Leaders Who Listen

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Take a moment and think of a leader you admire. Focus on how he/she interacts with their audience.

Does the leader listen and provide undivided attention? Or, does the leader at times cut off the other person in the middle of conversation?

Not to take any sides in politics, but former President Bill Clinton has the gift of captivating the attention of the person he is talking to by looking at the person intently like no one else is around them. By doing this, he makes the person feel special.

As Stephen Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I personally have done this many times; I listened to respond, instead of listening to learn. As I became aware of my mistakes, I put an effort to listen carefully. At that point, I learned that I was indeed listening, but not understanding, when I experienced that I failed to remember some of the points that were discussed.

I decided to understand the different barriers to listening to help me avoid them: distractions, for example, such as anyone doing something and making noises; emotions that affect effectiveness; inattentiveness; and lack of clarity. By understanding these barriers, I’m able to focus.

A leader listens to receive, retain, process and translate the message. You’ll notice that great leaders are good listeners because they are not afraid to repeat what they heard to ask for confirmation. They also look into non-communication forms like facial expressions, gestures, and body language to get a complete picture.

How Does A Leader Demonstrate Effective Listening?

A leader:

  1. Always maintains eye contact (most important).
  2. Uses body language to demonstrate that he/she understands what is being communicated by nodding.
  3. Asking questions to clarify the points.
  4. Repeating the message to receive confirmation.

To be a good leader, one must master the art of listening. By developing this skill, over time you’ll slowly head in the right direction.

Let me know your thoughts on my post. Do you agree? If you don’t, please share your thoughts.

Tell me about a time when listening impacted you!

Leadership in Action

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Coworkers discussing a fileI find it interesting seeing people wanting to be leaders like it is the first-place position in a race.  Each one is vying for that coveted position to be able to lead and tell people what to do. A position that has an aura of power and authority that is bestowed upon them, that enables them to give commands that their people have to follow and carry out.

Such demonstration of intense focus to gain power is akin to purchasing a house, thinking that once the house is purchased it is the end of the journey. But that is far from the truth. While the initial act of purchasing a house requires a huge financial outlay, the work that comes after that is even bigger and more demanding.

After the purchase one has to tend to the needs of maintaining a property, like mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, trimming the bushes, planting and caring for the plants, raking leaves, shoveling the driveway during winters and the overall upkeep of the house inside and out. All the ensuing activities are often not clear until the purchase is completed because the intense focus of acquiring it shifts the focus to the house itself.

As John C Maxwell said, “Leadership is action, not a position.”

Most folks fail to realize that there is a lot required of them after they arrive at the destination and are given the opportunity to lead others. They have to serve their constituents; they need to spend a great deal of time and managing people is not easy. As a result, they fail at it because they don’t have a clear picture of what they need to do.

Therefore it is important for leaders to educate their constituents about the work that is ahead of the folks who desire to be leaders. Just like purchasing a house, the single act pales in comparison to the commitment you need to dedicate time to serve and lead others. Until you realize the effort needed and learn what lies ahead, it is best to take the time in your journey to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to make it happen.

I make it a point to mentor my people of the importance of the work that lies ahead and the commitment that is needed to get there.

John C. Maxwell said that as we move up, we have to give up and do more time with and for our people. Unless one realizes the work needed ahead, they will certainly fail in leading their people. If you’re willing to sacrifice your time and develop people, that is when you should contemplate being a leader.

One must develop the heart of serving others and growing talent around them. It is the best gift they can give to their constituents to help them grow and develop.

Writing is a labor of love, if you agree with my post let me know your thoughts. If you disagree, let me know your perspective, I look forward to learning from you.

What are your thoughts regarding the demands of leadership?

Doing the right thing

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Play-nicelyI’ll start my post with a quote from Oprah Winfrey, “Real Integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”     In life, we are often faced with challenges such as meeting people and stakeholder’s demands.   This creates a complicated situation in which some people will do certain things just for the sake of satisfying the majority but going against their personal values and beliefs.

In my over 24 years in the workforce, I’ve seen a myriad of things that people do just to make things happen. Some people do whatever it takes to get it done, like doing it at all costs. These sacrifices at times affect people’s life as they have to give up a lot to get things done. But just like anything else, you’re only as good as your current performance.   Prior performance is often forgotten; sadly yes, that is the reality we live in.   Furthermore, we see heads of public organizations and government figures getting in trouble because they did something they should not be doing.   This is also pervasive in the athletic world, where some athletes think they are above the law.

In sports, it is often a challenge when coaches focus so much on wins that it becomes the be all end all. When win becomes a measure of success instead of learning the skills to get better and improve future chances.   Because of the need to win, players at times play hurt or the coach will put in players who are hurt.   In doing so, you could sacrifice the future of the player.   In recent weeks, I’ve faced the same situation, my team was off to a slow start and our shots were not falling. In addition, my strategy was not working, coupled with one of my best player being injured.   A few days after the injury, we had another game.   I thought about playing her since she was available. In the end before I drove home from work, I made a decision to seat her.   As it turns out, our opponent never showed up and I ended up asking my team to have a scrimmage.

As I look back at that situation, what helped me make the decision was to think about the long term health of my player. I’d rather take a hit now than to risk my player having a further injury.   It goes back to doing the right thing regardless of the situation.   I’m thankful for the opportunity to be challenged and came out with an experience that further strengthens my commitment to doing the right thing.   As Ms. Winfrey says, doing the right thing is doing it regardless of anyone looking at you.   In essence it is a commitment that makes sure you stay true to your core values.

Writing is a labor of love, if you like my post, please share with other. If you don’t agree, let me know your viewpoint as I can always learn from you.

An Example of Poor Leadership

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client-relationshipsAt the recently concluded Ryder Cup tournament, the U.S. was not able to stage the comeback needed to win the cup.   Win or lose, I’m still proud of our players.

I’m writing in reference to what transpired throughout the event, especially when the U.S. fell behind on Saturday. I certainly don’t question Tom Watson’s decisions, because as the leader of the group you have the prerogative to make the decision that you see fit.     The U.S. lacked energy and fell behind 10-6 going into the Sunday match play.     My memory is still fresh that the European team was able to stage a comeback from a similar deficit so I was confident that we could still make it happen.

After discussing and setting the stage for Sunday, the team presented Mr. Watson with a gift: a replica Ryder Cup trophy signed by all the players.   As noted by Yahoo news, Mr. Watson scoffed at the gift, suggesting that it meant nothing unless his team completed the comeback the next day.   Here is where his leadership fell short. While he is entitled to his frustration, he needed to continue to engage and inspire the team and promote an environment that helped the team uplift their spirits.

A leader is a tough position.   If it were easy then everyone could be a leader.   Often a leader is looked to as a source of inspiration and energy. When the chips are down, your constituents seek your guidance to keep them going.     When a leader says the right thing, no matter how bad the situation, the players listen and continue to do their best.   I’m by no means saying that the players lost focus because of what transpired, but it certainly did not help.

As I reflect on my experience, I vividly remember the 2012-2013 season when I was coaching St. Elizabeth’s 4th grade girls’ basketball team.   We had a great season heading into the playoff.   We faced some challenges in the semi-final, but we buckled down and pulled through.   Before we started the championship game, I told the girls to enjoy the moment and leave everything on the court. I mentioned that this was our moment and this was what we worked so hard for the last four months.   We started strong, leading by 4 by halftime; we played well, but had a hard time scoring in the second half.   Our opponent shut us down and our girls faced the adversity of trying to make things work. My assistant coach told me to let the girls know that it is okay to lose.   I told him that I refused to do that because there was still time on the clock and as long as there was time, we would never give up. With two minutes and 47 seconds left we were down by 4 points; I called a timeout.   I told my players that I believed in them, the question was did they believe in themselves. They yelled “Yes”. I told them to forget about what happened leading up to that point that the most important time was the next two minutes and 47 seconds.   One of my players named Maura went for a shot and was fouled. She calmly sunk the free throw. At last, we were down by one. I told them to play good defense to get the ball back.

We made a stop and executed a perfect fast break from my point guard Molly to our center Lauryn and the gym erupted with cheers from the parents of St. Elizabeth. We were now leading by one. I told my players not to foul, but continue to play good defense. We got the ball back and Selena threw the ball to the back court to Lauryn and the game ended.   I always look back to that last huddle and it brings a smile and joy to my heart. As the coach and leader of the team, I know it was tough to be in a situation where my team could lose the game, but I refused to quit, because I wanted the players to learn how to work through adversity.

Granting my experience is nothing like Mr. Watson’s, I still understand that a leader plays an important role in helping the team set up the tone and atmosphere.   As leaders, we are responsible for the team no matter what happens.   At the heart of leadership is sacrifice that is necessary if we want to lead others.   In the end, Mr. Watson wrote an open letter to everyone, but it was a bit too late.   The next time PGA picks a captain, I hope they consider the person’s leadership capabilities.   There is a saying that not all smart people can teach; sometimes they cannot make the subject simple enough for a layman to understand. The same is true in the workplace. The best technician does not make a good manager.   Therefore, the best player who has won many tournaments is not necessarily the best choice.   They need to take a page from Mr. John Wooden’s book on leadership that says, “People want to believe you are sincerely interested in them as person. Not just for what they can do for you.”

Writing is a labor of love; I’ve blog for 26 weeks in a row. I’m aware that people who read my post need to learn something therefore I do my best at all time. Feel free to share my post to your friends.

 

Leader must give up

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give upA leader is often the person that helps a team reach a goal that they otherwise thought they could not achieve.   They inspire everyone around them to act and persevere until the goal is achieved.   In many ways, their constituents look to the leader for encouragement and direction. Their guidance is what helps the team overcome adversity.

At times, people think that the leader has all the answers and is knowledgeable or a subject matter expert. If a leader falls into the trap of being all for everyone, they will not be successful.   In order for a leader to be effective and efficient, they need to give up and let go certain things.

Here are some of the things a leader must give up:

  • Making all decisions – leaders must empower their people that are closest to the problem to come up with solutions or recommendations, because they are the domain experts.
  • Let go – at times we are tempted to do everything ourselves, because we can get it done faster.   Also we deemed that the times spent on teaching someone can best be served addressing the issue. But that is a false expectation. If we don’t teach everyone around us to fish, they will always expect us to give them the fish.   It is best to invest the time to teach someone; this way they can help in the future.
  • Talking at all times – it is important to communicate, but it is equally important to listen.   By listening to your constituents, you will learn more about your audience and understand their challenges and identify opportunities.
  • Control – extend the ropes for your people to prove to you that they can get it done. However, always be there to support and nurture them. Be there to catch them when they fall, but let them learn the lesson before they move on.
  • Assuming perfection – you can try to be on top of the situation at all times, but you don’t have to be. You need to surround yourself with the right people to get things done. Knowing who to seek help from or tap to get things done is more important than trying to be the expert.

 

At times it is okay to give up; a leader must give up for the right reason. Empowering their constituents and investing the time to develop them will be key to the overall success of the organization.

Writing is a labor of love. If you like my post shares it with your friends or share your perspective, because it will help me grow and develop.

The Joy of Coaching

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CoachingI had the privilege of coaching people to advance their career and attain certain fulfillment and the satisfaction, as well, of coaching my daughter’s 3rd and 4th and later 5th and 6th grades basketball team.   On both fronts, the satisfaction is in seeing people grow and develop while keeping their joy of learning.

The greatest reward as a coach is to be able to motivate your team to achieve goals they otherwise think they cannot achieve.   To give them the extra push in challenging times that enables them to overcome the obstacle.   Ultimately as a coach I learned something new throughout the journey about my players. That same is true for my executive coaching.   When your client overcomes an obstacle or becomes unstuck, that’s a win for you as well.

While anyone can say that they’re coaching, saying you’re a coach is not same as acting and conducting yourself like one.   Based on my experience, a great coach has the following characteristics:

They focus on YOU – the focus of the coach is you and your development.

“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”John Wooden

Challenge you – they challenge you to overcome things you otherwise thought you couldn’t achieve.   In challenging times, they help you transition from having distractive thoughts to creating constructive thoughts that enable you to move forward.

Good communicator – communication is the key to a successful coach. They’re able to communicate in good times and challenging times as well. They always find ways to come up with the right choice of words to encourage their people.

Has a philosophy – They have a belief and principles.   In my case, I always emphasize learning fundamentals and the value of sportsmanship, team work and hard work.

Discipline – Discipline is the foundation of any successful undertaking. Without discipline you cannot be successful.   You need discipline to help you focus on the overall goal.

Understand their people – It is easy to push your team, but failure to understand your team will lead to frustration and result in eventual failure. A good coach takes the time to learn and understand their people.   They know when to push and hold back and nurture their team.

Aim to serve – Coaching is a service. To succeed, a coach must aim to serve their constituents and be there for them.   Their unselfish attitude will ensure that their constituents’ best interest is always front and center.

analazing market situationIn my experience, the biggest difference between sport coaching and executive coaching is in client confidentiality.     In executive coaching, you need to uphold client confidentiality. It is job one.   Both bring joy to the practitioner and often provide lifelong learning as their relationship progresses over time.

Coaching is a blessing – a blessing to touch people’s hearts and develop them and see them grow.   I’m thankful for the opportunity to make a difference.

 

“The test of a good coach is that when they leave, others will carry on successfully.”   Author Unknown

Surrounding with the right people

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Rallying the Troops - Organization ChartGrowing up, I remember the days in which I got to sneak out and play basketball with the children living in the same apartment building.   I say sneak because my parents didn’t want me to waste my time on unproductive things; my time was best spent helping at our convenience store.   While I liked helping my parents, I did enjoy the camaraderie and the friendly competition.

Back then a game of basketball started with the top two players picking their teammates.   What a great feeling to be picked first, but that’s not my luck as I’m not the best player and usually play a backup role.   There were times I was the last two picked and I dreaded being picked last.   I don’t remember being the last one standing, but I remember vividly that the team leader picked players he deemed could help his team win the game.   That is my early recollection of team formation.   As I grew up, I got to pick players and I often asked myself the question: Who is the best rebounder, excellent ball handler, great low-post player, etc.?

I’ve played on many team sports and for the most part the coaches do employ a certain rationale as to how they form their team.  Throughout my career, I’ve observed how my manager would hire certain people with certain skillsets to help us achieve our goal.

So, what’s my point for this post?   My point for this post is that, while this strategy of hiring people with different skillsets to help strengthen your team is important, it is equally important that you create your own inner circle that can collectively help everyone in your inner circle. By doing so, you can enable others and help them help you achieve your goal.    As you go through your career, keep an eye on people who specialize in things that you’re not really good at.   Connect with them and bring them along to your next opportunity to make things happen.   Remember that you don’t need to do it alone; collectively you can make things happen and take care of each other and help achieve the company’s goal.

Developing Talent Around Us - One at a time

I’ll leave you with a quote by Derek Jeter, “Surround yourself with good people. People who are going to be honest with you and look out for your best interests”