Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for February, 2011

True confidence—essential to strong leadership.

As leaders, a certain amount of genuine disclosure can be engaging to an audience or to your employees. However, disclosing—or unintentionally demonstrating—a lack of confidence when you’re communicating and/or leading a business initiative can create uncertainty and hesitation among employees or stakeholders. And that uncertainty can affect their confidence to follow your lead. On the upside, when you possess—and then demonstrate—confidence in your ideas and strategies, others are more likely to trust, engage, and follow.

It’s not uncommon to have our confidence shaken as we may become overwhelmed with the responsibilities associated with making decisions and creating strategies that carry risk, even when the risk is well-measured. However, as leaders, we have a responsibility to navigate through the uncertainties, either through our own knowledge and experience, or through the knowledge and experience of others, in order to confidently come to a decision, and effectively communicate and guide others towards the end-goal.

Although there are many useful skills (i.e., posture and body language, strength of voice and presentation, effective written communications, etc.) that demonstrate confidence, the most significant factor remains in one’s own belief in the direction he or she is providing.

One way to engage your employees is to run efficient meetings.

QUESTION: What’s worse than a meeting that lasts too long?
ANSWER: A meeting that lasts too long and doesn’t accomplish anything!

If you’re running a staff meeting, winging it may work if it’s a pizza party. But if you want to engage your employees in solutions, and getting things done, your ability to be well-prepared to facilitate an efficient and productive meeting is crucial. A few key considerations if you’re looking to upgrade the efficiency of your meetings:

Establish an objective for the meeting and communicate the objective to the participants before the meeting is held. If processes call for consensus around the objective, build in the time or process to establish and communicate the objective, prior to the meeting.
Prepare an agenda and distribute it ahead of time. If circumstances offer the chance for meeting participants to add to the agenda, ask for contributions by a particular date. A few of the most important factors when using an agenda include: the agenda’s support of the meeting objective; the feasibility of covering topics within their allotted time (you may want to assign a timekeeper); and a respect for following the agenda during the meeting.
Create a visible “park list” where issues that may be raised, outside of the agenda focus, can be noted for further discussion at another time (park list = for later, or off-line discussion).
Leave the meeting with all participants having clear expectations about next steps (i.e., Who is doing what, and by when?). Have someone scribe the action plans, the name of the person or team who is responsible for each action item, and the target date for completion for each item.
Recap and document action plans, with assigned names, and distribute to the participants within 48 hours after the meeting.
Use the action plan document as your guide for a status update at the onset of your next meeting.

These recommendations are not a cure-all for ineffective meetings. However, your consistent use of them will provide the framework to support your efforts to increase—and build your team’s trust in—meeting efficiencies.

Shift your dance step, even slightly, and your partner must shift too.

Ever find yourself caught up in repeated frustrations or miscommunications with a particular individual at work? —An uncomfortable relationship, at best. Here’s some food for thought that may help you improve that challenging work relationship. Or, it may come in handy when dealing with that difficult family member.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s natural to place blame and complain about the behaviors of those that are frustrating you. But if you’re willing to explore further, you may want to ask yourself how YOU may be contributing to the very dynamic that is upsetting you. —Perhaps your body language is reflecting your resentful anticipation of things going badly, and therefore generating the other person’s negativity or resistance. Or, your emotional or verbal reactions may unintentionally be adding fuel to the fire.

Think of your repeated interactions—positive or negative—with any individual as a dance that you’re both participating in. If you were to shift your dance step even slightly, your dance partner would have no choice but to shift along with you.

It may be awkward to start, but it’s worth a shot. It starts with your exploring your own part in the dance, shifting a small step or two, and with any luck, creating a new dance.