Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Are you stuck in the middle when it comes to your job?

Perhaps you supervise many, but you still answer to a few. Or maybe you frequently advise a superior who seems less competent than you. Leading from the middle is tough. But managers who influence from the middle are often in a perfect position to collaborate with others, solve problems, and have significant organizational impact.

Want to make the most of your time in the middle? Here are three ways to hone upward influence in this transitional season:

Honor Decisions You Disagree With

People who lead from the middle are sometimes forced to settle for less than the ideal.

In your position, often you’ll receive instructions you don’t like or decisions you disagree with. In frustrating moments, you may be tempted to badmouth the decision or the organization. In a meeting you may say something like, “I would have done it differently, but . . .” Or during office chit-chat, you may casually question your leader’s judgment.

Real leaders make the best of a situation and honor decisions in healthy, unifying ways. If you want to be respected by those around you, speak with integrity and uphold the reputation of others. This builds trust, which gives you more influence when it’s time to speak up or offer solutions.

Be Intentional

One challenge for mid-level employees is knowing when or how to speak.

When you are strategic and consistent in sharing, your perspective can make a more significant impact. What is the best way for you to communicate? Consider a short, weekly e-mail update to your boss. Highlight 2-minute success stories in meetings to put a face on your “win.” Or use printed presentation notes when sharing needs or asking for additional resources. This demonstrates thoughtful preparation and makes your request more memorable.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, take a serious interest in the organization as a whole.

Don’t just focus on your department. Instead, look for ways to lend a hand to those above, below, and around you. When your supervisor sees that you care about the whole company, you may be surprised how quickly your influence grows.

This may bring friction. Working from the middle gives you a great vantage point to see the big picture, to recognize patterns or uncertainties, and highlight tension within the organization. When you bump into turbulence, remember that trying to please everyone is impossible.

Global Portfolio Management Director Michelle Maloy, says it’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re always trying to please:

“[This balancing act] requires self-control and clarity. You need to have understanding and empathy for others, but you can’t let everybody’s ‘stuff’ allow you to lose focus.”

It’s All About Perspective

While there are times that leading from the middle is difficult, you are often ideally positioned to collaborate with others to generate new ideas and solve problems.

This allows you to gain experience, be involved in meaningful work, and affect large scale change. It is possible to successfully lead from your position while developing skills that serve you throughout your career.

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Once there was a businessman on a routine domestic flight.

Though a seasoned flyer, he felt tense when, shortly after takeoff, the pilot asked everyone to stay in their seats with belts fastened. Moments later the pilot announced there would be no beverage service due to unexpected turbulence. People looked worried, and soon some were shrieking with alarm as a storm bounced the plane erratically.

Nearby, the man saw a little girl sitting all alone, but acting totally calm. When the plane jolted she closed her eyes briefly but eventually started reading, looking out the window, or fiddling with toys until the shaking subsided.

After the flight, the girl waited quietly as others exited. When the man approached and asked how she could be so brave, she said:

“My dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home.”

Weather the Storms

Does your team trust that you are taking them home?

When the clouds form and turbulence comes, do your people trust you to guide them through? Building trust may not be on your regular “to do” list, but it can cement a foundation so you can build high and strong.

Here are five tips to increase trust in your workplace or family today:

1. Show your vulnerabilities.

Great leaders are connected leaders, and people relate more with your weaknesses than your strength.

To truly connect with people you serve, it’s important to share not just strengths and victories but struggles and setbacks. Admit your mistakes. Apologize. Be proactive about gathering negative feedback. And use your own errors to teach or encourage others.

2. Regularly delegate authority.

Give trust to get trust.

If you run a regular staff meeting, occasionally have others develop the agenda or lead the discussion. No one enjoys a micromanager who constantly takes credit or dominates others. Step back into the shadows and you will build a wealth of relational currency.

3. Be transparent about money.

Sharing financial information can be a huge boon to the bottom line.

However, a 2016 study found that only 25 percent of privately held companies were sharing financial information with all of their employees. Whether your firm is publicly-traded or privately-held, the time you spend explaining and talking about results will allow team members to feel they are a valuable, integral part of your circle. And it helps people understand how they can positively impact the financial performance of the business as a whole.

4. Operate from a visible set of values.

If your firm lacks clear values, define them.

Mount them on walls, design strategic symbols to communicate them, or put a face on them by sharing testimonies of team members who are living the values. People thrive when they have context for their work and its importance to the bigger picture.

5. Don’t let difficult issues linger.

When times get tough, the clock on your credibility starts ticking.

Don’t allow difficult situations to corner you – instead confront them head-on and get your team involved too. The formation of problem-solving groups can energize your staff and provide opportunities to reward creativity and individual contributions. Groups can be tasked with brainstorming strategies or exploring new models.

If your “difficult issue” is a person, be intentional about heading off conflicts immediately. Be hard on the problem and soft on the person. Be assertive but courteous, addressing specific complaints and providing clear expectations about the response and timeframe needed to resolve them.

Trust is built through daily interactions and intentional gestures. You have many opportunities to gain trust each day. Work hard in the small things and you’ll weather storms with confidence!

Each January, people set New Year’s resolutions, embrace a visionary attitude for the year, or dream about possibilities for the future.

Some people thrive due to this natural “reset,” but others ignore it altogether. And some people just feel stuck. They wrestle with questions like these:

  •    “I’d like to write a book, but where would I start?”
  •    “I want to be more organized, but what is the best scheduling system?”
  •    “I want to quit my job, but what would I do next?”

Do you feel stuck as a leader?

Twenty years from now, you won’t remember how many loads of laundry you did or which Netflix series you binge-watched in 2019. What will matter is the relationships you cherished and the challenges you overcame. You’ll feel pride when you look back at goals you achieved or significant contributions you made. And this begins with action!

Your habits compound over time to shape your identity and to impact others. But this starts with an action-oriented, decisive mindset.

Here are several catalysts to help you become a more decisive leader.

The worst decision is no decision.

Many times, people postpone decisions for fear of failing or making a poor choice.

But most failure stems from inaction, not from mistakes we make in the process. Though some decisions matter more than others, often the decision not to act is the most costly choice of all. Don’t worry about doing the wrong thing or obsess over details. Make up your mind to be an action-oriented person and to learn from both your success and your missteps.

Action trumps the “perfect” plan.

It’s easier to steer a car that is moving than one that is parked.

Often, we over-prepare or over-think things, which is really just a form of procrastination. Taking action may mean prioritizing undesirable tasks above all others, or refusing to do things you enjoy until you solve a stalled problem. Momentum is powerful, so pick one area to begin and get started!

Narrow the field.

Sometimes the hardest part of a decision is the plethora of options before you.

It takes time to evaluate the pros and cons of every choice, so pare down choices (or have your team do this for you) until you have only a handful of options to consider. It’s easier to select one choice from two options than it is to select two options from 200!

Set deadlines.

When you struggle with passivity in a certain area, don’t keep kicking this pain point down the road.

Instead, give yourself a time frame to research options and set a deadline for making a choice. Putting “deliberation dates” on the calendar transforms possibilities into realities.

Delegate more.

As you start a new season, challenge yourself to stop doing just one thing, and to empower just one person.

Step back to evaluate your schedule or ask someone to help you do this. What is sucking unnecessary time or energy? Could you purge this or share more of your load with your team?

Delegate authority to a trusted staff member and empower leaders around you by training and trusting them. And don’t micromanage people, even if their style is different than your own. This discourages others because it suggests you don’t trust them or you desire control more than you want growth!

Failure to make a decision or take quick action can sometimes hurt your business more than miscalculations along the way. Improve your decision-making capabilities and make this your most productive year yet!