Whether you are a leader with formal authority and a title, or someone who aspires to expand your influence to make a greater difference in your results or the lives of others, you’d be wise to examine your behavior and habits and be intentional about making the adjustments you need to make on the front end to be more effective.
I was recently coaching someone in a functional leadership position reporting to the President of the company. His chief complaint was about not being able to be effective in his role because others simply did not follow his lead. He felt that without formal authority to “make” others do what he said, he was rendered powerless. Being aware of the interpersonal dynamics involved in this issue, I brought to this leader’s attention that the root cause of the issue was that his behaviors were causing him to lose credibility in the eyes of those who depended on him, and that in the absence of that credibility, even the formal authority to make people do what he said would, at best, result in mere compliance, rather than true commitment. We agreed that he would identify 2-3 behaviors and habits that he had been exhibiting which had landed him in this place and we would work together to figure out what he needed to do to behave his way out of the problem he had behaved himself into.
Unfortunately, during our next conversation, he had plenty of thoughts about what others could and should be doing to make his life easier, but was unable or unwilling to articulate what he intended to do differently to restore trust in his relationships and regain the credibility that would increase his influence. Suffice it to say, his plan for what others should be doing for him to become a better leader did not end up working out very well. It turns out that it is especially difficult to influence people to help you become a better leader when your main complaint is that your lack of credibility prevents you from influencing people to act according to your leadership.
This is not an uncommon occurrence, especially when it comes to people who have a high level of expertise in an area and feel that their knowledge and skills ought to be enough to influence others to follow their lead. However, there is definitely merit to the old saying “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care!” As you may have heard me say before, there is a big difference between being a functional expert and being a leader. Having some expertise is a necessary part of being able to lead effectively, but it won’t carry the day if you don’t pay attention to how your behavior is perceived and how your message is landing out there with others.
Following that coaching call, and as I reflected on the many times I have guided leaders in the process of identifying the mindsets and behaviors they should own up to in themselves, I decided to publish these tips that we can all use to transform the impact we have on others.
1. Be mindful of how you leave people feeling about themselves – People’s opinion of you, and whether they respect or trust you and are willing to follow your lead, largely depends on whether you leave them feeling empowered or inadequate. A little empathy goes a long way to make sure you don’t cause people to intentionally or unintentionally avoid you. As a leader, only you are responsible for the impression you leave on others, and how it influences their response.
2. Be responsible for the energy you bring into every encounter – Your mere presence, your demeanor, your words, and your body language alter the space you create wherever you go. Unless you are aware of the energy you bring, positive or negative, and proactively take responsibility for how you show up and how you impact others, you will continue to wonder why the effect you have on others turns out to be completely the opposite of what you intend. Take a moment before every important encounter—and they are all important by the way—to generate yourself.
3. Show interest in others and their stories and ideas – People are drawn to people who show interest in them and find it exhausting to be around people who are so much into themselves that they don’t even notice that there are others around! Be intentional about listening and show genuine interest in what people have to say. Ask them open-ended questions about themselves so they can tell you their story. Ask them about their thoughts about the task at hand so they feel they can share their ideas and that their contributions are appreciated. If they know and feel that you care to hear what they have to say, they will return the favor.
4. Be authentic – Actively demonstrate the courage to be authentic, especially when it leaves you vulnerable. This let’s people know you know you are not perfect and that you don’t expect them to be. This gives them license to be their real self and be at ease about admitting their flaws, which gives you the opportunity to offer your support as they overcome their challenges.
5. Respect confidentiality – Honesty and trust are essential to any relationship. Create a safe space for information to be shared by proving yourself to be trustworthy and not divulging confidential information. To do otherwise is to ensure that no one else will ever tell you anything of importance.
6. Show loyalty to those who are not present – While it may be fun to gossip and talk about other people’s problems with someone else who shares the same views as you, it is also damaging to your reputation because you prove yourself to be disloyal, and erode the trust in the relationship. Being loyal to those who are not present assures others that if we have an issue with them, we will go to them and give them an opportunity to work through it rather talking to others about them.
7. Be true to yourself – Know what your values are and do not compromise them in the name of making others happy. The short-term gains of winning people’s approval are far outweighed by the perils of being, or coming across as, inconsistent and willing to throw your principles out the window on a whim.
8. Practice a balance of courage and consideration – Prove yourself capable of dispensing tough love. That is, “Say what needs to be said and deliver the message in a way that assures the other that you have their best interest at heart.” Have the courage to hold others to high standards and not allow them to settle for being mediocre, and have the consideration to do it in a way that clearly lets them know you care about them.
9. Follow through on your commitments – In a world where most people break their promises without a thought to at least communicate their intentions, you would easily stand out as a person of integrity if you did what you said you would do and communicated and made a new agreement when you were unable or unwilling to do so.
10. Right the wrongs – If you have previously violated any of the above principles, the best place to start is to own up to it and declare your intentions to behave otherwise in the future. If you are hesitant to take this on, I would refer you to the chapter in my book, The Transformative Leader, titled “How to have the conversation you have been avoiding.” You may also listen to my podcast on the topic by clicking here.
As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges - Leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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