Tag Archives: professional relationships

When did you last consider your ‘How’?

Dangerously Unaware

I was starting a new position and had heard about the General Manager’s reputation. He had grown up in his career running manufacturing facilities and had a tough-guy type of approach to leadership. In his new General Manager role, he was leading a corporate function, which required a different leadership style. I remember having that nervous-stomach feeling, not knowing what I was going to face when we met. I also remember fearing making a mistake because I didn’t know how he would react or how I should deal with him in those situations.

This tough guy leadership style permeated his subordinate and peer relationships, which began to create problems. He was not aware of the effects of his approach and had never really learned how to flex his leadership style for different situations or environments. Human Resources began to work with him to improve his interpersonal effectiveness.

Flip the Mirror

This is the time of year when managers sit down with employees to review their performance and set new goals for the coming year. Reviews include the achievement of hard goals and progress on areas of soft or technical skill development. Managers expect employees to take these reviews seriously, setting the direction for their focus and achievement during the year.

Leaders also need to take this annual review time seriously for themselves. Once they reach a certain level in their career, many leaders feel like they’ve learned all there is to learn and have it all figured out. Like making New Year’s resolutions each January, the annual review process is a good time to hit the reset button and take a fresh look in the mirror. Similar to my previous manager, many leaders are oblivious to the improvements they should make.

Most leaders work hard to meet their performance goals, the “what”, because they are rewarded on these goals. But, many often forget that the “how” also is a part of the leadership equation. “How” you lead is as important as, if not more important than, the performance goals you achieve today. Your “how” has a lasting impact on the people in the organization and their willingness and ability to contribute at their highest levels toward the success of the organization long-term. The ability to be an effective leader requires that you are aware of your natural tendencies, how to be flexible in the variety of situations you face, how to constructively influence others, and how to build a trusted and respected reputation that makes others want to follow.

Recharge Your ‘How’

The best way to recharge is to gain visibility into your areas of greatest opportunity. Make sure you’re open to feedback; nobody’s perfect. There’s always room for improvement. Be a lifelong learner.

  • Request 360° feedback from senior leaders, peers, subordinates and even external constituencies, such as customers or suppliers. Solicit feedback from people who will be honest, thoughtful, and detailed with examples. Promise that you will not retaliate, no matter what you hear. Make sure the process is objective and confidential.
  • Take advantage of assessments that provide objective insight into your behavioral style, motivations, leadership style, and business acumen. These assessments can pinpoint strengths and development areas, and suggest strategies to optimize them.
  • Thoughtfully assess yourself, but be honest. Reflect on “how” you accomplish your goals, your working relationships, your influence in the organization, and influence on subordinate or peer performance. Ask yourself, “What impact does my style have on my team’s ability to work well together and achieve our goals?”

As you review the feedback you receive, summarize the themes. What did you hear most frequently? What were people most passionate about? What surprised you?

Assessment is only the first step. The next step is to determine what actions you will take. Establish goals for the coming year that include “how” objectives and actions. Make a list of “stop”, “start”, and “continue” actions. An accountability partner, such as a mentor, can help you with specific development areas and give you objective feedback on your progress.

Time to recharge.

10 Tips to Grow Allies in Your Network

Kathy and Miguel work for a mid-sized manufacturing company. Kathy works in operations, while Miguel is in Finance.  Both have worked for the company about five years and have worked together on various projects over the years.  They have formed a good working relationship. There have been times when Kathy needed a custom report run to get data for budgeting or project analysis and has reached out to Miguel for a quick turnaround. Miguel needed to know about the background and personalities of some of the leaders he would be presenting to. Kathy was able to share her insights and experiences so that Miguel could be better prepared for the meeting.

 

No one succeeds in their career on their own. Not only do you need mentors and sponsors to help pull you up in your career. You also need allies to support you along the way.

 

Allies can be peers, subordinates or may be senior to you. They may be inside your company, part of a professional association outside of the company, or even someone you worked with in the past.

 

Like Kathy and Miguel, you’ll find yourself in need of someone in another part of the company to help with a project. You may need a favor in a pinch, or need another perspective on the political landscape of a situation you’re dealing with.  To help you in these situations, you’ll need allies with whom you have informal working relationships. Allies are willing to pitch in when you need them. You won’t be successful without them.

 

The concept of an ally is to help each other. Like other relationships in your network, your ally relationships are two-way. Allies are earned. You earn an ally by being an ally first.

 

How do you identify potential allies and earn their friendship?  These ten tips will help you build your network of allies.

  1. Identify other professionals with whom you’ve worked and seem to have good camaraderie.
  2. Make professional and personal connections to get to know others in your network better.  Be genuine.
  3. Be proactive in reaching out to offer help with something, even before someone asks you.
  4. Don ‘t expect anything in return. Allies don’t owe each other. Opportunities will naturally arise to help each other.
  5. Be gracious when an ally asks for your help.  However, don’t feel obligated to their request. Be honest about what you are able to do.
  6. Demonstrate integrity. Be honest, trustworthy, and follow through on what you say you will do.
  7. Hold discussions you’ve had in confidence. No gossiping about anyone to anyone anytime.
  8. Communicate for clarity of understanding of each other.  Stay in touch during times when you don’t need anything.
  9. Be considerate in what you ask. Don’t put an ally in an awkward or sensitive position.
  10. Be grateful. Thank allies for their partnership and even the little things they do for you.

 

Who would you consider your allies to be? Have you been as intentional about these relationships as you should?

 

Allies are among the most important relationships in your career. Treat them as such.

Your career success, and your personal experience and satisfaction at work every day will be richer as a result.

To find out more about allies and how to identify them download this excerpt from Chapter 7 of my FuelForward® book.  Download here and accelerate your career moves up the corporate hierarchy.