Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Being The Odd One Out

Do you ever sit in a meeting or find yourself in a conversation about people management and everyone else is looking at you like you are speaking gibberish? Or maybe you find it frustrating watching others flounder when it comes to leading their teams. 
Being the Odd One Out can be an amazing opportunity!
As a passionate leader I find these experiences as some of the most frustrating. How do they not know what I mean in their position!? How can they think telling is a way of engaging people! This is normally when my facial expression can get me in trouble and they ask me what is wrong <insert impending unintentional lecture> NOT the most effective course of action!

I have seen a common mistake in many organisations where the product or process expert is promoted to lead their team (I have made this mistake myself and paid the price for it). Being good at your job does not automatically translate into a person being the best person to drive a team forward. That is not to say that it cannot be taught but the skill set of effective leadership does not appear after a single training course. 

Dictating doesn't win trust or loyalty 
The result can be a set of leaders that turn to dictatorship and micromanagement as their style of leadership, I think we have all had managers like that! What follows can be a divided workforce and confusion about why others are treated differently or perceived favouritism from a manager. Not a pleasant or particularly happy environment to be within.

Just the thought of this fills me with an anxious feeling, if only I could get them to see the amazing benefits of being a passionate leader, communicating and engaging their staff they would change how they operate! 

So how do you cope with being the odd one out? 

First step, be OK with being a Passionate Leader and own it!

If you are a proud and passionate leader then others opinions of what is their perceived correct and effective leadership of any team should not sway you. Be confident about your experience and the success you have demonstrated.

Attempt to impart knowledge without offending. Someone may have been in their role (or variations of their role) for many years with the perception that they are a great manager so it is important to respect their experience. If you respect their experience then you are less likely to offend them when you provide hints or coaching on their technique. Others are less self-aware and may welcome the feedback to help them improve (more typical of a junior leader). 

I have learnt over time, after many close calls of nearly losing my head, that a more delicate approach to be the most effective. During the discussion I may offer an example from my previous experience that was not effective and the lessons I learnt in the process. So that way they may understand that my mistakes do not have to be theirs. Otherwise I will engage my coaching technique and start by asking them open questions to understand their approach, for example;

  • "Tell me why did you decide to take this approach?"
  • "What is the particular outcome you are trying to achieve?"
  • "What success have you achieve with this in the past?"

From there narrowing the questioning, for example;

  • "Are you confident with this approach?"
  • "Does this work with all of your staff?" 
  • "If not, why do you think that is?"

Now is when you need to have confidence in your ability as a leader and provide them with a different approach. If you have been effective in your questioning they should be ready and willing to hear your suggestions. It is also so important that you have listened openly to their answers and not ask questions from the place of assuming they are wrong. They have may legitimate reasons for certain activities and maybe your value is in providing ways to compliment these activities not discrediting them. 

You need to Lead By Example
The final thing is to lead by example; let you leadership style, staff and achievements speak for themselves. People will notice and this may inspire others. I also like to share any articles or books I am currently reading, not only to share the knowledge but also helps people understand how you approach your role as a leader. 

There are so many different styles of leadership and people will respond to different styles more than others. It is important that we are not dismissive of others styles as there could also be lesson that we can learn, as an effectively and passionate leader our learning should never stop. You also have to accept that sometimes you cannot change who people are thus learn to adapt and achieve what is required with that person.

There will be times when you will get told that the 'fluffy stuff' doesn't work and that's fine for others to have that opinion. However I think most successful leaders will tell you that time and time again, if you look after your people they will return the courtesy in spades. 

Have you had a similar experience? What was the result? Maybe you have become a mentor? I would love to hear your own experiences, leave a comment below or find me on twitter (link on the right of the page).

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Personal Appearance and Leadership

Does how we dress impact who we are as Leaders?

Do you just throw on whatever falls out of wardrobe in the morning? Or do you plan your outfit based on your schedule for the day? Does it matter what we wear as Leaders?

We now see a more casual approach to business dress but does this casual approach impact on our approach to our work. I am a strong believer that it does, what you present on a daily basis represents what you feel about your work.

Messy and sloppy = uninterested and disorganised leader!?

Clothing can also represent your mood whether you are conscious of it or not. Those days where I have felt less organised and distracted my choice of outfit often reflects this. But does this really matter if I am a good leader? I believe it does, if you appear to not really care about your appearance then your team may also take this as a reflection of how you feel about your work. Your presentation is your first impression and we know that the first impression can be a lasting one.

Plan your outfit the evening before so that in the morning you not staring at everything wondering what to wear! There are also some key considerations to use when selecting what to wear;

  • Do you have any meetings. Yes, then who is your audience?
  • What impression are you wanting to portray to the audience.
  • Are you adventuring out or staying in the office?
  • The weather, it's important to be comfortable.

Other things to consider is what impact are you trying to make? If you are going to be running a meeting or training session wearing a strong colour will assert your presence in the room. If you are wanting to present a more serious presence you may go for darker more subdued colours. Softer colours will also have have a softer affect to your presence. 

Whilst some may not like the judgemental element it is undeniable that this is the reality when we interact with people. Therefore is it not better to put your best self forward? 

It's worth trying out different looks and taking note of how people react. I came into work one day in black pants a work polo (first time in over two years), I lost track of people asking me if I was OK! Everyone was so used to me being in a 'put together' outfit that it had an impact on those around me. The day turned into an accidental experiment. Needless to say I have thrown out those shirts and won't be walking into working looking disorganised again. 

Have you had a similar experience? Do you think personal presentation matters? Maybe you have a great leader but always felt they were disorganised, did this relate to their personal presentation? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Welcome to The Passionate Leader

Why Start a Blog?

Like most people the conclusion of a year brought a time of reflection and goal setting for the impending year. I have never enjoyed the 'New Year, New Me' mantra as I have never felt 'finished' with a year to be moving onto the next. However at the end of 2015 I found myself longing for the year to be done so I can start a fresh in 2016. But what was I looking for in 2016?

2016 for me is about making a positive impact, both personally and professionally. I have always been a career focused person but in 2015 found myself in my ideal job in a senior role within the business yet still looking for more. I considered an organisation and industry change but these would be nothing more than sideways movements. I want to make an impact and influence change in people. These desires lead to me thinking of a blog, my staff have always praised my leadership and the wonderful experiences under my guidance so maybe I had something to share with others?! So I find myself here putting together my first blog.

For as long as I can remember I have always found myself in the leadership position, which made me consider if leadership is a skill that some are just naturally good at or a trait that is ingrained into our personality. Whilst I believe that to be somewhat true I also believe it is a set of skills and mindset that anyone can learn. Early in my career I was very quickly leading teams and naturally the person that others looked to for support and guidance. The more opportunities I got to use this skill the more rewarding it became. The industry and types of people I have lead vary from retail, to call centre (both service and sales) through to large client services teams and account management. Whilst all very different responsibilities the principle of my role was always the same; lead, inspire and develop my teams for the desired outcome.

Leadership is not something that should be considered lightly and I believe bears a large amount of responsibility. It could be one of the most important roles that we play in our personal and professional lives. An effective leader has the ability to make a positive impact to the lives of those around them, which is an incredibly rewarding experience. As leaders we must not be afraid to make mistakes as inaction can be the biggest mistake we make. When we do make mistakes ,and we all do as we're human, the most important element is that we own the mistakes and make a commitment to improve going forward.

As a young leader I would often wonder if my experiences and challenges were unique to me and at the time there were not the on-line resources we have available now.  So why I may not have the Psychology, business or management degree I can share my knowledge and experiences in the hope that it will have an impact on someone else. I won't profess to know all the answers but will try to share the work of others that has also inspired me.

There is one statement that I connected with instantly "Be the change you wish to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi. As a leader I took great inspiration from the quote as it made realise that my actions can have a positive impact on a person life that can ripple through so many others. This has become my mantra as a leader and a quote I always consider when I am faced with personal and professional challenges.

I hope you have enjoyed my first blog and those that will follow.

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