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?
One of my flagship programmes is called "Grief at Work" designed to help employers understand how grief affects their workforce, and how they can best support bereaved colleagues.
When I tell people this, they often start off by thinking it is something morbid, or doubting that this is even necessary.
However, very quickly, they find a private moment to talk to me about their own losses. Sometimes very raw and recent. Sometimes in the distant past. Always, they tell me how hard it was when they returned to work after their bereavement. Often, they themselves are still grieving and need someone to talk to.
"Soft Skills" - I don't really like that term, because it gives the impression that these skills are somehow weak, easier or less important than "hard" skills. But that is far from the case.
Soft skills, such as communicating, influencing, or coaching are in fact easy to learn but hard to master. And the benefits of mastering them are enormous.
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.
It's a common problem for managers - when there's too much to do, or some activities are overwhelming or unappetising, we all have a tendency to procrastinate. There is no single sure-fire way to overcome procrastination, because it depends so much on what is at the root of your issue. Start by working out what is causing you the problem.
In this article I'll show you 4 of the most common causes of procrastination so you can work out which one applies to you. For each one I offer you a tried and trusted procrastination-busting tip.
How often have you asserted something "without a doubt"? But stop and think for a moment; to be truly without a doubt, one of two conditions must be trued:
A real leader knows that doubt is inevitable, and in fact necessary. It is doubt that will drive a real leader to explore alternatives and counter-arguments, and to be respect them. It is doubt that will impel the real leader to step into other people's shoes and to see things from multiple perspectives. It is self-doubt that guards against hubris, and ensures a life-long quest for personal improvement.
Let our leaders have a little more doubt, please.
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.
The Importance of R&R
Today is a Bank Holiday where I live, and yet many people that I know will be working. From small business owners and entrepreneurs to multi-national conglomerates, the tradition of taking a day off on a Bank Holiday seems to have eroded. At the same time, parents are in debate with schools about the appropriateness of taking their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. As a result businesses struggle with the demands of all parents wanting to take their holidays in the same period. Families find that holiday prices soar over the school summer holidays. Overall finding time to take time off becomes harder and harder.
The days when whole towns closed down for a week's mass exodus to the coast or to the countryside are long gone. Some areas retain the vestiges of these traditions, such as Glasgow Fair week, but no longer do whole factories close down on Fair Friday for the workers to travel on mass to the Ayrshire coast.
And what else have we lost in the passing of these traditions? it seems as though the structured and societal observance of shared holidays gave us shared experiences, a connection to our communities as well as well-deserved rest and relaxation from the demands of our work.
Current pressures to perform often result in workers putting in extra hours and working on weekends and holidays in order to meet targets, or simply to impress and earn recognition - even when there's no overtime payment involved. But the times of rest are important to recharge the batteries, to stimulate other areas of the brain through engaging in non-work activities, and to reinforce social and familial bonds.
The old saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is just as true today as it has ever been. Periods of play help us to perform better at work. Rest gives us more energy. Relaxation makes us more alert. And what is all this work for, if not to be able to enjoy other areas of our life?
So if you're working today, stop and think for a moment about when else you can take time off instead. Enjoy planning how you'll use that time, whether you take a family day out to a country park, or sit on the sofa catching up with your favourite boxed set, knowing that you'll be refreshed and back at your peak afterwards.
Me? Yes, I'm working today. And I'm taking tomorrow off to go to the beach.
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."
About our blog
A miscellany of articles and opinions on communication, leadership and management topics.