Great leadership skills CAN be learnt

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet too loudly but I know I am a great leader.

I also know that no one, and I mean NO ONE would have expected that of me when I was leaving school.

I felt school at 16. It was the early ’80’s and jobs of any sort were in very short supply. Despite getting really good grades in my exams staying on at school or going to college or university simply wasn’t an option.

Like many of us at the time, we came out of school without high aspirations and got a job – any old job.

I kicked about for a while then started a 6 month Youth Opportunity Programme in Local Government. Basically we were paid next to nothing to work and gain experience, but it was better than no job at all.

I was a weird kid at 17, part feisty punk and part terrified shy teen. I had zero confidence in myself or my abilities.

I was a quick learner though and had an ability to work fast. Tasks given to me got done well and quickly. I was also curious, so happily got involved in anything that came my way.

The temporary placement turned into a permanent contract, and a 35 year long career in local government.

I had no aspirations to be a manager and I don’t think the term ‘leadership’ was even in the vocabulary back then. Managers were the big bosses. They were never referred to by their first name, and they were slightly scary.

I was lucky in that my hard work and aptitude was recognised. As a result I was given opportunities to develop and I had one colleague who believed in me. They pushed me to take those opportunities even when I was terrified.  And, I was always terrified. Scared of cocking things up, of being found out, of not being good enough.

When I first started ‘leading’ people I had no clue. I was suddenly ‘supervising’ other people and could only use the examples around me to learn what I was expected to do.

I carried with me that memory of the person who had enough confidence in me that they could buoy up my own.

Over the next few years, my ‘team’ grew. I went on many management courses and if I am honest, I still had NO CLUE!

I was taught loads of theory. I learnt lots about all the different management styles. And, of course some of that stuff is really useful.

I mainly learnt though trial and error. I remained curious. I wanted to understand how really successful people did things. What made them different? I was constantly looking at what worked and what didn’t. I was determined to keep developing.

It wasn’t until much later that I realised that leadership is much more effective than trying to manage people.

The most important thing that I have learnt is this.

1. You CAN learn leadership skills.

You will have to give up on some of the beliefs you learnt early on in your career.

You may find yourself at odds with people who are more traditional managers.

You will certainly have to work hard to convince your colleagues that your approach is for real. Especially if they have previously had a very traditional manager.

You will never be able to say you know it all, or allow yourself to stop developing.

But, if you are self aware, like people, and have a passion for constant learning then, of course, you can be a great leader.

In the words of one of my favourite leadership books, ‘It’s not rocket science’.*

The work world has changed beyond all recognition over the last 30 years. A traditional manager, telling people what to do, and treating their team as subservient, seems as old fashioned now as the typewriters that were still in use when I started work!

Leadership skills which recognise that we are ALL human beings are the future.

The most important leadership skill?

Well, in my opinion it is the ability to give someone else confidence in themselves.

I try whenever possible to pass on the gift that was given to me when I was younger.

I will always help others to see that they can do it, whatever it is. I will always share what I have learnt to help give the next person a step up.

If you want to talk to me about whether I can help you to develop your leadership skills I will happily book you a no obligation ‘curiosity call’. Click here https://bit.ly/PPLcuriositycall

*It’s not rocket science. A blueprint for a sustainably successful organisation.  By Di Kamp and available from meta-org.com

To be a good leader you have to look after yourself 

Leaders need to practice self care

Often in leadership we feel we have to be there for everyone. We give a lot of ourselves. We spend most of our time supporting others. We pick up the pieces when things go wrong, and always try to be one step ahead.

But, who looks out for us?

YOU must! If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you be your best? How can you be a great leader if you are on your knees?

Sometimes great leadership is knowing when it’s time to step back and let others step up to the plate for a while. Too often I see great colleagues working very long hours and taking on far more than is healthy or even possible. Never saying no, enough!

Part of being a great leader is about setting the example. You should be a role model. Others will believe that how we behave is what is expected of them. Setting unhealthy expectations, by not taking care  of yourself, makes no sense.

Yet, it is easy to get sucked into. You’re busy! You don’t have time to be ill, or to take a few days off to recharge.

It’s an easy mistake.

Self care will make you a better leader.  You cannot give so much of yourself that you don’t have anything left to give. Otherwise you will burn out, get sick or get to the stage where you can’t do it any more.

I have learnt the hard way that I need to look after me better! I have learnt that needing to take some time out is not a failing.  It is  sensible and self-aware. It is showing everyone that even you can’t always be your best.

I use many different techniques for practicing self care.

MEDITATION 

I meditate at least 3 times a week. I found this almost impossible at first. I couldn’t quiet my mind. But, with practice I can now meditate for up to 30 minutes and I find it incredibly restorative. There are loads of free online resources you can use and a great app called Calm, which I also use.

EFT

I use EFT, or tapping. Don’t ask me how this works because I really can’t explain it but for me it totally does. I am a fairly recent convert to emotional freedom technique and I highly recommend Marie Houlden (httpss://mariehoulden.com). She has lots of free resources on YouTube, if you want to give it a go. Nothing beats one to one or group live sessions though.

JOURNALLING 

Journalling is another fabulous habit to get into. Many of us kept diaries as teenagers, in which we poured out our hopes and fears. I bet that most of us gave that all up once we left school.

Journalling is a powerful way of reflecting on what is going well, and what you need to delve into a bit more. You can use your journal to set our your goals, making them more tangible and therefore more likely to be achieved.

I try to write something everyday – although if I miss a day I don’t beat myself up about it. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and reduces stress simply by getting it all out of my head.

I write down what I am thankful for. This could be things that went well, or feeling well, or getting through the day!

I set out my intentions – what I will do. This could be ‘eat more healthily’ if I have been a bit indulgent.  Or, something more major such as my big personal and professional goals.  I find this also helps me to get clear about what I don’t want to do.

I also use my journal to forgive myself. I write down whatever it is that I need to let go of. Anything that I am self obsessing about goes down along with the words ‘I forgive myself’.

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is the need for self care. Even so, I forget, time and again, that I am a human being and not a machine. I push myself too hard. I keep working when I am ill. I allow stress to get the better of me.

I am still learning.

Don’t leave it too late, start looking after YOU today.

Staying Motivated…..

The expert guide to staying motivated…

August – sunshine and fun filled days, holidays and quality time with family and friends.

Staying motivated at work through August can be a challenge though. So many people are on leave. It can be really tough keeping up the momentum and getting things done.

For me it’s always been a difficult month. I didn’t particularly enjoy the school summer holidays as a child and have no children of my own. August always seems to cause some stagnation for me and I have to work extra hard at staying motivated at work.

Those of you who do have school aged children no doubt find the month struggle for precisely the opposite reasons. You will have different priorities. Managing your child care, as well as your job, at a time when you have a good proportion of your team on leave, will bring its own challenges.

Instead of letting it get me down I try to use the time productively.

I accept that it may not be the most dynamic month in the work calendar and find ways of making the best of it.

Staying motivated is not something we should be looking to someone else for. Our motivation is all about us, it’s a direct result of our own action, and how we manage ourselves.

So it stands to reason that this is something we have to take control of. It’s in our gift to do something about it.

And, that’s exactly what I have learnt to do.

Here are my top tips for staying motivated through August.

1. Take it one day at a time.

Trying to plan in too much detail is difficult when the calls on your time are likely to be quite different to normal.

With fewer of your team at work you are likely to get called upon more often to deal with matters that ordinarily would be someone else’s job.

Do you find yourself getting to the end of the day having achieved nothing on the to-do list?

You are not alone. So many other leaders feel the same.

Accept it, and give yourself a little more space than normal. If it’s not critical then don’t sweat about it.

I always factor some time into my day for the unexpected. During August I always double that, because I can be sure that I will have key colleagues on leave and I will need to step in.

2. Take Stock

August is a great time to take stock.

Review your year to date. Where are you with your big goals?

Acknowledge your progress so far and assess where you will need to ramp things up in the coming months.

Celebrate your successes with your team so that they know that they are winning on some fronts.

Get on top of the action plan by setting out your goals for the next couple of months.

Use the time to re-assess what is important. Have there been changes which need to be reflected in your action plan? What comes off the priority list – and what needs to go on?

3. Focus on what you can do

And, not what you can’t!

Getting stressed about things that you cannot do because you are waiting on someone else is not productive. Don’t do it!

Put your energy into things that you can be getting on with. It can feel that everything takes longer to achieve in August. You may be held back waiting for someone to come back from leave and get back up to date before you can progress. Unless you can change this situation then accept it and focus on what else you can be doing.

Of course, you may have some priorities that you have to progress. So, plan how you can tackle those, for sure.

Maybe, there is an opportunity in it for someone else?

It could be the perfect time to invest some time getting someone else trained up to carry out certain tasks. This can only be a good things as it builds resilence in your team.

4. Talk to people

Your colleagues and team members are probably feeling a bit under motivated. They are likely to be just back from their holidays, or waiting to have their turn. Everyone is having to cover someone else’s work to keep all the plates spinning.

Talk to people, find out what is going on in their work worlds. See what you can learn from those around you. Talking to people about their work, in the work, rather than in a 1-2-1 situation, is a powerful way of understanding what their issues are.

What systems are they struggling with? What blockages are they having to work around each day?

You are more likely to find out by being ‘in the work’. Sat beside them, experiencing what they experience, rather than what they choose to tell you after the event.

5. Bring positivity

This more necessary than ever when motivation levels are below par.

Opportunity exists in everything we do – we might have to look a little harder for it.

If you don’t bring the positive energy, who will? Your team is relying on you to keep up the energy levels and help them stay focused.

In a few weeks it will be September. A new school year and the perfect time to have a mini fresh start – whether school is a distant memory or not!

How to maximise the opportunity for quality connections with your team

Great leaders have got connectivity sussed. Here are some great tips for creating excellent connections.

It always seems odd to me when I see leaders not connecting with people in their teams. These are often good people who seem to have forgotten how nice it was when anyone showed an interest in them.

When I say connecting, I don’t mean saying hello and goodbye, I mean really connecting. Communicating is good of course. But, understanding people, as individuals, as humans – that’s connecting!

Great leaders have got connectivity sussed. Here are some great tips for creating excellent connections.

KEEP IT REAL

You can’t fake it! People can spot a fake a mile off.

Authenticity is vital for connecting with people. You have to show your true self. That means sharing who you are, showing your emotions. It’s all about taking the mask off and being who we truly are.

We have all met one of those loud leaders who talks too loudly or forcefully to try to command respect. Or, who cracks inappropriate ‘jokes’ to come across as interesting. You can see right through them though, right.

False charisma is not sustainable. It’s also very off putting. Better to be yourself, be authentic.

Authenticity is showing up with your best and true self. It’s leading from your mind and your heart.

Authentic leaders show up with emotional honesty, a great attitude and an openness. They are self-aware and have empathy.

They let their colleagues see their real self.

Don’t even think about pretending to be something you are not.

BE RELATABLE

Being relatable will help you to have a broad appeal. It will make it easier for people to connect with you.

Having an easy going approach and being friendly and positive, will help people to approach you. Once they have made that approach, make it easy for them to talk to you.

It doesn’t matter what someone’s background is. Their profession, seniority, or social standing, make them no more or less important than you. Mirror their language, make them feel that you want to connect your communication with theirs, and they will know that you care.

Everyone has their own story. It is unrealistic to think we can relate to someone when they are telling us something only they can understand. Their individual perspective, based on their own values, beliefs, and emotional history makes their story, their experience, unique to them.

The key is to focus on the feelings being expressed and relate to those.

Everyone wants to >be understood, and if you show that they’re not alone, they feel valued.

Making them feel important is equally important. >It shows that you value their thoughts and opinions, and encourages them to engage more in the conversation.

YOU ARE NOT PLAYING POKER!

The words you use and your tone will show your emotions. The way you deliver your message will impact on your success in connecting.

A visual connection starts before you say a word. In part how you look has an impact and people will make a judgement based on this. But, more importantly your facial expressions will betray how you really feel. If you look disinterested or distracted you’ll quicklylose any connection. As will a poker face. You need to show your interest in your facial expressions.

BE HUMAN

Great leaders make room for laughter and joy. They accept that they are not perfect and that they make mistakes.

Excellent leaders will admit when they have made a mistake. They are not in the business of trying to protect themselves at all costs.

To connect with people we need to generate trust and make our colleagues feel safe. You need to create an environment where it is safe for someone to say ‘Hey, I screwed up’.

Most mportantly, what we evidence through our behaviour outweighs what we say. Telling people they matter to us is meaningless unless you evidence it through your behaviour.