2014-12-08

10 skills every leader should master

Tom LaForce

Suppose it’s your first day in a new job as a leader and you have only a few months to master the skills you need to be an extraordinary leader. What skills do you need to learn or polish?


Below are ten suggestions to help you master your skills:


1. Help your team find its purposeA clear and meaningful purpose focuses and energizes your group. For some teams, the purpose is obvious and inspirational. It’s easy to imagine an emergency room team rallying around, “We save lives.” Most work doesn’t feel quite so dramatic. Nevertheless, your team needs to believe in its value. Your job is to help them see what it is.


2. Communicate expectationsYou want employees to meet your expectations. It’s as simple as that. And when they don’t, you are disappointed at best and angry at worst. Is it their fault? Maybe. It could also be yours. Perhaps you haven’t clearly communicated your expectations. It’s also possible that your expectations are not reasonable. It’s time to make them clear and reasonable.


3. Deliver feedbackEmployees need to know how they are doing. They depend on your feedback to meet that need. The majority of the feedback you provide should reinforce desired behaviours. A smaller, but equally important portion should focus on changing behaviours. Most managers don’t provide enough of either. And when they do offer it, their lack of skill creates new problems. Do you provide adequate feedback.


4. ListenStrong listening skills help you in two ways. First, you more clearly understand people and concepts. This leads to better decisions. Second, active listening helps others feel like you care about them, which increases respect. The result is stronger, more trusting relationships with your employees, peers, and manager.


5. Ask great questionsWhen you hear an answer you don’t like, it could be that you asked the wrong question. Forming and asking skillful questions can improve your team’s creativity, problem-solving, productivity, and results. Unfortunately, people place more emphasis on the answers rather than the questions. This misplaced emphasis leads them down an unintended path. It’s time for you to ask the right questions.


6. Speak up when no one else willSometimes the problem isn’t what to say. The real challenge is determining if you should say anything at all. There are plenty of situations in which speaking up seems like a dangerous option. And yet, it’s clear that someone has to find the courage. Will that someone be you?


7. Deal with meeting trouble-makersEvery meeting has a couple of hard to manage people. There’s the person who dominates the conversation. There’s the one who is all heavy sighs and eye rolls. Some will take you off track. A few will distract you with their phones. The worst will leave you shaking in your shoes. If only meeting participants would be on their best behaviour. As you are well aware, they often are not. It’s time you learned to deal with these people.


8. Getting others to say yesSometimes there isn’t a lot of room for deciding what the right answer should be. Instead, you have a request, and you need others to do it. The challenge is getting them to say yes, especially when you don’t hold formal authority over the person you are asking. Imagine how much easier your life would be if the answer to your requests is a resounding, “Yes.”


9. Communicate a changeMany of the problems that arise during major (and even minor) organizational changes can be traced back to ineffective communication. There are critical questions you must answer for employees. When it’s your job to get employees moving in a new direction, you’ll need to know what and how to communicate, so that your team members understand the change and more quickly accept it, especially when you believe they won’t like it.


10. ResilienceEveryone falls. And if you claim that you don’t, that would be a shame because it means you aren’t trying hard enough. Learn to fall in a way that doesn’t create permanent damage. Discover how to get back on your feet more quickly when you do go down. Be a role model your employees can follow when they struggle.


These 10 suggestions to improve your leadership abilities are only a few, and are part of my development program The Leadership Expedition. Check out all 49 sessions at http://laforceteamwork.com/the-leadership-expedition/


Tom LaForce is the author of Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings. He is also the founder of LaForce Teamwork Services, a consulting company that helps its clients make better decisions, solve tough problems, and produce better results through more effective collaboration. http://laforceteamwork.com

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