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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Diplomacy: An Essential Leadership Quality

    



    Donald Trump has struck a chord with many Americans who like his straight-talk approach to issues that matter to them.  While exciting some, he is simultaneously causing intense agony for others--especially in his own party.  As much as he's brought a freshness to dealing with topics in a direct manner--saying what some Americans have said in their homes, protest gatherings, and in town hall meetings--he has crossed lines in how he makes his comments.  Sometimes being too direct can have a counterproductive effect.  He turns some on and turns some off.  He gets cheers, and he gets jeers.  He draws some to him while alienating others.  We know this is to be expected for anyone running for political office.  A political leader simply can't satisfy all people.  He or she will always frustrate someone.  But Trump has created a dichotomy in his forward speeches by drawing high levels of adoration and mounting levels of animosity and hatred.  Here's why:
    One essential quality every great leader must possess is diplomacy.  Being direct is necessary and important in leading an organization or team.  People appreciate disposing of all the fluff and getting to the point.  But they also appreciate empathy and civility.  Comments without attacks and judgment are necessary to move negotiations forward in a productive manner.  Leaders who come across too strongly in sensitive situations are an immediate turn off, and discussions can stall.  Great leaders should be savvy enough to know when to push forward and when to pull back.  People like Trump need to be able to show that he can sit in a summit with other powerful leaders and not cause a war.  Diplomacy requires thoughtfulness and self control. There is no room for communications blunders in high stakes conversation--no room for childish name-calling, unfounded accusations, tantrums, and divisive speech.
    Here are three things a diplomatic leader does well:

  1. Remain aware of his or her surroundings so that communications and actions can be tempered to meet the situation.
  2. Recognize that timing matters in delivering news of importance, and patience is critical to making an appropriate impact.
  3. Consider tone, word choice, and body language when speaking on matters of import.
     Even if you don't lead a team, diplomacy is necessary in all communications.  Practice and master this skill for greater success in building professional networks and relationships.

   

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The World You Create

"Jeri's a great manager.  Just ask her.  She'll tell ya."

Feedback from others is priceless.  If we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to receive it, we can hear valuable information that can help us transform into the people we ought to be or who we never thought we could be.  But we don't ask.  And why not?  Because we are afraid.  Why are we afraid?  Because we tend to think greater of ourselves than we ought, and anytime anyone sticks a pin in our inflated view of us, we get upset.  Just ask Jeri.

Jeri is the director of an organization in which I was called to coach because she had created a hostile environment for herself and her team.  I discovered that she had distributed a survey to her staff to find out what kind of job they felt she had been doing as their leader.  Apparently, she thought she was doing a fine job and went in feeling confident that they would agree.  But when the results came back, the team had drawn a completely different picture.  Jeri was shocked by their responses--and appalled.  But instead of seeking the value in the feedback and finding consensus about her behavior, she became angry.  She developed a retaliatory attitude (proving one of the complaints they had), and she intimidated everyone into silence.

Had she approached the feedback in a more constructive way--because receiving feedback constructively is just as important as giving it constructively--she would have found a treasure trove of information that could have helped her to be as good as she thought she was.  Unfortunately, she missed an incredible opportunity.  Now, she will never get that chance again.  The value of any subsequent information will be close to useless because her team will no longer be honest with her.  She will continue to believe she's an exploding star when she's actually a white dwarf (a dying star; burnt out).

So here are three things everyone should consider upon self-examination:

1)  There's always room for me to improve no matter how great I think I am.  Therefore, I am going to take an assessment like a 360-degree survey and hear what people all around me see in me.  When I receive the feedback, I will look for ways to challenge myself to change in those areas that are negatively impacting my growth.

2)  Once I receive 360-degree feedback, I will seek out people whose opinions matter to me, and I will ask them for their unadulterated assessment on those weak areas in me.  I will not grow angry but try to remain curious about my own behavior.

3)  I will allow myself to be vulnerable to all valuable feedback.  I will not retaliate or beat myself up.  I will look for growth opportunities, and I will do something about me.  I will face myself honestly, and thank the person for helping me to excel.

Try these and watch your environment change around you.  With a panoramic view of you, you can impact your world extensively.