You know you are the best in the room, but when it comes time for someone to lead a project or cover for a senior colleague it is always that idiot who cannot take his foot out of his mouth long enough for a shoe shine that gets asked. Why is it they don’t see you as leadership material?
Simple, they know him, so they know what they will get. It is less than ideal, but less risky because they can plan around his weaknesses long enough for the situation to be resolved. This is because despite the inefficacy of his communication he is visible.
So, without becoming the class clown how do you improve your visibility? Being trusted to do what is asked of you is essential but it is just not enough, as you will simply set yourself up for your colleagues to look good whilst you do all the work. If you have ever seen Mila Kunis in Bad Moms you will know what I mean.
My top ten tips will help you show you are leadership material, without becoming a door mat are….
- 1. Make Mistakes
Everybody does, it is not what you do, but how you handle it. You need to treat this as a learning opportunity and be selfish with it. First you establish what has happened, if someone else spotted the mistake, ask for the time to put it right. Once you know what happened, find the solution and the steps needed to ensure it does not happen again. Put it right and offer to train the team so it can be avoided in the future.
Just as you do not want to be known as the clumsy one, you also must never cover up your mistakes as they will come out at some point, usually the worst possible one. This is true in all situations unless you are unlucky enough to work in a toxic environment where blame culture is high.
- 2. Understand your company culture as well as your industry.
There is a saying that knowledge is power, and it is true in that it is important to know your industry and your job, but your skills and competencies are only part of the picture. You also need to know your workplace culture. What does your organisation, department and team value? How is time spent and how do they communicate? It can be different from team to team, so it is good to also know how other teams around you like to interact.
Only when you understand your colleagues can you communicate with them effectively.
- 3. Know what your colleagues and customers greatest fears are
If you want to lead, people must want to follow. You can be promoted but unless your line reports follow you, understand you and trust you then you will struggle to manage your team. This is why shoe in mouth gets the job, they know how the team will react and can manage it. The most powerful way to have followers is to talk to their fear, or rather talk away the fear. If you know what they do not want to face you can show them a way to avoid it. If they fear being ridiculed in meetings, then be the one that teases out the good ideas supportively. Stand with them. If they fear being seen as weak, show them their power.
- 4. Adapt your speaking style to your audience
Where you ever the kid at school laughed at for using long words? Okay just me then, but you know what I mean. If you want to talk to someone and really be heard and understood, you have to speak their language. Talking like you are a hip 16 year old when you are 50 and positively middle aged just sounds like a parody, so keep it authentic to you, but pepper the language with words that will resonate and avoid jargon they will not understand.
- 5. Listen to both language and nonverbal communication
Again this is about paying attention. When someone speaks give then your undivided attention. Notice what they say, how they say it and what they do not say. People remember how you make them feel, not what you say. So, if you make people feel they are understood, even if you do not agree they will still give you the benefit of the doubt to try it. When you get a lot of resistance it is time to turn into Sherlock Holmes and find out what they are concerned about. Then talk to the fear as in number 3, to get them totally on board.
- 6. Trust your gut, but get facts to back it up
Even if you are not there yet, your instincts will be your best friend. Your subconscious mind processes myriads of bits of information that never reach your conscious mind. It is also programmed to find patterns. So when you “just know” something listen to that voice. When you get a feeling, listen to that voice. If you have to do or have to avoid something listen to that voice. Act upon it but do so with your head not your gut. Before you publicly commit to a course of action have the stats, facts and outcomes to hand. Know what you are doing and how you are doing it, plus what you can expect. This way you can follow your gut and have the evidence to do so. Even if you do not get the time to do all the research first, still research at the first opportunity. Just as your mistakes are your learning opportunity, other peoples mistakes can be your learning opportunities too.
- 7. Always be learning
Never assume that what you know about your company culture, your colleagues’ fears, your industry or your job are the same. Things change. You need to be able to adapt so constantly educate yourself, both formally and day to day. The key to informal learning is feedback, not just from people but from the results you have obtained, reflecting upon the projects you undertake etc. Keeping yourself not only up to date but ahead of the curve is more than just management speak.
- 8. Present solutions not problems
Another management speak chestnut but a goodie. Keep looking for development opportunities, ways to make things better. When you see areas that are not working as well as they should before you flag them up, think about how to solve the problem, what you can do to make it better. Then present your ideas but be open to the fact someone else can solve it better. When they do, as they will, quickly find ways to incorporate it into your grand plan. When you evaluate their idea and find it is better than yours take ownership of the improvements, without taking all the credit. This is a fine tweak in communication style but master this and you can shine.
- 9. You need to learn to sell your ideas
This is a scary one for those of you not in sales, but what it means is that you must present your ideas in a way that show not only what will happen, how much good it will do, but how that will impact the people you are talking to. You can show how it will impact everybody, but then make a point of saying how this will specifically benefit your audience. Then do not leave them hanging but ask what they think about it? Talk away their fears and shout out their gains. This is how to lead.
- 10. Talk to hearts as well as heads
People remember how you make them feel, not what you said. What you say needs to be perfect from a logical sense, but that is not enough. You need to be able to make them feel excited about your plans. They need to feel they will win, and they will remember how that win makes them feel. Talk in emotions, for example be happy to help, feel your way through it, grab the opportunity, etc. There is a reason these sayings stuck. Leave your audience with a hug.
Your subconscious has probably spotted the pattern even if you haven’t. The majority of these tips are either about learning or communication. It is not just about doing your job; it is about engaging your colleagues both management and team members and showing them how you can be trusted with the business. It is showing them how you can be trusted, minimising the risk they take in giving you more responsibility. It is about doing it from your power and not ending up a doormat.
If you would like to learn more about how you can make your very own plan to move to the next level lets have a virtual coffee. Click the link below to schedule a time, and I promise you will discover the one thing you need to do next.