We all have behavioral constraints that hold back our ability to be better leaders (and friends, and spouses, and everything else). If you don’t believe me, read this book: http://tinyurl.com/jnxpvsl.
These constraints hold us back from achieving our full potential – particularly our leadership potential – through maximizing our strengths. I guess the easiest ones to think about for me are dominance and nurturing – I am high on the dominant scale and low on the need for nurturing scale. This can lead to being a “bulldozer” when I interact with people and not demonstrating enough empathy. So how am I supposed to get my team to engage and interact and provide input and generate ideas when they are either afraid to speak up or I dominate the conversation so much they can’t get a word in edge-wise; or I don’t acknowledge and recognize them for their contributions since that is not what I desire for myself.
I have improved over the years, but it is still an issue, particularly when time is tight or we are under pressure/stress – uh, when AREN’T we under pressure/stress these days! My leadership action plan revolves around three simple P words – patience, presence, and provide.
Patience may be taking a deep breath, or being disciplined about pausing when I speak, or being conscious not to interrupt people when they are offering input. It allows me to slow things down, and allows me to manage my presence and implement a strategy to provide.
My presence gets bad when I don’t focus on it – I can slouch, I can look annoyed, I can get distant. I can talk too loud. I can dismiss ideas without giving due credit or consideration. People won’t give their best input when they are worried about the reaction or seeing bad body language. So I work on being positive, carry a light mood, smile, and lean forward to show interest. Also try to start and end every interaction with something light, something personal – anything to ensure the other party knows I care and am not “all business.” My first and last thought in any interaction is back to patience and presence, ensuring we “warm up” to and “decompress” from the interaction by chatting about our plans for the weekend, or recent trials and tribulations with kids, or recent fun activities they did.
Being patient and maintaining a positive presence allows me to execute on providing for people. Now that we are both comfortable and managing time (instead of time managing us), I can ask more questions, explore ideas, work out issues TOGETHER often on a whiteboard. This gives the other party (parties) a chance to benefit from our mutual thought process and allows us to make better decisions. Plus they walk away feeling better about both the process and the outcome, motivating them to own the action steps we agreed on and cascade that passion through their team.
I have the gameplan – of course I don’t always execute. Leadership is a sport, and perfection is not attainable. But progress is. So I try to ask those around me how I am doing and where I can make course corrections. This allows them to walk alongside me (and hopefully it works the other way too) as I continue my leadership journey.
You will have different constraints than me, so make an effort to understand your own situation and make your own gameplan for leadership development. I always say leadership is not something people are born into, it just sometimes seems that way – these are all learnable, coachable and changeable things. You have to be intentional about it and get some help from a coach, your peers or others along the way.