Would it surprise you to know that confidence is really an illusion?
Confidence is an essential commodity for leaders and managers, and yet many of us seem to lack it in key areas. Even those who outwardly appear enormously confident, will often secretly experience feelings of self-doubt or nervousness.
Would it surprise you to know that confidence is really an illusion?
Our focus at Allen Training Associates has evolved over the years, so I thought New Year's Day would be a good time to set out what we're about.
Our motto is "Soft Skills with Hard Benefits".
What we do: we deliver tailor-made in-house soft-skills training for managers and leaders in your organisation.
How well do you know the people who you work with? Who work for you? Who buy from you?
You may feel that you have built up good relationships with the people around you, but too often managers work with a very superficial level of understanding. We often pat ourselves on the back if we manage to remember the names of our colleague’s partner and children, or that they like to go skiing on their holidays.
However, do you really know what makes them tick? Try this for a moment – think about a colleague that you know well, and ask yourself the following questions:
People’s values and drivers are core to their personality and influence how they make decisions in every situation. If you really know someone, then you will understand and appreciate these about them. You will understand how they differ from your own values at a deep level, and you will value these differences.
So if you want to get to know the people around you that little bit better, try adding this one simple question to your conversation: … and what’s important to you about [that]? To personalise the question, then instead of saying “that”, insert a word or phrase that they have just used. Then listen. Really listen. You can even ask the question again, using the reply to the previous question instead of “that”.
You may be surprised at what you learn, and the people around you will appreciate you taking the trouble to find out what matters to them.
1. Some people may not like it. The people who were your peers may not be so friendly with you once you have been promoted above them. This is normal and OK; do not compromise them by expecting your relationship to remain unchanged. They will quite understandably be concerned about confidences leaking into management ears. Respect that and cultivate openness and understanding whilst recognising that your relationship will necessarily change.
2. It's OK not to know all the answers. When you first get promoted into a management role the temptation is often to try to answer ever question and do everything that comes your way. You aren't expected to know everything, so ask for help, delegate what is appropriate to delegate and meanwhile learn everything you can about what those around you are doing. You don't need to do it, but it's good to know what is being done.
3. Set clear goals. Be clear about your goals for yourself and for your team and then share them publicly. Make sure that your team buy into their own goals. The best way to ensure this is to get them to articulate their goals in their own words. Then test them for PACE -
P are they Positively Stated, focusing on what you DO want, not want you don't want.
A Are they Achievement oriented - how will you know when you've achieved them? what will you see, hear and feel? What are the steps necessary to get there and are the steps in your own control?
C What is the Context - where, when and with whom with the goal be achieved? Who or what is it dependent on? Who or what is dependent on you?
E Is the goal Ecological - that is to say, will it have a beneficial effect both for you and for your environment? Is it consistent with your values, and with the values of your organisation?
4. Prepare yourself for difficult conversations. They are bound to happen. Whether it is a conversation with a member of staff who is under-performing, or a conversation with a customer to let them know you won't be able to fulfil a promise, it is better to prepare yourself for having these conversations than to let them fester. Try using the three Es: Explain the problem, Explore the problem, Eliminate the problem. Then you can be sure that the conversation focuses on results and ends with a positive commitment to action.
5. Ask great questions. The more you ask, the more you will learn. Use "clean" questions that are not loaded with your own agenda but focus on exploring the reality of the situation, and the different interpretations that everyone else holds so that you can understand exactly where they are coming from. You know what they say, there's no such thing as a stupid question except for the one that you don't ask.
Leadership skills: 7 Key attributes for exceptional leaders
We take it for granted that leaders have good communication skills, can motivate people and get results. This article explores seven advanced competencies that set truly great leaders apart.
1 – Courage
A true leader is prepared to go out on a limb to get results. Be prepared to face difficult or risky situations with resolution, self-possession and confidence. Motivate others to follow in such situations. Go for it.
2 – Vision
Have a clear purpose and be able to paint a picture of your vision to others. Mediaeval leaders used symbols on their shields and banners representing their cause, which acted as a rallying point for their followers. What is on your banner?
3 – Inspiring Followership
Why should I follow you? What makes it worth my while? Identify what motivates your followers and capitalise on it. Take notice of their level of willingness to follow you, and adjust your behaviour, communication and example-setting to build their willingness.
4 – Serving
“I lead by serving, I serve by leading”. Serving in a leadership context is a two way street. The leader serves a higher purpose, whether it is a corporation, a deity or an ideal. The leader also serves their people. When you give to those around you as much as you expect them to give to you, you will be rewarded by respect and trust from motivated and inspired followers.
5 – Advocacy.
Present compelling arguments in favour of your cause, idea or policy. Actively demonstrate support for the issue. Be ready to speak fluently and passionately about your cause. Great leaders are inspirational when talking about or debating their cause.
6 – Decision-Making
Sometimes it’s tough; sometimes it feels like any decision you make is full of pitfalls, but as a leader you have to make decisions. So make your decisions with conviction, display confidence in your decisions, take ownership of them and follow them through to implementation.
7 – Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs show agility, speed of response and independence of thinking, driven by the awareness of threat from competition or market conditions. An entrepreneurial leader harnesses this sense of urgency to get results. Leaders with this attribute dream big dreams and achieve big goals.
In the last few years, the use of YouTube, webinars and podcasts has created a very credible rival to class-room based training. For a long time, many people engaged in soft-skills training (communication, leadership, management skills etc.) fought a defensive battle arguing that these skills could only really be delivered face-to-face, since they are, at the core, skills to do with people interacting with one another.
However, as we work more with distributed teams and use these technologies to communicate, lead and manage, then surely our training environments can, and should, adapt in line with these new methods of communication? I look at my own team, which includes a network of many associates, none of whom are co-located with me. We rarely meet up in person, doing the vast majority of our interactions through a mixture of media and communication channels including Skype, telephone, email, webinars, teleconferences, video-conferences, Facebook etc.
There is a place for both face-to-face training AND the use of new media to deliver soft-skills training. I personally took some persuasion. As a self-confessed Luddite I have long resisted the use of YouTube as a learning vehicle. However, increasing evidence of its importance to those around me convinced me that if I am to appeal to all learning styles effectively, then it was time to stop my ostrich impression and start to embrace the possibilities that are constantly emerging.
In our recent programme, From Crisis To Clarity, designed for professionals facing a career change, we created a fully-blended environment, involving:
- live interactive webinars including both teaching new material and live coaching of participants.
- recordings of the webinars made available to listen to offline.
- discussion forums to allow participants to interact with each other.
- confidential real-time messaging to allow participants to discuss their personal progress in private with the tutors.
- face-to-face meet-ups to allow participants to work together in person.
- a variety of video recordings of interviews with relevant experts.
- audio recordings of coaching exercises so that participants could listen and work through the exercises at their own pace and in their own time.
- written material available on-demand to support the learning process.
For a technophobe, I've certainly come a long way! What new ways of learning and communicating have you integrated into your own leadership and management? I'd love to hear about your experiences.
In our Presentation Skills training, we normally advise presenters to be wary of using slides. Even large and professional organisations too often use their slides simply as a place to writeeverything that the presenter is going to say. The audience is left peering at impossibly-small text and unable to really listen to or appreciate the presenter. We teach ways to present without slides at all, or to design slides that are punchy, visually appealing, and add to (rather than detract from) the presenter.
We also enjoy keeping up with innovations in presentation styles which depart from this thinking, in a really exciting way. Have you heard of PechaKucha, for example?
PechaKucha (which means "the sound of conversation" in Japanese) is a simple presentation format where you show precisely 20 images, each for exactly 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images.
What's so interesting about this technique is that it compels the presenter to think about their slides and their talk as two completely different but wholly integrated elements of their presentation. To be effective, the images must be visually punchy - the audience has to get the relevance of the image within 20 seconds, so there's no room for reams of text. Metaphorical imagery works well, as does visual humour. The voice-over must be incisive and to the point, and well-rehearsed to deliver the key messages precisely in time with the slides.
We often give exercises to our leadership and communication skills delegates using this format. For example, create a presentation summing up your values and vision using the PechaKucha format. 20 slides times 20 seconds gives you precisely 6 minutes and 40 seconds to deliver your message. This constraint concentrates the mind wonderfully, and encourages presenters to be ruthless about streamlining their message to the key points in a way that really engages with their audience.
Our top tips for a flawless PechaKucha presentation include:
A client recently showed me a list of top 10 tips she'd been given for delivering presentations. Number one on the list was "keep hold of the lectern". This got me thinking that I don't ever recall seeing a charismatic or effective public speaker who was holding on to the lectern. Effective speakers move around, make gestures and even abandon a lectern altogether.
So why was she (and others) being given this advice?
It turned out that the advice was being provided by a specialist Audio-Visual company, and from their point of view, holding on to the lectern makes for a successful presentation. Why? Because that way they know where to focus the lighting for maximum effect, and they can control the acoustics through the microphones and amplification. And indeed, it is important for any speaker to know what sound and lighting arrangements are in place to make sure that they can be seen and heard.
However, these requirements shouldn't constrain you in the way that you present. Imagine your favourite actor giving a speech whilst keeping their hands and feet absolutely still. Or a singer not being able to move to the music whilst performing. A huge percentage of the their impact is lost. It's the same for a presenter or public speaker. The way you look, the way you move, the way you use gesture all contribute to how much of the audience's attention you command.
And if you are using AV equipment, rather than be tied down by it, work with the specialists to find ways to free you from those constraints, and to be your expressive, mobile, charismatic self.
For training in powerful presentations and public speaking skills, why not contact us? http://www.allentraining.co.uk/inhouse-detail.php?course=121
In a recent post on LinkedIn, Daniel Goleman offered up advice for dealing with untrustworthy people. The premise of the article was that untrustworthy people habitually lie to you or let you down, and that it is possible to develop strategies to work with them whether they are subordinates, colleagues or your boss. So far, so good.
The comments to this article included many personal testaments of having to work alongside untrustworthy people. What struck me was the completely unspoken but consistent assumption that "being untrustworthy" is a permanent and irreversible condition, on a par with having blue eyes, or being colour-blind.
Is that necessarily so? I'd like to offer some defence of untrustworthy people.
So what is it that compels us to label someone as "untrustworthy"? Because to be untrustworthy is not a condition that we are born with, nor should it be a permanent label.
Let us think of the impact of using a similar label with children. If a teacher tells a child "you are a bully", then this is creating a label for that child's whole identity, which leaves no room for all the other good and valuable things about their identity. What happens to "you are kind", "you are smart", "you are funny", when you've just been told "you are a bully"? And when you've just been told "you are untrustworthy" what happens to "you are loyal", "you are hard-working", "you are talented" or simply, "you are human"?
Typically, a number of examples of a certain behaviour type that can be labelled as untrustworthy have been generalised by the observer into being the defining characteristic of the whole person. This then deletes all the other observable behaviours which of course will include the normal human range of helpful, neutral and unhelpful behaviours. But the person labelled "untrustworthy" is then only seen through the blinkers that filter out anything else that is true about them and about their other behaviours.
A second, and even more damaging issue when labelling someone as being "untrustworthy" lies in the complete absence of any consideration given to the reasons which underlie the behaviour. If most of us are completely honest, we can think of examples when we might have appeared to be untrustworthy. I know it's true of me.
For example we might be guilty of forgetting a commitment; misleading someone; not doing something we had promised; failing to pass on a piece of information. In each case we know the reason behind it. Maybe we were stressed or overworked at the time. Maybe a matter of a higher priority (to us) arose which took precedence. Maybe we made a promise in order to please someone even though we knew we lacked the skills or resources to deliver. Maybe we felt backed into a corner. Maybe we simply forgot. Who knows?
So before we are quick to judge someone as being untrustworthy, we should take a moment to consider. Firstly, it is not the whole person, but the behaviour that we should be examining. And secondly, what might be true for that person to behave that way with a good, dare I say trustworthy, intention?
Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the wisdom of Plato. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
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A miscellany of articles and opinions on communication, leadership and management topics.