I’ve had many leaders tell me that they think they just got lucky with the right environment and team, and they never know when their leadership skills will give out on them. It’s good to have such a thought. It shows that you care enough for the people you lead, and you’re invested in growing personally and professionally. With the demands of an uncertain global climate breathing down your neck, it’s hard to find extra time to sit in multiple courses to develop your skills. Here’s where you’ve got your back– quick ways to grow them properly, that you can transfer across different job cultures.
1. The Reality Check: No one is born a leader
The truth is, leaders become leaders because of technical skills, not because they’re naturally adept at leadership. Sure, some might have better soft skills– which is something that they’ve been honing anyway. So the next time you shoot yourself down for not having natural leadership skills, give yourself a reality check and forgive yourself. Let’s stop haemorrhaging energy attacking yourself, and instead funnel it to the next few steps here.
2. Who do you want to be?
Consider who inspires you as a leader or a person. Then, think, why. It could be something about a particular capability, the way they make you feel, or the way they present themselves. With these in mind, you can create a portmanteau of the type of leader you want to be. Then, ask yourself “What is it about me that makes me shine?”. That’s your X Factor. Perhaps, you have a way with words, or you have a knack for cutting through to the root of issues whilst everyone goes around the proverbial mulberry bush. Add your X Factor to the portmanteau. There, you’ve got your formula.
- Jim’s great at motivating people by seeing their strengths.
- Lola is a fabulous storyteller, she keeps people engaged no matter how dry the content is.
- Tim is incredibly efficient at what he does, so he can use that energy for all the other things that matter.
- My X Factor is that I have great energy and people are roused by it.
In each of this components, identify the areas you can grow, some goals, and how.
3. Understand that everyone has a different brain pace and psychological safety needs
At NEP, we are hot on how everybody works at a different pace, and being able to cater to each others’ psychological safety needs. Put simply, a person who is fast-paced might thrive under pressure and produce most of their (quality) work close to the deadlines, whilst a slower-paced individual may like to produce work in various instalments and mini-milestones. The extent to which we feel psychologically safe at work, means that we are able to voice our opinions or ask for support– this way, both growth and problem-solving are facilitated early in the game as compared to organisations where everybody agrees because they’re too scared to say otherwise. In the latter situation, there is a vicious cycle with more problems which require endless clean-up. As a leader, knowing how to read or discover everyone’s brain pace and safety needs will help you cater your delivery accordingly; it’ll also teach your team to meet your own needs. A win-win-win.
4. Check in and connect… and you’re not the counsellor
With hybrid work environments, there is even more uncertainty as things are not spelt out, and energy is incinerated in guessing games. Otherwise, some team members wonder if their leaders care. Without having to be the counsellor or the agony aunt, keep the checking in simple by making it a regular scheduled thing. For instance, an automated email at the end of the day. A 20-minute team gathering with a theme (e.g. “let’s talk about life’s pressures today, and just be here for each other”) and round robin. Anything too deep, refer them to a professional who can help. Of course, this checking in will be most effective when people have psychological safety.
5. Make sure you’re all on the same page
Many leaders tell me they wonder if their team member know what they’re saying; in other words, they’re uncertain about the clarity. This is easily solvable. Simply pepper what you say with “Do you get what I’m saying”, and use simple phrases like “To make sure we’re on the same page, give me a quick summary of what you’ll be doing”. When studying for exams, we know we’re familiar with a topic when we can describe it to others; the same applies here. This way, as they rephrase what you’ve said, you know what gaps there are. It also invites them to figure out what they don’t quite know, and follow up with questions. Equally important is to mine for their reflections. Prompts like “Thoughts?”, “What do you think?”, “What do you like about this?”, “What can be different about this”, help. Of course, remember to include pauses!
6. Use the time wisely
Meetings where people ramble on incessantly are not good. It makes the rambler even more anxious, and then others bored– way to erode precious energy credits. Invite people to prepare an agenda of a few items, and to present what they want to say in 2-3 sentences. Everything else is about follow-up questions or solution-finding. This way, if time is already tight, when we use the meeting time in a structured sense, we can solve issues and go out feeling energised.
7. The summary email
And when the discussion’s been wrapped up, life would be clearer and simpler if someone sent a summary email, with a few lines in point-form regarding what was discussed, who will do what next, the next check-in, and any other questions. Keep the thread simple and clean. This way, you also build psychological safety.
Which of the following are you keen to implement first?
If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, or leadership skills for your team, why not book your 45 min complimentary Performance Call.