Three Tips for Becoming a Master Delegator

delegateI worked for a credit union years ago, and when I was first promoted to HR director, I remember my boss telling me that my promotion came with a lot of changes. I would no longer be assessed just on my technical expertise. My success would be evaluated on my leadership abilities and how my team performed. This was a challenge for me, as I enjoyed being a problem solver and technical expert. When an employee had a benefit question, I could answer it off the top of my head. When there was a payroll issue, I felt accomplished when I could figure out the discrepancy. Yet this all changed when I was promoted. I was now expected to coach and train my staff to take care of these issues while I focused on more strategic, long-term projects.

Many leaders struggle to make the leap from manager to leader because they fail to realize that the value they bring to the organization changes when they are promoted. When most managers are promoted, they continue the activities they did in their previous role and take on some additional duties like performance evaluations and answering staff questions. But to be a successful leader, a big shift has to occur. You need to make sure you are not confusing your expertise with your value. As an HR generalist, the value I brought to the credit union was my human resources expertise. But as an HR director, my expertise was less important. Different competencies like influencing, coaching and delegating were required to be successful. This was a big mental shift for me, and one that didn’t happen easily.

One of the first things I needed to do was to identify the key result areas for my new role, and delegate the activities that were not in my key result areas. This exercise helped me to focus on the areas that were most important to be successful as a leader.

Defining key result areas is one of the first exercises I have participants in my leadership programs complete so they can be absolutely clear about where they need to focus their energy and time. For a copy of the exercise I use in my leadership program, click here: Key Result Areas Exercise

Once you have identified your key result areas, the next step is to determine what to delegate. This sounds easy, but in practice it can be quite challenging. The truth is, most leaders have not mastered delegation. Most of us struggle to let go of things we know we can do well in order to free up our time to focus on areas that will deliver more value. Additionally, many leaders get addicted to the feeling of checking things off their list. I am a master at list making, and checking things off gives me a rush of accomplishment. But sometimes they are small wins and not the things I should be working on. I keep myself in check by identifying my top two priorities for the day and completing those before I move on to smaller tasks.

If you ever struggle with letting things go, here are three tips to become a master delegator:

1.  Track your activities. For two weeks, make a list of every activity or task you come across that can be done by someone else. As a business owner, I used to struggle (and sometimes still do) with handing things off to my assistant. I would convince myself that this task was something only I could do. But when I had more work than time, I had to make a change. I created a list of things my assistant could do and started delegating tasks each time we met. Some activities were easy to delegate (create tabs for leadership binders) and some were more complex (manage my website). I didn’t delegate everything at once, but creating a list helped us to work toward unloading more things off my plate. Another strategy is to think about how much you make an hour, and determine if a task or activity is worth paying your hourly rate, or the rate of one of your employees. Delegate tasks that can be done by someone else effectively, but cheaper.

2. Take time to coach and delegate effectively. There is a difference between dumping and delegating. Dumping is assigning a task to someone with no guidance or direction. Delegating (particularly for more complex tasks) takes time and patience. Most people avoid delegating because they know it will take more time up front to show someone else than to complete the task themselves. But that investment of time will reap rewards down the road. The proper way to delegate is to explain the result you need, share information or expertise you have, and then provide support as your employee completes the task herself. Give the employee the authority to carry the task to completion, and don’t micromanage the process. Let your employee know you are available if he has questions.

3. Create a follow-up system. Depending on the task, you may need to create a method of follow-up with your employee. Does he need to send you a report each month? By what date? Does he need to let you know when he’s completed the task? Be clear when you are delegating about deadlines and the follow-up method. I once delegated an important task to my assistant and didn’t give her a deadline. I assumed she knew it was a priority. I assumed wrong and it was my own fault. As a leader, it is your responsibility to be clear about your expectations. Use the Why-What-When method. Why you need it, What you need, and by When.

Do you ever struggle with delegation? What are your tips for letting go of tasks that aren’t a good use of your time?

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6 Strategies for Becoming a Persuasive Speaker

Businesswoman Addressing Meeting Around Boardroom TableMany years ago, as I prepared for one of my first presentations as a leader, I remember filling each PowerPoint slide with information, ready to “wow” my audience. I don’t remember the outcome of that presentation, but I’m pretty sure my audience was glazed over as I went through and read each slide in detail. Although I have learned to be more concise and persuasive over the years, one of my biggest challenges as a speaker is to keep it simple and not overload my audience with too much information. I want to share so much value, that I often have to reel myself in when preparing a speech.

If part of your job as a leader is giving presentations, here are six strategies for becoming a more persuasive speaker:

1. Determine the type of presentation you are giving. Are you giving a motivational speech to your employees? Sharing the vision for the next year with the entire staff? Or are you providing a project update to the Board of Directors? Each of these presentations requires a different approach. If you are painting a vision or giving a motivational speech, you may want to rethink the PowerPoint (unless you use only one word per slide or use pictures to illustrate your points). If you are giving a more formal presentation, you can probably get away with using PowerPoint, but don’t overload your slides with too much data. Your audience might decide to take a nap.

2. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want your audience to walk away with? What is the goal of your presentation? Start with that in mind and work backwards. Most people start with a topic and then pull up PowerPoint and begin filling in the slides. By doing this, you usually get bogged down in the details and lose the overall “frame” for the presentation. Think about the result or outcome you want from the presentation, and then write out the main points you want to cover to get there.

3. Prepare your outline. Giving an effective speech or presentation typically takes a lot of preparation. For your presentation to be truly persuasive, you should develop an outline of the main points you want to cover in your presentation. You want to make sure your speech or presentation has a clear structure. A structure is most important for you, the speaker, to make sure you are not going off on tangents or missing your points. You want your presentation to have a clear format and flow. After developing your main outline, flush out each of the points by using stories, statistics or examples.

4. Prepare your visuals. If you are using PowerPoint, try to keep the words on each slide to a minimum. Too much information on your slides distracts your audience from you as you are delivering the message and puts the focus on your slides. The minute you put up a slide, your audience will direct their attention to your PowerPoint, read your slides, and not hear anything you are saying. Try using cartoons, illustrations or even just one word to illustrate your point. Then elaborate your message through words so the audience can actually absorb your message.

In most cases, your slides should not be the main focus; they should supplement your message. For example, having a graph on your slide to illustrate your point is usually fine, but having paragraphs of text is a distraction. And don’t read your slides. This is a sign of lack of preparation. Having one word on your slide can help you keep your place as your work through your main points. If you need to have some data on your slides, then try breaking each point up into one slide each instead of crowding them all on one slide.

If you want your audience to walk away with some written information, consider preparing a report or one page sheet of your main points to hand out after your presentation is completed.

5. Practice, practice, practice. People are often surprised when I tell them I spend an average of 20 hours preparing for a one hour speech (between creating the topic, outline, visuals, and practicing). I’m not suggesting you need to prepare that many hours for a presentation to the executive team, yet most people spend no time practicing their presentation and “wing it”. Taking time to practice will only make you a more confident, persuasive, and polished speaker. It also gives you a chance to work out any kinks and ensure the presentation flows properly.

When I prepare for a one hour speech, I do a full run through of the talk every day for a week before the presentation. I don’t memorize the speech–that will make it less authentic and often has the opposite effect–you get so caught up in remembering your lines that you lose your place. Instead, I make sure I am comfortable with the main points and the examples and stories I am using. Practicing the entire presentation allows me to get very comfortable with the material so I can engage with the audience and not be “in my head”.

6. Engage your audience. Most people don’t love sitting in a room while someone talks to them for an hour. It’s a surefire way for your audience to pull out their Smart phones. Whenever possible, engage the audience in your presentation. Ask a question, ask for examples, and check in with them occasionally by asking for their thoughts or feedback. If your presentation is a project update, ask one or two of your team members to elaborate on one of the points to keep the presentation interesting.

Another way to engage your audience is by appearing approachable. Make eye contact, smile, and walk around a bit so you don’t seem too rigid.

The more presentations you give, the more comfortable and confident you will be speaking in front of an audience. Now I’d love to hear your tips for being a persuasive speaker. What is your top tip for a successful presentation?

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5 Things to Start Doing This Year

SuccessDo you want to elevate your leadership impact this year? Leaders are busy, and sometimes it’s a challenge to just get through the day.

But we often put off doing the things that will help us make a bigger impact and get better results for ourselves and the organization. Where we focus our time has a significant impact on our success in leadership.

Here are the top five things I think leaders should start doing this year to work at peak performance and get better results.

  • Reading- The best leaders are focused on continuous learning and development. Many leaders are so busy they rarely can find time for keeping up on industry trends or enhancing their leadership. Make this the year you focus more time on reading, listening to educational audios, and focusing on development. Some of my favorite resources are:
    • Success Magazine (you get a bonus CD with each monthly magazine): www.success.com
    • Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman
    • The Compound Effect audio series or book by Darren Hardy
    • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
    • Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
    • Leading for Growth by Ray Davis
  • Planning- every minute of planning saves you 10 minutes in execution. Set aside an hour each Monday to plan for the next two weeks. Block out two days each month for planning and executing strategic projects. Last year, I started blocking out four days in a row each quarter to completely focus on only strategic projects. I did everything possible to keep those days open so I could focus on getting some serious strategic work done. When you plan ahead, you will find the time to elevate your focus to strategic areas that give you the best results. Check out the book Strategic Acceleration by Tony Jeary.
  • Recognizing– develop the habit of thanking your employees for a job well done. Meet with each employee to ask how they like to be recognized. Send a hand written note or a small gift when an employee goes above and beyond. It doesn’t take much time to recognize and appreciate your employees. Small interactions and gestures can generate better working relationships and a positive environment. A great resource for creating a recognition culture is The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White.
  • Coaching-make this the year you will make coaching and developing your staff a priority. Provide feedback early and often. Set up regular coaching sessions with your employees. Ask more questions. Talk less and listen more. Coach your employees to take more responsibility and ownership in their jobs. Check out my article, Ten Tips for Successfully Coaching Employees for ideas on how to implement coaching.
  • Reducing disruptions– Despite what most leaders think, having an “open door policy” is not productive. Let your staff know that you are going to close your door more often to concentrate on high value projects. Turn off your phone and your email when you need to focus and get things done. Take control of your time and politely let someone know when it’s not a good time to talk. It’s the small distractions throughout the day that compound and consume time that can be used for focused, productive work. Check out the book The One Thing by Gary Keller for some great tips on how to achieve better results in less time.

What is one thing you would like to start doing this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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Small Changes Lead to Big Results

New Year ResolutionsIt’s the start of a fresh, new year. The opportunity to break out of old patterns and instill new habits. For years I wrote “New Year Resolutions” and got ready to change my life when the clock struck midnight. Whether it was eating healthier, exercising more, or being a better leader, my approach was that when the calendar turned to January, I hit the reset button and dove into my new and improved self. And it rarely worked.

When I set myself up for such drastic change all at one time, I felt pressured, overwhelmed, and ultimately discouraged. The stress of living up to this “ideal self” led me down a path of giving up easily and settling for the status quo. I wasn’t all that bad, I would rationalize. But I would have a lingering feeling of disappointment that I couldn’t achieve all the “goals” I had set.

I believe the reason most of us (over 92%!) aren’t successful implementing real change each year is because we are approaching the process all wrong. The point is that change is a process. We don’t just turn the page and become a new person who magically has willpower we didn’t have the year before. The best change happens incrementally. I’m not saying don’t set yearly goals. Goals are an important piece of the roadmap to changing and improving our lives. But how we reach those goals is where most people struggle.

I have found the best approach in making big changes to be utilizing the compound effect. Small incremental changes will lead to bigger transformations. Create your list of goals for the year, then under each one, create a few actions or habits to implement one at a time.

If one of your goals is to become a better leader, you might start with some smaller actions like:

  • Thank at least one employee each day for a specific contribution.
  • Schedule monthly two-hour coaching sessions in my calendar with each of my employees by January 30th.
  • Provide specific constructive and positive feedback to each employee in each of their coaching sessions. (Most leaders fail to give ANY feedback throughout the year, so if you do this one thing each month, you will surely improve your leadership skills).
  • Recognize my top performing employee at least once a month. (Many leaders focus their efforts on struggling employees and forget to acknowledge top performers).

Changing behavior is a personal process. If you know that implementing all four of those actions at once will overwhelm you and derail your efforts, then start with number one and make that a habit before incorporating more habits or actions. If you do this consistently all year, you have a much better chance of becoming a better leader than if you decided to change all your habits on day one. This approach makes the change more manageable and sustainable.

Another important part of reaching your goals is forgiveness. You need to be open to forgiving yourself when you fail to follow through. If you are trying to eat healthier but ate a pint of ice cream last night, you need to brush it off, forgive yourself, and start new again. Beating yourself up will not change the fact that you ate the ice cream. Move on and try better tomorrow.

One of my goals this year is to be a more patient parent. Before my husband and I had kids, we talked about how calm our house would be and how we would approach parenting. Then we had kids and reality set in. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be! We have a four-year-old, two-year-old and a newborn, and with lack of sleep, patience can be limited. Instead of setting a goal for being a perfect parent, I have small actions and habits I am working on to hopefully improve over time. For example, if I get frustrated with my daughter, instead of getting angry at myself for losing my cool (which just adds more negativity and frustration to the situation), I have started the habit of apologizing to my daughter, giving her a hug, and starting again. This small change has helped me to stay present in the moment and be more patient with my daughter. She is more willing to listen instead of throwing a tantrum.

Now I’d like to hear from you. What is one goal you have set for this year and one or two habits you are working on toward that goal? Share your comments below.

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How I overcome self-criticism

Plan BI found myself getting anxious a couple of weeks ago as I realized that the end of the year is approaching. Before the start of each year, I set goals for my personal and professional life. The anxiety began to build as I realized there were a few goals I haven’t made any progress toward. For example, one of my business goals this year was to start a video blog. I started to feel bad about my lack of following through on this project that I deemed so important in the beginning of the year. If I weren’t expecting a baby in five weeks, I may have been able to launch this project by the end of the year. However, I am forgiving myself for not accomplishing it and moving the goal to next year.

I heard someone once say, “You are exactly where you are meant to be.” This is a mantra I have worked hard at keeping top of mind. It doesn’t mean I don’t set goals or that I don’t stretch and challenge myself. It means that I put in my best effort, and then forgive myself if I sometimes fall short of accomplishing all that I set out to do. We all hit roadblocks or challenges along our path that we have to navigate. Yet life is unfolding exactly how it should. Every person on this planet has experienced setbacks and disappointments. Holding ourselves to a high standard is good, and also accepting that we are human and will sometimes fall short is better than continuing to focus on what we should have or could have done.

Is there something you are beating yourself up for not doing? Perhaps you had a goal of getting into shape, or to manage your time better, or to take a class to further your career. Whatever it is, be okay with where you are. You are exactly where you are meant to be. You can start now.

Here are three ways to motivate yourself to keep going:

Take an inventory of what you have accomplished this year. Focus on what you have done. When I make a list of all the goals I have reached, it makes me realize that I actually accomplished a lot that I should be proud of. Celebrating the successes puts you in a positive mindset to motivate you to move forward.

Forgive yourself for the “failures”. Focusing on what you haven’t done and beating yourself up is wasted energy. You can’t change yesterday or the yesterdays before that. You can only make changes starting right now. Focus on what you can do right now and in the future.

Focus on daily improvement. I have learned over the years of working with people as well as reflecting on my own behavior, that most people achieve more when they focus on improving each day rather than trying to create massive change all at once. Choose one area you would like to improve upon in your life and then choose one habit or action to work on today. These small changes will compound into bigger results over time.

Have you ever struggled with criticizing yourself? I’d love to hear your tips for overcoming self-criticism. Share your tips in the comments section below.

If you would like more inspiration, I recommend reading one of my favorite books, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. This book will motivate and inspire you to achieve beyond what you think is possible.

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Building Accountability in Your Team

Follow the LeaderOne of the biggest challenges leaders express to me is getting people to be accountable for results and take ownership and responsibility in their jobs. When people aren’t accountable, the challenge often grows into a cultural issue with a lack of accountability across the organization. Leaders often ask me, “How can I better hold my people accountable?”

First, I believe we can’t “hold” people accountable. Accountability is about taking ownership; it’s taking responsibility for one’s own actions. True accountability is voluntary. As leaders, we can create structures and an environment that instills accountability, but we can’t force someone to be accountable. Accountability can’t be mandated.

We need to look first at ourselves as leaders and ask if we are sending positive accountability messages or negative accountability messages. Are we modeling the accountability and ownership that we are expecting from our employees? Not just in the big ways, but in the small ways that send mixed messages. In my experience, most leaders are sending negative accountability messages, even if they are not aware of it.

When I reflect on my leadership, I recall several times that I sent negative accountability messages. At times I would struggle to keep up with my many meetings and not always take the time to plan and prepare as well as I could. I may have had the best of intentions, but the message I sent was that it was acceptable to show up to a meeting not fully prepared. Repeated messages like these can start to affect the behavior of employees and grow into lack of ownership and results.

Here are some common examples of negative accountability messages. Ask yourself if any of these apply to you:

• Are you consistently late to meetings?
• If you are leading a meeting, do you not start the meeting on time to wait for latecomers?
• Do you often come to meetings not having completed the things you said you would do or not fully prepared?
• Do you consistently shift meetings and coaching sessions with your staff because you have other important things to get done?
• Are you delinquent on preparing and conducting performance evaluations?
• Do you often commit to getting something to a peer and fail to follow through?

We all get busy. Things come up. But it’s our consistent, everyday actions that send messages to those we lead on how to behave and what is acceptable in our organizational culture. If we fail to take ownership and model accountability, we are sending a negative accountability message to our employees.

I believe we all can benefit from assessing our leadership and be more purposeful in sending positive accountability messages. We can have the best intentions, but it’s our actions that send the message and communicate our expectations. We can only truly instill accountability if we ourselves are accountable.

I’d love to hear from you-what is an example of where you can work on sending a positive accountability message?

 

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Eight Ways to Overcome Perfectionism

perfectionI was recently working with one of my executive clients on the area of perfectionism. She talked about the standards she places on herself; feeling inadequate if she makes one mistake, mulling over it for days as the uneasiness builds.  This is an area I know all too well. I’ve struggled with perfectionism throughout my life, and have often wasted a great deal of time and energy striving to create the perfect business plan, the perfect presentation, or even the perfect gourmet dinner for friends.  The list goes on!

So why do so many high-achieving, successful leaders beat themselves up over small, inconsequential mistakes? Why are we striving so hard to be perfect?

The truth is, people who are challenged by perfectionism usually don’t think they’re perfect. More often than not, they fear what people will think if they find out how imperfect they really are. Many perfectionists struggle with living up to their own internal standards and want to be accepted and appreciated by others.

There are two types of perfectionists: adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive perfectionists are more goal-oriented and conscientious, and adjust well within groups. This type of perfectionist scores high on leadership abilities and tends to be the kind of person who reaches for attainable goals and continuously seeks self-improvement. Adaptive perfectionism tends to be self-oriented; meaning, they adhere to strict standards while maintaining strong motivation to attain perfection. By contrast, maladaptive perfectionists tend to fear criticism, are obsessive over order, and seek total admiration. These perfectionists as leaders tend to be micromanaging, emphasize hard work over results, and struggle with building and maintaining positive relationships with others. The impact can be de-motivated employees, underdeveloped staff, and high turnover.

Perfectionism can serve you well if it’s healthy and oriented toward self-improvement and strong goal orientation. And it’s important to be aware of when you are being self-critical and irrational. As I’ve developed as a person and leader, I like to reframe perfectionism in a more healthy way. Rather than strive to be perfect, I now strive to be excellent.

Here are eight strategies for being a “healthy” perfectionist:

Get out of your office. Schedule at least three, fifteen-minute blocks of time a day to get out of your office and connect with people or to go outdoors. Giving your brain a break brings clarity and focus, and often gives you the mental space you need to reframe your perfectionism tendencies.

Delegate and trust. Perfectionists often feel they will be seen as successful leaders if they can do it all. The opposite is actually true. A good leader is able to delegate some tasks and projects and focus on the important, high-leverage areas.

Develop employees. The more time you take to develop your employees, the more opportunities you will have to delegate work to them and free up your time for the most important strategic projects.

Pare down your to do list. At the end of each day, pick one or two important tasks or projects that are essential to complete the next day. Instead of focusing on a long “to do” list, start your day by focusing on your two important tasks. Determine that your day will be a success if you complete these items. Many perfectionists are action oriented and feel successful by checking things off a list. It’s better to accomplish the important tasks rather than just any task.

Focus on being, not just doing. Perfectionists usually focus on accomplishments and tend to neglect downtime. Designate downtime every day where you shut off everything and leave the demands behind.

Celebrate mistakes. We are all human. When you make a mistake, celebrate and learn from it. Better yet, tell your staff about your mistake. They will actually have more respect for you for admitting you are not perfect.

Strive for excellent instead of perfect. We waste so much time and energy trying to ensure every detail is perfect. Often what you think is only “good” work is seen as far more superior in others’ eyes. Strive for excellence, and accept that you can be more productive by not being perfect.

Institute “pause” moments. Whether it’s meditation or just taking ten minutes a day to take a breath and quiet your mind, pausing throughout the day to regroup can be very empowering. This has made a huge difference in my life. I am calmer and more focused, and have reduced my anxiety significantly around what needs to get done. Even though I’m not perfect at slowing down, pausing throughout the day to be present in the moment makes me feel more in control.

Awareness is the first step toward reducing anxiety around perfectionism. Start noticing the irrational thoughts going through your head (i.e., I’ll get fired if this report is not perfect) and bring yourself back to reality.

I’d love to hear from you: What strategies have you used to keep your perfectionism in check? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.

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Do top grades in school predict great leadership?

Diagram of emotional intelligenceI was a good student in high school, but not at the top of my class. If I didn’t find a subject appealing (um, chemistry) I didn’t put as much effort into it as I know I should have. So I was relieved when I read an article that said emotional intelligence is more important than IQ when it comes to being a successful leader. It turns out you don’t have to be valedictorian to be a highly successful leader. In fact, Daniel Goleman, the article author, said when he asks a roomful of CEOs if they were magna cum laude or had the highest grades in their class, less than 1% raise their hands.

Emotional intelligence is our ability to perceive, reason with, understand and manage our emotions. Leaders who are self aware and are able to manage their emotions are more successful than those who are blind to emotions and their impact on others.

Goleman says, “A higher proportion of the competencies that distinguish the stars among leaders turn out to be based on emotional intelligence rather than IQ-type abilities, by far–like 80 or 90 percent of them.”

The good news is that emotional intelligence is not fixed. With awareness and practice, we can develop our emotional intelligence.

While there are many elements of emotional intelligence, I find many leaders struggle with areas like self-awareness, empathy, interpersonal relationships, and emotional expression. Most employees connect better with leaders who are authentic, approachable, supportive and who listen well. I’m sure we’ve all experienced working with people who were very intelligent yet poor leaders.

Below are three ways to increase your emotional intelligence:

Ask for feedback. There are several tools for gaining information on how your staff and peers perceive you. An emotional intelligence assessment or 360 degree feedback survey are great ways to benchmark how your emotional intelligence skills are perceived by others.  Sending an survey to anonymously collect feedback will help you to focus in on the areas of improvement.

Listen. Studies show that most people are only about 25% effective as listeners. Listening is a mental skill that takes energy and discipline. With practice, we can improve our ability to listen. A good practice is to focus really intently on the person speaking and wait until she has finished before you formulate your response. When meeting with an employee, turn off the alerts on your email and phones so you can focus on the conversation.

Cultivate relationships. Many leaders don’t find the time to interact with their staff because they are too busy. This often leads to employees feeling their boss is unapproachable or doesn’t care. Focus on developing relationships with people by asking about their personal life and walking around to interact with them. Foster an engaging environment where employees enjoy coming to work.

To watch a 5 minute video by Daniel Goleman on emotional intelligence, click here: Emotional Intelligence Video

I’d love to hear from you–what do you think are the most important qualities for being a successful and respected leader?

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Why you should never vent to your boss

iStock_000026324486MediumSeveral months ago I was facilitating a workshop on communication, and the topic of venting came up. One manager shared that she consistently vents to her boss about challenges in her position, like interpersonal issues with employees or coworkers. She felt since she has a good relationship with her vice president, that it seemed natural to vent to her when she was having challenges. “I need someone to vent my frustrations to so I can feel better. I use her as an outlet,” she said.

Venting can be good in some situations and help a person feel better by talking things out or working through emotions. But you should never vent to your boss. Even if you have a great relationship with your boss, venting can be risky to your career. By definition, venting means “to express one’s thoughts or feelings, especially forcefully”. There is a big difference between venting and expressing your thoughts carefully.

If you have a great relationship with your boss, then occasionally sharing challenges and frustrations may be appropriate and natural. Yet consistently using your manager as an outlet to express aggravations only adds to your boss’s problems. She may start to view you as not being able to effectively handle challenges in your role, and it may affect how she views your performance. Whether your boss is the CEO or a mid level manager, she has a lot on her plate and would probably welcome not being involved in every challenging situation.

When faced with a challenging or frustrating situation, ask yourself these questions:

• What part of this situation can I control?
• What are two or three ways I could resolve this situation?
• How could I effectively approach this person to get the best result? (if you’re dealing with an interpersonal conflict)
• Will I handle this situation more effectively if I take a day to cool down?
• Is this something my boss needs to be involved in, or is it something I can handle on my own?

After asking yourself these questions, if you feel it’s appropriate to involve your boss, then approach it constructively by carefully framing the challenge you are facing and sharing the possible solutions you are considering. If you are seeking guidance, let your boss know that you are open to coaching around the challenge and need some advice or a different perspective.

Most leaders would welcome not being involved in every challenge and gladly allow their employees to resolve their own issues.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What strategies have you used to deal with challenges or frustrations at work?

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Why learning is overrated

iStock_000027548259MediumI’ve always loved to learn. I read almost every day and often push myself to get through as many books as possible. I consider myself a lifelong learner, but I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with information. I often struggle to keep up with the books, ideas, articles and resources there are to improve my leadership and my life.

Up until a couple months ago, I thought learning was an important aspect of being a successful leader; the ability to consistently take in new and interesting ideas.

But all that changed.

I was participating in a program by Darren Hardy about increasing productivity, and he said something that changed the way I think about learning. Here is what he said:

“We need to stop learning, and start studying.”

This may not seem very profound, but it changed the way I look at personal development. Learning is about taking in new ideas, whereas studying is about applying those ideas. Studying is about using those ideas to change your leadership and your life. Instead of setting goals to learn more, the most successful leaders study concepts and ideas deeply and then apply the information to their leadership.

This has changed the way I take in new information. Instead of making it a goal to read a certain number of books in a year, I have eliminated that goal. I realized it is about what I do with the information, not the amount of information I take in. I could read 50 books a year and have some great knowledge in my brain, but not do much with it. Or I could read 10 books a year and really study them; really reflect on the information and how I can apply it to my leadership.

I recently started reading the book, The Pause Principle, by Kevin Cashman. I am devoting more time with this book to reflect on the ideas and following through on the exercises and questions. I am not just learning information, I am applying the concepts. It may take me a month or more to finish the book, but I am taking my time and studying the information.

I’d like to hear from you. Do you ever struggle to apply what you learn? Head on over to the comments section and share your thoughts with us.

And if you are interested in the book, The Pause Principle, I definitely recommend it. Click below for more information:

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