Timing your leadership conversations.

Overview:

For context, consider the last conversation you had with someone and whether you or they may have been prescriptive in terms of when, where and what they talked to you about. If there wasn’t any thought put into having this conversation, I am certain the conversation may not have gone well for either participant. Why? Because effectively communicating with others isn’t easy to achieve without having plenty of experience doing so.

When you are involved in a conversation with someone who has mastered the ability to communicate effectively, you might barely notice how the flow of the dialogue is going well, and how they were able to get their point across. Chances are good that this person also put some thought into what they were going to express, took the proverbial temperature of both you and the environment, and carefully curated the timing of doing so.

Now, consider a time when you were caught off guard by a conversation. Did you immediately become defensive and less capable of listening to what the person had to say? Perhaps you reacted by going into a passive aggressive mode and either used very few words to express yourself or told the person you didn’t want to talk to them. Perhaps not at that point, or possibly any future point. This may be unrealistic, because if someone was trying to have a conversation with you, particularly if they are a leader, there was likely a valid reason for them to do so.

When people become dismissive of having a conversation with either a leader, or someone they can benefit speaking with, this scenario will generally lead to one of two places. The first is that they will come upon an impasse and need to decide how to proceed, even if it is uncomfortable to do so. The second place is that both parties will have to agree to be willing to give equal time and attention to one another’s conversational points. If the person who is initiating the conversation is a leader, the person they are speaking with may or may not feel as if they have any choice but to listen to what the leader is conveying. Perhaps they will feel trapped into having a discussion they are not prepared to have, or that the result of the conversation will not be in their favor.

What if instead a leader or sports coach could master being able to have both productively neutral conversations? Ones that have the intention of having both parties leave the discussion better off than when they began talking. In a perfect world, it would be ideal to have people be able to look forward to having conversations with one another. Not only to learn from each other, but also to gain a better understanding of what both parties are thinking, and how they are interpreting the best go forward method.

A factor which can contribute to having a poor conversation is certainly bad timing. We have all experienced this, and it is not only uncomfortable, but seldomly results in a desired outcome. So, how do you course correct this situation, or avoid it entirely? It may not be possible to time your conversations perfectly, but there are some factors you can take into consideration to increase the favorability of a positive outcome. Here are some suggestions for you to consider, and this is independent of whether you are a leader, sports coach or are more often on the receiving end of conversations with these two categories of management personas.

  • Are you more concerned about ticking off from your list having a difficult conversation and not factoring in properly preparing for it?
  • Have you thought about the prospect of practicing having a conversation with someone, at what you would deem to be the ideal time to do so? Some people favor having difficult conversations in the morning, while others find that people could be more receptive later in the day when they are winding down.
  • If you don’t know the person well that you will be having a difficult or important conversation with, do some minor research to find out more about how they might react during your conversation. Knowing this will prepare you better to adjust your conversation accordingly.
  • How is your ability to read body language and perhaps the current mood a person is in? If the person you will be conversing with appears to be stressed, angry or distracted, the result of your conversation isn’t likely to produce the ideal outcome. Consider having your conversation when all three of these factors, or at least two of them are not going to have a negative effect.
  • Be sensitive to how you open your conversation, and make sure it is also done with consideration not to embarrass the person or put them into an uncomfortable position based on the location of where it is taking place.
  • Put yourself in the proverbial “shoes” of the person you are speaking with. How would you want a leadership type of conversation to progress, and how can you stage the conversation for maximum emotional intelligence being applied, as well as thoughtfulness of the persons feelings so that they can remain in as much as a neutral state at possible.
  • Conversations when they are well constructed and received well can provide immense leadership guidance, so take measures to ensure this will be the outcome you mutually experience.

Sure, there will be circumstances when your timing of your leadership-oriented conversation may not be ideal, but consider the alternative of not having the conversation at all? If the outcome of your conversation isn’t going to be helpful to at least one of the participants involved, factor in whether the conversation should be taking place. Or, at least whether there will be a more ideal time to have it.

TAGS: #Leadership #Leader #Leaders #Sportscoaches #Communication #Management #Effectivecommunication #Personaldevelopment #Professionaldevelopment #Mentoring #Awareness #Constructiveconversations #Leadershipconversations #Tipstohaveimpactfulleadershipconversations

Do something different. Leaders and coaches listen up please.

Admittedly there are a few things that frustrate me. One of them is based off a saying you have likely heard expressed. It is the expression of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink the water.” If you have been in this scenario before, I’m certain you understand the feeling of this proverbial horse standing near or over the water trough, needing hydration, but not drinking the water. Seeing this occurring seems senseless. Even counterintuitive, although we see this happening on a regular basis.

Who are the people that fall into this category of being “that” horse? Sometime surprisingly the people you wouldn’t imagine they would be. Yes, I’m calling out those of you who are leaders in the business world, and those of you who are sports coaches at some of the highest levels of competition. It’s very likely the scenario you are presently in is due to a combination of circumstances which have brought you to the place of inaction. Others may see your inaction as being stubborn, close minded, or worse, unaware of the fact the “water” is right in front of you.

Recently I experienced a leader who seemingly just realized they were not in a good place. All the data supports making this obvious, but ironically, they were behaving as if everything was fine. Better than fine. In fact, that they didn’t seemingly have any challenges at all. Sure, this may sound implausible, but if there were an “ignore button”, they were certainly pressing it often. Possibly without realizing they were doing so. However, others they are leading were absolutely noticing this, but didn’t feel empowered to do something, or know how to approach this leader.  

When I got the call from this leader, I was shocked. Upon speaking with them briefly, it was also as if time or the circumstances they were in didn’t matter. In fact, it was as if I was speaking to an individual that had little or no awareness of the reality of the situation, they were in. This may be their way of protecting themselves from reality, but the reality is, they will need to confront reality next week. Why next week? Because they will have a new boss who is going to want them to provide answers about how they will do things differently to obtain far better results. When I asked them what their plan was to have this conversation, I was less than impressed by what I heard.

The more difficult aspect of hearing that the leader didn’t think they needed a new plan was more disconcerting. Having the experience of knowing they were going to need to have a solid, well thought through plan to make the necessary changes to impact their current circumstances seemed obvious. Yet, this appeared to be the furthest thinking from what they were expressing.

Instead, what I heard was that they were going to be making tactical maneuvers. Ones that in essence would only apply a Band-Aid to their scenario, when what they needed was to have a surgical team in place to repair the damage. The lack of awareness of what was going to be needed to positively impact their circumstances partially contributes to the situation they are in.  However, the bigger problem is that they thought with the plan they had shared with me, that all the solutions to solve their challenges were going to be met.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this scenario is going to play out. At least not without doing something quite different than they are planning to do.

If you are a leader or sports coach who is currently in or may be in a situation which will call for you to do something different than you are doing, with the intent to get better results, below are some suggestions you can begin considering to apply.

  • Do you have a group of trusted advisors? Ones who will challenge you and not play the role of a “yes” person.?
  • Consider why you think that doing the same thing all the time is going to offer you the desired results you are seeking.
  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how comfortable are you with change?
  • If your score isn’t close to a 10, you have some work to do. This can also offer insight into why you may be in the circumstances you are now.
  • How well do you listen to others? Chances are high that this is an area we can all improve upon. Consider testing yourself in terms of noticing whether you are listening or talking more. Practice listening more than you are talking and see what benefits you gain from this.
  • What is preventing you for doing something differently? If you don’t like change, what if you looked at change differently? Perhaps as being a positive maneuver versus one you find more comfort in resisting?
  • Stop kidding yourself. If your current circumstances aren’t where you want them to be, others are noticing. In fact, they are likely waiting for you to reach out and ask them for help.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to help others. If you are not asking for help yourself, this isn’t allowing you to fully embrace your role as a leader or sports coach. Taking actions to do something different doesn’t need to be perceived negatively. In fact, it might be exactly what you need to do. What will your doing something different be?

TAGS: #Leadership #Leader #Leaders #Sportscoach #Communication #Motivation #Teamdynamics #Business #Listening #Change #Embracingchange #Management #Strategy #Success #Leadershipsuccess

Why the “how” of leadership isn’t often talked about.

Too often I see leaders in positions who are presenting an academy award level of acting to cover up their leadership deficits. Although they are not aware of how transparent their struggles might be, it is painful to see them struggling. Worse, is that many of them think they have either no one to turn to, or that they must figure out all of their challenges independently. They don’t. However, they often grapple with thinking they need to do so.

Yes, even seasoned leaders can struggle with coming up with the “how” to do something. This is occurring because of the unfortunate reality that although there is plenty of access to information both on-line and in person, the conundrum is knowing what questions to ask to sort out finding a solution.

Being able to articulate what challenges a leader may be having seems like it would be easy. It’s not, and this is because when leadership challenges are occurring, the outcome goes one of two ways. The first way is that the leader realizes they may not have the experience to soley come up with a solution. They then reach out to others on their team or their trusted advisors for help. The other way isn’t pretty. It’s when a leader thinks they independently need to come up with a solution on their own. They also don’t ask for help. Then the “situation” is ignored and festers. Often what then happens, is there is no longer the luxury of time, and the “situation” must be addressed under less than desirable circumstances.

Not only is it frustrating for the leader to be in the position of feeling they can’t ask for support to help them know “how” to address a situation, but it is also equally painful for those who are in supporting roles. Ones in fact that could help them. However, we have all heard the expression “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink the water.” When this is happening, the leader is typically in a crisis and will often resort to pressing the “ignore button”. Of course, they may not want to, but they have not been taught “how” to perhaps ask for help.

Having a leader who is comfortable asking for help or support is the optimal place you want to be as a leader. It’s important to recognize that doing so will not diminish your credibility. Conversely, it can diminish your leadership credibility if you don’t allow yourself to be open minded, and vulnerable enough to realize you don’t have to have all the answers. In other words, being a leader is a “team sport”. Picking a sport analogy to this thinking, is that you are either the quarterback or the coach of the team. You might be expected to know more than you do, but this doesn’t mean you can’t be progressively learning and being supported along the way. Spoiler alert. The best leaders are always evolving. They will also never tell you they know everything they need to know to be highly effective in their leadership role.

For context, consider someone you know who is a business leader or a sports coach. What are the leadership attributes you admire about them? Are these attributes they were born with, cultivated over time, or perhaps both? Now, think about the best leader you have ever encountered. They could be someone that led you, or perhaps were someone you witnessed their leadership in action. What are some of the actions they took which made them a strong leader? I’m certain you will have at least a half dozen characteristics you will be able to site.

As I was coming up the leadership track, I soon realized there are two types of people I would interact with. The first were those who were unwilling to share information with me, and the second type were those that were readily doing so. The first group withheld information because they were under the impression that giving away information would diminish their power. Conversely the other group freely dispersed information and shared it with you proactively. They were never concerned about whether sharing information was going to diminish their authority or power.

When I quickly realized that the second group was the type of people I wanted to be around, and also be a role model for, it opened up many possibilities to grow as a leader. Most importantly, to be able to ask others about “how” I could help them accomplish something.

Being able to ask others “how” to do something seems like an elementary concept. Yet, it isn’t one that is as readily embraced as often as you think it would be. Leaders and sports coaches who struggle with inquiring about “how” to do something are not in an enviable position. In fact, most that do not get to the level of being able to comfortably ask for “how”, or help in sorting challenges out, will find they have a reduced amount of time in their role. Or, they will be highly ineffective as a leader, and will eventually be asked to step down from their role.

If you or someone you know who is in a leadership or sports coach role that is challenged with being able to ask for support in any capacity relating to your role, here are some suggestions you can consider.

  • Ask yourself why you think you need to know everything? Are you answers reasonable or erring on being absurd?
  • Is fear contributing to being reluctant to discuss how you can succeed?
  • Break down your thinking about why you are resisting asking for help. Do you subconsciously believe you are not going to succeed?
  • On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, how aware are you of your strengths and deficits?
  • Are your deficits going to hold you back from being an effective leader if you don’t address them?
  • Realistically, are you honestly and completely tapping into your extraordinary talents yet?
  • Are your strengths and natural leadership abilities strong enough to lean on if you don’t further invest in them to be an impactful leader?
  • What are you doing to continually allow yourself to grow as a leader?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t address getting the support you need to become a more effective leader?

Although leaders and sports coaches have the spotlight on them, at the end of the day, they are technically in a supporting role for those they lead. If a leader isn’t thinking of themselves in this capacity, it will be far more difficult than it needs to be for them to realize they can be a much more impactful leader if they were to adopt this type of leadership philosophy.

TAGS: #Leadership #Leader #Sportscoach #Coach #Business #Communication #Motivation #Awareness #Effectiveleadership #Impactfulleadership #Teamdynamics #Management #Strategy #Success

Are all leaders coachable?

Presumptions about leaders’ capabilities are made all the time. Often, they are given too much credit for having skills in every imaginable area of their business or the sports team they lead. This is one of the reasons those they lead might become disappointed with the leader. This is also despite the fact we can realistically acknowledge no one person is capable of being fully competent in every area. More importantly, also one of the reasons leaders are supported by others.

We have seen that even with the most ideal support team, this doesn’t guarantee a leader’s success. Although the leadership support team which can include other executives or assistant coaches can provide a structure that will bolster and potentially mask a leader’s deficits, it can also cause unnecessary stress on the team. This will ultimately lead to the members of the team having a lack of trust in their leader’s competency, and eventually burnout for these members. This is a preventable scenario, but one which is also difficult to address with the leader who needs more support. Yet, isn’t receiving it. Perhaps not be willing to either.

Given the scenario above, at some point there will come a time when someone on or associated with the support team will need to have a conversation with the leader or coach. They will need to address the fact that the leader or coach is experiencing challenges in their role by not having some leadership skills they require. Ones that they will need to be successful long term. These skills will be different for each person, but there are some common leadership skills which are foundational ones that need to be mastered.

One of the foundational areas is obvious. Perhaps seemingly easy to master, but it’s not. It’s communication, and like a diamond, there are many facets to this topic. In terms of leadership, a strong leader needs to be able to comfortably convey their vision, strategy and have the capacity to be influential with their communication style. I use the word style, as there are a variety of ways a leader can communicate (e.g., verbally, in writing, demonstratively with body language), and they may be more polished in one or two of these areas. Or not. If they are not strong in the area of communicating, this is often an initial area which is glaringly obvious the leader needs support.

Another area which leaders and coaches commonly have a deficit in is their ability to be influential. If their communication skill is not at the level it should be, this will directly impact their ability to influence others. If they are not able to influence others, this will prevent them from getting everyone on their team onboard. You can fill in the blank in terms of what topics this will have an effect on.

The next area which needs to be looked at is a leader’s ability to collaborate. This will require them to exercise a number of different skills, one of them being able to listen exceptionally well. Having the ability to listen well will provide the leader with information that is being both stated, but more importantly not being said. The ability to listen to what is not being stated is critical in terms of knowing which collaborative approach is going to best suit the scenario for an ideal outcome.

Being humble, and let’s add in vulnerable is another factor which will contribute to whether a leader or sports coach will have success. If they will allow themselves to ultimately be open enough to receive additional support to enhance their leadership capabilities, they will experience far greater and earlier success in their career. Although these factors are ideally addressed early in a leader’s career, more often they are not, and this leads to what I’ll refer to as an ”intervention”. This is less than desirable, but it can make the difference between the leader or sports coach being in their role a year from now. Perhaps next quarter or season.

Experiencing adversity and how you handle it as a leader is going to also impact your “go forward” path. Each adversarial situation will be different. Where you end up on the other side of the equation based on how you handle each scenario is going to be a factor which will contribute to making the difference in terms of the success you and your team will experience. For instance, will you know how to handle every adversarial scenario well? Of course not. However, how well you do handle it, and who you seek support from either conversationally or from an action perspective to best address a negative scenario, will also be a determining factor in the longevity in your role.

If you are wondering if you are coachable as a leader, or if your leader is coachable, below are some suggestions to consider whether you or they are.

  • Are you aware of who you are at a core level, and how you react and interact with your team during adversarial times?
  • Are you willing to admit you don’t have all the answers, and can benefit from seeking support from others with more experience?
  • On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, how often does your ego get in the way of seeking support from others?
  • Can you easily describe who you are as a person, not as a leader?
  • Can you easily describe your leadership style?
  • What would you say your level is on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest in terms of allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable with those you lead?
  • How comfortable are you collaborating with others on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest?
  • Do you know what your communication style is?
  • How would you rate your communication style, on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest?
  • If someone were to suggest that you need more support as a leader, what reaction would you have to hearing this?
  • How would you rate yourself as being a coachable leader on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest?

Being a leader or sports coach is a big responsibility. It is also well understood that many others are counting on you on a variety of different levels for your leadership abilities. Taking the time each year to consider whether you or your leader is ideally positioned to be doing their job extraordinary well, with or without support should be discussed. More importantly, to determine whether you or they are properly set-up to successfully lead others.

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Motivation #Teams #Sportscoach #Teamdynamics #Communication #Awareness #Leadershipstyle #Vulnerability #Collaboration #Influence

The power of possibilities.

Right now, I’m thinking about a sports team that is one game away from repeating the amazing performance and season they had last year. This time they are at home, and their opponent traveled from the west coast, so the toll of traveling and far different weather conditions will not be in their favor. Even though these factors might seem to be detrimental to their outcome, I can assure you they won’t be, and my team is prepared for this.

Some of the preparations the team has taken into consideration is making sure their individual mindsets are focused, and visualizing the outcome they want their upcoming game today to have. In other words, they are harnessing the power of the possibility of ending their season exactly the way they want to. Two of the other preparations they are taking to ensure the outcome they are anticipating is to fully appreciate the “why” and “who” they are playing their game for. They each know this, and are hyper focused on these two concepts. Although this might seem easy to do, it’s not. It’s also several of the reasons they have had such a successful season.

Of course, this teams coaches play a large role in their success too, and each of them brings their specialized talents to infuse into the collective team’s performance. The coaches consistently apply their specialized methods to their team, but two of these factors they include might be different and perhaps surprising. What are these factors? It’s humor and kindness. One of the coaches excels in each of these areas, and these are a few of what I’ll refer to as her “superpowers”. Seeing her apply them is like watching a professional ballet, as she is so poised and elegant with her application of these elements.

Perhaps you are surprised by the two factors I noted that are applied to making the team I am referring to so successful? The interesting part of this is that these are exactly the same factors that can be applied to a corporate team. Yet, they so infrequently are. However, when they are, that is what separates their performance outcomes from other teams and companies.

The team I am also referencing ,is admittedly at the greatest disadvantage on so many levels, but they never leverage this as an excuse for achievement. Many sports and corporate teams could learn a great deal from watching this team in action, but more so off the field. Why? Because they are only on the field a relatively short amount of time, and what they are putting into practice and their outcomes off the field is arguably more critical to their success. How do I know this? Because I engage in very strategic and creative conversations with one of their coaches on a regular basis, and we have done so for the last three years.

During our conversations very few topics are off limits, and many times I feel like we are two philosophers discussing anything but sports and team dynamics. Naturally we are, but the intensity of our discussions and where they lead is always intriguing. The best part, is that they always produce thought provoking options to consider relating to challenges we always have woven into our conversations. Options which are then applied soon after we talk. Almost like a “test kitchen” concept to see which ones will produce the results we were expecting.

Sometimes I wish we were recording the discussions we are having, but I think that might take away from the intensity and open-mindedness we can have without feeling constrained to speak freely. Although, it’s possible at one point we might test out whether having our conversation recorded would restrict what we are talking about. For context, none of the subjects we talk about are ones we wouldn’t openly discuss in front of others, but some of them might make others slightly uncomfortable. 

In terms of how to leverage the power of possibilities like I do on a regular basis, I have some suggestions below for you to consider.

  • On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, how would you rate yourself in terms of being openminded? Hint…the more openminded you are, the easier it will be to leverage the power of possibility thinking.
  • Make a list of what you think holds you back from achieving what you or your team want to accomplish.
  • Are the items on your list realistic constraints or potentially excuses. Perhaps a mix of both? Coming to terms with especially the excuses and coming up with solutions to address not having them be excuses is going to open up the power of possibility thinking for you.
  • Commit to stop thinking “small” in terms of what you can achieve. Yes, it’s easy to do, but you first need to take steps not to do this all the time. Eventually you will want to have the goal of eliminating “small” thinking in terms of what you can achieve.
  • Do you realize that you might be more often thinking in terms of scarcity versus abundance? Reverse your thinking on this one. It will serve you well doing so.
  • When was the last time you thought about achieving something you may never have admitted out loud, or written down and looked at? Perhaps something really big and what others might think is audacious? In my opinion, I would be thrilled if you thought this way, and I am always saying to others “Go big, or go home!” Why not?
  • Do you have someone you admire that you can look to for inspiration? If not, consider what would be the qualities of someone you would admire who has achieved perhaps the things you would like to achieve too?

Leveraging the “power of possibility thinking” is something that will take time to master. Even if you are only slightly open to thinking this way, you will be amazed at what will be happening both in your life, professionally and for those that you lead when you master this concept. More importantly, you should have fun doing this, and lots of laughter along the way.

TAGS: #Leadership #Motivation #Teams #Sports #Sportsteams #Corporateteams #Executives #Sportscoaches #Communication #Achievement #Success #Leader #Business #Teamdynamics #Success #Mindset #Positivethinking