Leaders need to draw on the collective wisdom…
When I think of leadership, it is more than being in charge of a team. It is about being a leader at home with your family, a leader amongst your friends and a leader at work. However, it doesn’t mean you are in charge of others, nor does it give you the authority to tell people what to do.
Think about it – who likes to be told what to do? I know I don’t! Did you know that your brain is hardwired to react without reason? When you were growing up, going through your rebellious years, what did you do? Correct, you resisted authority and anyone who tried to control you. Automatically, when you were told what to do, you went in the opposite direction.
This information, just there, is key. If you want to be an exceptional influential leader – one that knows how to connect and communicate to a group of friends, family, children or teams – there has to be a level of trust, empathy, compassion, humility and love. When I was growing up and my parents told me what to do, I had every ounce of my being fly in the opposite direction. To this day, I react exactly the same way.
It still amazes me how simple the concept is, yet most leaders just don’t get it. People just don’t like to be told what to do, whether they are employees, clients, friends, co-workers, family members or teenagers.
1) Let Them Own It
A more effective technique is to ask powerful questions instead of telling. Quite often I will ask ‘what would you do if you were in my shoes?’ or ‘what do you think we should do about this?’.
By asking them a question and not telling them nor giving them the answers, you are in fact empowering them. You are allowing them to discover their own answers and solutions, which in turn will make them feel empowered, important and involved.
This is exactly how to increase engagement in any environment.
One habit that I consciously do is answering questions with questions whenever I can. This resulted from years of executive coaching and has proven to be a reliable ‘tool’, so to speak. It is a useful habit that I use at home, with my family or friends, and at work with my team. As far as habits are concerned, it is a must.
By probing with the right questions:
- you will get their buy in
- you will be a tour guide to their self discovery
- they will help you with other options that may not have crossed your mind and it may also have a significant impact on your choice.
There is always a level of curiosity that drives me to ask clarifying questions until I really understand them – this creates an open environment of equality where people feel empowered to make their own decisions based upon ideas they get from reflecting on powerful questions and hearing about the experiences of others.
If you are in a situation where your team, friends or family members are not motivated, lack engagement or you are not getting the right results, then you should start thinking. Are you asking the right questions instead of telling them what to do?
2) Deep Dive into the ‘Why’
The third question is where the magic begins. You get to the root cause of anything, rather than a surface level response. The magic is word is ‘why’. Children are naturally good at asking why, it is part of them growing up. They are curious and, as frustrating as it may be on the parent, we all did it. Some, like me, still ask a lot of why questions all the time; I just need to understand.
We have all experienced being late for work. How often do we come up with a million responses once we get to our destination? Why do we feel the need to have an excuse? For example, it could be as easy as you slept in. This takes me back to a time where I had one of my team members come into work late and her excuse was ‘she slept in’. Of course, being the curious individual, I asked her why she slept in. The conversation went like this:
Other – Because I went to bed late last night.
Me – Why did you go to bed late last night, is everything okay?
Other – I ran out of petrol and by the time I got to a gas station to fill up it was 3.00am in the morning.
Me – Gosh… why did you run out of petrol so early in the morning?
Other – Well… I didn’t have enough money to buy petrol.
Me – What do you mean? Why didn’t you have enough money to buy you petrol, didn’t you have a credit card on you?
Other – No, I blew all my money at the pokeys.
You see, when you ask questions, specifically why, you get to learn something about others. It’s insightful and important to get clarity on your own motivations as well as others and a great way to check in with what is really going on.
Asking why can lead to wonderful exchanges of conversation and views, which in turn educate and stimulate the mind. This kind of living can be powerful because it keeps the mind fresh, open and free, just like a child’s mind. Asking why can change a situation in an instant, it can create all sorts of wonderful new opportunities and open doors you never even knew were closed or existed.
3) Focus on Your People at Hand, Not the Task
When you think of managing individuals, what is your point of focus? Is it the task at hand or is it the individual?
I believe exceptional leadership is a people-oriented business. If you put your people first, you will automatically get the results. You will create a culture where your people want to go the extra mile. Many executives that I have worked with agree that the most important characteristic of individuals in a leadership position is the ability to work with people.
One pattern or insight for me, working with many executives, is the power of leaders who are highly emotionally intelligent. They make or break any organisation just by being socially aware and focusing on their people. If you think about the number one human need – connection – our brains are wired to connect and our brains have made it difficult to be both socially and analytically focused at the same time.
That right there is the remedy to any organisation going through a tough time of resistance, people jumping ship or not being engaged. The focus is on the task at hand. Don’t get me wrong; leaders need to be aware of both results and people. However, if people are the most important asset in helping an organisation obtain its objectives, then leaders must first invest in and nurture a diverse environment. A leader that is connected with their people will know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Therefore, they know what tasks to put them on so that each individual is utilizing their skills and talents, producing the results that the organisation is seeking.
Any organisation is made out of people. By creating a culture where people come first, the productivity will automatically increase and the employees will feel valued, more open-minded and creative in solving problems – coming up with solutions like never before.
These three powerful habits to be an exceptional and influential leader can start for you right now. Put a plan in place to make them your focus. Stick to this plan for 21 days and watch the magic unfold.