By Michael Holland     

“Hi I’m Mike, and I’m a recovering bad leader.”  There was a time – or rather a season – in my life in which I led in ways that caused some collateral damage.  I drove hard for objectives using sheer will to drive teams forward.  While “I” may have perceived we achieved the goals set forth, “WE” were not nearly as effective as we could have been.  Great leadership was escaping me.

Here are 3 things I changed to increase my effectiveness and impact as a leader.

  • Put on the Lens of Positive Intent: It’s easy to jump to conclusions when you’re feeling attacked or judged or disrespected and immediately bring up your natural defenses.  But too often this radar was off target for me and my assumptions clouded my capability to see others’ points of view.  I began to assume first that the intentions of those around me were positive allowing me to keep my defenses and negative assumptions in check.  Just a moment delay in my thinking to allow a voice to come through my head saying “think positive intent, what is it this person is really saying and feeling” provided a window of opportunity to gain clarity.
  • Studied My Communication/Leadership Style: Our natural communication and leadership styles can reveal our built-in talent to lead others.  But one style does not work in every situation in which a leader finds himself.  I broadened my understanding of my leadership style through deep study of my style via the communications assessment tool Everything DiSC.   While I learned a great deal about myself, I learned even more about others’ styles.  Ultimately this information became the basis for understanding the motivations of others and how, as a leader, I could morph my style to match the needs of a given situation.
  • Facilitated Purposeful Conversations: I strived to listen more intently during conversations and meetings to the comments, thoughts, and opinions being offered so that I could gain clarity regarding others points of view.  I began asking purposeful questions to lead conversations forward so that I could first seek to understand and then to be understood.  Both these habits – listening well and asking good questions – must be practiced to be ingrained in our personal leadership DNA.

To lead well requires leaders to decide they want to earn the right to lead.  Earning this right requires each of us to find those habits we can adjust to increase our effectiveness.  And the first step in the process is to admit that you have habits that limit your effectiveness.

Coaching Thoughts – For your and Your Peers

  • Think of a challenging conversation you recently had with an employee.  Using the concept of putting on a positive lens, how might that conversation gone differently?
  • Grab a peer manager.  Together make a list of five questions which you both could use to facilitate purposeful type conversations with employees.  Over the next week test out those questions and reconnect with your peer manager to compare results.
  • If you could have your boss change one of the habits listed, which would it be and why?