Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. – Stephen Covey
Leadership Blind Spots
In one of my previous posts, “Leaders Cause Problems,” I pointed out how leaders set up situations that cause problems – mostly without awareness of what they are doing or how they are setting up that problem. Often, those leaders blame others for the problem and respond in ways that compound the situation. Self-awareness is an important leadership trait. Leadership awareness is not an arrival point; it’s an ongoing journey. The more aware we become, the more we understand there’s more to learn. Leaders need not have all the answers. More importantly, leaders must have good questions and learn to listen to the response of others to those inquiries. Growing leadership skills goes hand-in-hand with growing awareness of one’s own competencies and an awareness of group emotional process. Observing systems and group interactions provides perspective for effective interaction, which is key to effective leadership skills and a culture of high-functioning leaders. Here are some of my systems for sorting out my own issues and staying aware of my skills and gaps:
First, how do you evaluate your skills, personal interactions, and functioning as the leader of the organization?
- List Your Top Skills – Leadership is skill based. Nobody is born a leader. Some people adapt easier than others and some have more potential than others. Build an inventory of the top skills you possess. Rate each one from 1-10, with 10 being the highest.
- List the Skills Worthy of Improvement – Choose from the list in #1 those skills with a number above 6. Those skills below 6 should be delegated. Don’t waste time working on skills that need too much development. Fill those gaps with people rating high in those competencies.
- Define Your Gaps – These are things you are not good at or should not be doing. These are the top duties to delegate. Letting go of things you should not be doing lets you focus on the things that only you can do.
- Define New Competencies to Explore – You might have more abilities than you realize – until you consider the challenge of developing a new skill. Make a list of some new things to consider. Caution: If you have lots of ability, don’t try to do everything. Letting go of low priorities gives more value to the high priorities.
Personal Skills Upgrades
How do you access your skills as a leader?
- Think About It – Not every leader thinks. Specifically, many leaders do not set aside time for thinking. Schedule a time on your daily calendar for thinking time. Develop a strategy for thinking – define a topic, identify a problem, reflect on your evaluation, review your schedule, etc. Or, just push out every thought in your mind and reflect on whatever enters your mind. Define the time slot and set a timer. Take notes when finished. Moving immediately into action without thinking about methods or processes can be a way to set up problems.
- Ask Others – There are ways to get perspective from team members that don’t compromise the leader. Ask open-ended questions such as, “How did you feel when I ….” or “How did you interpret my comments in the last team meeting?” You should also have a group of colleagues in a formal or informal peer group who will provide you with straight answers to your questions. Think about the questions because the choice of words will directly impact the response you get. Be sure to listen, and don’t argue or defend.
- Create a Feedback Group – This is different from #2 when you ask individuals. This is asking questions in a group setting of advisers, peers, colleagues, or other trusted leaders. Develop consistent questions to ask at various intervals – get feedback over time on some of the same issues or challenges. A mastermind group is a good example of group support.
- Constantly Read Leadership Material – Check out trusted sources and compare yourself to those ideas. Stay away from what’s trendy or radical. Don’t read a book one day and then attempt to try everything in that book the next day. Learn the principles behind the tools, systems, or strategies, and then adapt those principles to your leadership style and personality. Nobody respects a copy-cat leader. Be authentic.
When you don’t know the answer to a specific problem, what do you do?
- Bluff and pretend that you have the answer – Pretending that you are always right, or have the right answer, is a fast way to lose the respect of your team. Pretending that you don’t have weaknesses tempts others to want to prove you to be wrong. A bluff covers up the problem and isolates you, preventing receiving answers from a person who might have some wisdom to share. Bluffing is bad.
- Call a friend – No, this isn’t a TV show, but you can take time out to call someone with specialized knowledge – or several with expertise that you need. Leadership is about identifying your gaps and allowing others to fill those gaps.
- Ignore the problem, hoping that it will go away – This is the #1 strategy that causes small problems to grow into nuclear proportions. Address any problem when you first see it. The longer you wait, the more it will cost – in money, time and relationships.
- Gather your executive team and conduct a problem-solving activity – This is the best way to gain perspective and to define potential solutions. Be direct in addressing the issue in specific terms without blaming or criticizing individuals. Let the group respond and own the actions that come from this session.
Here’s a short leadership assessment to help you think about your situation. Let me know if you want to talk about your results. Leadership Assessment: http://bit.ly/1s0mITV
More for developing your skills and systems for creating a sustainable, profitable enterprise at http://thedefinitiveleader.com