A friend of mine is a teacher in America. She’s been teaching a long time. As she was thinking about the start of the new year she posted this…
The climate of education has changed a lot since I started teaching sixteen years ago, but do you know what hasn’t changed? Kids. Despite what some will tell you, “kids these days”, at their core, are the same as they have always been: they are funny, they are figuring things out, they want to please, and they desperately want to know that someone sees them.
I’ll say a bit of that again.
They are figuring things out, they want to please, and they desperately want to know that someone sees them.
I strikes me that this applies to just about everyone I know.
Sure. You could probably name a couple of people who don’t “want to please” anyone at all and maybe even revel in being awkward. But I’d bet that they are figuring things out (really) and are desperate to know that someone sees them.
Most people get a lift when they feel noticed for doing things well.
Keep an eye on your colleagues. Catch them doing something right. Thank them for it.
John Adair. A proper academic thinker and leader on leadership. He proposed a model usually called “action centred leadership” that starts with three things that leaders have to pay attention to.
Following on from my post about People vs Process it is all too easy to focus energy and attention on “achieving the task” and neglect “building the team” and “growing the individuals”.
“Get it done, get it done, you’re really close to the deadline, are you going to make it, we have to meet the target, have you started that other thing yet…” Achieve the task. Achieve the task. Achieve the task.
Build the team….
“Let’s get together for ten minutes and talk about how things are going. I don’t want to discuss the timeline or workflow or deadlines or the project itself. I just want to talk about how we’re working. Are we communicating well enough? Is everyone clear what they’re doing and where we’re up to? Are we getting all the points of view on the table?”
Grow the individuals…
“How are you doing? You look a little stressed. What’s happening? Have you got what you need to get done what you’ve been tasked with? Do you just need a break? How would you like to lead the stakeholder meeting on Thursday? I think you’re ready… I can get someone else to handle that task you’re on now so you can prepare…”
As ever on this blog about leading from wherever you are, this all applies wherever you are in the team.
If you’re not in charge… challenge and encourage everyone (including your boss) to be working in all three circles. Suggest ways for the team to work better. Reach out to individuals and lift them up.
If you’re in charge… challenge and encourage everyone (including yourself) to be working in all three circles!
I’ve written a FREE eBook on 6 key leadership characteristics.
“But there are so many lists of leadership characteristics…” I hear you say. “What’s different about yours?”
Well… In the eBook you do get my list of 6 key characteristics: Vision, Focus, Confidence, Humility, Consultation and Decisiveness.
Then I give you something else. I discuss how four of them sit in tension with each other and what you can do about it.
How can you be both confident and humble?
How do you stay decisive when the consultation brings out wide-ranging views on opposite sides of the fence?
And then I give you a little bit more. A simple step by step approach to reflecting on how you’re doing in these areas, figure out your strengths and weaknesses, AND take steps to improve.
It’s only a short read. I hope it will really help you.
Grab your copy here.
How do you see your organisation?
Is it a group of people trying to achieve a common aim?
Or a set of processes, policies and structures designed to facilitate smooth working and success?
Obviously it’s both. But where do you put your energy? Your thinking? Your leadership?
Better processes? Or more fulfilled people?
Again… I would hope it’s both. And often the intent is: “better processes will create space and time for the people and lead to more fulfilment”. Which can work.
But be careful. If you’re always talking about the processes, if you always tackle difficulties and change and opportunities from the process side, the people will notice. Without thinking about it. And they’ll subconsciously draw the obvious conclusion.
That you care more about the processes than you do about them.
Are you stepping into your first “leadership role”? Or a new one?
It can be daunting. New things to learn. People to manage. Larger responsibilities. More on your plate.
The most important thing to do in your first day, week and month, is promote yourself.
You’re capable. You’re ready. You’re the person who’s been given the responsibility and the opportunity to make a difference.
Drop some of the things you used to do. You don’t have time any more.
Do what you think is best. That’s why they gave you the job. They trust your judgement will be up to the task.
You have to trust it too.
Leading can be lonely.
It doesn’t matter if you’re at the very top of your organisation, on the first rung of the leadership ladder, or just trying really hard to make a powerful difference from within the ranks.
Leadership is about sticking your neck out, challenging the status quo or the groupthink, taking a little more than your share of the blame and a little less than your share of the credit… All of these things take effort and energy. They all require you to set yourself apart a little.
It’s vital, therefore, that you have someone to turn to. In those moments where it all gets a bit much and you’re just weary of it all. To sense-check your thinking when the balance of pros and cons is complex. To offer understanding and comfort. Or a kick up the backside.
If you can find someone who will always be on your side, even when they see things differently, who looks at the organisation the way you do, who knows and trusts you and who you would share anything with in the knowledge that they would treat it carefully… you’ll have a powerful thing.
Find yourself a confidant. Be one for someone else. It will help your soul. And your impact.
In a post on thinking about where you sit I introduced a model of every organisation’s structure, with you at it’s centre.
So how do you lead from within? From below and to the side?
We tend to think of “leadership advice” as being designed to help the leader sitting up high build success by working better with the group of people supposed to follow her. In other words, it’s always about leading from above.
But just about every leadership lesson ever written can be applied whatever your situation.
For example… Many lists of leadership characteristics state that leaders must have vision and focus. The image we tend to draw from this is the CEO painting an inspiring picture of a shining future and keeping the troops clear-minded on the one or two key things needed to get there.
But this idea applies to everyone.
Your organisation may have a top-level leader who has set a clear “vision”. So what is YOUR vision for what that means in YOUR part of the business? Or for YOUR role in the hierarchy?
What are the one or two things YOU need to focus on in order to bring that local vision into being? The things that should be on YOUR important but not urgent to do list?
Whatever the leadership technique or approach or idea, wherever you sit in the hierarchy, you can ask yourself “How can apply this to my work, from where I am, in a way that helps our organisation get better?”
Successful organisations challenge and encourage all of their people to think this way.
Start doing so without encouragement and you’ll be leading powerfully from within.