(Not your father’s) Advice on How to be a Better Leader

Let’s cover the easy part first, I am a woman CEO so clearly this isn’t going to be the male leader perspective. The not so easy part, sharing atypical advice on aspects of leadership attributes that we have heard and read about a thousand times like communication, recognition, and trust.

Talking is not communicating.

Seriously, how many articles have you read that focus on active listening, non-verbal communication, and empathy related to communication but, in reality, what most of us do is a lot of talking. We count this as “communicating”, we talk to them about our strategy, we talk at them about our vision, and we tell them what to do. So my first piece of advice is listen to all the other advice and talk A LOT less. And one more thing while on the communication topic, don’t be afraid to use today’s tools; text, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to communicate with your team.

You aren’t recognizing nearly as much as you think you are.

Or as much as you should be. Most leaders (including myself) think they do a pretty good job at this. However, lots of survey data says the opposite. Those we lead do not feel like they are recognized often enough or even at all. So my advice here, follow a proven technique from weight loss programs, TRACK. Yep, we think we eat a lot less than we really do, so writing it down helps us get honest. Same will hold true for recognition. So download a mobile app tool like Advanced Tally Counter and start tracking. And don’t cheat! “Good job” doesn’t count. Count specific recognition that is given standalone, not when you’re using it to sandwich negative feedback.

Given honest, timely feedback when you are disappointed.

disappointmentIt helps you strengthen your team and helps them not disappoint you, which they really, really don’t want to do (you might need to read that sentence twice). Again, this might be something you think you do all the time when, in actuality, many of us don’t. I admit, I still fall in the “not as often as I should” category and I find doing this consistently a challenge. Yet I can honestly say it has had one of the most positive impacts to my effectiveness as a leader that I can remember. It takes courage and a commitment to not be reactive or to sugar coat. What to do? Start now, and be extremely clear, concise and timely. Don’t be reactive, allow yourself time to really think about your message and at least partially diffuse the emotion. But don’t do it too late either, timing is important, although “too much time has passed” is never a good reason not to.

Trust and delegation is only half as effective without the confirmation.

What do I mean? We focus on sharing what we need, want, and expect from those we lead. Then we TRUST they will do it. We don’t micro-manage and we don’t hover. All good so far, but what we often skip is the follow up on what they accomplished. We assume they will tell us if they are stuck, we assume they will tell us if they didn’t do what we asked. I know you are thinking, you don’t have time to follow up on everything you delegate. My advice here, you don’t have to, you simply need to tell them how to. Set a clear expectations on how you want them to share with you what and when they complete it (email, text, in person). I know it sounds easy, but we often miss this important step. The great thing is it ties right back into all three of the above, communication, recognition, and/or feedback.

Hope you found the advice useful, feel free to disagree and/or add your ideas in the comments.

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