2015-04-13

Top 10 leadership skills you can't be without

Tom LaForce

It's time to take stock.


I'm going to assume you clicked on this article because you view yourself as a leader. I'll also assume you want to be a good one.


So are you?


Your success depends on what you do and how well you do it. It's all about action and skill. Results matter too, but those are influenced by factors other than what you do. For now, let's stick with what you control — your leadership skills.


There are dozens of leadership actions that ought to fill your days. Here are 10 that you not only should do, but you need to master.

 1. Help your team find its purpose
A clear and meaningful purpose focuses and energizes your group. For some teams, the purpose is obvious and inspirational. It’s easy to imagine an emergency room team rallying around, “We save lives.” Most work doesn’t feel quite so dramatic. Nevertheless, your team needs to believe in its value. Your job is to help them discover and believe in it.

2. Communicate expectations
You want employees to meet your expectations. It’s as simple as that. And when they don’t, you are disappointed at best and angry at worst. Is it their fault? Maybe. It could also be yours. Perhaps you haven’t clearly communicated your expectations. It’s also possible that your expectations are not reasonable. They need to be both clear and reasonable.

3. Deliver feedback
Employees need to know how they are doing. They depend on your feedback to meet that need. The majority of the feedback you provide should reinforce desired behaviours. A smaller, but equally important, portion should focus on changing behaviours. Most managers don’t provide enough of either. And when they do offer it, their lack of skill creates new problems. Do you provide adequate feedback?

4. Listen
Strong listening skills help you in two ways. First, you more clearly understand people and concepts. This leads to better decisions. Second, active listening helps others feel like you care about them, which increases respect. The result is stronger, more trusting relationships with your employees, peers, and manager.

5. Ask great questions
When you hear an answer you don’t like, it could be that you asked the wrong question. Forming and asking skillful questions can improve your team’s creativity, problem-solving, productivity, and results. Unfortunately, people place more emphasis on the answers rather than on the questions. This misplaced emphasis leads them down an unintended path. It’s time for you to ask the right questions.

6. Speak up when no one else will
Sometimes the problem isn’t what to say. The real challenge is determining if you should say anything at all. There are plenty of situations in which speaking up seems like a risky proposition. And yet, it’s clear that someone has to find the courage. Will that someone be you?

7. Deal with meeting troublemakers
Every meeting has one or two. There’s the person who dominates the conversation. There’s the one who is all heavy sighs and eye rolls. Some will take you off track. A few will distract you with their phones. The worst will leave you shaking in your shoes. If only meeting participants would be on their best behavior. As you are well aware, they often are not. It’s time you learned to deal with them.

8. Getting others to say yes
At times there isn't a lot of room for deciding what the right answer should be. Instead, you already know what it is, and now you need others to do it. The challenge is getting them to say yes, especially when you don’t hold formal authority over the person you are asking. Imagine how much easier your life would be if the answer to your requests would be a resounding, “Yes.”

9. Communicate a change
Many of the problems that arise during major (and even minor) organizational changes can be traced back to ineffective communication. There are critical questions you must answer for employees. When it’s your job to get employees moving in a new direction, you’ll need to know what and how to communicate, so that your team members understand the change and more quickly accept it, especially when you believe they won’t like it.

10. Recover from setbacks
Everyone falls. And if you claim that you don’t, that would be a shame because it means you aren’t trying hard enough. Learn to fall in a way that doesn’t create permanent damage. Discover how to get back on your feet more quickly when you do go down. Be a resilient role model your employees can follow when they struggle.


Where will you begin?


There is always plenty to learn as a leader. Which of the skills mentioned in this article do you need to strengthen? Pick one, build your development plan, and get after it.


Tom LaForce is the author of Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings. He is also the founder of LaForce Teamwork Services, a consulting company that helps its clients make better decisions, solve tough problems, and produce better results through more effective collaboration.

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