Whatever level we’re at in the organisation, we all want to perform; and we all want to be better leaders. And one of the best and most reliable ways to create a shift in my leadership is by installing performance habits: behaviours that are just ingrained. Not something I need to remember or switch on. Just part of my DNA.
There are any number of performance habits we might choose to amplify our leadership quality and skill. But I’m going to guess you’ve already got the core. So, here are 7 disciplines which are maybe just a little different from the normal advice!
- Build the habit of “Creative Listening”
There’s no better way to lead than to model and inspire the excellence you want from you team, for your team. Start that process by taking everything you already know about active listening and upgrading it to the habit of creative listening.
Creative listening is the skill and discipline of listening for the opportunity to CREATE, whatever the circumstances. Even when the situation looks to your team to be a problem, drama or crisis, listen for its opportunity to get back to the vision, goal and objective. Give your team the question: “Given this, what do we now want to create?”
- Live purposefully, all day long
Living purposefully means slowing down to a one-item-at-a-time rhythm and working on the high-return activities, only.
As a leader, I want my team to come away from a conversation with me calm but energised, focused but relaxed. Like they’ve just taken 5 long, deep breaths. And now have a clarity that makes the rest of the day really easy. Knowing what to say “yes” to – and what to say “no” to.
Live your own working life in the same way. Run every team meeting and 1-2-1 in this spirit. And help your team to see that, no matter how high the stakes or how intense the pressure, we still only ever move things forward one item at a time.
- Shift to an action-oriented view of time
With all the competing priorities in a busy workplace, it’s easy to view “time” as simply a way to accommodate (notice the lack of responsibility in that choice of word!) all the low-return activity that we’ve forgotten doesn’t have to be attended to. And with such a victim-based view of the noise, no wonder “time” becomes a completely depleted resource, even before the day has begun.
Instead: get back to action. Look at the present moment in front of you, right now. And notice all the time in the world is right here and we get to choose how it’s spent. Then make sure your ToDo list is full of actionable actions! (Not high-level categories of work.)
- Consciously improve the quality of communication
Sublime communication skill (including self-communication) is a Number One priority in any role in any industry; and essential to the successful leader. So, I want to consciously work on that, day-in, day-out.
My first (and perhaps, only) priority to achieve that goal is to take FULL responsibility for every communication I play a part in. whether I’m the sender or receiver, the leader or the team member, mine is a fundamental role in the quality of the communication we share. And the outcome of that exchange is direct feedback that I can use – if I’m willing to take responsibility.
Make communication improvement your development priority.
- Challenge fear by strengthening goals and prioritising action
Fear is one of the most interesting topics out there, not least for the many ways in which it can show-up in our working day – and the extraordinary results we might create, in its absence.
As a leader, let’s NOT encourage our team to examine their fears. That might just find more reasons to be fearful. Instead: use fear and resistance as an indicator that we are not strongly enough on our agenda; and that we’re simply not in enough action. The challenge to fear then becomes strengthening the goal; and prioritising actionable action.
- Learn to love resistance
One of the most impactful blockers to progress – for our organisation, our team or ourselves – is resistance from others. Other leaders. Other departments. External partners. Customers. Clients. Collaborators. And what do we do in the face of that resistance? We resist! We reassert our position, dig our heels in and resist the resistance.
Conscious leadership takes a different approach and instead, views resistance as something to be welcomed. Something which gives me direct feedback on where my progress and agreement is to be found. Something that actually fuels my objective, not starves it.
And if I can make that shift, every exchange becomes a joy, full of limitless opportunity. Because now, “rejection” – that core human fear – is simply useful information that moves me closer to my goal. And that’s a habit I want to model for my team.
- Learn to distinguish between social self and professional self
Work is a social environment. It cannot not be. And to help me be successful in that environment, one of the most useful distinctions I can hold in mind is that between my social self and my professional self.
My social self is interested in people pleasing. My social self is interested in being liked. My social self wants us all to get along. But my professional self knows there are other things that come first. And that’s not to say my professional self isn’t friendly or great to work with or drops any likeability in favour of doing the job. But it is far more accomplished at striking the right balance.
For any (especially new) leader struggling to strike the right balance of professionalism, make use of the thought: “social self” vs. “professional self”. Which are you being, right now?