There are 5 key skills I work on with clients in leadership development. Although they are straightforward concepts, it takes a lot of practice to make these skills natural.

Ask For Help
You often offer help to others but may rarely will ask for it. You are probably worked that it makes you look weak or too vulnerable. You may even have the belief that you are put here to help others, but no one can really help you. You are too self-sufficient.

Actually, the opposite is true. Asking for help shows strength, confidence and courage. When you reach out to others, you express a willingness to learn and create an opportunity to develop another by letting him/her do something for you and attempt to problem solve with you.

Helping others is something I hope you continue to do, but great leaders seek opportunities to develop others, and one way to do that is to let others help and advise you in the process. When you shine the light of recognition on someone else, it does not dim your light.

Ask Questions
Somewhere along your career journey, you became convinced that you are supposed to know everything and work hard to be the smartest person in the room. You think this will make you look strong. Or, perhaps you are convinced that you will look stupid because it will confirm that you don’t know something.

Unfortunately, this type of thinking will let opportunities pass you by.

By not asking questions and getting the needed guidance and advice from others, you isolate yourself from the team and limit opportunities to network and build professional bonds. When you ask questions, you invite others in and send the message that you value what they think and show that their contributions are important. As a result, you will usually get much more meaningful feedback and respect along the way.

Speak Up
Are you convinced no one really wants to hear what you have to say? Or you fear that you don’t have anything of value to add?

Unfortunately, the more often you remain silent and don’t contribute to the conversation, the more people will come to believe that you don’t add any value or don’t want to add any. Or worse, they come to believe that you are not interested to engage on the issue at all. This makes you come off as distant, uninterested and not a team player. People begin to overlook you more and more for career opportunities or project work.

By speaking up and providing your thoughts, suggestions and recommendations, you show you are engaged in the process and provides valuable insight to your thought process.

Learn How to Deal with Conflict
You may be convinced that your needs should be the ones that take a back seat to others and overly accommodate the needs of others to avoid conflict. When you choose avoidance or accommodating too often, you cause others to take less and less interest in meeting your needs. By always placing so little value on your own needs, you teach everyone else to do the same, and those around you respect you less and less.
Luckily, there are five different conflict styles (collaborating, compromising, competing, accommodating, and avoiding) and each style is suitable for application during different circumstances. Learning each one and appropriate application will give you the needed tools to move projects ahead and work with people in a more constructive way.

Take a Risk
Change can be scary. Change generally means that you will have to learn new and different methods, approaches, processes and behaviors. After you master something, you are not as flexible to change because secretly you are not so confident that you can master the “new” something. This line of thinking robs you of the confidence to adjust or learn what you need to be successful.

When you fear failure so much, it causes you to resist change and appear inflexible. Instead of asking yourself, “What if I can’t do it? What if I fail?”, ask yourself, “What can be gained if I do this? What if this was a success?”

Take time to focus on each skill and build on them. As these skills become stronger, your colleagues and supervisors will start noticing and you will start being considered for special projects, career opportunities and even promotions.

When you’re getting into business, everything looks shiny and new.  A start-up offers a lot of exciting opportunities and gives you a focal point in your work-related life, but there are a lot of details to get right, too.  These details tend to be overlooked because of the excitement of being a new entrepreneur.  To make sure that your business is as successful as possible, here are 5 things to know first in order to make it worthwhile.

  1. Figure out your market and focus on their needs: You need to know who is going to buy your product or service in order to make sure that you are successful and that you’re filling a need.  Try to focus on the idea of understanding your audience and remember what their needs are.  Don’t get distracted and lose their interest as a result.
  2. Keep your passion alive: There are going to be hard days coming your way; that’s just a fact. On those days, try to remember what led you to start your business in the first place.  Remember to hold onto that passion and focus on it to keep your positive outlook even on the roughest days. This is why you need to love what you do.
  3. Make sure you have a business account or credit card: One of the biggest overlooked details is that most small companies try to fund their own business.  While some personal investment is typically necessary, you need to make sure that you put together the right success package which will mean business accounts or, at the very least, a credit card.  Separate business from personal, or you risk losing everything if your business takes a bad turn.  This risk will also raise your stress levels.
  4. Don’t try to be a lone wolf: Another big mistake to avoid is trying to do everything yourself.  Do you have someone that can run your numbers?  Answer emails and market?  If you have the funds, make sure that you outsource whatever you can through employees or through independent contractors.  It’ll take a lot of the stress off you and leave you free to focus on your business as a whole.
  5. Invest in the right tools to help you: Whether it’s accounting software, AI, a virtual assistant or just simple furniture, you’ll have to shell out some money on your equipment or tools to help you get off the ground.  Make sure that you focus on the quality and longevity of these items.  This goes back to tip #3.  You will need to have the right support at your side in people as well as tools to give you the best chance at success.

Your new start-up business is going to be exciting, but it will also be functional by putting these tips to use in a proper fashion. Give yourself the best outcome possible by knowing what to do and not to do when starting your own business.

Sometimes it feels like there is a lot going against you when you’re looking to climb higher on the corporate ladder.  The good news is that it is possible if you know the proper tools to put into place to make it happen.  The best tool?  Executive presence.  This specialized leadership skill will give you a quality reputation – the right way – and it will also make you well-liked amongst your higher-ups and coworkers.  Here’s what you should know about it.

What is executive presence?

The best way to define executive presence is to find someone who has it.  This is the person that gets the attention of others in a warm and engaging way.  Without being boastful, they appear they can do a good job at about anything.  Someone with executive presence commands trust, attention and respect.  It’s a special kind of confidence.

How do you get it?

Consider getting executive presence for yourself to reap the benefits and proper yourself into a higher position by doing it the right way.  Take a look at some of these great tips to help you get started.

  • Be prepared and look the part: When you show up to a formal meeting or even just a small casual one, make sure that you are dressed professionally to help you feel confident.  Be prepared with questions and content that is engaging and will show your coworkers that you know your stuff.  It all allows you to exude the confidence that you need to show in order for you to progress.
  • Say your part: If you have questions or comments in a meeting or other professional environment, give them voice.  You need to show those around you that you aren’t just a “yes” kind of person.  You are someone who has an opinion, can share it in a respectful way, and is focused on getting the best result.  This is a quality of leadership that is often under-used, but a powerful option to consider.
  • Treat others with respect: Whether it is a chief executive, a co-worker, or an intern, be respectful.  Compliment them on their work and ask questions.  Get to know them.  It all shows that you are compassionate and will do well in a leadership position.  It also makes you a great person to be around in general.

Executive presence doesn’t have to be a mystery.  It’s just about understanding how to put your best foot forward to progress yourself into a position of leadership the right way.

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 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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.