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Archive for May, 2012

Follow the Leader?

Ok, time for a quick quiz.
What is the one thing you need to be a leader?
And there is only one.
Many people will guess power, charisma, money, influence, great people skills, etc., but none of those answers hits the mark.
The answer is – followers.
It’s the one thing all leaders need.
You can have all the aforementioned qualities but without followers there is no one to lead.
And that is this month’s focus- How do you lead so people will follow?

If you want people to follow you and not just obey because they fear you, you have to create an environment where others will find you approachable. In others words, you have to be a safe place. In a recent Secrets of Success article “Just a Thought,” I pointed out that throughout the day the brain is constantly asking one of two questions “Am I safe or am I in danger?” These are also the two questions people ask when they are thinking about approaching a leader.

The key to being a safe place for people is to become a great listener. It’s doable but it requires some work and a few insights about your behavior and the behavior of others. Think of it as a three-step process.

Step One – Realize You are “Trapped in Your Own Head”

This is hardly a problem unique to leaders. We all live in our own heads
and are victims of our own view of reality. We tend to think the way we see things is the way they are. We have a very hard time understanding and appreciating how the thoughts of another can be that much different from our own. It’s understandable but it can be problematic.

Because we only know how we think, if we are not careful we will either assume other people think like we do or believe what they think is somehow flawed and insist they see things our way.

Leaders who do this run the risk of alienating those around them and not seeing other solutions when making a decision.

Step Two-Be Willing to Bear Witness to Another’s Reality

Do you want to be right or do you want to effective? Do you want the real input of those around you, or do you want to make decisions in a vacuum?
For other people to be willing to talk to you, they need to feel you are going to listen—really listen.
To make sure that happens you have to be able to understand the reality of another—to bear witness, as it were to that reality.
The first step to bearing witness to another person’s reality is to become dedicated to actually hearing what that person is saying. One way to accomplish this is to learn how to accurately repeat back what is being said. (It goes by a variety of names—reflective listening, mirroring, etc.)
As you listen you want to make sure you “got” what the person said and that they are able to say everything they wanted. Asking questions like, “Did I get that?” and “Is there more?” are good ways of making sure the message delivered is the message received.
People also like to have what they say validated. Telling someone “You make sense” is music to their ears. It does not mean you agree with them. It simply means you see the logic they are using even if it’s not the way you look at the situation.
People also want empathy. They want to feel like you’re trying to understand things from their point of view. “I can imagine you must feel….” is a good way to start that part of the process.
This three-part approach to listening takes some practice, but if you do it well you’ll find people will view you as more receptive and be more willing to open up.

Step Three – Embrace The Open-Mind Policy

For years, management experts have championed the idea of the open-door policy and management by wandering around. These theories are based on the idea that making yourself more visible and accessible will create an environment where people are more willing to share. You will also have the opportunity to observe, first hand, what is going on in your own organization.
I have seen plenty of organizations where the boss’s door is open and no one comes in. It’s not because no one has anything to say, it’s because they don’t believe the person is going to be open to what they have to say.
It’s your mind that needs to be open—not just your door.

Good leaders need accurate,timely information.
They also need to be seen as approachable.
You don’t know what people aren’t telling you and unless you’re seen as a place people can go without fear of reprisal or judgment you’ll be kept somewhat in the dark.
Open your mind and heart to the ideas of those around you and people will line up to follow you.

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CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488