Do You Want To Be an Exceptional Leader? |

Do You Want To Be an Exceptional Leader?

Communication is the key

There are leaders and then there are LEADERS. The latter are people who are able to inspire and motivate those around them with seemingly little effort. Those who follow their direction are energized, galvanized, uplifted and electrified.

These are some strong words to describe the mindset of some teams and the leaders who are truly successful at inspiring these sentiments can do one thing better than anything else: they can communicate well.

Exceptional leaders use all forms of communication

Humans communicate in a multitude of ways: voice is just one of them. A good leader will make use of all the ways of communicating at their disposal, including body language and listening skills.

A leader with arms folded across their chest all the time, eyes darting in every which direction like a nervous tic will not elicit a lot of confidence in those he or she is communicating with. Open stance body language and eye contact, with their full attention focused on whomever they are communicating with are important ways that a good leader will show, not just say, what they are trying to share.

A good leader will always be looking at the recipient of his or her words and actions to gauge reaction: are they responding? Are they nodding? Are they engaged?

If a recipient isn’t engaged, a good leader will adjust their stance, their body position, their facial expression, even their distance, to try and elicit a better, more positive reaction. Some of this is instinctive: we want to know that people are hearing us; but a lot of it is learned and acquired over time, by paying attention to cues from listeners.

Listening skills are just as important in communication as active speaking or body language. A leader who listens but does not actually hear what people are telling him or her isn’t really participating in a two-way discussion.

Without open discussion, a leader isn’t engaging with his or her team in a meaningful way but is instead issuing directions instead of creating a culture of communication.

Exceptional leaders are clear in their messaging

Whether talking about their vision for the company or the structure of management for a specific project, clear communication is vital. To that end, specific communication, using clear and unencumbered language in an even tone is the best way to ensure that everyone understands and is on the same page. Sarcasm, snark and even misplaced jokes can quite unintentionally create barriers to communication.

Clarity comes from confidence and knowledge. If a leader doesn’t really know what they are talking about or they are not confident in their knowledge, it shows. They will tend to say whatever comes into their mind instead of providing thoughtful comments or feedback.

It’s the mark of a good leader when even negative feedback is given in the spirit of improvement rather than as punishment.

Exceptional leaders are humble in their statements

A truly effective leader doesn’t expound on a topic as if they were the only one who understood things. They don’t pontificate. They share information from their point of view, in their own unique voice, with directness and politeness, and with evidence of appropriate reflection on what they are saying.

False or hyperbolic statements are easy to spot and a person who speaks that way regularly will eventually be dismissed by those around them.

Teams will follow a leader who understands them and whom they can understand, a leader who takes the time to listen and reflects back to them what he or she has heard. Being a good leader is very much about open communication with peers and subordinates alike, and less about speech making.

Being a good leader is very much about open communication with peers and subordinates alike, and less about speech making.


step-by-step conflict resolution Shannon Cassidy

Step-by-Step Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is a primary human resources function in nearly every organization. While this task is rarely an HR professional’s favorite to tackle, conflict resolution is necessary for a positive work culture, improved productivity, risk management, and limited turnover. The good news (or the bad news) is that the outcome of conflict resolution is largely based on the mediator, who is often the HR professional. The HR professional has a responsibility to conduct a productive, meaningful conversation, keeping both employees on task and producing results that satisfy each party.

Even with the most difficult personalities, conflict resolution doesn’t have to be hard. Following these steps can eliminate the chaos and transform conflict resolution into a calculated science.

Choose a Private, Neutral Setting

Conflict resolution should never be done in front of other employees, clients, or guests. Selecting a private, netural location such as a private meeting room, a human resources office, or a small conference room prevents humiliation and promotes honest conversation.

Always Schedule in Advance

When employees are caught off guard, they tend to show increased defensiveness, anger, and frustration. Always schedule a conflict resolution meeting in advance, and whenever suitable, tell both parties why the meeting has been scheduled. This prevents the defensiveness and other negative responses that come from a surprise attack and allows employees to gather their thoughts in advance.

If numerous employees are having interpersonal issues with the same person, schedule multiple one-on-one meetings.

Define Clear Goals

Once the meeting has started, the HR professional’s first order of business is to define goals for the meeting. Defining goals establishes purpose for the meeting, which is vital for a meaningful encounter. Without established and clear purpose, conflict resolution often evolves into a never-ending merry-go-round of insults and accusations. Some possible goals for a conflict resolution meeting include:

  • To establish a plan for completing a project together despite differences
  • To overcome differences to better provide for our clients, guests, patrons, or patients
  • To complete specific tasks that have been a point of conflict, such as scheduling vacations, defining roles, or making decisions

Overcoming differences between employees ultimately provides a more positive experience for clients, guests, patrons, or patients, so the second goal should be included in nearly every conflict resolution meeting. It draws their attention to the bigger picture and provides clear direction for the meeting.

Give Each Party an Opportunity to Share

Provide each person time to share their viewpoint and concerns, following basic ground rules:

  • Conversation must be respectful at all times
  • Each party speaks in turn only
  • Yelling, swearing, name calling, or any other display of disrespect or aggression will end the meeting immediately and result in discipline.
  • Conversation should stay on task, addressing specific situations that have brought issue and not personal character

Limit this time to 5 minutes each and don’t allow response following statements. One person speaks, the other speaks, and then the meeting moves forward.

Brainstorm Solutions

While most employees who have a tense working relationship will never agree on every point, focusing on solutions can encourage them to look past disagreements to perform to their full potential. Take ample time to discuss solutions, and request ideas for resolution from each party. If either employee is quick to shoot down ideas, request a better suggestion.

Establish a Plan

Establish a clear plan going forward. Which employee will take on which responsibilities and when? All parties should know the plan and their specific role in it when the meeting is concluded.

Conflict resolution doesn’t have to be hard; stick to the steps, remove personal feelings, and work to accomplish defined goals and and stay on task, and conflict resolution will no longer be laden with dread.

How to Lead People

Being Human: How to Lead People

Your organization has sent you to leadership training and nurtured you through their fast track program. You know the disciplinary policy like the back of your hand and the you could recite state labor laws in your sleep. While these things are important to know and understand, the true foundation of effective leadership lies in inherent human qualities. In simple, great leadership boils down to being human.

Be Honest

Good leaders are honest with their employees, clients, and managers. They own their mistakes and oversights and actively work toward a solution. They don’t say anything behind an employee’s back that they haven’t said to the employee’s face. Their subordinates respect their honesty and trust their words. Sugar coating performance deficits causes confusion for the employee and fails to promote success. Be honest.

Be Friendly

Employees who connect with their leaders are more likely to respect and follow their leaders and feel satisfied in their role. Take time to learn about your employees’ families and hobbies; they make wonderful friendly talking points. A simple, “Good morning, Shirley! How did Bob’s appointment go yesterday?” goes a long way. Always take a moment to establish eye contact and make a connection.

Be Real

Show your employees that you are a real person not so different from themselves. Laugh at work often and smile whenever you can. Let your employees into your life a little by sharing information about your family and hobbies. Leaders who are real with their employees are more approachable, and therefore receive more valuable feedback and suggestions.

Be Supportive

Good leaders are those who are supportive of their employee’s ambitions and goals. Support each employee in their role, assist individuals in understanding the value of their contributions to the organization, and encourage every employee to pursue in-house positions that interest them. Take time to discuss an employee’s career planning so you can work to keep the best in the organization. Identify leaders early and share your plans for their advancement in the organization.

Be Empathetic

Experience in the leadership industry can harden even the most compassionate of hearts. However, a leader should go to great lengths to see every employee as a human being, take every concern seriously, and genuinely empathize with the employee expressing his or her dissatisfaction. Furthermore, the effective leader shows empathy with the grieving employee and encourages as much family time as possible.

Be Rewarding

Statistics show that employee satisfaction increases more when non-monetary rather than monetary rewards are issued. Commit to complimenting a minimum of three employees daily on their performance. Telling the janitorial staff, “It sure looks great in here! Thanks for the hard work!” or your administrative assistant, “Thanks for keeping such an organized schedule!” takes mere moments but their effects are lasting.

Be Open Minded

Be willing to consider the viewpoints of others and entertain new ideas or suggestions. Good leaders understand the value in new and differing opinions. Furthermore, employees respect and value a leader who is open to their thoughts and opinions and who considers them seriously.

Be Inspiring

An effective leader shows employees what he or she expects of them by displaying the same commitment and drive every day. A leader’s boots should be the first to hit the ground and the last to leave. Policy should be followed fervently and eagerly. Strides should be taken every day in the direction of success and advancement of the organization.

In conclusion, a good leader requires some textbook knowledge but an abundance of quality characteristics. A good leadership mantra is, “Always do the right thing.”


tuirning conflict into a positive

Turning Conflict into a Positive for Your Organization

Employees are people and, let’s face it, where there are people, there’s conflict. Managers and human resources professionals sometimes have a tendency to avoid conflict in hopes that it will resolve on its own. Unfortunately, letting conflict go unaddressed in the workplace can lead to major problems.

Conflicts arise for any number of reasons, including personality clashes, differing opinions about work tasks, questionable organizational structure, opposing values, weak management and poor communication. Whatever the reason, conflict that’s managed well can lead to positive outcomes like better solutions to pressing issues and improved business relationships, notes the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Managing it poorly — or ignoring it — can be disastrous.

The trouble with avoiding conflict

Conflict that’s left to fester costs businesses big every year in subpar performance, absenteeism, staff turnover, missed deadlines, reduced quality, lost sales and lower customer satisfaction. Employee morale also can go down the drain for the people involved in the conflict and for those forced to work with them.

Managing conflict is critical. Using it to the advantage of your organization is even better. But how?

Create managed debates

Set up regular meetings for questions and formal debate to keep discussion within a professional forum rather than around the water cooler, Entrepreneur magazine advises. Be sure to limit the scope of discussions and have a neutral party who can serve as a moderator to head off rehashing the same issues every week.

Respect all opinions

In your scheduled debate sessions and in impromptu discussions, treat all opinions with respect. You don’t want to give the appearance of favoritism toward certain staff members. Insist that employees also are respectful toward each other — and toward you — in all discussions.

Level the playing field

Managers and HR professionals understand that discussions take on a different tone when the CEO is in the room. As much as possible, drive home the point that everyone is equal in the debate sessions. Don’t let potentially beneficial communication be thwarted by the boundaries of roles and titles.

Keep it professional

Ensure that feedback from management team members is free of negative emotions, personal judgments and labels, as Entrepreneur advises. Discussions overall should be kept focused on business and should stay clear of any personal issues, which are best addressed with HR staff in private. It’s never appropriate to disparage staff or to comment on private relationships or activities.

Focus on solutions

Debate sessions can easily turn into never-ending gripe sessions that rehash the same problems without getting anywhere. Frame discussions from the beginning in terms of finding solutions. If a particular employee raises an issue or points out a problem, does she have thoughts on how it might be solved? Always work toward resolving conflict and generating solutions to problems.

Make it about team-building

Staff members — including senior leadership — are a team, and that point should be reinforced constantly. Everyone should be working toward the common goal of productivity and pleasing customers. If that’s not happening, it’s a problem. Reinforce the idea that despite any personal differences or conflicts, you are all part of the same united team.

Outside your debate sessions, plan some fun activities like potlucks or outings to let people get to know each other as people, as Intuit advises. People who know each other better are more likely to get along, or at least to tolerate each other.

Intervene when necessary

There’s conflict, and then there’s harassment and bullying. It’s critical that managers and HR team members know the difference and step in when necessary. Conflicts in the workplace often stem from personalities that simply don’t mesh well, but issues may be much more serious in some cases. If an employee is being insulted on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity or other personal factors, it’s time to step in — with input from an employment lawyer.

Turning conflict into a positive for your organization

Conflict exists in every organization. How you handle it can mean the difference in a chaotic, tense workplace and one in which employees work together as a team to solve problems. To use conflict for the better, expect it and set up a process for managing it.

4 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

A recent blog post from the Harvard Business Review questioned whether people can really improve their Emotional Intelligence. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote our emotional intelligence is relatively stable, but not rigid. He notes change requires “a great deal of dedication and patience.”

What are we talking about here? Emotional intelligence describes a person’s ability to understand her own emotions and the emotions of others. Insights from emotional IQ are useful for improving all professional and personal relationships. Quite simply, you make better decisions when regularly considering this information.

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Here are four tips to help you improve your emotional intelligence with the recognition that change takes time:

1. Become a better listener. A big mistake people often make in the business world is thinking about what they want to say next instead of listening to other participants in a conversation. If you tune in to others, you will catch important clues about their emotions and choose more appropriate responses.

2. Acknowledge your weaknesses. According to the Four Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence (Mayer and Salovey, 1997), emotional intelligence involves the abilities to accurately perceive your emotions and those of others, use emotions to guide thinking, understand emotional meanings, and manage your own emotions. You may be weaker in one or more of these four areas.

3. Set a goal. You are going to increase your emotional intelligence by setting a personal goal and taking incremental steps to reaching it. If you know you need to focus on understanding emotional meanings, you can work with a professional to recognize the signs people give you. Stopping to think about emotional meanings can help you avoid many difficult situations.

4. Improve by up to 25% by following a well-designed coaching program. Chamorro-Premuzic noted working with an executive and business coach can help you make improvements in your emotional intelligence. Ensure you are working with a coach who is giving you the right feedback.

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