It doesn’t matter if you’re galloping up the career ladder, attempting to scale it at a slow crawl or if you’ve already reached the lofty heights of the top, there is always room to up your game.
Tap in an online search for leadership guides to help you and your senses are assaulted by a gargantuan array of publications, courses and online tools promising to help secure your entry to the boardroom (or beef up your presence when you’re there). Even if you can navigate your way through the maze of leadership-speak and land on a great read, finding time to plough through the psychology behind being a dazzling manager may be a challenge.
Is there a quick fix for busy people? Sadly not. Identifying obstacles to leadership isn’t always straightforward and overcoming them usually takes concerted effort. Bolster the three C’s, however, and you will strengthen your impact at work:
Richard Branson says: “Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess”.
There’s a perverse state existing in many a workplace where those who think they are great communicators, often are not. How do you gauge if you are getting it right and if you’re not up to scratch, how do you improve?
Measures of communication can run from staff churn rates to blank stares in a team briefing. Staff surveys, frequency and tone of formal and informal feedback will give you an indication of how well you’re doing. Good body language, an upbeat culture and happy co-workers all indicate you’re getting it right. If the room goes quiet when you walk in or the words, ‘in this place’ abound in more than the minority, it’s time to up your game and planning makes sense:
What is my message?
Why do I need to communicate it?
How do I get feedback or questions?
Communication is perpetual: what is fed back or asked informs your communications and you start again.
Getting your message across
Make the content relevant to the recipient or audience
Keep it direct and ditch words that weaken your message like: maybe, probably, sorry, just, possibly, hopefully, would, could. And don’t use but.
Keep it short
Keep it positive
Make it stick: tell a story, use strong images.
The second C to pay attention to is clarity. And being specific aboutwhat want in your career or business in one year, three years, five years is fundamental. A vague notion that you want to be earning more money or be a ‘something director’ won’t cut it. Having a specific target will help you identify where exactly you need to up your game. Once armed with this information your strategy for achieving it can be precise.
Sorting out the maelstrom in your head and focusing on what’s going to get you to where you want to be is also key. Buffett, Jobs and Gates are all noted for saying that focus was a major factor in their success. It may be a challenge. Finding the right balance of delegation and management as you progress through your career is a hard transition that not everyone easily makes. Micromanaging their way into a crisis is uncomfortably common for too many managers. Fear of letting go of control traps them into staying too involved. They end up ‘doing’ and ‘managing’, heading into overwhelm and losing the respect of their team.
Taking their eye off the ball or tending too much to their own advancement may cause problems for others. Your altruism ideally expands as you travel further up the ladder.
Stephen R Covey said: “You don’t inspire trust by micromanaging and second guessing every step people make”.
Inspiring trust, trusting your team and trusting yourself to manage them is a significant triumvirate.
If you want to sort out where you’re piling up trouble at work, set a timer for 10 minutes and divide your workload between three columns labelled: ‘must do’, ‘nice to do if I have time’, ‘ditch/delegate’. Commit to delegate or ditch and use the freed up time wisely.
What’s the story on confidence?
T. Harv Eker said:
“Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts and successful people have worries. They just don't let these feelings stop them”.
It’s difficult to contemplate upping your game at work if deep down you’re presentation-phobic or nerves turn that brilliant spiel you had prepared for the monthly sales meeting into a stream of unintelligible gibberish. If nausea sets in before your one-to-one with your boss or you’re powerless to act when someone steals your thunder or – worse - your ideas, it’s your confidence that’s in the frame.
It is all too easy to pick up on a nuance from others that feeds your feelings of being inadequate or a fraud. And the impostors amongst us (ever have the feeling someone is going to find out you're not all you're cracked up to be?) are only too happy to be pushed back into their boxes. Stop your confidence buckling by:
Lifting your sternum – it will make you look and feel more confident.
Taking up space. Before a big meeting or difficult presentation, try this: stand up tall, legs at hip width and arms flung out and up to the sky. (Not recommended in the middle of the office).
Breaking the habit of focusing on your weaknesses: write down everythingyou’re proud of daily and get used to embracing your achievements.
Learning from your mistakes: list things you feel haven’t gone well and how they could have gone better, take note and move on.
Not comparing yourself unfavourably to others.
Walking it: behave like the person you want to be. However hapless you feel on the inside most people don’t realise because they’re too busy hoping their own incompetence won’t be spotted.