In today’s fast-paced business world, effective prioritisation and time management skills are crucial for success. One area where these skills play a significant role is email management. With the sheer volume of emails we receive daily, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose precious time. The good news is that there are many things you can do to write effective emails.
As an effective leader, one of the key skills to develop is the ability to ask questions. More specifically, to ask the right question at the right time. The key benefits of mastering this skillset are the additional perspective gained and the reduction in assumptions. This has power within leadership as it ensures you take into account other people’s perspective as well as your own.
To lead is to influence. To influence, understand…to understand, ask.
There is a connection between gaining perspective and displaying empathy, one of the cornerstone leadership traits. When you understand what someone else values; why they have said or done what they have; and/or their background, there is a likelihood of greater influence. This stems from less negative judgment and a willingness to see a situation beyond your own lens or perspective. In other words, stepping into someone else’s shoes and looking back at you…empathy. The risk of a lack of perspective and making assumptions are many.
Primarily when you attempt to influence solely from your own beliefs and views, in its extreme, is coercion.
This is damaging and unsustainable, both relationally and practically. Few people will willingly follow you when you are more concerned about your own perspective and values, without taking into account theirs.
Related: Life Choices – The Decision Tree
Removing assumptions through improved understanding provides a more solid basis for strength in your relationships. Many people will respect the fact that you are bothering to consider their views. Taking it a step further and doing something with this information, adds to the potential for aligning values and building depth in your relationships. This is connecting at a different level.
For me, there’s great value in recognizing different perspectives in conversations because these enable us to hear and react to things very differently.
One of my close friends often says: “Change how a situation occurs to you, change how you will respond to the situation.” What is the distinction between perspective and reality? There are a lot of fun expressions around this topic. The easiest one is “my perspective is my reality,” but is this really true? Or is there a difference between the two?
Perspective is the way individuals see the world. It comes from their personal point of view and is shaped by life experiences, values, their current state of mind, the assumptions they bring into a situation, and a whole lot of other things. Reality can be different things. We can easily say that my perspective is my reality. There is truth to that statement. When we look at the shared reality of an event, though, the more perspectives you get, the closer to reality you get. As a leader, do you consider your own perspective as reality? (1)
The other aspect of perspective, is how we respond to situations. We have developed a process that has assisted many of our coachees and clients to gain perspective and a better balance regarding their own reactions.
The Perspective Scaling Process is a very useful tool and mindset to assist in finding an appropriate balance between immediate emotional responses and logical reactions.
To use this resource effectively, you need to establish a scale based on your own judgments first. Once established and with practice, all situations and moments can be quickly assessed against your initial scaling. Rarely is the situation actually as significant as your first emotional response would assume. That is how the process works. It finds a balance between your initial emotional response and places a sense of practical, logical thought to the moment. Let me explain the process.
The Perspective Scaling Process works on a 1 – 100 set of values, where 1 represents a very small incident or situation with next to no lasting impact. An example could be a paper-cut. A 100 would be the most damaging and worst outcome or scenario you could think of. Most people consider losing all of their family members in an accident as an extreme, yet relevant example.
Once you have set scale situations at either end relevant to you, work backwards by roughly 10 point increments and consider what situations would apply for each number.
A 90 may be losing an individual family member; an 80 a reasonably major car accident with lasting injuries; a 70 could be a divorce; a 60 based on being made redundant at work etc. Once you reach 20 your scale should be reflective of those things that occur more commonly and with a lesser impact. Single-figure circumstances should be things that have no lasting impact at all, possibly more frustrating than serious.
Now that you have established a ‘baseline’ it is important to keep referring back to the scale throughout the day, as situations occur. This is where the process comes into it own.
We quite regularly immediately respond to a moment or event in an overly emotional manner.
The challenge with primarily emotional responses, particularly when considering relationships is that it generally inflames a situation. It is out of proportion and is weighted too heavily to emotions, lesser to logic and pragmatism. An emotional response is quite normal and is part of being human. What may feel immediately is a ’50 or 60′, is quickly re-identified by applying the perspective scale as a lower number, commonly at a ’20’ or below. This ‘self-check’ then allows us to respond more appropriately and effectively.
Recognise that every emotion has a place. Having emotions is normal and expected. However, being overly-emotional on a consistent basis can be detrimental to your credibility, perception and effectiveness.
Learning to take control of immediate emotional responses is an important aspect of being emotionally intelligent. Through use of the perspective tool, you will strike a balance between the initial emotion-laden reaction and the purposeful logic that enables a balanced conversation and approach. With practice, you will be able to apply the Perspective Scaling Process within seconds. In fact, it is a great opportunity to pause and take a breath prior to responding.
Perspective is gained through understanding. That is, understanding of self and others. The most effective and simple way to improve understanding is to ask key questions. Positioning these questions in a way that makes it more about understanding and less about challenging perceptions take some of the heat out of the moment. It also demonstrates that you are listening to what has been said.
Depth in this skill come from paraphrasing and delving into the answers provided. This is what I call ‘layer 2 and 3 questioning’. Accepting the first response from someone generally provides little opportunity to truly understand. Without understanding, our assumptions commonly lead us to make incorrect decisions; see things only or primarily from our perspective or value-set; and similar, less effective responses.
When we see things primarily from our own perspective, it is difficult to genuinely influence others. Seeking understanding and caring about those closest to you, at work or home, builds trust, relationships and ability to influence.
How you demonstrate this care is up to you. However, taking the time to consider all views; seek understanding of what matters to you and others; providing appropriate context; and developing appropriate questioning skills are all ways to more meaningfully influence.
We show we care through our actions. What could you practice and do differently to more effectively influence those around you?
Don’t hesitate to contact CoachStation if you wish to discuss the Personal Values learning process or any other aspect of your development as a leader and person. We are always happy to meet new people and assist to improve capability and satisfaction.
The ability and desire to focus on those areas of our lives that provide the greatest return can often be confusing. Change and growth comes first through understanding and acknowledgement.
When there is understanding, there is the potential for action.
Without understanding and action, it is too easy to continue to do what you have always done. That may of course be justified in your mind, but it rarely leads to progression, growth and development.
In almost every coaching and mentoring engagement I have taken on in recent years, my clients have struggled to understand the difference between inputs and outputs. In nearly every case, managers and leaders focus on the output, result or outcome and ignore the inputs. So, here’s the big tip:
You cannot change, influence or develop through focusing on a result only – understand the inputs and things that influence the result!
Don’t misunderstand my point. Results and outcomes matter enormously. Measuring our outputs and contributions is key to business. KPI’s, profits, budgets etc are critical to business…they just can’t be changed through themselves. Why? Well for three main reasons:
- They are historical, representing what has occurred in the past, hence cannot be changed.
- The inputs and things influencing and contributing to the result are what should be actioned and focused on because they can be changed.
- Very few people can directly translate the outcomes or result back into how they do what they do every day.
Let me provide more context. Most people, given the opportunity, can develop awareness for what they need to do and why it matters. The ‘how’ on the other hand is more difficult to determine on your own. Training will provide the background and broad knowledge. However, expecting the training participant to take this information and apply sustained change as a result, is difficult if not impossible minus follow-up and targeted support. Without reinforcement and personalisation, training has limited sustainable impact. By the way, I am a trainer and facilitator, so I am certainly not criticising training as a method of development in itself.
On its own and without reinforcement and personalisation, training rarely leads to meaningful action and change.
I am confident that many of you can think of times when you, your team or colleagues have attended training and not done anything different as a result. Crazily, I have even seen some managers send members of their team to the same training programs, year after year, expecting a different result. It rarely makes a difference. That is in fact, a very necessary focus of coaching and mentoring and a major part of the reason I now dedicate most of my time in this area.
My wife, Julie, and I have 3 daughters. Our middle daughter, Charli, plays netball. This year she has been selected in a representative team and will be playing in a State carnival in a few weeks. Based on recent conversations with the team coach, Hilary, I had the privilege in being invited to address the team and parents during one of the team training sessions recently. The key messages were delivered to 13 year old girls. I wanted to maintain their focus and take the opportunity to get them thinking differently. To challenge not only how they think, but where they focus time and energy. The link between netball and life was also highlighted. So, I related the core message to the theme of this blog.
The key is to understand and focus on the inputs, not the outputs.
Influence the many, many things that contribute to the result, not on the result itself.
Ultimately, I broke down the content to a key seven points. Of course, there are more topics that could be listed. However, I feel that the 7 themes highlighted are the baseline for development and growth. These topics and potential actions are as relevant to the young ladies who are in the rep netball team, as to people outside of sport. In fact, they are key to all of our lives in order to thrive (not just survive) in our modern world.
1. Self-Awareness: understanding who you are and how others see you is critical to your success. Too often we live in denial or fear about our performance, capabilities and how we are perceived. Perfection is not the goal. Improvement, increased self-esteem and continued growth are.
2. Communication: the ability to influence others; genuinely listen and understand; succinctly put across your views and thoughts; and, consistently ensure people believe what you say is important.
It is not only verbal skills, but also takes into account your ability to communicate through written means. Less obvious is your body language, pitch, tone, emotional levels and other contributors, but no less important.
3. Relationships: are one of the key inputs and cornerstones to satisfaction in life. In a work and sport context, this is not necessarily about developing friendships. It can be, but is more about building trust and respect, so that an honest and real conversation can be held and heard. Understanding what you value most and seeking insight into other’s values is one good way to develop depth in relationships.
4. Teamwork: has become even more relevant than in the past. Much of our learning, work environments; study and learning options are positioned within teams. The emphasis on individuals has reduced in recent years in the workplace, universities and other institutions. The focus on people collaborating and achieving more as a team, rather than individually, has become one of the big changes to how we operate. Your willingness and ability to meet that need will be one of the measurements of success.
Your ability to relate to others, influence, communicate and work collaboratively will define much of your success.
A very relevant point is to understand that diversity between people is good, when we take the time to understand the differences that exist. Understanding provides acceptance and acknowledgment. A lack of understanding often leads to assumption and negative judgment. It is the difference between thinking: “I wouldn’t do or say that, so you are wrong” to “I wouldn’t necessarily say or do that, however I know you well enough to understand your perspective”. It may feel like a subtle point, but in reality is a powerful difference in how people work together.
5. Capability and Competence: clearly a relevant input into your performance and perception relates to your ability to perform. Contribution to your team is reliant on continually developing competence, skills and capability in what you do.
6. Focus on Strengths: there is much greater opportunity for success when working from those areas that you are most interested, passionate and talented in. These are your strengths. We don’t have the opportunity to ignore our weaknesses or lesser talents. However, when you develop the areas that you care most deeply about and have natural ability in, your exponential growth is assured. Too often we are asked to focus solely on our weaknesses. These are the wrong inputs. Performance appraisals and other organisational tools are often designed this way. It is our role as leaders and people who care to make sure we talk about what is working well, not just the gaps and weaknesses. Strikingly, this type of emphasis assists us to build stronger relationships; trust; self-awareness and other elements detailed in this blog.
A shift in focus and mindset to develop talents into strengths can provide significantly greater returns.
7. Accountability and Action: the absolute key to improvement, growth and influencing the inputs. Willingness to be accountable for yourself and maintain a level of honesty in your own self-perception provides a platform for action. It is not enough to know more. It is always about what you do with this information. Practice does not make perfect. Practising the right thing, the right way leads to improvement and that is enough to enable growth. However, you must make a conscious choice and persist with your goals and actions for this to become more than good intention.
After the mini-workshop with the netball team I was talking with the coaching staff. It is fascinating how relevant these themes are for 13-year old girls and within the workplaces in our adult world. Interestingly, this points to the view that what works best for people, works best for people. Whether that is within families, workplaces, sporting teams or other situations where people congregate, the elements that provide comfort and growth remain similar.
The earlier that you develop and focus on the inputs that develop your self-awareness, relationships, confidence and self-esteem the more likely success will come your way…no matter how you measure success.
The leader and employee in today’s environment must possess a credible and trusted brand, much like a company does.
This is sometimes also referred to as a personal and/or professional reputation. Either way, people see you a certain way based on your behaviours, words and actions. Being aware of this helps you to take control of your brand.
Like culture, it exists whether we influence it or not. Why then, wouldn’t you want to take control of this as much as possible? The benefits of modern technology and Social Media make this easier than in the past. It also provides potential pitfalls and risk. However, your personal brand and the perception you create is more than your Social Media profiles and habits. Your ‘real life’ actions and behaviours shape the perception others have of you. After all, those closest to you are the people who you should be most interested in influencing. Rarely is the depth of relationships online as strong as in person. Sadly, the lines are becoming blurred for many people.
It takes time and effort to develop your reputation built on genuine results, behaviours, skills and qualities that others identify as strengths and positive attributes. This is important for all of us, but is most critical for leaders.
Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others. (1)
Many leaders are already performing well in their roles and have much to offer. Whether people recognise and acknowledge this is another question. Having the knowledge and tools to promote yourself effectively without appearing to be ‘big-noting’ is a challenge for some. I look at this differently. It is not about being a self-promoter. It is more about being comfortable enough in who you are and your achievements so that you can comfortably talk about it. This comfort stems from strength in self-esteem and self-acceptance, amongst other attributes.
Overlooked for promotion; receiving little recognition; difficulty in explaining beliefs, passions or roles, along with other skills are often difficult challenges, but can be overcome. Creating a strong brand can only be achieved through consistent practice and application. This takes effort and accountability. In a blog I wrote previously titled Setting Standards and Expectations, I mentioned the importance of ownership and taking accountability.
Perceptions about self and what we think others believe about us influences much of who we are and what we do.
Each person has their own beliefs and needs and are at various stages of acceptance of their situation, financial requirements and employability. Being clear about what you want from life, including as an employee, helps you to make appropriate decisions. Decisions based on want, values and need and not simply situation and opportunity. Even when current roles appear stable, understanding of yourself and focusing energies on the next steps or options is a worthwhile exercise.
A brand in itself is not the end game. It is a mistake to think that a hollow set of tricks and/or being a good marketer without having the substance to support the brand will work.
This is the same when promoting products, services or people. People see through this kind of facade very quickly, even when we think they haven’t.
What is presented to the world via your online presence is becoming more and more critical to how other people view who you are and what you stand for. It is a wonder to me how many people still struggle with this concept. As important as this is, meaning and substance matters more than merely presenting yourself professionally online. It is how you communicate, manage perceptions, behave, respond, learn about and apply emotional intelligence. A solid social media presence is one aspect, but your brand is more than that.
It also relates to your ability to develop relationships, foster an ability to connect with others and various similar core skills that help you to influence people.
Taking control of and developing your reputation is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader. Unfortunately, personal branding has become a “commoditized” term that has lost its intention as people have irresponsibly used social media as a platform to build their personal brand and increase their relevancy. They believe social media can immediately increase their market value for their personal brand rather than recognizing that the process of developing their personal brand is a much bigger responsibility; a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media.
Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.
This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories. Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and/or a voice that others can depend upon. (1)
Personal branding is a topic that has been of interest to me for some years. The related concepts and practical elements are consistently discussed topics when coaching and mentoring my clients. Our focus is about what is happening now, how you present yourself in your current role. This is not only relevant and important when you are looking for a new role. Essentially, having a strong brand always matters. I work with people in various industries at all levels of management, yet the branding elements remain surprisingly consistent.
The issues that exist and skills required in modern workplaces are as applicable for entry-level employees as they are for supervisors and executive level leaders.
How you present yourself should reflect what you care most about. This should include demonstrating consistency in values, beliefs and actions. The most effective leaders are those who care about people and are passionate about specific aspects of their role.
If you want to become a person of influence in your industry, realize it usually takes years of experience to earn a spot at the top. “How do you figure out something is your passion? It’s that thing you go to sleep about at night and it’s on your mind. You wake up and it’s still on your mind. It’s like a burning desire inside of you, you just can’t escape it, and you would do it for free simply because you love it.” (2)
At CoachStation we focus on the core elements that can assist any individual to develop a reputation and brand. One that is based on a solid foundation, leading to improved credibility and future success. These topics may be of use to you as you continue to build your reputation:
- Investigate why personal branding is important in your business and personal life.
- Take control of your brand and reputation – like culture, it exists, so you may as well influence it as much as possible.
- Learn the key elements of branding and how to build on them with meaning and authenticity.
- Build self-esteem, confidence and authenticity – don’t feel you need to act the part or play a role either in your personal or professional life.
- Understand the relevance of Social Media in developing a brand and how to use these tools to greatest effect.
- Develop a strong brand that is consistent with what you care about the most and your passions.
- Learn how to use the most relevant tools and technology to develop your brand.
- Seek understanding why a personal and professional brand is a non-negotiable for leaders and employees in today’s environment.
View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously moulding and shaping it.
Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and/or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve. (1)
The need to develop your brand and reputation is more relevant today than ever. If you don’t take control of your brand it will continue to evolve but not in a way that will add value to yourself and those you care about.
Have you defined your own brand? If so, do you live and breathe it consistently every day?
Think about what your brand looks like from the perspective of others.
Take action to be accountable in shaping your brand to greatest effect.
As always, the opportunity is yours.
(2) How To Create a Standout Personal Brand: Entrepreneur.com