The Power of Connecting with People

The Power of Connecting with People

Empathetic Leaders
Connecting with People

Why do we sometimes find that we are not believed to be as empathetic as we feel we are?  I think there are a number of causes, which are: not knowing what empathy really means, not being interested in developing the skills or choosing to only do it with some people.

I recently worked with a client who did not enjoy managing up, they did not feel it was genuine.  Their senior management were quite different and so it seemed easier for themto avoid them.  This was a mistake.  It is essential that you are able to connect with your senior management, and peers as well as your team.  We worked out what was holding them back.  As they were so good at connecting with other people, it was possible to apply what he was already good at to the job of connecting with Senior Management.

This is not an unusual situation.

 

People like People like them

Typically we are comfortable with people who are like us.  Connecting with people who share our motivations and values is easier than working with people who have a different perspectives.  If you want to be a great leader you need to embrace diversity.  You need to be able to connect with people at all levels, with different perspectives and experiences.  This is what separates a great leader from an average leader.

I have 3 thoughts that can have a big impact on your ability to connect with anyone:

Suspend judgment:

Avoid judging people who are different, don’t label them or create stories about who they are or what they do.  This may mean that you assume they won’t be able to or interested in doing something.  You may then adapt the way you work with them. This is likely to be something you do unconsciously and it can seriously impact your ability to connect with the person.  Find out who they are. Ask them: what motivates them? What gets them excited?

Don’t make assumptions:

Don’t make assumption about someone’s behaviour.  The reason someone might appear to be lacking in motivation might not be directly related to the work.  Ask questions, find out what is happening with them, what can you do to help?

Be Curious:

Really try to understand where someone is.  It is an essential part of empathy.  What are they saying, don’t listen intending to reply, listen with deep attention and curiosity.

 

When I coach leaders or hold leadership workshops, the transformation begins once the leader acknowledges their part in the problem. We then explore the “cost” to them and what it would take to change their behaviours.  I often find that this is not about new behaviours or skills, but a reminder to my client to consciously use skills that they have gained but lose when pressure of the job takes over.

 

As a leader you need to develop your self-awareness. so that your understand your impact, spend time with your colleagues, be present and in the moment. 

How to Achieve a Compelling Vision

How to Achieve a Compelling Vision

Compelling Vision
A Compelling Vision

WHY do we need a VISION?  Because everyone needs to feel connected to a goal or purpose.  The vision provides the overarching reason for why we are doing something.  We can sometimes feel like small cogs in a big machine.  

During the industrial revolution era each job was broken down into smaller tasks.  In effect there was a conveyor belt of tasks which created the end product.  No-one had a view of the whole picture.  There were foremen and managers to keep us on task and motivated. Now, we are more used to having a say and influence over what we do.  And we do not respond well to the carrot and stick approach, rather we want to feel like we are making a difference or having an impact.  

Knowing how we are supporting the visions helps us to become self-motivated and responsible for our own activity.  It means we can be connected to the vision of our leader.  This gives us purpose: “fulfil that vision and be part of the team striving to achieve the goal”.

Are you a leader of a growing business or team and struggling to get your team connected to your vision?  Here are some killer questions to help you get there…

Do you have clarity of purpose and a supporting vision?  We often struggle to succinctly explain what our vision is, and when we say it out-loud it might not sound quite right.  Which in turn prompts another question: is the vision wrong or are we not doing the right things? 

So, let’s consider where the vision came from and how recently was it reviewed.  The answers to these questions are often that it came from the wider vision, was created some time ago and has never been revisited.  I have heard “well, we look at it each year when we review our objectives and it feels OK”.  But what we don’t do is: test it or ask our teams how they feel about, read it out aloud to people, notice how it lands, and take feedback.  It is important that we challenge ourselves to consider whether it is moving the business along or just describing the status quo.

Co-creation is key

So, your vision is up-to-date and seems to be relevant, however you are still struggling to get people to connect with it.  I ask:  was this vision co-created?  By this I mean, did everyone have an opportunity to feed into the process. I’ve found that those visions created with the team have far more impact.  We do our best thinking with others so, it will also be richer.  I always recommend working with the team to understand what language is meaningful, ensure that the message is clear and unambiguous and then test it out. Does it resonate, jar or confuse?

Once it has been co-created, I ask:  Is everyone in your leadership team aligned to that vision?  It is essential that everyone agree and be comfortable with the wording.  You want them to be able to communicate it themselves to their teams and beyond.   Are the wider team aware of it and would they be able to quote it?

If you are happy that your vision is ticking all the boxes, I challenge you to ask yourself does it reflect what we are doing now?   A vision is not something to create and then put on the shelf.  It needs to be a living breathing thing that everyone feels connected to.  The team members must be able to see how they are going to influence it and how they are making a difference.   When the business changes, or the team changes it is a good opportunity to review is it still relevant.  Ask yourself is it still aligned to your business priorities?  This should be reviewed regularly and tested to ensure that it is still relevant and actively make time to work on, as well as, in the business.



 

How to Make New Habits Stick

How to Make New Habits Stick

Making new habits one day at a time

 

Habits are fascinating things, we unconsciously form some habits like biting our nails, whilst consciously trying to give up some or create new ones.   So, if a habit is something we can do both consciously and unconsciously, why is creating a new one so challenging?  As I mentioned in my earlier blog “How to Create New Habits”, it is overwhelming, often we do not break it down into manageable chunks,  it has to matter and be something that we truly want.  You may well have had the experience where you thought “I want to lose some weight” but not made any progress and then something happens; like an invite to a party or plans for a holiday, and suddenly you are motivated to lose those few pounds.  So, we can use a similar motivation to consciously create new habits….

Creating a new habit or changing your lifestyle takes commitment and time.  It typically takes 4-6 weeks for a new habit or regime to bed-in and often we lose momentum before the time is up and hence fall back into our old habits or routines.  This is often why New Year’s resolutions are not achieved beyond the end of January, we don’t give ourselves enough time, we are impatient or simply forget in the moment.  The biggest challenge is that once we have slipped back into old habits we think that we are starting all over again, rather than just picking up where we left off.

So, here are my tips for making a new habit stick:

1) Make sure it is achievable: a goal that is too much of a stretch will feel too hard and you may give up once you start to feel demotivated.  If the goal is a big one, break it up into smaller more manageable goals.

2) Test your commitment: ask yourself out of 10 how likely are you to make this change and if not a 10, how can you get it closer to a 10? For example: if the goal is getting fitter and so you think you’ll join a gym, however this is not going to fit in around your work and personal commitments consider an alternative approach, such as going for a walk at lunch times.

3) Celebrate success: ensure you have milestones so you can measure your progress and celebrate each one as its achieved.  Enjoy the change that is taking place.

4) Forgive yourself: if you fall off the wagon, or eat that big chocolate bar, don’t chastise yourself, reflect on what caused the blip and consider how you can avoid the situation in the future.  If it was a treat  – enjoy it and then get back to your plan.

5) Keep a log or journal: not only will this help keep your goal at the front of mind, you can also reflect back on it when you are experiencing periods of challenge and take inspiration from yourself.

6) Visualize the new you, as in believe, behave, become (source: IDology): create a mental image of the new you and act the part. For example, if you are going to improve your lifestyle imagine how you will feel, embrace the change by behaving differently, adopt the routines of that lifestyle and soon you will become that change.

7) Make the change with someone: often we are motivated by joint experiences, so making the change with someone else who can support you and enjoy the highs and lows is a great way to achieve your goals.  Make it fun by adding rewards or challenges for you both…

8) Enjoy it: the most important part is that the transformation is a fun experience: the journey is as important as the destination!

Once you have adopted the new habit don’t become complacent.  It is still easy to fall back into old habits, so if that happens just reflect on what occurred and continue with the positive approach that helped you get to that point.  Good luck… it will be worth it!

How to Deliver to Your Vision

How to Deliver to Your Vision

Delivering the Vision

Once you have created an engaging vision that everyone feels connected to, the next thing to do is to make it become a reality.  I believe that these 3 stages are critical to making that vision happen:

  1. Strategy creation and action
  2. Connecting the dots
  3. Making it happen
Strategy Creation and Action

Identify the key priorities that will achieve your vision.  These could be something that is lacking or fixing something that is not working. For example:

1) A People pillar or a “way of working”.  This will create the right environment in which the team can thrive and flourish as individuals and team members. Consider objectives such as: clarity of what they expect from each other, to create a culture that is supportive and collaborative.  

2) A Sales pillar that is focussed on creating a new pitch or sales offer.  

3) A Procedural pillar to create new processes and routines that will allow the business to transform into the organisation that the vision defines.  

I recommend that a leader is assigned to each of these pillars, with a max of five pillars, who will create their own visions for these pillars with their team champions.  Create a single combined plan of action, for the pillars, that includes both short and long term activities and identifies the interdependencies between the pillars.

Connecting the Dots

Recruit all of the organisation or department into this programme, aligning everyone to at least one of the pillars.  Create a clear language that brings people together, that is clear and unambiguous.  Work with them to co-create the activities that will deliver the vision.  Create training and coaching programmes that help them attain the required skills.   Ensure that everyone is connected to the programme and understands their role and contribution. In time they will become the champions of the activity and help to promote this initiative.

Making it Happen

Create a programme of work with achievable milestones, which are celebrated: create posters, z-cards, mouse mats and other tangible articles that help it to feel real for everyone.  Do not create a leviathan of a project that will deliver everything in 12 months time.  It is important that the change is felt quickly and the benefits start to be felt across the team.  The activity involves “working on the business”, however is should be felt every day whilst “working in the business”.  Create small steps that can be achieved each week, roll out and test new approaches and start to transform the organisation from within, in small distinct steps.

As the leader, keep everyone honest, maintain the momentum and keep the energy high…  it will be hard work and often people will fall into old habits, gently remind them of their commitment.  The journey is as important as the destination for creating a highly successful business which develops and grows together.

For more ideas, read this blog post…

How to Create an Engaging Purpose

How to Create an Engaging Purpose

Purpose
Giving People Purpose

As leaders, we are expected, to define the vision for the organisation, team or group.  It is true that people find a common purpose as essential to them feeling connected to the organisation.  Dr Jacqueline Peters (@DrJacquelineP) states that a “Purpose provides the energy to overcome problems”.  In my experience, as both a leader and working with my coaching clients, it can often be challenging to get your team engaged.   They need to feel connected to the overall vision.  Therefore, creating a vision that gives people purpose is essential.

How do you as the leader achieve this?

I will start with how “not to do it”.  I strongly recommend you do not shut yourself away for hours and/or days trying to come up with a clever set of words that communicate some incredibly large aspirational and inspirational statement.  There are two reasons for this:

1) We often do our best thinking when we have someone else’s attention. So, working in isolation means we may get stuck on the same words and end up refine something that is not very creative.

2) It is easier to get people engaged in the long run if they are part of the original thinking process.

In my experience, the most effective way of creating a vision, is working together as a team to define what their  “Why” is.  As Simon Sinek says; we often refer to what we do or how we do something rather than why we do something.  

https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Understanding why we are a team, or even at the individual level why are we there, can help us to truly understand our purpose.  That genuinely identifies the uniqueness of the organisation, group or team.  In order to get to your purpose I recommend writing up 3 sets of words: Words that do not align with the business, those that do or will and those that are ambiguous and unclear. Then ensure that your vision uses words the are clear and unambiguous, whilst clarifying the ambiguous words, perhaps in a glossary.  I also suggest you do not try to do this in one session.  It takes time to get to the right vision statement, let it “prove” between sessions and ensure that everyone is contributing and engaged with the process.

Once you have it, use it.  And I mean all the time, everyone should be able to quote it and feel proud of it.   As the leader, encourage the team to test that everything they are doing supports it….

For more ideas, read this blog post…