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Whenever I ask an audience to raise their hand if they like conflict, usually no hand goes up. Our brain is wired to want to avoid threats. Conflict is categorized by our limbic system as a threat because of the uncertainty of how the other individual(s) will react. It comes as no surprise then, our brain can prevent us from handling conflict effectively, if left unchecked.
Additionally, it is human nature to want to be liked and this does not change just because you move up in an organization. Even CEOs I have worked with have this desire. The difference is, they know that conflict comes with the territory and it is, at times, necessary in order that our differences in opinions be revealed and, from there, solutions can be created.
Conflict gets a bad reputation but the reality is that not all conflict is bad. Conflict, when handled correctly, can be beneficial for our relationships, for our growth, and for our organizations.
Here are 10 things effective leaders do to handle conflict without damaging relationships or losing their head.
Stop Avoiding It
Oftentimes the number one mistake people make is to avoid conflict hoping it will go away. It rarely does. Instead the situation continues to build and becomes less likely to be managed effectively. George Kohlrieser, author of Hostage at the Table, shares the perfect analogy. He says conflict is like a fish under the table. What happens when you leave the fish there for a week? Two weeks? How about a month? It stinks so bad, you have no choice but to get it from under the table. Now you have a bigger mess to clean up than if you would have dealt with the fish right away.
That’s exactly what happens when you don’t deal with conflict at the early stages. If you are a leader, it is imperative that you learn how to deal with conflict effectively. If you are the type of person who avoids conflict or who lets others handle it when it should be you, you will lose the respect of those you lead very fast.
This was the case for a leader we will call Tom. While he had made it to the top position of his company as the CEO, he was still not good at handling conflict. He wanted to always be the transformational, calm, and charismatic CEO. He would make his “second in command” handle the conflict so he could remain the “good guy”. When he first got to the organization, everyone thought of him as a transformational leader. Not long after, people started losing respect for him when they noticed he would not address issues directly with them. Nobody likes to be treated this way. People want to know their leader will tell them where they stand, no matter how difficult it is.
Let conflict be resolved at the lowest level in your organization
Many times as a leader, you get people coming to you to try to solve their problems. It goes something like this:
Employee: “Joe at the marketing department is not willing to support my latest initiative. Can you talk to him?”
Leader: “Have you discussed this issue with Joe?”
Employee: “Well, no, because he said he had other priorities to take care of.”
One of the greatest leadership lessons the military taught me is that issues need to be resolved at the lowest levels. You don’t bother your boss, unless you have tried everything to resolve the problem at your level, with your peers. There are times when two managers will not be able to come to an agreement and that’s when you can intervene by coaching them and, if needed, making the decision. This helps your employees learn to resolve conflict on their own, which is critical as they move up in the organization. As a leader, don’t be afraid to ask your employees what they did to solve the conflict at their level. If their answer is nothing, then send them back to try to solve it on their own. If they don’t know how, coach them, give them the tools, and send them on their way to solve it.
Do your homework
Before you approach someone, you must do some work to make sure you have the right approach to the situation. Make sure you have all the facts not just the “he said, she said”. Try to reserve judgment until you have talked to all the people who are involved.
Before you have the meeting to discuss the issue, ask yourself some or all of the following questions about the other party (depending on the situation):
Be clear on what you wish to accomplish
If you don’t know what you want to accomplish during the meeting or what your ideal outcome is, you will not prepare effectively. You must be really clear on how you want this conflict to be resolved. Once you know that, you can decide what conflict resolution style to use.
Understand yours and the other party’s conflict resolution style
There are 5 conflict resolution styles. Every person is different and has a preferred one or maybe a mixture of them. Tom Hallett from MindTools did a great job explaining the conflict resolution styles as following:
My clients and I have had wonderful results when we role play before approaching the individual with whom we are in conflict. You can role play with a close friend, coach, family member or you can just do it yourself, playing both roles. Either way is effective. The key here is to go over what you want to say in a way that is non-judgmental and that does not set any of the other person’s triggers. Imagine the worst response this person can say to each of the things you have to say and come up with a plan to respond to them in a non-defensive way (sticking to the facts or asking a question), and in a calm and collective way. The reason for this is that we are usually nervous about conflict because we don’t know what the other person will do and we worry they will react in a negative way. This exercise prepares you for the worst case scenario which will allow you to be in control of your emotions. 99% of the time, the actual conversation will not be even close to the worst case scenario. You will feel like it was a walk in the park. I am yet to have a client who has not come back to me, after doing this exercise, thinking that the conversation was a lot easier than they imagined.
After thinking about what’s the worst that can happen and preparing for it, start visualizing what you actually want to happen during the conversation. What would be the ideal outcome? See yourself and the other person being empathetic, calm, collective, and receptive.
Find the right time and place
It is critical that you find the right time and place, not only for you but for the other person, to have this important conversation. If you get to work and have to deal with other issues at work, then you may want to postpone the meeting. Same with the other person, if you see they are not at their best, it might not be the best time. Find a private place where you will not be interrupted.
Stay calm and collected during the conversation
Start the conversation by saying how you feel about the situation and that you may be misunderstanding it so you want to hear that person’s perspective. This will help the other person realize that you are not there to blame him/her but that you truly want to understand what is going on and how to solve it together. When you address something with another person, do not blame them or attack their character. Simply stick to the facts and how you feel. No matter what the other person says, you must not take it personally. Understand that you had time to prepare for this encounter while the other person has not. It is human nature to become defensive as the first response, but if you stay calm, collected and neutral, the other person will realize you are not a threat and will be more open to the conversation.
Once, when I assumed a new leadership position, there was a gentleman who disliked me from the moment I took over and who resisted me at every turn. I decided to have a conversation with him. I started the conversation by saying, “John (not his real name), I was wondering if I have done something to offend you. I feel as if there is some tension between us.” This allowed me to present the issue but not blame him for it; instead I was assuming responsibility for the relationship. We got to the heart of the issue and eventually solved it. But it was not solved over one meeting. It was a work in progress to gain his trust and win him over, which brings me to my final point.
Conflict is not always solved in one meeting
Human relations are complex and while we would want conflict to be solved in one meeting, it is not always the case. As a leader, you must have the patience to work with others to solve conflict over time by following up and building trust through your commitment to solve the problem and by ensuring your words match your actions. Do not promise something at the meeting only to not do it.
Next time you have to deal with conflict, look at it as an opportunity to build stronger relationships and refine your leadership skills.
Share in the comment section below how you have solved conflict in the past without losing your head or damaging relationships
Hallet, T. (n.d.). Conflict Resolution: Resolving Rationally and Effectively. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_81.htm
Kohlrieser, G. (2006). Hostage at the Table: How leaders can overcome conflict, influence others, and raise performance. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
On Sunday, June 15, the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA championship after playing seamlessly through all five games of the NBA finals, earning them their fifth NBA championship in 16 seasons. This team is nothing short of impressive; not only because of the way they perfectly played and executed the game but because of the way they conduct themselves on and off the court. The Spurs players possess humility, excellent work ethic and for the most part stay away from drama, which is certainly not the norm for other NBA teams.
This team proves that leadership matters. Through great leadership from their owner, coach, players, and staff, the San Antonio Spurs are able to stay true to themselves, conduct themselves in an ethical way and still achieve sustainable success. What could your organization achieve if it was able to create winning teams like the Spurs from the top to the bottom of the organization? To be an effective leader you must learn how to create AND maintain a winning team.
Here are 10 things we can learn from the Spurs about building and maintaining a winning team:
Getting the right people on your team
One of the greatest strengths the Spurs have is their ability to put the right combination of skills on the court.
In order to get the right people on your team, you must first be very clear on the following:
1. The values you want for the team (they must be in alignment with the values of the organization)
2. The purpose the team serves to the organization (must be in alignment with the purpose of the
3. The overall skills the team must possess to have what it takes to achieve sustainable success
Once you have defined the values, purpose, and skills, proactively seek new talent that fits the bill to join your team (Beeson, 2010). When choosing your team, do not focus simply on the technical skills. Focus on the people skills and their ability to be resilient and optimist.
Know your people
Get to know every single member of your team. As a leader, it is important to recognize that each member of your team has emotional and professional needs that influence his/her performance. You can gain this understanding by answering the following:
1. What drives them?
2. What are their goals?
3. What are their pet peeves?
4. What are their strengths?
5. What are their weaknesses?
6. What motivates them?
7. How do they communicate?
8. What do they expect of you as a leader?
9. What do they need from YOU to perform at their best?
The answers to these questions will help you align each individual’s goals/desires with those of the team and the organization. It will help you communicate with them effectively and provide them with what they need to succeed, including motivation and inspiration.
Leadership is a relationship between the leader and follower (employee). For any relationship to be effective, both people must benefit from it-there must be a give and take. As a leader you benefit from a great team member who contributes to the team. As a member of the team, he/she must get benefits for being on the team and from allowing you and trusting you to lead them. The benefits team members are looking for depend on the individual (this is why it is important to get to know each member of your team). Some people want the recognition; some people want to know they are contributors; some want to be behind the scenes but appreciated by their team. No one size fits all.
Everyone must take responsibility
As a leader you take most of the responsibility for the team. However, you are not the only one who must be responsible. When you allow your team to be responsible for the role they play on the team, for their decisions and contributions, you empower them. In my work with leaders, I see that failure to take and give responsibility has caused them a world of trouble; but once they learn this piece, their teams become incredibly productive. At a press interview before the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Coach Popovich gave us great insight on how he helps his players take responsibility by allowing them to solve their own problems. Coach Popovich appeals to the unique competitiveness and character of each player and tells them that he cannot make every decision for them. He is very big on his team communicating with each other at all times. Popovich said, “I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group… Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do?...figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them…they basically have to take charge or you never get to the top of the mountain” (Freeman, 2014). (See full interview HERE)
Know when to use the “right” emotion to motivate and inspire
Who said emotions do not play a role at work? Emotions play a crucial role in everything we do and in every relationship we have. Leaders who understand this master their emotions and use them effectively, enabling their teams to accomplish incredible things. Take Coach Popovich for example. He is very selective about what emotion to display depending on the player, the situation, and the outcome he desires. He has been seen emotionally charged against specific players, but also has been seen evoking an emotional appeal to his players. He knows when to challenge a player and when to praise a player for his efforts. Most importantly, he knows when and how to have fun with his team. Knowing when to use the “right” emotions to motivate and inspire takes incredible interpersonal skills, as well as knowing each individual in your team (I cannot emphasize this point enough).
Promote the team not just a few individuals
The Spurs do not believe that one, two, or three super stars will bring them success. They understand that it is a team effort. Each player is valuable in their own right. This mentality allows them to play selfless basketball where each player thinks, “I got a shot, but you have a better shot, so here you go”. It is about the team succeeding together, not just one individual getting all the credit, fame, and glory. This would not be possible without the top leadership advocacy to promote the team over one, two, or three individuals. Leadership that rewards only the individual creates an “everyone for themselves” team mentality. Leadership that rewards the team creates a “one for all and all for one” mentality as the Spurs have been able to create. This does not imply that we should never celebrate the individual. There are times when it is necessary and important for the success of the team. The important point here is not to make the mistake to put certain individuals on a pedestal and underestimate the power of team effort. Great leaders understand that no matter how skilled and gifted an individual is, it does not compare to the collective skills and gifts of the team. Therefore, everyone on the team is valuable.
Build a team that is resilient
The Spurs had a devastating loss at last years’ finals when they lost to the Heat after being so close to winning. They could have said, “Well, that was it, we lost our chance to win,” but instead they said, “Ok, let’s go back to the drawing board. Let’s work on our weaknesses, work harder, and let’s get it next year.” The reality is that every person, every team, every organization, will have to face challenges and obstacles on their way to achieving their goals. And sometimes, you have to realize that good is not good enough-that to achieve your goals, you must morph into a different team. A leader should always ask him/herself: Who do I need to be to help my team achieve our goals?; What type of team do we need to become to achieve our goals? Then, work hard to become that leader, that team. If you build resilience in yourself and your team members, you will be able to persevere, find a way to create opportunities, and achieve more than you thought possible.
Develop great leadership throughout the organization
The Spurs have great leaders, not just at the top of the organization, but throughout the organization. It is important for you to develop great leaders in your team because you cannot be there 24/7. You cannot make every decision and, to be an effective leader, you must delegate. If you delegate to great leaders, great decisions will be made. If you want an effective organization, develop effective leaders.
The Spurs have an incredible roster with players from countries like France, Brazil, and Argentina. This provides them with a competitive advantage by providing the team with a diverse set of skills. Diversity allows the team to think outside the box and learn from each other. Embracing diversity must come from the leader. You can help your team embrace diversity by helping them see the many things they have in common with each other and to respect the differences that exist. Coach Popovich said, “I think it’s just a respect for letting them know you understand they’re from another place…We all grew up differently” (Cacciola, 2014).
The more success that we achieve, the more pressures we, and others, put on ourselves to continue to achieve. This can turn into the reason for our failure if we succumb to the pressures and lose sight of what we are here to do. In his book True North, Bill George (2007) explains that true north is the internal compass that guides leaders and helps them stay true to themselves no matter what comes their way, so they don’t lose sight and start making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons. Do not succumb to the external pressures; stay true to what is right and work hard. The Spurs are proof that teams do not have to compromise their values to be a winning team.
Lead with humility and promote it in your team
While it is not a popular belief in business, possibly due to the misconceptions about humility, the ability for individuals to have humility offers a strategic value to teams as well as organizations by providing members with a realistic perspective of themselves, the team, and the environment (Vera & Rodriguez-Lopez, 2004). In A Better Way to Think about Business, Robert Solomon (1999) defines humility as ‘‘a realistic assessment of one’s own contribution and the recognition of the contribution of others, along with luck and good fortune that made one’s own success possible.’’
If you take a look at the Spurs’ coach and players, they exhibit humility. They possess a down to earth perspective of themselves and of the events and relationships in their lives. They have the capability to evaluate success, failure, work, and life without exaggeration. Furthermore, they are able to distinguish the delicate line between such characteristics as healthy self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-assessment, and those of over-confidence, narcissism, and stubbornness. The Spurs are the perfect example that a person can be humble and competitive or humble and ambitious at the same time. Jim Collins describes ‘‘Level 5’’ leaders as those with a paradoxical combination of humility and fierce resolve. He states that ‘‘Level 5’’ leaders, rather than lacking ego or self-interest, are indeed ambitious—but with an ambition that is, above all, for the firm and its greatness rather than for self.
When you do the right things as a leader; look out for your team members, help them achieve their career goals, and enable consistent success; people want to stay on the team and you effortlessly start attracting other great talent. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be part of a winning team. The Spurs are a perfect example. As Bill Simmons (2014) stated, “The Duncan-Manu-Parker trio took less money to stay with the Spurs, playing for 25 to 30 percent less than their market value…which allowed San Antonio to re-sign Tiago Splitter and afford Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green and Matt Bonner…Their best four players earned $32.3 million combined last season … nearly $8 million less than Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, and only $1.85 million more than Kobe Bryant made by himself”. Often times we think that money will make our talent stay but talented people are intrinsically driven who value a winning team that they can draw purpose from and can count on.
Cacciola, S. (2014). The United Nations of the hardwood. Retrieved from
Collins, J. (2001). Good to great. New York, NY: Harper Business.
Freeman, E. (2014). Spurs coach Gregg Popovich explains how he gets players to buy into his system.
Retrieved from http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/spurs-coach-gregg-popovich-
George, B. (2007). True north: Discover your authentic leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Simmons, B. (2014). 24 lingering questions from the NBA finals. Retrieved from
Solomon, R. C. (1999), A Better Way to Think about Business. New York, NY: Oxford University
Vera, D. & Rodriguez-Lopez, A. (2004). Humility as a source of competitive advantage. Organizational
Dynamics, 33(4), 393-408.
Ask any senior executive what they look for in their companies’ leaders and they will quickly point out to two critical skills: the ability to create strategy that gives the organization sustainable success and the ability to motivate individuals at all levels of the organization to follow that strategy.
Strategic thinking and the ability to motivate people are not skills that you can develop overnight. The sooner you start developing these skills, the better leader you will become and the more prepare you will be to make it to the C-suite and succeed in it.
Here are 6 ways in which you can develop/demonstrate these skills
Maintain your Situational Awareness at all times
In the military, if you do not maintain situational awareness in the battlefield at all times, you lose lives, including your own. Thankfully in corporate, nobody will lose their lives over it, however, the consequences can still be catastrophic. The wrong decisions made because of a lack of situational awareness can cost the company millions of dollars or even go into bankruptcy. In the case of a smaller company it can close its doors. As a leader, you must always think about the short-term goals as well as the long-term goals. You must take into account not just your area of responsibility but the organization as a whole. Think about the big picture. This will allow you to see patterns that aren’t obvious to most people, connect information from a variety of sources in creative ways, spot trends and anticipate where they are likely to lead. It is critical that you stay up to date on marketplace trends that are critical to the company’s success in order to anticipate them and respond to them.
Some questions you can ask yourself to help you maintain your situational awareness and see the big picture are the following:
It is easy to get distracted by the ever changing flavor of the day. New initiatives seem to pop up every day. It is important to stay focus and say no to the shinning objects that are put in front of you. Steve Jobs said it best, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.”
Generate or lead the creation of a new strategy
Part of being a successful leader, before reaching the C-suite, is your ability to implement a strategy. However, that is not enough, as you move up in the organization it is more and more critical for you to be able to create a winning strategy. Volunteer for any special project or committee, even if they are outside of your organization, where you can be in charge of creating a new strategy or where you can learn from top leadership how to create a winning strategy.
Develop your communication skills
As you move up to the top leadership positions, it is less about motivating people at the individual level and more about motivating a large group of people at every level of the organization. The best way to do so is by becoming a great communicator. While writing skills are important, speaking skills are even more important. As a leader, you must convey the vision to everyone in the organization, and motivate them to be part of it. If you fail to convince others of your vision, the strategy will fail to be implemented throughout the organization. Join a Toastmasters Club near you or get coached in public speaking. The investment you make now, in your communication skills, will pay off no matter where life takes you.
Devote time for strategic thinking
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn wrote a great article titled “The Importance of Scheduling Nothing”, where he addressed the importance of leaving time in your schedule every day to reflect on the events that took place earlier (especially after very important meetings).
Oftentimes we are so busy with the day-to-day that we do not make time for strategic thinking even though it is necessary for the creation of a winning strategy.
By the way, strategic thinking does not have to be done by you alone, schedule time with your team to have strategic thinking sessions.
Be seen as a strategic thinker
What good is it to be a strategic thinker in your organization if nobody knows you are one? Ensure you share your ideas with others at the appropriate times and in a clear and concise manner (again you can see the importance of developing your communication skills). Before you know it, you will be recognized for your strategic abilities.
Which one of these tips did you find more useful? Share below in the comments
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Horwath, R. (2009). Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Resources, and
taking Smart Action. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press.
Weiner, J. (2013). The Importance of Scheduling Nothing. Retrieved from
One of my most memorable moments this year has been to witness high school seniors present their take-aways from a leadership development program they attended and that I had the privilege to be a part of.
There is a lot of wisdom from what these young men and women leaders had to say. Experienced leaders, like you and I, can learn from, or at least be reminded of, this powerful advice:
1. Leadership is about serving others—those you lead need to know they are important to you. It is about you, the leader, making the sacrifices, not the other way around.
2. Start today--You need to start preparing to be a leader today, not tomorrow, not when you get to college, not when you get to “the” leadership position but today.
3. Let people know you value them-- often we underestimate the impact we can have as leaders when we let others know we appreciate them. A “thank you” note is a simple yet powerful way to show others you care for them.
4. No matter what you do, have fun!—leaders are known for making things happen. How many times do we get so caught up in trying to achieve perfection that we forget to have fun? The greatest leaders are those who have a sense of humor and are able to laugh at themselves.
5. Surround yourself with excellence—not just in the workplace but also in your personal life. As you grow as a person, you outgrow people. Make sure you let go of those you have outgrown in order to make room for those who will help you grow even more.
6. Prioritize and reevaluate---prioritizing is not a one-time thing. As a leader, you must prioritize and reprioritize throughout the day. Short and long-term goals should be prioritized and reevaluated on a consistent base as well.
7. Let your values guide you and show you your true north—as a leader, you must be very clear on what your values are and how they align with the values of your organization. Every decision you make should be guided by those values. Otherwise, you will succumb to the external pressures that every leader must face.
8. Leaders are in no way alike--there is no cookie cutter leader. Embrace your uniqueness, your strengths as well as your weaknesses. There is no such thing as a “super-leader”, only imperfect ones who understand the power of collective intelligence and who tap into it by surrounding themselves with excellence. (see #5)
9. Find your courage and your confidence—a leader must have the courage to make the tough decisions and take the risks required of leadership. A leader must also be confident in his/her capabilities.
10. Manage your time--everyone has the same amount of time, it is about how we choose to use it. Enough said.
11. The importance of building relationships--excellence cannot be achieved in isolation. We need each other to learn and grow and achieve individually and collectively.
12. Never give up; never settle for anything less than your best.
What are your top two take-aways from the above list or from your experience as a leader? Share them in the comments below
Chances are that as a leader, most of your time is spent helping others in the organization deal with their challenges, be it with other people or within their projects. You might not have realized it, but what you are doing is helping them manage their emotions in order to move forward, increase their productivity and get the job done. One of the key roles of a leader is to help others manage their emotions, especially during challenging times. Great leaders are able to motivate and inspire others to perform at their best level. Might sound easy, but it is one of the hardest things to do as a leader.
Here are 3 things you can do to keep yourself and others motivated when faced with challenges
1. Use Reframing
Part of a leader’s job is to listen to those they lead when they are frustrated, upset and/or feel like there is no solution to the problem at hand. Great leaders learn to acknowledge the way others are feeling and help them reframe their thoughts about the current challenge in a way that serves them and allows them to move forward. In other words, as explained by the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC); “A leader helps the follower see things differently by “framing them in a new way—a way that empowers them to be more positive about what is happening”. Leaders help followers see the opportunity in the challenge.
Here is an example of using reframing:
“You don’t like the project you are on right now, but think about how you are developing some valuable skills that will eventually get you to the next level”
This brings us to the next technique in which you can use reframing to redirect the conversation to a solution-focused one.
Human nature is to focus on the problem instead of the solution. The problem with that approach is that it magnifies the problem instead of getting closer to the solution. What happens when you focus only on the problem? Often times you find more problems, and next thing you know, you are ready to give up. Instead, the best thing to do is to step back and brainstorm on possible solutions. When you focus on the solution, you will be amazed of how you can turn a problem into an opportunity. As a leader, you can help those you lead become solution-focused by asking them these two questions: What do you have control over and what do you not have control over? The answers to those two questions will help them decide what to focus their time on. The things they do not have control over need to be dropped in order to place their full attention on those they do have control over. The last question you can ask is, “Now that you know what you have control over, how will you use that knowledge to find a solution-focused approach to the problem?”
3. Focus on the end goal
It is easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged when faced with challenges and let it derail us from achieving the results we want. It is critical in this moment to help those we lead reconnect with the end goal in order to get them to be charged up again. You can help them do just that by asking these simple questions: What will it look like when you finish the project? How will you feel? What will you/the department/the organization gain by accomplishing the task? What will you/the department/the organization lose by not accomplishing the task?
If you use these three techniques and teach them to those you lead, you will see how they start thinking more positively, solving their own problems and staying motivated despite the challenges they face.
Leave your comments below on what you thought about the article or additional tips you have found to work. Also, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what challenges you are facing as a leader that you would like me to cover on future blog posts. And do not forget to connect with me on Facebook to get leadership tips and motivation.
Leadership scholars agree that trust is imperative to leadership effectiveness, especially in the 21st Century. Leadership is shifting, from a hierarchical, directive type to one of collective, relational and shared leadership. The basis for leadership success in the 21st Century comes from being able to build trusting relationships on all levels - from shareholders, to employees, to peers, to board of directors, to the client - in order to not only deal with change, but with all the challenges that leaders will continue to face as we progress in the 21st Century. At one of my workshops, an employee from a global company, whose success comes from their ability to drive change, shared that employees at his company were comfortable with the daily changes. When I asked him why he thought they embraced change so effortlessly, he replied, “We trust our CEO and his judgment”.
Think about a boss who you did not trust. You spent all your time watching your back and questioned every decision that boss made for fear of getting stabbed in the back. Lack of trust breeds fear which can result in unproductive behaviors. Great leaders know this and, therefore, invest time building trusting relationships.
Here are 8 things you can do to build AND maintain trust
How can we expect people to trust us if we do not trust them? When we don’t trust others, we miss the opportunity to uncover their capabilities. If trusting people is hard for you, then start by trusting them with smaller projects and building up from there. You can show people you trust them by delegating (this does not mean that you don’t hold them accountable). Give people reasonable autonomy and room to make mistakes and learn from them.
All of us know people who say the “right things”, but when it comes to “doing them”; it is a whole different story. People can tell when someone is not being genuine so do not pretend to be something you are not. As a leader, the spotlight is shining even brighter on you. People are watching to see if your words match your actions. On a daily basis you should reflect on your behavior and assess if you are consistently walking the talk. You must know who you are at your core, what your values are and what you are willing to compromise or not.
Be as transparent as you can
One of the biggest things that people do in organizations is hold on to information because information is power. When you fail to disclose information for the sole purpose of making yourself important, people take notice and they question your intentions. This is not to say that as a leader, there are legitimate reasons why sometimes you cannot disclose information. The key here is to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision based on the best interest of the organization and the employees, not of the leader.
You will be amazed at how much respect and admiration you will get from showing your vulnerability. This does not mean that you air all your dirty laundry or talk about personal issues with everyone in the office. It is about (when appropriate) letting others know that you know you are not perfect, that you are a human being. Let’s face it; people already know you are not perfect, so why not admit it? It takes humility and self-confidence to admit our shortcomings to ourselves and so much more to admit it in front of others.
Put others first
Leadership is about putting the needs of the organization and the needs of the people in it before yours. Take the time to get out of your office and establish a relationship with those you lead. Get to know them. Ask about their personal lives, their families, what their goals are and how you can support their efforts.
This is one of those skills that differentiate great leaders from the rest of the pack. I can instantly recognize who is a great leader versus who is not by how much talking they do. Leaders who are self-centered like to hear themselves talk when they should be listening. They are not interested in what others have to say. Leaders who listen, care about others, therefore, they are able to build trusting relationships.
Don’t throw people under the bus
One of the first things you learn as a leader in the military is that when things go great, you recognize people for their efforts. When something goes wrong, the leader takes responsibility. This does not mean that you don’t hold people accountable. You do, but only after you, as the leader, assume responsibility as well.
Ask what they expect from you
Each person is different, with different expectations and needs. There is nothing wrong with asking what they expect from you as a leader, peer, CEO, etc. Just by you asking this simple questions, allows trust to be built.
Trust is the foundation for all successful relationship in life and in business. Why? People allow those they trust to influence them.
Below, in the comment section, tell us which one out of the 8 you think is the most important to build trust.
Do you feel like you are not getting what you want at work?
Do you feel like you are not appreciated by your supervisors or co-workers?
Do you feel like you are being overlooked for promotions or special assignments?
Do you feel as though people are not noticing all the great work you do and not considering you for the next opportunity?
A friend of mine, who happens to be a CEO, once told me “If you don’t ask for what you want, why should I give it to you?”
In order for us to get what we want at work and in life, we must be willing to ask for it at the risk of being rejected.
It might sound like a simple thing to do, but the reality is we do not always do it.
At the beginning of my career, I used to think that if I worked hard, people would notice that and I would be promoted. As time went by, I learned that it was up to me to take control of my career and seek the opportunities I wanted. I had to be proactive not reactive.
I started asking for what I wanted.
Early in my career I was in charge of a small department of about 20 people and believed that I was ready for the next challenge; a bigger department with higher visibility . With my new paradigm shift of asking for what I wanted instead of waiting around for anyone to hand it to me, I approached my boss and told him my desire to lead a bigger department.
His response was that he did not believe I was ready for the job. My next question was obvious. Why?
I realized that I had not been doing a good job of letting him know what I had been doing in my department. At that moment I learned a very important lesson in my career. As a leader, we are the ambassadors for the people we are leading. It is up to us to ensure that the leadership above us knows all the great things the people below are doing. From that moment on, I worked on being a better ambassador.
It is not enough to ask for what you want; you must also ask how to get what you want.
After hearing what my boss had to say, I had to decide what to do next. Did I walk away defeated or did I do something to change his perception of my readiness for the job? I decided to change his perception. I said to him, “I understand that you don’t think I am ready. Would you be willing to sit down with me and give me your honest feedback on how I am performing at this time and what I need to do to be ready to take on the larger department?” He said yes, and we set up a meeting that same week.
The lesson learned here was that you must be willing to take a stand, put your ego aside, not take things personally and be objective about the feedback about to come your way.
I must confess, some of the feedback was hard for me to swallow. I did not agree 100% with what he said. Some of the things he thought I was not doing were due to him paying little attention to my team’s work and my direct contributions. However, I then had to take responsibility for my part. As a leader, I should have asked for his feedback as soon as he came on board in his new position and asked what he expected of me. I should have been an ambassador for my department. I should have been proactive, not reactive. I had to make another choice - should I allow his feedback to make me a more effective leader or a bitter person? After all, what was the worst that could happen if I took his recommendations? So I accepted his constructive criticism. I not only set out to meet his standards, but then I exceeded every goal he set for me.
As leaders, we always a choice on how we react to the challenges and obstacles that come our way. We can complain about it and think it isn’t fair, or we can take control and turn it into an opportunity.
After several months of putting into practice the feedback my boss provided me with, I was given the opportunity to lead a larger department with higher visibility. Additionally, my boss and I developed a trusting relationship. I was able to say things to him that my peers could not. He even began to ask me for feedback on his leadership abilities and how he could improve. He became my mentor, as well as my sponsor. After leading that large department, I became part of the executive team because of his recommendation. And most importantly, because of his feedback, I became a better leader.
Starting today, do not wait for others to tell you what to do with your career. Be proactive, not reactive. Ask yourself, what do I want? How can I get there? And then go for it. Ask for what you want. When we take control of our careers and our lives, we are developing and maintaining a mindset of success (Go HERE to read more about it)
Leave your comments about this blog article below in the comments area. We want to hear from you!
From Taco Bell to Business Owner: Developing AND Maintaining a Mindset of Success in Business and in Life
I came to the United States when I was 17 years old from Peru, with nothing but a suitcase and about $100 my mom had worked hard to give me. As you can imagine, I needed a job right away.
I was so nervous applying to my first job at Taco Bell. After all, would they want someone who barely spoke English?
To my surprise; yes, they did! I was hired right away.
My first days were not what I expected. You would think that since I was working at Taco Bell, I would start making tacos right away. Turns out that I had to start from the bottom and earn my place in the line. My first assignment, which felt like complete torture every day I worked, was to peel boxes, and boxes, and boxes (you get my point) of tomatoes, and to break down cardboard boxes that were stacked as tall as me.
Finally, after several weeks, I got promoted to the line and even considered to man the register. Yes! Wait…all these doubts and fears started taking over. What if I messed up? What if I was not good enough to man the register?
From Taco Bell my journey took me to JC Penney where I was a sales person (that’s a story for another day), and from there I joined the United States Air Force as an enlisted member, eventually becoming an officer. After many years, and many experiences, today I am a business owner.
What I have learned throughout the years is that the feelings of fear and doubt I had experienced when I worked at Taco Bell were true throughout my career. Every time I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, be it getting a new promotion, a new job, a new team, the fears and doubts would creep up. And the reality is that I am not alone. I have worked with, and talked to many leaders, from different industries, at different levels of an organization, and they too have experienced fears and doubts throughout their successful careers.
We are led to believe that people who succeed are free of these fears and doubts, but nothing can be farther from the truth. It is natural human behavior to experience doubts and fears when facing uncertainty and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.
What is the difference then?
Over the years, it has become more and more clear to me, that it is all about our mindset. We must not only develop a mindset of success but we must maintain it. Just like a muscle, if we don’t exercise it daily, it loses its strength. Every time we enter a new situation, every time we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, our mindset is challenged and those fears and doubts start creeping up and they try to get in the way of our success and of us performing at our best. There are many things we can do to develop a strong mindset of success, which I will share with you over several posts. Today, I will cover two of them:
Keep moving forward
Successful people choose to not let those doubts and fears paralyze them. They continue to move forward, facing their fears. The secret is taking small steps, one at a time, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough to keep you moving forward, but not too much where you will set yourself up for failure. Nobody knows better what you are ready for than you. Next thing you know you will have gone from Taco Bell, peeling tomatoes and breaking down cardboard boxes, to achieving goals you never thought were possible. What small steps are you willing to take today that will bring you closer to your goals?
Be willing to work your way up
Something that has been true in every job I have had is that you have to be willing to work your way up in order to succeed. At Taco Bell I had to start with tomatoes and cardboard boxes, at JC Penney I had to start by arranging clothes, in the military I had to start as an Airman Basic (the lowest rank possible), as an officer I had to start as what we call a “butter bar”, and as a business owner I had to be willing to start by leading myself first. Every job I had, no matter what credentials or rank was on my shoulders, I had to prove myself to people before they decided to trust me and work with me or for me. Achieving success is like running a marathon, it is not a sprint. There is no such thing as overnight success. Are you willing to make the sacrifices needed, and to be patient, knowing that things take time, in order to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself?
Start today applying these two tools to the way you think about success.
We will continue this conversation on my next blog!
Sandra Tibbs is a Leadership Expert, Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer and Professional Speaker. She is passionate about staying ahead of the times in order to find new ways to be a more effective leader. She works with other leaders to bring out the best in them and tap into their leadership genius. Visit her website for more information HERE