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Author: Andrew Beveridge

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Weekly research-based tips and advice to tackle today's biggest leadership challenges, all in under eight minutes. Hosted by leadership development specialist and psychologist Andrew Beveridge. Go to leadership.today for more information.
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Midweek Motivate - Looper

Midweek Motivate - Looper

2019-09-1700:02:42

Welcome to our second Midweek Motivate. The middle of the week can be tough for leaders. The goal of midweek motivate is to give you one practical idea that you can try for yourself or with your team right away. Our workplaces are full of so many distractions. Loud conversations, noisy equipment and other background noise can distract us. People try to counteract this in lots of ways, and headphones are right up there as the distraction-reducing weapon of choice. I even saw someone once who had a large pair of over-ear headphones on with the cable dangling down to the ground - they didn’t even plug the headphones in, but used them as some kind of open plan hearing protection. So you have some deep focused work to get done and you’ve reached for the headphones. What next? The key here is to not replace one distraction with another. We humans are hopeless at multitasking, particularly when it comes to perception and concentration. It might be tempting to put on an audiobook or podcast but, despite my clearly vested interest in telling you otherwise, neither is a great idea. Our brains will be trying to decode the voices coming into our ears, and that will continue to distract us from our work. Okay - so if audiobooks and podcasts are out, what about music? Music is likely to be a better option, but not all music is created equal when it comes to concentration. Music with lots of lyrics, particularly unfamiliar music, again is likely to distract us. So a better option is to go for familiar music that doesn’t have lyrics. But that potentially sounds kind of boring. Another trick is to loop one song on repeat. Just pick a song you like to match the mood you want to be in while undertaking the deep work, and put it on single-track repeat. You will find that your brain quickly tunes out the music while it also buffers you from other distractions. Give it a try today and let me know how you go and let another colleague know about the podcast as well. Have a great week.
Summary In today’s episode, we outline the ten best podcasts for leaders in 2019.   Transcript Welcome to episode 53 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. As leaders, podcasts offer a tempting solution to continuing our professional development and keeping in touch with broader trends. We can simply pull on the headphones and learn about almost anything. But with over 700,000 active podcasts, it can be hard for a leader to know where to start. Fortunately I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, with today’s episode outlining the ten best podcasts for leaders in 2019. It’s important to note that these are the ten best podcasts for leaders - they’re not the ten best podcasts about leadership. Instead, they provide a broad range of perspectives, topics and approaches. You’re unlikely to love them all - there’s clearly an element of preferences around style and content. But if you pick up one or two new podcasts then hopefully this episode has served its purpose. And, for the pedantic, I’m actually going to list 14 podcasts - there were a few ties along the way. I have links to all of the podcasts in the show notes. So, for dramatic effect, I’m going to start at number 10 and work my way up. As leaders it’s important to challenge our perspectives and broaden our thinking, which brings me to number 10. 10 - Akimbo by Seth Godin https://www.akimbo.me Seth Godin is one of the most popular and successful authors and bloggers of our time, producing content at a frenetic pace. It’s a little hard to tie his Akimbo podcast down, but he’s bound to challenge your thinking and bring new perspectives to the way you lead. There’s a solid 15% of what he says that I tend to either disagree with or think he has gotten completely wrong. And there’s a solid 15% that makes me think about the world in a completely new way, so that seems like a fair trade off. Episodes vary dramatically in length from 20 minutes to 45 minutes. Teamwork, engagement and culture are rich topics to explore and it’s helpful to have a seasoned expert to guide the way. And who better to that than Patrick Lencioni at number 9. 9 - At The Table with Patrick Lencioni https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/at-the-table-with-patrick-lencioni/id1474171732 Patrick is a well known author of books including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The podcast is setup as a chat between Pat and a few of his work colleagues. The format is pretty casual and relatively new, so they’re still bedding down the style a little bit. Episodes are around 30 to 40 minutes. People are diverse and difficult to understand, but having deep insight into what motivates and drives others is a key part of leadership. That’s where podcast number 8 comes in handy. 8 - Hidden Brain from NPR. https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510308/hidden-brain Hosted by Shankar Vedantam, this podcast is a gem which combines science and storytelling to uncover the often subtle forces that drive our behaviour. Always thought provoking and really well produced. Episodes range from 25 minutes up to an hour. Setting up workplaces that are engaging and motivating is what leaders do to achieve results, and that’s the focus of podcast number 7. 7 - WorkLife with Adam Grant from TED. https://www.ted.com/podcasts/worklife As an organisational psychologist, Adam’s podcast focuses on motivation and meaning at work. He’s a university professor and the author of several books, including cowriting the excellent Option B with Sheryl Sandberg. Get your thumb ready to skip past the adverts, but otherwise it’s well worth adding to your list. Episodes are released in seasons and are around 30 to 45 minutes. We operate within a broader economic and historical landscape, and our number 6 podcast combines both. 6 - 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy - BBC World Service https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04b1g3c To be honest, history and economics were two subjects I wasn’t great at, but Tim Harford combines the two brilliantly. Each week he explores an aspect of our modern economy by focusing on an invention or discovery that changed the path of business and human life. Episodes come in around 10 minutes. How do you get the best out of your day? That’s where number 5 comes in. 5 - How I Work - Amantha Imber https://www.amanthaimber.com/podcast/ If you enjoy listening to me each week, then why not add another Australian psychologist to your podcast playlist. Amantha’s podcast is typically interview based, with some shorter tip-based episodes. The focus is on personal productivity - how successful people from a range of backgrounds get the most out of their day. That ranges from musicians to entrepreneurs and even a magician. Interview episodes are around 50 minutes and come out weekly. Economics doesn’t have to be boring, as the two podcasts at number 4 demonstrate. 4 - Planet Money - NPR AND Freakonomics https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510289/planet-money http://freakonomics.com/ Planet Money is one of the podcasts I enjoy the most. A really interesting take on economics presented in an engaging way. The show has fantastic hosts and a great format. Freakonomics builds off the success of the book by the same name. Again, an interesting take on economics. It can be a bit hit and miss, so it’s worth working through the enormous back catalogue to pick out topics of interest. Either are great ways to build your confidence as a leader around economic trends. Planet Money is around 20 minutes, and Freakonomics is around 40 minutes to an hour. Maybe you need some practical leadership tips. Our two podcasts that tied at number 3 can help you there. 3 - Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast AND Lead to Win with Michael Hyatt https://www.life.church/leadershippodcast/ https://michaelhyatt.com/leadtowin/ Craig Groeschel is a prominent leadership speaker who is also the founder of a large multi-site church in the US. He presents really practical content that’s equally applicable in business and not for profit settings. If you’re after practical leadership advice, the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast is hard to beat. Another one to check out is Lead to Win. Again, some great practical content, although a little heavy on the self-promotion at times. Both are around 25 minutes. Keeping up to date with the latest news can be hard, particularly if you want to take a broader view. The two podcasts at number 2 are designed to do exactly that. 2 - The Inquiry - BBC World Service AND Economist Radio - Economist https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p029399x https://www.economist.com/podcasts/ When it comes to taking a global perspective, it’s hard to beat the BBC and the Economist. The Inquiry is topical and comes out weekly, whereas Economist Radio comes out on weekdays and covers several stories. As leaders it’s challenging to step out of our own organisations and take a truly global context. Either podcast will help you to do that. It’s fantastic to learn from the experiences of people who have grown successful organisations, which brings us to number one - which is, again, a tie. 1 - How I Built This with Guy Raz AND Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510313/how-i-built-this https://mastersofscale.com/ You should give both of these podcasts a go. How I Built This provides fascinating background to entrepreneurs and their journeys to build successful businesses. The episode with James Dyson is a great place to start. My only complaint is that they do throw in quite a few reruns into your podcast feed without marking them up as reruns. Masters of Scale is incredibly well produced, drawing together interesting guests into well formulated stories around a theme. Episodes range from about 40 minutes to an hour. So, as you’re likely to hear on each of the podcasts I’ve recommended, why not help others to find this podcast by providing a rating and review. It does help us to creep up the charts which in turn helps others to find us. And finally, a couple of pieces of news from Leadership Today. We have just launched the Midweek Motivate. If you already subscribe to the Leadership Today podcast it’s a bonus episode that will turn up in your feed every Wednesday. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, why not just click on the subscribe button now. The goal is to provide one practical tip that you can apply right away to help get over that midweek leadership slump. And our Boost Your Assertiveness three week online course is live. Go to leadership.today to check out a free preview of the first two days of content.
Welcome to our first Midweek Motivate. As the name suggests, these episodes come out in the middle of the week - right at the point where your enthusiasm as a leader may be starting to dip. The goal of midweek motivate is to give you one practical idea you can try for yourself or with your team right away.  Our main Leadership Today episodes that come out on Saturdays are short - coming in at under 8 minutes each. But midweek motivate is even shorter, so let’s get into today’s topic - removing frustrations. Even the most engaged employee can become undone by frustrations. Those annoying obstacles that get in between our motivation and our performance. It might be the computer that needs rebooting, a clunky process that takes way too long, or a colleague who seems to be working against us rather than with us. Tools, processes and people - so many opportunities for frustrations. But your most engaged team members probably don’t want to speak to you about their frustrations. They don’t want to be seen as negative or complaining. So they take all these small frustrations and put up with them for as long as they can, until it all explodes. I had a team member whose computer keyboard had an unreliable letter T. If they typed a word with the letter T in it, sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t work. How frustrating is that? They had gone to IT but they didn’t have any spare keyboards. So they just put up with it - day after day after day. That is until we had our monthly meeting, and I asked one simple question. “Is there anything that’s frustrating or getting in your way at the moment?”. 30 minutes later I was back from the local stationery store with a new keyboard. But what if I hadn’t asked the question? So this midweek motivate challenge is to ask that very question of one of your colleagues or team members - “Is there anything that’s frustrating or getting in your way at the moment?”. Then listen, provide suggestions, or just help them to get it out of their way. Give it a try and let me know how you go.
SUMMARY This week we’re looking at research that demonstrates faking extraversion as a way to boost well-being. Seriously - what’s all that about? And what might it mean for leaders?   TRANSCRIPT Welcome to episode 52 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we’re looking at research that demonstrates faking extraversion as a way to boost well-being. There is a well established link between the personality trait of extraversion and positive affect. That is, the more extraverted someone is, the greater their positive feelings and broader well-being. Now, I’ll just pause there to allow time for our introverted half of the audience click on unsubscribe. But as the cigarette company funded Hans Eysenck demonstrated, extraverts are more likely to smoke and over eat, so it’s not all smooth sailing on the other side of the fence. I’ll pause there to allow time for the remainder of my audience to also click on unsubscribe. Okay - so our personality preferences all come with benefits and draw backs. But exploring the potential benefits of acting more extraverted on well-being is a legitimate area of study. Well, as of August 2019, the initial results are in. The researchers from the University of California proposed that behaving in an extraverted way should provide a short-term boost in well-being. How did they get people to act more introverted and extraverted? Well, they actually had each person do both. Participants were split into two groups, with half instructed to behave like an extravert for a week, then as an introvert for a week, with the other half doing the opposite. The participants completed various assessments along the way. In the extraverted week participants were asked to act as talkative, assertive and spontaneous as they could. In the introverted week they were asked to act as deliberate, quiet and reserved as they could. During the extraverted week, people saw a significant increase in well-being. This included higher ratings of positive affect, connectedness and flow. The researchers also found that asking people to behave in an introverted way decreased well-being. These findings are similar to other research quoted in the study where people commuting to work on trains and buses were asked to either speak with a stranger or remain silent. Those who spoke with strangers saw a boost to their positive feelings, while those who remained silent didn’t. But what makes the difference? Was it being talkative, being assertive, or being spontaneous? And do I really need to act outside my personality preference to get the well-being benefits linked to extraversion? After reading the study, I think these behavioural changes are all possible without working outside of our personality preference. You can be more assertive while still being introverted. It’s a behaviour. You can make a greater effort to connect with other people while still being introverted. Again, it’s a behaviour. And you can choose to be more spontaneous and adventurous while still being introverted. I believe it’s better to think of these as generally beneficial activities and ways of interacting, rather than attempts to change our personalities. I think one of the key takeaways from this research for leaders is the importance of building connections with others. That, independent of our personality preference for introversion or extraversion, we all need other people and we all want to belong. One of the leadership styles I explore with groups is what I call Connecting. This isn’t just about connecting directly with individuals you lead, it’s also about helping those you lead to make connections with others across the organisation. This helps to provide support while also boosting a sense of belonging, just like those people on the bus or train taking the time to talk with a stranger. As leaders, we can boost well-being and performance by using a Connecting leadership style. The other key takeaway is helping people to boost their assertiveness - being able to explore other’s perspectives while also presenting my own views and opinions clearly and confidently. If you want to learn more about that, you can check out episode 6 on Assertiveness, and you can also keep an eye out for my online Boost Your Assertiveness course which I’m currently trialing prior to a September launch. But as a leader, I can encourage people to share their views, and also take the time to listen to alternative views. We can boost the assertiveness in our organisations, not just in our people. If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of introversion, I recommend Susan Cain’s excellent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. She also has a great TED talk which I’ve linked to in the show notes. There are benefits from talking less and listening more. I think it’s entirely possible to work on our listening at the same time as we work on building connections and assertiveness. Unlike extraversion and introversion, they’re not opposite ends of a scale. Now, I came across the research on extraversion and well-being via the excellent British Psychological Society Research Digest. I highly recommend checking that out and I’ve provided a link in the show notes.   REFERENCES Susan Cain TED talk - The Power of Introverts. https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en Susan Cain - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. https://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352153 British Psychological Society Research Digest - https://digest.bps.org.uk/ Margolis, S., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2019, August 1). Experimental Manipulation of Extraverted and Introverted Behavior and Its Effects on Well-Being. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000668
Summary Confidence is a key part of leadership effectiveness. It’s much easier to follow a confident leader than one who appears to doubt themselves. But what is confidence, and how can we develop it? Transcript Welcome to episode 51 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we’re exploring confidence in action. Confidence is a key part of leadership effectiveness. It’s much easier to follow a confident leader than one who appears to doubt themselves. But what is confidence, and how can we develop it? First a thought - yes, it is possible to be overly confident and to overestimate our abilities. Check out episode 49 on accurate self-assessment for ways to avoid that.  Self-confidence is underpinned by two concepts: Self-esteem - this is the belief that you have an inherent value. Furthermore, it’s a belief that this value isn’t based on what you do or offer others, rather it’s something that all human beings share. You might also think of self-esteem as self-worth or self-respect. How can you have self-confidence unless you believe you are of value? Self-efficacy - this is the belief that you have capacity to influence events in your own life. It’s a sense of control - that you’re not just a victim of your circumstances, but have the ability to shape the world around you. That no matter what cards are dealt to you, you still have choice and influence. Self-efficacy is necessary for self-confidence. How can you have self-confidence if you don’t think you can impact your circumstances? You may have noticed that both self-esteem and self-efficacy are grounded in beliefs. They are both about how we think about ourselves and the world. They’re not primarily about feelings, although they will absolutely impact the way we feel. And they’re not primarily about action, although they will absolutely impact the way we act. Self-confidence is a little different. It is grounded in thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Self-confidence is the belief that you can face day to day challenges. It’s a level of trust in your abilities, capacities and judgements. You can think confidently. You can feel confident. And you can act confidently. Importantly, you can take confident action even when you don’t feel confident. And taking confident action can help you to feel more confident. So what holds us back from thinking, feeling and acting confidently: Spotlight effect - this is the misguided belief that everyone is watching and judging what we’re doing all the time. It’s easy to feel like we’re always the centre of attention in our world, but that’s probably not the case. More likely is that people are thinking about themselves more than they’re thinking about you. So the fear and anxiety of feeling like we’re in the spotlight can hold us back - it’s a harmful belief that we can reduce once we’re aware of it. Catastrophic thinking - this can lead us to overestimate the potential downside and underestimate the potential benefits of taking action. We can all benefit from taking a more optimistic view. Thinking we need to feel confident before taking action - confidence is, in large part, about taking action even when we don’t feel confident. Try measuring your confidence on the actions you take rather than the feelings you experience. Perfectionism - the need to get things perfect the first time can hold us back because, let’s face it, it’s never going to be perfect the first time, or the second time, or any other time. Instead, set goals around trying new things and improvement rather than perfection. Confidence is often about what I describe as flight time. Just like when you’re learning to fly a plane, the number of hours of experience matter when it comes to boosting your confidence. Keep putting yourself in situations that expand your capabilities, that stretch you into new territories, and that encourage you to take action. Because, over time, you’ll find out for yourself that your actions can shape your thoughts and beliefs, and ultimately change the way you feel. The pathway to feeling confident is through taking confident action. If you want to explore more of the themes in this episode further, I suggest checking out two other episodes where we explore growth mindset. That’s episode 9, “Why following your passion isn’t enough”, and episode 42, “The power of ‘I don’t know’”.
Summary Imagine if there was something you could do to elevate your mood, reduce stress, increase creativity, boost memory, build team cohesion, help physical health and maybe even reduce mental illness. Research demonstrates that getting back to nature can do all of that and more for you and your team.   Transcript Welcome to episode 50 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we’re exploring seven reasons to get back to nature. At this point you may be slightly concerned that your podcast feed has been cross contaminated with the “Healthy Living for Hippies” podcast. But, as you know, this podcast is all about research-based tips for improving our leadership. Well, imagine if there was something you could do to elevate your mood, reduce stress, increase creativity, boost memory, build team cohesion, help physical health and maybe even reduce mental illness. As a leader, you would be pretty interested in that for yourself and for your team. It turns out there are an increasing number of research studies highlighting the importance of people having access to nature. To be clear, this is not just about getting outside or exercising - we already know those things are great for us. These studies are specifically about access to nature such as green areas, park lands and forests. These are peer reviewed studies that are careful to control for things like over-crowding and socio-economic status. The research highlights seven benefits of getting back to nature: Elevate Mood - Researchers studied hundreds of tweets posted by people from 160 parks in San Francisco. They found that people are happier in parks. And that level of happiness related to the amount of tree cover and foliage. So people in paved open spaces showed a modest uptick in mood, while those in larger regional parks with a lot of trees and foliage saw a boost in mood equivalent to the mood uplift typically only seen on Twitter at Christmas. And the effect lasted up to four hours. People’s language became more positive, and people shifted to using more collective rather than individualistic language. Reduce Stress - Looking at a green landscape, even from indoors, lowers your heart rate and stress levels. It shifts you from the sympathetic nervous system (think fight, flight and freeze) to the parasympathetic nervous system - sometimes called the ‘rest and digest’ mode. Increase Creativity - People who had just completed a four day hike in nature were 50% more creative than before they began the hike. Boost Short Term Memory - Students at the University of Michigan completed a memory test and were then randomly divided into two groups. One group walked in a garden setting, while the other group walked down a city street. The group that walked in nature did 20% than the first time they completed the memory test, while the city street group showed no improvement. Build Social Cohesion - Researchers studied people living in identical apartment blocks, some with green areas and others that had been paved over. They found the people with greater access to green spaces demonstrated a range of community benefits, including higher levels of social support and cohesion. A similar study in the US even demonstrated 9% reduction in gun violence in areas where empty blocks had been converted to green spaces versus areas that had just been cleaned up. Help Physical Health - Natural killer cells have an important role to play in our immune system in rejection of tumours and viral infections. Researchers demonstrated that a three day weekend in a forest boosted natural killer cells by 50%, while the same three day weekend in an urban area did nothing to natural killer cell levels. And the effect lasted for at least 30 days, when natural killer cell levels remained 25% higher than baseline. Reduce Mental Illness - Researchers found poor air quality is correlated with higher rates of bipolar disorder and major depression. Other research in London demonstrated the number of prescriptions for anxiety and depression medications was significantly higher for areas with less greenery, controlling for socio economic status and other factors. So how does this nature-impact work? The mechanisms for these effects are still largely unclear. It’s not just the about the sight of nature - even natural scents can lead to some benefits. It doesn’t appear to be just about removing the negative effects of crowding or noise either. It’s an emerging area that’s really interesting to follow. But what does that mean for me and the way I lead. Here are four things to try in the coming week: Don’t just get outside and exercise, seek out nature - after reading this research I’ve varied my morning running route to take me through an area with more trees and greenery. Think about opportunities you might have to do the same. Notice nature in your everyday - recently I was facilitating a program in the middle of a major city, but there was a large tree outside the window I could turn my attention to during the breaks. Is there some green area you can see from your workplace? Make sure you actively look at it across your day. Get the team outside - think about ways you can encourage others in your workplace to get into nature. Maybe it’s a weekend hike or shifting your team retreat to somewhere with more greenery and forest. Or maybe its having a walking team meeting in a local park. Humble office plants - perhaps your workplace isn’t near much greenery, so you might try to bring some of those cues from nature inside with plants. I’ve seen workplaces use vines and climbers as a cheap and low maintenance way to quickly inject some greenery inside. It plays a little bit to my “Day of the Triffids” phobia, but otherwise it sounds like a great idea. If you want to learn more about some of this research, I have a link to the excellent Hidden Brain podcast episode in the show notes which includes an interview with psychologist Ming Kuo from the University of Illinois. I’ve also included other references to the research quoted in this podcast. Thanks for joining me for this podcast. I hope you’re finding the content helpful. A special thanks to those who have already reviewed and shared the podcast with others, and to those who have passed on encouraging feedback via the leadership.today website - I really appreciate it. Now get outside and have a great week.   References Aaron J. Schwartz, Peter Sheridan Dodds, Jarlath P. M. O'Neil‐Dunne, Christopher M. Danforth, Taylor H. Ricketts. Visitors to urban greenspace have higher sentiment and lower negativity on Twitter. People and Nature, 2019 Khan A, Plana-Ripoll O, Antonsen S, Brandt J, Geels C, Landecker H, et al. Environmental pollution is associated with increased risk of psychiatric disorders in the US and Denmark. PLoS Biol, 2019  Hidden Brain Podcast - You 2.0: Our Better Nature - https://www.npr.org/2019/08/12/750538458/you-2-0-our-better-nature Robb C Get Outside! How Nature Enhances Work Productivity. Thrive Global https://medium.com/thrive-global/get-outside-how-nature-enhances-work-productivity-25e26386c348
Summary Accurate self-assessment sits at the core of leadership effectiveness. This week we look at five ways you can help ensure you have a clear picture of your strengths and areas for development.   Transcript Welcome to episode 49 of the Leadership Today podcast. This week we’re exploring a question sent in by a listener named Laura. She asks “How would you go about critically analysing and reflecting on your own leadership skills, individual traits, abilities and effectiveness?” Central to this question is accurate self-assessment. Daniel Goleman sees accurate self-assessment, the ability to accurately assess our strengths and areas for development, as a central part of Emotional Intelligence. It’s the foundation upon which we can develop further. As we discussed in last week’s episode, the Johari Window highlights that there are things we know about ourselves that others also see in us. That’s the quadrant where you will find accurate self-assessment. Two major forces that work against accurate self-assessment. The first is that most people overestimate their performance - they see themselves operating at above average levels compared to those around them. We explored this in our prisoners and performance ratings episode. Put simply, most people believe their performance is better than most people, and this clearly can’t be the case. Pair that with the second aspect, which is that many leaders suffer from imposter syndrome - they feel like a fraud and that they don’t have the necessary skills, qualifications, capabilities etc. to be an effective leader. I’ve coached many leaders who experience both of these at the same time - they feel like they’re an imposter in their role, while also feeling like their performance is still above others in the organisation. These two factors combine to mean most leaders have room for improvement when it comes to accurate self-assessment. So what can we do about it? Feedback is the first and main way to increase the accuracy of our self-assessment. I was serving on a senior leadership team when I received some feedback which increased the accuracy of my self-assessment by highlighting a blind spot. As I walked out of a leadership team meeting, one of my colleagues asked if I was alright. I felt alright, so I said “yes”. She then said “the reason I ask is that during that meeting you looked really angry”. Now, this was completely out of the blue for me. I didn’t feel angry during the meeting. It was a challenging meeting with lots of complex things to think about. It turns out, that when I was thinking about something complex, my resting face looked angry. The feedback helped to make my self-assessment more accurate - I thought I was doing okay in meetings, but this behaviour was getting in the way. I focused more on smiling during meetings, nodding in agreement, asking more questions when I was uncertain and letting people know when I needed more time to think about something. A second approach is to identify your strengths. How would you respond if I asked you to write down a list of 20 things that you are good at? When I’ve asked people to do exactly that during leadership development programs, most people initially see it as an impossible task - how could I possibly write down 20 things I’m good at? They then typically start the list with a few ideas, before asking “What’s your definition of good?”. And that’s the critical question. What does it take for something to make it onto your “I’m good at this” list? Does ‘good’ mean you have to be the best in the world? Better than everyone else at your organisation? The best you can possibly be in that area with no room for further improvement? Each of those definitions shortens your list of potential strengths. We often set the bar for what we consider to be our strengths way too high. One practical step you can take from today’s podcast is to list your strengths, making it as long and as comprehensive a list as you can. Ask others who know you well what they see as your strengths - don’t argue back, just add them to your list. We’re far better off developing by focusing on our strengths than by obsessing about our weaknesses. Laura also asked about individual traits, and this links to the third approach I recommend to build the accuracy of your self-assessment. I encourage you to undertake a broad-based personality profile to identity likely strengths and risks in relation to your role and career ambitions. There may be options to complete one of these through your organisation. The tool I use covers 15 personality traits across the domains of people and relationships, tasks and projects, and drives and emotions. This helps to compare your preferences to others to see what is unique about you and your approach to work. If your organisation doesn’t use these tools, contact me via the leadership.today website - I can set you up for the questionnaire and walk you through the feedback over the phone or via video conference. The fourth area is effectiveness. I encourage people I coach to look at input measures as well as outcome measures. Our work rate is really important, and this can get lost when we’re just focusing on outcomes. If I take this podcast as an example, the number of podcast downloads and the number of reviews posted are both outcome measures. I actually don’t have much direct influence over either. However, the input measures of writing and recording a podcast each week is something I can control, and these inputs are necessary in achieving the outcome measures. The fifth suggestion I have is to measure progress. We often underestimate just how far we’ve come in our development because we don’t reflect back to how much we’ve learned. Look back one month, three months or six months and think about the things you have achieved. Also list the skills and capabilities you have developed over the last year. And if the list is short, then build ongoing development into your calendar. Accurate self-assessment is crucial for high performance and satisfaction. I encourage you to seek feedback, identify your strengths, assess your personality traits, measure your effectiveness by input measures, and measure your progress. Thanks again for listening and sharing the podcast with others. If you have a question or feedback, go to the leadership.today website and head to the connect page where you can send me a message.
Summary Reaching into our untapped potential is a trip into the unknown. In this episode we use the Johari Window as a framework to identify four ways to explore our untapped potential.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 48 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at untapped potential through the lens of the Johari Window. One of the best known frameworks in self-development is the Johari Window. I remember a presenter using an overly-posh voice to call it the “Yoharri Window” as if they were a 1960’s mystic whispering to a botanically infused George Harrison. In truth, the name Johari comes from the two researchers that developed the framework - Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham - Jo and Hari. Let me give you a super fast overview so we can then talk about untapped potential. The method Jo and Hari developed back in the 1960s involves individuals selecting words that they feel best represent them from a list of adjectives. Then others that know the person also select words to represent the individual. In the final step, these words are sorted into four quadrants based on the level of independence or overlap between the lists. The words that are in common go into the top left quadrant, representing things that the individual knows about themselves that others also see in them. Perhaps the individual sees themselves as outgoing and confident, and others also recognise these traits. This quadrant is the Arena - it’s what we present to the world. Words that others identify that the individual doesn’t select for themselves go in the top right quadrant. These words reflect aspects that are known to others, but not known to the individual. Perhaps others see the individual as competitive and active, while the individual doesn’t see those qualities in themselves. This quadrant is typically called the Blind Spot. We can extend the Arena quadrant and decrease our Blind Spot through feedback. The Johari Window exercise itself was intended as an opportunity to do exactly that. As we see ourselves the way others see us, we build our self-awareness. Words that an individual identifies for themselves that others don’t use go in the lower left quadrant, titled the Mask. These are things we see in ourselves that others don’t see. Through disclosure we can extend our Arena and decrease the Mask. Doing this can help us to build relationships with others, as we become more known. That leaves one remaining quadrant - the Unknown where things are unknown to us and unknown to others. It’s usually at this point that discussions move on - where we explore the benefits of feedback and disclosure further. However I think there are benefits to exploring this quadrant further. Sticking to the other quadrants is really about expanding knowledge about who we are now. We can let others know more about who we are now. Or we can seek feedback to learn more about who we are now. The final quadrant provides a different opportunity. Instead of just expanding knowledge, it’s actually about expanding who we are now. So how do we explore the untapped potential resting in the unknown? Try new things - expand your interests, even if they don’t appear to be directly applicable to your work. The calligraphy classes Steve Jobs attended out of interest lead to typeface being one of Apple’s early differentiators in desktop publishing. Seek additional responsibilities - take the box you have been given in your job and push it outwards. Work with your manager to take things off their plate. Connect with new people - work with people in your network to make new connections to explore their experiences and backgrounds. Relentlessly seek feedback - as you are expanding into the unknown, you will benefit from targeted feedback. Don’t just ask for general feedback, ask about specific elements relating to your new efforts. The Unknown quadrant is about exploring new areas and trying new things. The Johari window is a helpful framework to help us to know ourselves and be known by others as we are now. But it also provides a reminder that our boundaries are not fixed, rather they are there to be tested and expanded.
Summary The best leaders prioritise treating people well, and reap the benefits through higher performance and greater commitment. But time pressure can make this difficult. Here are five ways busy leaders prioritise treating people well.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 47 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at five ways busy leaders prioritise treating people well. Treating people well matters, and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Research shows that people who feel they are treated fairly perform better, and have higher team and organisational commitment. People who are treated fairly deliver better results and stay longer. But what does it mean to be treated fairly? Researchers divide fairness into four factors: Equitable rewards - people want to see a link between performance and reward Transparent procedures for rewarding people - people are clear about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of reward and recognition - they know what is rewarded, and the way it is rewarded Clear decision making - people are clear about the logic behind decisions, not just the decisions themselves Dignity and respect - people feel they are treated in a considerate way No doubt you agree these all sound great, and the best leaders you have worked for have probably done all of those things. So why doesn’t it happen more often? Research published in Harvard Business Review helps to explain why fairness can be such an issue. Through a series of studies the researchers found short-term high workloads were associated with leaders placing less attention on fairness. Even more concerning, they found that chronic and ongoing high workloads were associated with leaders persistently prioritising tasks over people. The problem is that leaders who are under time pressure tend to put technical tasks ahead of people, and as a result their treatment of people suffers. The risk is that performance drops off and people think about leaving. Not only that, the best leaders feel compromised - they may want to treat their people better, but feel they don’t have the time or permission to do that effectively. So, what can we do about it? Here are five ways busy leaders prioritise treating people well: Great leaders still set aside time for their people: treating people fairly is rarely urgent, so the best leaders schedule time for their people. And they keep to those times even when they’re busy. If you’re interested in exploring that further you can check out episode 4 about monthly 1 on 1 meetings that work. Great leaders prioritise the process not just the task: researchers often refer to this as procedural fairness. People want to know that procedures have been established and are followed without exceptions. Great leaders agree and communicate what should be rewarded: they work with other leaders to establish values and performance standards. Great leaders differentiate based on performance: this isn’t necessarily about money, but could include secondments, promotions, conferences, training, additional leave. They also ensure that under-performers know they’re underperforming, then they help them to improve, they move them to a more appropriate role if needed and, if all else fails, they move them on. Great leaders share the ‘why’ behind decisions, not just the decisions themselves: in the absence of this, people make things up to fill in the gaps. The best leaders make sure the gaps aren’t there in the first place. The world needs more leaders that prioritise treating people well. We also need organisations to value and reward fairness. Once leaders have permission to put people first they’re far more likely to be fair. It’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, but it also produces better results and helps to retain our best people.   References When Managers Are Overworked, They Treat Employees Less Fairly - Elad N. Sherf, Ravi S. Gajendran, Vijaya Venkataramani - JUNE 04, 2018 https://hbr.org/2018/06/research-when-managers-are-overworked-they-treat-employees-less-fairly
Summary One of the elements that gets in the way of being assertive as a leader is an inability to say 'no' to requests, or automatically saying ‘yes’ to everything that comes our way. We explore ways to say ‘no’ without being a jerk.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 46 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at saying ‘no’ without feeling like a jerk. One of the elements that gets in the way of being assertive as a leader is an inability to say 'no' to requests. Or, the flip side, is automatically saying 'yes' to every request that comes our way. True assertiveness requires us to say 'no'. If we can't say 'no' then our time and efforts become subject to others' needs rather than our own. How can we lead others effectively if we can't choose our own priorities? We also risk becoming overloaded, ending up struggling to fit everything into our work week, and neglecting some of the truly important parts of our role.  Saying ‘yes’ often early in our career can make a lot of sense. You’re seen as someone who is keen to help out and add value. The catch is when we carry that impulse to say ‘yes’ and take more and more on into the rest of our career.  Often times this inability to say 'no' comes down to a tension between "I don't want to do it" and "I want to help". Being helpful is a wonderful trait. But being helpful doesn't necessarily mean saying 'yes' automatically. This is where a "no but..." response can work well. It allows us to still be helpful without automatically agreeing to the request. For example, you could still be helpful by providing advice. "No - I won't be able to do that research for you, but you might find this online resource helpful". Or you could help the person to make a new connection. For example, "No - I can't cover your shift on Saturday, but you could speak with Brett in Human Resources to see if anyone is looking for extra shifts." Or you might vary the timeframe. "No - I won't be able to finish that report today, but I could have it ready by Friday". Or you could vary the task. "No - I won't be able to attend that meeting, but I'm happy to look at your presentation and provide some feedback". Advice, connections, varying the timeframe and varying the task can help us to say ‘no’ while still being helpful. Another really useful technique is to insert a gap between the request and your response. Just because someone makes a request of you doesn't mean you have to respond straight away. It's perfectly reasonable to let them know that you will think about it and get back to them by a particular time. But what if it's urgent? Well, just because something is urgent for someone else doesn't automatically make it urgent for you. And I'm also not suggesting it needs to be a long gap. If they're on the phone you might say you will call them back in five minutes. It just needs to be enough of a gap so that you can consider whether you have capacity and interest to do what's being asked of you.  Clearly the context matters. My advice to a teenage son on work experience is to say 'yes' to absolutely everything they ask you to do. But the more senior your position, the more important the ability to say ‘no’ becomes. My advice to a CEO is to never say 'yes' to anything in the moment unless they’re 100% convinced it's the right call.  So, saying 'no' while being helpful, and inserting a gap are two great approaches to increasing our assertiveness. I’ve had the privilege to work with thousands of leaders to help them achieve results through people. I have seen many people who struggle with their confidence, with speaking up and presenting their ideas, with being more assertive without becoming aggressive, and with saying ‘no’ to unreasonable requests. In short, the majority of leaders I’ve worked with want and need to boost their assertiveness to become more effective. They recognise that assertiveness is crucial to achieving results both for themselves and their organisation. But they often don’t know where to start. That’s why I’ve developed the Boost Your Assertiveness at Work in Three Weeks program. The course is launching in early September, and those who subscribe to our email list will receive a special offer. If you haven’t already signed up, you can do that via leadership.today website and follow the connect links. If you enjoyed today’s episode, I’m confident you’ll love the online course. Have a great week and I’ll speak to you next week.
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