A leader is someone who takes us places we cannot, or will not, go by ourselves.
For that simple reason, embedded in this definition, a leader must be progressive.
Look up the word, “progressive.” Here are some of the terms used to define it:
- Favoring progress
- Moving forward
That fits with Seth Godin’s perspective from his book, Tribes, “Leadership . . . is about creating change that you believe in,” (p. 14). Because, “People want connection and growth and something new. They want change,” (p. 2).
To that, I would add, not just something new; something better.
Leaders are going someplace. They tell us about that place, and why it is better. We catch the vision and make it our own. They show us the way, and that it’s someplace we can all reach together. See my previous post, What all followers want to know.
For every leader urging us on toward a better place, there are 10,000 naysayers telling us all the reasons why it’s a bad idea.
There’s just no way one can stand in the same place and protect the status quo–keep things just as they are. Protecting a status quo is an illusion of safety.
The universe is in a constant state of change. While we stand still and think we are safe, the world is changing around us. To stand still is to stagnate, to atrophy, to die for lack of changing. We change so we can remain viable with the world around us.
Even our bodies must undergo continuous change. The cells in our body have to be replaced many times during our lifetime. The act of breathing is to refresh our bodies with oxygen (respiration). Change is life; life is change.
Leaders understand the law that everything must change, and they envision a way forward so we can change for the better. That’s progress.
When we lean into that change and embrace the process, we are more in control of how we will be affected by the change. If we stand still and whine about how unfair and cruel the world around us is, we are doomed to be victims of change.
I repeat. Leaders must be progressive, moving forward in the way they think, talk, and act.
Leaders are inclusive–everyone is welcome on the journey.
Leaders are INPowered with the creative energy to improve themselves so they can help make things better for themselves and for others.
If you commit to being this kind of a leader,
then you will be
and I will be eager to follow.
How many well-intentioned attempts at feedback got off on the wrong foot and went south from there? Here’s how to avoid letting that happen to you.
We are naturally defensive when we think we are about to be criticized, blamed, or reprimanded. Our first instinct is to take up for ourselves, and our emotions can be raw.
So, when you are delivering corrective feedback, remember one underlying fact: feedback is always personal.
Giving feedback begins before the actual conversation.
It begins with getting your facts right and wording your positive intent statement. This is your rationale for having the conversation and the result you want to accomplish in the conversation. You must stop and think about what you are about to say and why.
Here’s my rule:
If you cannot express your positive intent for the feedback, keep your mouth shut until you can.
The more you practice this rule, the better you will be at it, and the quicker you can think through the situation and come up with a good positive intent statement.
Here’s an example.
Situation: Jack, a customer care representative, is running behind in returning follow up calls to customers. The situation is getting progressively worse.
Bad start: “Jack, you’re way behind in returning your calls. This is unacceptable, and I need you to explain why you’re not meeting this priority metric.”
Starting with your positive intent: “Jack, I noticed you are running behind returning some of your calls. Before this gets out of control, I want to discuss the situation with you and find out how we can get you caught up.”
Starting any feedback conversation with your positive intent will reduce the possibility of a defensive emotional outburst. Even if someone does react emotionally after you begin with your positive intent, just repeat it. “My intent is to help you improve this situation and to be OK.”
Use feedback to INPower others.
Feedback has a very specific definition. It is information received that will help one accomplish a specific outcome. It’s not enough to realize things are going badly. The information must help one get back on target.
I stood in front of a class of my professional peers–trainers–hoping they wouldn’t see me sweating.
It was my maiden voyage as a standup trainer of trainers, and I felt like I was sinking. I could see the end of my career as a trainer before it could get started.
The harder I tried, the worse it got, and I had another day and a half to go. SOMEBODY HELP ME!
Larry did. At the end of the first day.
There was a brutal truth involved, but he told it kindly.
“Garland, I can tell you have put a lot of work and thought into the class, but no one expects you to carry the whole load. Stop making the training about you. I don’t care how much you know, or what you think.
“You don’t have to be the expert in this room. Look around. There is over a hundred years of combined experience in the room. Your job is to showcase it and focus that knowledge on your topic. Find a way to get us talking and sharing our combined expertise. We want to help. Relax.”
In less than 60 seconds, Larry handed me the single most important piece of professional feedback I had ever received.
The brutal truth: I was floundering, and I was my own worst enemy. Partly nerves, and partly ego, I’m sure.
Larry’s feedback INPowered me to make things better for myself and my class.
First, he addressed the situational reality I needed to confront: trying to be the expert among experts, which wasn’t possible to pull off. He was direct, but not malicious or tactless.
Second, he focused on information that would get me back on track, not on how poorly I was performing (which I already knew). “Find a way to get us talking and sharing our combined expertise.”
Third, he reassured me that I could be successful, and that the class was pulling for me.
Larry’s feedback also provided me a helpful approach to giving feedback.
- He owned his perspective. Larry spoke from what he saw and heard in context of his own experience.
- He recognized my expertise, preparation, and intention to do a great job. He started with something positive and encouraging.
- He described what was happening and the consequences.
- He offered a helpful suggestion.
- He reiterated his support and encouragement.
It worked. Day two was much better. I presented that workshop successfully for many more years with glowing evaluations. I also landed a lucrative consulting project from a participant who attended a future session and was impressed with my approach.
Thank you, Larry. You were without question
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Assertive listening is helping the speaker to express the full meaning of her or his message: what they think, feel, need, and want. More than paying attention, it’s fully participating in the conversation as a listener.
Here are three keys to moving past conventional active listening into full assertive listening.
1. Listen with the purpose to fully understand both the rational and emotional meanings of the message.
What they say is only part of the message. How they say it gives context and depth of feeling.
When they say, “I think,” they are speaking at the rational level. When they say, “I feel, “ or “I need, “ or “I want,” they are speaking from their heart and soul. Pay attention to their feelings and needs as authentic and at the heart of their message.
2. Engage in dialogue, not in debate.
The conversation is not about you and your opinions. It is about the speaker. Dialogue is about sincere discovery of what the speaker believes, feels, and needs.
3. Provide helpful feedback to the speaker.
Check your understanding by summarizing what you understand the speaker to be saying. Keep your questions focused on pulling out the deeper meanings of the speaker’s message. This information should be given to help the speaker know whether their message is getting through as intended.
Remember, your job as an assertive listener is help the speaker clearly communicate their ideas. Stay focused on them. When it’s your turn to speak, you can use the same principles to help the listener be a better listener to your message.
Assertive listeners help the speaker express the fullness of their message. Sometimes this requires the listener to invite the speaker to tell their story.
Here’s an example.
The usual Sunday night crowd was assembling at my church. People mingled in the spacious foyer engaged in their usual chitchat accompanied with hugs and handshakes.
Marianne, a mildly retarded middle-aged woman, joined the fellowship. A lady approached Marianne, “Hello, dear. How are you this evening?”
“My cat died today,” Marianne said, hardly above a whisper, eyes downcast.
“Oh, my dear. How sad,” the lady replied, taking Marianne’s hand and patting it sympathetically. Then, moved on.
An elderly gentleman was next. “Good evening, Marianne. How have you been?”
“My cat died today,” she said in much the same way as before.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Are you going to get another one?” he asked.
“Don’t know yet.” Marianne forced a smile and dropped her gaze to the floor.
“Well, God bless you,” and the gentleman moved on.
I watched as this happened again with Marianne left standing alone, downcast.
So, I approached Marianne. “I overheard you say that your cat died today.”
“Yes. That’s right.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss. Would you tell me about your cat?” I waited.
Marianne’s eyes lit up. She smiled, and for the next five minutes, until it was time to enter the sanctuary, she told me about her tabby, Prissy, that she adopted as a stray seven years earlier. She produced a photograph of herself holding the cat up to her face.
I simply listened and asked her for more stories about her cat.
Then she hugged me, “Thank you for listening. You must be a cat lover.”
What was the difference? Others listened and offered sympathy.
I could tell she wanted to talk about her cat, and I helped her tell her story. It’s a small, but important, difference.
We often must go beyond active listening to assertive listening.
Assertive listening is helping the speaker express the full meaning of their message: what they think, feel, need, and want.
When you are known for your listening, you will never be without someone to talk to.
And, as an assertive listener, you will be