What’s In a Strong Leader? | BridgeBetween

What’s In a Strong Leader?

There are many ways that a strong leader distinguishes themselves from a weak one, or worse, a truly negative one. Often, when you look at leaders around you, their flaws seem obvious but their positive traits are harder to discern. All you really know when you see a leader who is truly strong is that you are willing to hear them and follow them.

There are a couple of ways that a strong leader differentiates themselves from weak ones that are easily identifiable however; it’s these traits that are in stark contrast when compared to a leader who does not have them.

Strong leaders don’t need to weaken others

A little gossip around the water cooler can be a very bad thing for leaders. A frank and honest discussion about issues and how to move forward is a good thing for leaders. Do these two types of chatter seem like one and the same? They’re not.

A good leader won’t disparage others publicly or otherwise, whether peers or those who work for them. A weak leader lacks confidence and thinks they are gaining some by denigrating those around them or ignoring bad behavior rather than dealing with it.

A strong leader would not only not belittle others but would not stand for others being belittled. They would have the confidence to deal with a conflict situation directly, calling out any elephants in the room. It’s not always a comfortable position but it’s vital to their leadership status.

 

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. —Sam Walton (Source)

 

Strong leaders trust

A good leader will always deal with their team from a position of trust. A weak leader will come from a place of fear, which often results in bullying. You’ve all heard of leaders who yell and scream, all in the name of intimidation, to get what they want done but in the end, they aren’t effective, the team has no morale and it’s easy to see why they don’t last for the long term.

Along with that trust comes teamwork. A strong leader will influence others to act appropriately, support one another, and work together, to find the common path. A weak one will create division and competition within the team, believing that this is the best way of maintaining their own power.

Strong leaders live their power

Power doesn’t come from dividing people and it certainly doesn’t come from a title. Anyone can call themselves the CEO of XYZ or have that title given to them, but if they don’t truly and totally embody the role, it will only ever be a title.

A leader that inspires is one that believes in him or herself and, by extension, those around them. It’s a very motivating thing to be close to power and even more so when it is wielded by someone who knows how.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. —John Maxwell (Source)

The Net Effect of Having A Positive Outlook | BridgeBetween.com

The Net Effect of Having A Positive Outlook

In a leadership role, a positive outlook is a vital trait to cultivate!

Whether you manage a team or run an entire company, when you are in a position of leadership, you have to be aware of the things that can affect people’s perception of you and your capacity to lead.  A positive outlook is important!

Perception is, as they say, reality, so taking care of how direct reports see you is important. Now, I’m not saying you need to be blindly happy-go-lucky, almost impervious to the realities of business, and take that can-do attitude to a point where people are irritated with you.

You can’t be ultra positive all the time; no one can! But you can be aware of your attitude and how it affects others, adjusting when necessary.

The elements of how to think positively, even when the chips are down aren’t difficult but do require you to be aware of them:

Set goals

Positive people always know where they’re going. They have a plan and goals, achievements they wish to reach and that’s what creates momentum. It’s precisely these goals that help you to maintain a positive attitude because forward momentum is always impactful, in a good way!

Believe in yourself and your goals

Self-confidence goes a long way to creating that positive attitude that everyone needs to see, even in the face of failure. It’s important to know that one failure doesn’t make up a whole person; risk-taking is essential to business success.

Sometimes those risks pan out, sometimes they don’t, but keeping in mind that the failure is usually not about personal skills but about circumstances will make all the difference.

Even if skills, or a lack of them, contributed to a failure, a positive attitude will see you through taking stock and learning from the experience, rather than letting it defeat you.

Learn to manage defeat

While a toddler will experience defeat by throwing themselves on the floor and having an epic tantrum, leaders need to develop the ability to move on from the base desire to flip out and instead embrace emotions as things that motivate us.

With that in mind, you can use the emotions to move forward in a stable, rational way, rather than expressing frustration inappropriately, to the detriment of others.

Leaders aren’t robots, but they do have to regulate their emotions to some extent and learn the lesson that decisions made in the height of negative emotions are rarely good ones. Step back… breathe… and remember that others are watching to see how they should behave.

Show the behavior you wish your team members to emulate!

Look on the bright side

There is ALWAYS a silver lining, in any situation. The ability to find it and promote it should be a priority. Creating positive solutions to a problem will help you to develop that skill in your team members. If you are miserable, your team members will be too.

If you are positive, in an intelligent and motivating way, they will be too. People want, by nature, to be associated with things that are positive. It uplifts them individually, which in turn contributes to a greater and stronger team as a whole.

Looking to create solutions, rather than dwelling on defeat, is an important skill that stems from a positive outlook.

Be grateful

This is essential! Looking forward is important. So is looking back. What has already been accomplished? Expressing gratitude for those things and the people who helped you succeed is just as valuable.

Giving credit to others is a positive thing that uplifts everyone, yourself included! It reflects an open-mindedness and fundamental understanding that most successes are a team effort.

Positivity is a trait that can be developed. If you’re mindful of the ways in which it can be good for your leadership, you can learn how your attitude affects others. You’ll also start to notice how your reaction to events can change the events themselves and how you can change.

Gratitude is a huge part of self-reflection, and you can start on the path to positivity with the Grounded in Gratitude 5-Year Journal. It was created to help you find the positive energy that is centered in gratitude. Make gratitude a part of your leadership style and use it to move yourself and your team forward.

Presentations to Stakeholders and C-Suite Executives | BridgeBetween.com

Tips for Effective Presentations to Stakeholders and C-Suite Executives

It’s not the same ballgame as a project update for team leaders!

Yes, giving presentations to stakeholders can be a little nerve-wracking. You want to make sure you set the right tone and deliver the appropriate content to achieve whatever purpose the presentation serves. It’s also important to see these events as opportunities to be noticed by senior level executives. Good presentations to stakeholders will help cement your position and possible growth opportunities!

Be clear about your audience

Strong public speaking skills can be very helpful. And, when it comes to the content of a presentation, knowing your audience is key. The CEO may not be interested in operational level details or want to understand the intricacies of the project at a micro level. Your content needs to be geared to the audience you are delivering to.

Most executives are more interested in the macro level, like:

  • Where the project is on the projected timeline
  • How much it’s going to cost at the end
  • How will it be implemented
  • What is the overall return on investment

The details of HOW you get there on a day to day basis aren’t irrelevant to the senior level, but they typically don’t need a presentation on these.

Make sure you find out who will be in attendance and whether they have their own agenda to be taken into consideration. This is a good time to tap other team leaders who have presented to the executive group before for advice!

Be specific

If you’re being asked to present to the C-Suite on the projected return on investment and participation levels, don’t start talking about human resources issues, or other items that weren’t specifically requested. Executives don’t have a lot of time on their hands so wasting any of it will not result in a favorable view of your skills.

 

“Assembling five C-level leaders from a $5 billion company costs shareholders $30,000 per hour. CEO’s report that 67 percent of the meetings they attend with subordinates are total failures—resulting in a huge productivity loss for the company.” (SOURCE)

 

Also, when making presentations to stakeholders, skip the dramatic lead up to the most important part of your presentation and get to the meat of it, right off the top. People with limited time will appreciate your getting to the point.

Be prepared

Even if you were asked to present on a particular topic or area of a project, be prepared to answer questions that aren’t specifically on that topic. You have an audience with the decision makers so make sure that you can handle what they throw at you. Don’t lie, though, or make things up. There’s no way to dig yourself out of that kind of mistake.

Be confident

This is part of being prepared. If you’re ready for questions and queries — without shuffling paper, avoiding eye contact, and doing a lot of excessive hemming and hawing — you will come off confident and knowledgeable.

For ANY audience, but even more so with the C-Suite, confidence breeds confidence. They’ll lend more weight to your statements if they feel you know what you’re talking about. Content is still the most important part but delivery, and particularly poor delivery, can hurt the message.

Be respectful of the clock

If you’ve been given thirty minutes, don’t exceed it. Time your presentation to allow for a question and answer session afterward. It’s important to respect the clock and people’s time. Practice your presentation beforehand, several times.

Finally, remember that stakeholders and C-Suite executives are just people who put on their pants like all the rest of us do: one leg at a time. They’re not gods and while they might have some input into your corporate fate, they’re not to be feared.

Ultimately, you all have the same goals: the success of the project and the company. So keep that in mind, get ready and knock it out of the park!

Is it Possible to Have Influence Without Direct Authority? | BridgeBetween.com

Is it Possible to Have Influence Without Direct Authority?

Yes, but a few key ingredients are necessary!

You’re running a new team for a project but that project requires the participation of individuals who are in other business silos, within the company. In other words, you’re running a team that is comprised of people who don’t actually report to you, on a normal day. So how do you have influence over them without having direct authority?

The idea of running a team without a standard hierarchy is a more common occurrence than people think. Changes to corporate structures where a flatter, more ‘universal’ style are now being embraced.

The key to being able to effectively work with a team like this, among other factors, is credibility. If you have it, you will have influence. It’s as simple as that. You can’t just be proclaimed leader by an even higher power and expect people to follow who are, at the very least, in a lateral position, or possibly even higher.

Types of influence

Your title is not your influence. It’s just a name given from an external and higher authority. It doesn’t confer any real influence on you with your team. Instead, influence is made up of other things, the most important of which is credibility.

  • Credibility — This is influence that comes because of your abilities and your experience. More will be said about how to build this up, below.
  • Informational — This is the kind of influence you can exert because you are ‘in the know’. You have a deep understanding of the organization, how things work, who knows what and how you can leverage that information.
  • Relationships — You are well connected with larger networks that your team sees as valuable to their overall success.

How do you build up credibility?

  1. Meet expectations. Learn what others expect of you and meet those standards. It’s not always easy to discern what others are expecting—we’re not mind readers, after all! But it’s important to find out what key members of the team are expecting so that you can work towards those goals.
  2. Do what you say you’re going to do. There is nothing worse than individuals who talk a good game and say they’re going to accomplish XYZ, only to find out that they can barely accomplish X. Set reasonable expectations and limits so that you can not only meet but exceed them!
  3. Communicate clearly. As much as you need to learn what others expect of you, you need to clearly communicate what you expect from them. Everyone needs to be on the same page, with no confusion, as to what they’re supposed to do.
  4. Use feedback wisely. Good, constructive feedback is essential to building credibility. When someone isn’t meeting the expectations you set out, it’s vital to call them on it. Like calling someone’s bluff, you can build a tremendous amount of credibility by being on top of your own requirements.

 

“Your credibility is your on-ramp to greater influence with others, and it’s too important to be left to chance.” (SOURCE)

 

Essential skills for influencing a team without direct authority

Beyond credibility, there are some essential skills that a leader needs in order to be effective:

  • Networking — The ability to network with a wide variety of people within and outside of your team will help you achieve the influence you need. There is a feeling of reciprocity that develops when you are able to connect people who need to know each other. You have social currency that others want (social, in the sense of team and position, not social standing in society!)
  • Team-within-a-team building — If you are able to successfully get the backing of key people on the team, people who are essential to the success of the team, you will have more influence over the rest.
  • Negotiation — Ensuring that everyone sees decision-making as mutually beneficial is the key to successful negotiation among peers. It’s not about getting what YOU want. It’s about getting something for everyone.

These are skills that are separate from credibility but still emanate from it. You can’t negotiate with people, no matter how skilled you are at it in theory, if you don’t have credibility with the people with whom you are negotiating.

Work on building up your credibility as well as the skills you need to support it. You’ll likely find any team easier to inspire!

Quality Team Feedback | BridgeBetween.com

Providing Quality Feedback to a Team

Getting your feedback message across, without being negative, is the key!

Feedback is VERY important when running a team. Regular feedback lets team members know how their work is being perceived and whether they are on the right track.

But the very idea of receiving feedback can be upsetting to some, as their past experiences might equate ‘feedback’ with ‘ripping a person to shreds’. It can make people defensive and nervous, so it’s important to handle it carefully.

Team members have to hear it for feedback to work

In order to be effective, feedback must first be heard. This might sound silly, but badly delivered feedback is often misconstrued in its meaning or intent and ends up being of little use to the recipients.

What is badly delivered feedback?

Where only negative feedback is provided, without the inclusion of anything positive. Team members are less likely to listen to it, or act on it, if it’s totally negative.

  • Where feedback is judgemental. Is the feedback delivered in ways where the receiver feels ‘unsafe’, as if it is intended to make them look incompetent or as a personal judgment?
  • Where the leader is not clear and forthright. If the feedback is purposely vague out of fear of confrontation or a poor reaction, it can have a negative impact overall.
  • When the feedback is not specific. This is similar to the previous point in that confusion is the result for the team, instead of useful information that they can take on board.
  • Where feedback is not productive. If the feedback only serves to take people down and doesn’t provide a platform for growth and confidence building, it’s not good feedback.

Related: Team Communication: How to Speak So Your Team Will Listen

Qualities you need to give feedback effectively

As a leader, your feedback will be more readily taken on board if you have these qualities: authority, credibility and trustworthiness.

If you have the authority to provide the feedback, in that you are the right person to be doing it in the structure of your team, you are more likely to be heard. Peer to peer feedback CAN work in some circumstances but most people on a team see themselves as equal and are reluctant to take criticism from someone they don’t consider as being in a leadership role.

Authority also comes with time. A brand new leader of a team may not be speaking with authority when they give feedback due simply to the fact that they haven’t interacted with the team long enough to be in the know.

Credibility is important in that if you don’t know your subject matter and you are unfamiliar with the team, you won’t have much credibility with them, and nor will your feedback.

Finally, trustworthiness comes down to that element of safety, mentioned earlier. Feedback given in the right circumstances and environment builds trust and a solid working relationship. If the team members feels that the feedback given will be shared inappropriately or otherwise misused, it won’t be heard.

Five essentials when giving feedback

  1. Be positive!
  2. Be specific!
  3. Be timely! (Giving feedback on something that happened six months ago isn’t particularly helpful!)
  4. Be clear!
  5. Be conversational! (Make it a conversation, not a commandment. Allowing the team to respond and discuss the feedback is important.)

Related: How to Get Your Team to Speak Up

Following up is another essential key in providing feedback. Giving it and then just leaving it out there, without a time frame for following up to see if it was heard/implemented, isn’t helpful to you or your team. This is a chance for you to give positive feedback when the team is doing what you requested. Don’t miss it!

If you need help to learn the subtleties surrounding the art of giving feedback, consider getting some coaching. You can learn to give even the hardest feedback clearly, without judgment and in a way that the receiver can hear and act on it.