent is beneficial to the organization as a whole.

 

How to Set Effective Goals for the New Year

New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. The term is usually used to refer to forgotten goals or dropped hobbies. But the New Year is also a time for new beginnings and new habits. Setting clear career goals for the new year can be more than empty promises. If you have been thinking about making major career moves throughout the end of the year, there’s no better time to implement changes than the first quarter of the year.

Making a plan now to effectively implement change can help you kick off the new year on the right track.

Do the Research

Do you want to make a career change? Or simply commit to stay up to date with the latest industry best practices? Perhaps, you are considering furthering your education in your chosen field. Now is the time to start doing the research so that when the new year comes, you can set appropriate goals. Making a list of skills you will need in order to achieve your goal and mapping out the actionable steps to get there are the keys to setting effective goals for the New Year. Make sure to break down the actions into small, easily achievable chunks for maximum results.

Take Stock of Your Skills

Taking a look at the skills you already have is an important part of setting your career goals for the next year. If you feel stuck in an unfulfilling role or simply underappreciated in your current job, taking stock of your skills and accomplishments can energize you and bring positivity to next year’s goals. The New Year doesn’t have to be just about changing aspects of your professional identity you do not like – it can also be about celebrating your accomplishments.

Make Your Health A Priority

If you have been feeling close to burning out or you have accomplished a great deal this year and simply need a break, consider making your health a priority in the coming year. Setting small, daily health related goals can go a long way to making you a healthier and happier (and therefore, a more productive) employee. What are some simple ways to stay healthy and balanced at work? Pack a lunch, take a walk on your breaks and take the stairs.

Read A Book or Listen to A Podcast

Staying up to date with your industry best practices doesn’t have to be a chore. Set yourself a book challenge in which you can read one book written by an industry expert per month. Or if you’re commute is long and you don’t have much time to read, listen to an industry podcast on a regular basis. Chances are you will pick up useful tips and learn about new industry practices.

Setting goals for the New Year doesn’t have to be a fruitless endeavor. After you have taken the time to plan your career moves in the next year, take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments for the previous year.

Encouraging Your Employees Leads to Better Business Outcomes

As a leader, embracing an attitude of empowerment is crucial to maintaining a high-performance team. Empowered employees are more confident, creative, and able to resolve issues without micromanagement. Having confident and caring employees ensures that customers receive the best possible service.

Many leaders strive to create empowering environments for their teams but are unsure of how to make this happen. Luckily, there are many simple ways to ensure positivity and empowerment are pillars of your workplace.

The Benefits of Employee Empowerment

Employees thrive in supportive environments in which they feel valued. They have the confidence to make decisions that can determine whether an interaction with your organization was positive or negative. An empowered employee feels able to speak openly about issues and successes they encounter on a day to day basis. When employees feel comfortable speaking up, leaders can have a clear picture of how their companies are operating and act to improve weak areas.

Empowered employees also tend to have higher on the job satisfaction than employees who do not feel empowered at work. This leads to higher retention and company loyalty.

Building Trust

The first action a leader should take when working to empower their employees is building trust. Trust is the foundation of human relationships—without it, it would be difficult for society to function. Letting your employees use their best judgement when it comes to performing tasks lets them know you trust them. You can do this simply by setting end goals then taking a step back. Do not be overly involved in each step of the process. Let your employees decide the best way to tackle tasks. This ensures each member of your team feels empowered every step of the way.

Have an Open Door Policy

Making yourself available to discuss matters important to your employees on a regular basis goes a long way to make them feel more empowered in their roles. Leaders who remove barriers of communication between team members and management find that they receive more important information regarding projects and can work to nip any arising issues in the bud. Fostering a culture of openness also has the added benefit of increasing creativity among your team. Opening the doors of communication can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

Provide Leadership Opportunities

Giving employees a chance to spearhead a project or take the lead in a meeting provides a structured way to exercise their own authority and gain confidence. An employee who is given added responsibility in the context of a responsive leader and a supportive team may be much more productive than one who is lacking in such support. Delegating small leadership tasks can boost cooperation and collaboration among team members.

Recognition and Encouragement

Don’t forget to let your team know when they do exceptional work. Whether it was a useful comment at a meeting or a well drafted report, take a minute to recognize their efforts. A compliment on a job well done goes a long way to retain good employees. And if you work with a very large team or have trouble fitting encouragement into the agenda, you can start a structured recognition program, such as an Employee of the Month award.

It is up to you, the leader, to give your employees a workplace conducive to growth and empowerment. But the hard work pays off. Giving your team the tools they need to become empowered ensures the success of the company as a whole.