I have been discussing my leadership list in depth, and we are up to number six, the last one! My list is a response to Google’s research on the qualities of exceptional teams, as described in Project Aristotle. Here is the list with the bullet points that I’ve discussed so far.
Kathy’s Leadership List
- Be present, and show that you care.
- Focus on keeping your mind present during conversations and meetings.
- Use good nonverbal communication to assure people that you are listening.
- Show interest in people’s activities outside of work.
- Maintain appropriate boundaries for personal discussions.
- Enforce and model respect for self and others.
- Watch vigilantly for situations that make a person or group feel a lack of respect.
- Talk to employees and peers about disrespectful behavior in an appropriate setting.
- Behave scrupulously, in a way that always shows respect for others.
- Establish Designed Alliances whenever possible so that respectful behavior is explicitly defined, expected, and required.
- Include others in decision-making as much as possible.
- People like control. Great leaders give others control as much as possible. Autonomy is motivating.
- Meeting people’s personal needs to be listened to, understood, and respected creates positive relationships.
- We make better decisions with more information. People who don’t agree with us can have valuable information to share.
- After making a decision, a leader should share the reasons behind the decision and their feelings about it.
- Inclusive decision-making saves more time in the long run.
- Ensure individual and team goals are clear and in alignment with organizational goals.
- Leaders must understand how their group contributes to the overall success of the organization.
- It’s important to make sure everyone in the group understands how they, as a group, help the organization achieve its goals.
- Roles and responsibilities must be clear to everyone in the group.
- Each individual needs to know how he or she makes a difference.
- Be consistent, dependable, and positive in your actions, attitude, and mindset.
- Great leaders are reliable in word and deed.
- Consistency builds trust.
- Positive leaders build personal influence.
- Make curiosity your default.
So, let’s discuss number six!
Make curiosity your default. I have saved the best and most powerful for last. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of questions.
Many leaders with whom I work have a tendency to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. They are absolutely certain that they know why a thing has happened or a person has done a certain action. Many times, they are completely and totally wrong, yet they work from their assumptions as if they are truth.
We can only move ourselves and our organizations forward if we base our actions and strategies on facts, which is why it is crucial to pause and ask some questions to truly understand a situation. For example, let’s say an employee is consistently late turning in a report. We assume that the person is lazy, inattentive, or has poor time management skills. When the employee tries to talk to us about it, we say, “I don’t want to hear any excuses,” and walk away. It could be that the employee is not getting a crucial piece of information from someone else. Maybe he or she doesn’t understand a required software. If we don’t listen and truly understand what is going on, we are a major part of the problem.
Asking people genuinely curious questions also builds positive relationships. Our personal needs are to be listened to, understood, and respected. We can meet all of those needs by asking people what they think and how they feel about something.
I don’t think I can reiterate enough the power of creating positive relationships. Positivity creates personal influence, which is our preferred means of motivating people. When we use our positional authority with threats, our leadership is limited to what we see and enforce. When we use our personal influence, we motivate people all the time. We don’t have to be present to know that they are doing a good job.
Some leaders feel that asking others for their opinions is a sign of weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders who consistently make unilateral decisions without asking for input are generally disliked, not respected. In asking for different perspectives, we are not committing to accept or follow those suggestions. We are listening to people about their area of expertise to make sure we haven’t missed anything. We are also creating the psychological safety needed to encourage people to speak up and contribute.
Here are the bullet points to remember:
- Great questions give leaders the information that they need to create relevant actions and strategies.
- Asking for someone’s opinions and feelings on a topic increases the positivity of the relationship.
- A curious mindset encourages a thoughtful, collaborative work environment.
There you have it — Kathy’s complete leadership list! If you focus on these six things, you can create the exceptional teams described by Google’s Project Aristotle. Remember, the main goal is to create psychological safety in your organization so that every person feels free to share ideas and disagree. You can download my complete list here if you want a one-page reminder to put up in your workplace.
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