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).

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