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Lessons For Emerging Leaders 6303cd9ed868c

‘Go Where the Work Is Being Done,’ and Other Lessons for Emerging Leaders

Aug. 22, 2022
Takeaways from a learning session with rising managers.

IndustryWeek's elite panel of regular contributors.

Recently, a trade organization gave me the opportunity to be an instructor in their Management Development Academy. The area I covered for these emerging leaders focused on the behaviors and skills required to create a company culture where engaged, empowered people thrive.

Participants learned and practiced four foundational skills for eff­ective people-centric leadership: knowing your “why,” setting clear priorities, engaging team members and implementing change.

We used experiential techniques to drive personal development. Participants learned how to deploy a problem-solving method to set goals and implement change, and practiced coaching techniques that complemented their individual strengths and removed obstacles to reaching goals. The class wrapped up with a gratitude exercise and ways to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of the team.

I was impressed with this engaged group of leaders. They were eager to learn how to make changes to the traditional command-and-control-style management approach, while exploring ways to serve their team. A truly successful small group experience with some “aha” moments!

Different Perspectives

All our discussions for the day tied back to the fact that individuals have unique histories and perspectives. Individual strengths combine to create diverse teams where people challenge each other, breaking the status quo.

When we talked about personal values, I had each person define what a particular value meant to them. Participants found that the meaning could vary, depending on the person. So, it is not enough to list your values; you must also discuss what they mean to you.

In addition, leaders learned how important it was for their personal values to align with the organization’s values. In cases where there is not alignment, people are frustrated and not able to perform at their highest level. I believe COVID-19 caused us all to reflect on what is truly important. As a result, some companies have experienced the Great Resignation when corporate and leaders’ individual values are not aligned.

Differing perspectives can also be an issue when trying to solve problems or create standard work instructions. It is always best for a leader to go to where the work is being done. See the process in action and adjust as necessary. Written instructions are never as good as in-person conversations. For example, we discussed how to “properly” make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Turns out there are many ways to make a PB&J!

Ask More Questions

One of the biggest “aha” moments was centered around digging deeper and asking more curious questions. Don’t assume that you know the answer.

When participants were asked to practice coaching a peer, they found that it was exciting to find out the goals others had set for themselves. The “coach” asked open ended questions, while the “coachee” found that talking through their challenges opened doors of possibility.

Coaches listened more than spoke, earning respect by asking questions, listening to the answer and helping solve the problem by providing resources.

Everyone was surprised how easy it was to talk with one another. No more “difficult” conversations!

Performance Reviews

Annual performance reviews are almost always everyone’s least favorite topic because no one enjoys rating another human. Reviews are full of the rater’s biases, not to mention rearview-looking. What can you do to change the past?

I have found a better technique is a coach approach. Allowing team members to set their own goals is very effective. After the company goal is set, leaders ask each employee what battle they will fight to help win the war. Of course, leaders approve the goals. But, once an agreement is reached, employees tend to be eager to accomplish the goal they set for themselves.

Using a coach approach, the leader’s job becomes to remove obstacles and provide resources. In the more traditional method of cascading goals throughout the organization, a manager can be left holding an employee’s feet to the fire, trying to get them to complete a goal they didn’t want and likely didn’t agree to. See the difference between the two approaches?

As a leader, you provide people with the end game and not the road map. Your job is to serve, not to micromanage.

I cannot wait to see how these emerging leaders create more people-centric organizations!

What leadership training have you provided for your emerging leaders?

Ashleigh Walters is president of Onex and author of Leading with Grit and Grace.

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