How do we get there from here? We encounter that question a lot at Voltage Leadership with regard to leaders of all types. This is especially true for front line leaders who have been promoted into areas of great responsibility.

Our answer is for them to take a journey on “The Leader Ship”, pun intended. Below please find some tips and tools we employ with clients of all sizes in multiple industries to keep them on course.                                                                       

  • Pre-Boarding – Use assessments to help understand the leader’s behavior, motivations and aptitudes. At Voltage, we employ many assessment tools. Two of our favorites are DiSC, and Profiles XT depending on how deep a dive may be required for the role.
  • Charting the Course – The ability to “see the big picture” is essential for most leadership roles. We employ several tools that can be applied to any team at any level. Two of our favorites are:  1) the “Team Charter” which asks, why are we here, where are we going and what are the behaviors that will get us there and 2) the “Structural Tension” model which asks What are the desired outcomes? What is the current reality? How can we use our assets/strengths to overcome barriers? What baby steps can we take to get closer to the desired outcomes?
  • Navigating – Once the right course is set, continue to actively steer the ship, by continually communicating the course to the crew. Make the right course corrections at the right time, based on firsthand knowledge from the crew obtained in well planned recurring 1:1 meetings Behind the Leader’s Closed Door.
  • Avoiding Icebergs – At Voltage we help client firms goBelow the Waterlineto ensure they fully understand and accept ownership of clarity regarding roles, responsibilities and expectations. If there is “noise” from the crew, understand why it is there. They may be right and helping to keep your ship afloat.
  • Sounding the Ship – Proactively engage in Team building. Be aware of potential counterproductive cultural issues, ie. removing drama, perceptions of favoritism or downright intentional negativism. Voltage can show you how to escape theDreaded Drama Triangle aka the Cultural Bermuda Triangle.
  • All Hands-On Deck – Intentionally spend more crew time with “rising stars” vs “falling stars”. Design your time to include recurring meaningful recognition to build real crew engagement. Actively invest time in crew who are helping to drive the ship (vs those who may need to walk the plank for the right reasons.)
  • Enjoy the Ride - Once Pre-Boarding is done, our Course is Charted, Navigating well, have Avoided Icebergs, the Ship is Sound, and All Hands on Deck are really engaged, Enjoy the Ride…Ahoy maties!

Executive Presence: The “It” Factor

If our impact is 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language, is it any wonder that leaders who learn how to say what they need to say end up getting better results?

I will never forget the lunch meeting I had several years ago. Our team was meeting at a restaurant located on a busy Chicago street. If you have experienced the lunch rush in downtown Chicago, you are familiar with the pace and volume of people walking hastily to their destinations in the lunch hour. This lunch was memorable because of what happened before I even reached the door.

When I arrived, I found the leader already waiting. Outside. He was standing just to the side of the front door at the sidewalk, so that he could meet and greet us and welcome us to the meeting. He greeted me, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming. After a few words, he gestured for me to continue inside to our table while he waited for the remaining people to arrive. This habit of hospitality made an impression. I left that meeting feeling appreciated and valued: he had stood outside and waited to greet me and thank me personally for taking the time to come. He respected my time as well as my thinking: during the lunch he made sure he heard from everyone at the table, he reviewed the agenda we had prepared, and he checked to see if there was anything new we needed to review.

The experience is a bright spot in a sea of professional interactions I’ve had over the years.

The number one differentiator between a good leader and a great leader is their capacity to attend to their impact and be intentional about designing and delivering messages that come across well.

Thinking about the experience you as a leader are delivering to the people you serve with is an important habit of mind. As you prepare for your next meeting, take a moment to think about the experience you want to deliver.

  • How can you communicate appreciation for the time people are taking to come together?
  • In what ways can you set shared parameters for the focus of the meeting so that everyone participates, time is used efficiently, and the best thinking emerges from around the table?

Simple acts of warm hospitality make people comfortable, and open up people’s state of mind to more naturally trust and share. Focus throughout the meeting keeps people on track and allows for bright, creative thinking to emerge. Good habits of discourse allow no one voice to dominate and all voices to be heard creating environments of collegiality and creativity.

To get the best thinking from all the people make a habit of Rounding.

Rounding is simple.  You set 3 expectations and ask a question:

1.       “We are going to go around the circle and hear from everyone in turn.”

2.       “Hold your questions and comments until we are done going around the room.”

3.       “Be concise with your comments, as we will have a deeper dive once we finish the round.” (You can even set a time limit for everyone. 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, depending on the depth of thinking you are trying to bring into the room.)

Then, ask your question, and start your round!

One more tip for successful rounding, if you have an important problem to solve, send the question the day before so that the people who prefer to think through problems more thoroughly have the time to do so. This ensures equitable participation by everyone at the table.

What experience are you giving people when you show up?  Stop to think about how you and your habits are landing on your team, your colleagues, your leaders.   

Take a moment and design one of your interactions today. Simply stop and think about how you could best approach a situation. Look at it from the point of view of the other person.

Is there something you can change to better communicate? Think it through and try something new.