I recently had an opportunity to host a leadership development session with an impressive leadership team in Chicago. When they gathered together for our custom workshop, it was the first time they had all been in the same room in two years due to Covid-19 and what transpired in the time that had past gave significant importance on the development of the leader as learner.
David, the CEO, worked with me to create a customized goal and topic for this leadership development workshop. He asked me to introduce strategies and tools to help his team be more open to new ideas, to “rethink” the way things had been done before, and to be curious problem solvers, decision-makers, and leaders. Based on these goals for the team, I curated an extremely relevant topic for leaders today – “Are You Learning as Fast as the World is Changing?”
To prepare for our session, I asked the team to read Think Again by Adam Grant. This helped them feel equipped to dig deeply into the concept of rethinking.
The key point of our session was this: In a world that never stops changing, leaders can never stop learning.
I helped the leadership team embrace their role as continuous, curious learners by questioning common responses to their current actions and situations. We interrogated the validity of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” to see that just because something has been done a certain way does not mean it can’t be done differently.
Change-capable leaders must grow and evolve with the world. The leader’s job is constantly learning – rethinking current policies, questioning current responses, and investigating new potential solutions.
When your talent embraces their role, leader as learner:
David, the CEO, and I also developed another important objective for this session: allowing people time to reconnect with each other.
We spent a little less time “doing” and more time “being.” This time was crucial to the team – allowing them space and energy to renew their commitment to the organization and their roles as leaders.
The face-to-face time we prioritized brought up many interesting conversations, including:
These discussions helped the leaders better understand their peers and themselves.
Our custom session – focused on seeing the leader as a learner – was a perfect mix of learning and applying new concepts AND time sharing about what work and life look and feel like in today’s environment.
Not everyone will be able to keep pace in a constantly changing and demanding world and business environment.
Really smart people are studying the “future of work” and reporting that 10% of jobs will be automated in the next year, and 50% of jobs will be automated in the next decade. Specific requirements must be met to survive and thrive in the present and near future.
Successful leaders of the future must be proficient in these 3 soft skills:
1 | Balance between doing & learning
How much time on your calendar is spent doing vs. learning? Finding the right balance between current business demands and continuous learning is hard. The fast-paced environment often distracts leaders from their best, discouraging them from being curious, innovative, active, and engaged learners.
Leaders are often head down, trying to manage customer demands, fire drills, and simply keep up. Given this reality, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of learning. But if you want to be successful long-term, it is especially important to practice continuous learning. The leaders who will thrive are consistently, intentionally learning.
2 | Intention
As leaders progress and advance in their careers, they become less comfortable learning. Not knowing something, asking questions, being curious, and reaching out to experts require them to be brave.
Not knowing the answer to a question does not make a leader unintelligent. However, not asking and not learning something new because they are afraid will cause leaders to miss on many beautiful opportunities. The access to knowledge is there, but as they get further along, they have to be even more intentional about learning.
3 | Active Listening
Active listening is a key to learning. It is essential to listen to the thoughts and perspectives of people from different backgrounds to rethink our own perspectives, biases, and judgments that keep us opening up to other perspectives and from learning. By listening more deeply – and not just responding with the first thought that comes to mind – we can respond more intentionally. This kind of mindset helps encourage a culture of learning and an environment for others to learn, share thoughts, and allow their ideas to flourish.
Are you and your employees ready to develop soft skills for the ever-changing future world?
If you’re interested in ensuring your team is growing and adapting to current and future demands, contact me to create and facilitate a custom leadership development session.
Your team will love digging into the topic “Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?” and your entire organization will benefit from this targeted, intentional development.
Women in leadership face different obstacles and challenges than their male counterparts. According to a Pew Research Center study, 43% of Americans agree that women in leadership positions are held to a higher standard than men. So those feelings you may have of needing to work harder to prove yourself or achieve better results just to be seen? They are real.
So what is a motivated, ambitious female leader to do?
We believe the workplace is better for everyone when there are more women in leadership positions. We also know that it can be a daunting task to take on heightened expectations and unfair bias on your own. So over the next few months, we’ll be posting all about how to overcome some of the major challenges you face as a female leader. We will focus on identifying the issues and giving you concrete, actionable steps to overcome each obstacle you may encounter.
Yes – it is harder to be a woman in leadership, but we can do hard things. And together, we can help improve the workplace for our colleagues and the generation of women leaders behind us. Let’s get to it!
One of the biggest struggles I faced as a leader in the corporate space, and a struggle many of my clients identify with, is being able to clearly and effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas in a male-dominated space. This is also one of the most common challenges for women in leadership.
One of the worst ways I see this struggle play out is through “bro-propriating.” Here’s what happens – You, the female leader in a group of men, share a solution to a problem. No one listens, and your idea is pushed aside, and everyone keeps talking. A few minutes later, one of the men in the group offers up the exact same solution you suggested… except this time, everyone is on board. The idea is heard and valued because it came from a male leader in the room.
If you’ve ever worked somewhere that allows (and even promotes) this kind of behavior, you’ve probably felt discouraged from sharing your ideas and possibly even internalized the subconscious bias against female voices.
When your voice is consistently diminished, devalued, or ignored, a few things can happen:
None of these are helpful or productive for you or your workplace.
I know when I personally felt unheard or devalued, I tended to react aggressively. I would talk over others, speak quickly, and make snap judgments, all in an effort to force others to listen. This is not my style. My value, knowledge, and skills were devalued by my delivery style, which led to me feeling even less appreciated and seen.
If you’ve experienced the struggle to be heard in a male-dominated group, you can probably also attest to the frustration and fear that comes with this particular challenge. You may have found yourself wondering – Do I really deserve to be here? Do I know what I’m doing? Should I just be quiet and listen?
But you don’t have to stop here. There are some simple, direct steps you can take to overcome the communication barrier and ensure your voice is heard, valued, and appreciated.
The first step in overcoming the challenge of communicating clearly and effectively as a woman in the workplace is acknowledging that this is a challenge. You need to put extra effort into this area of leadership in order to truly be heard.
Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted that this is an obstacle you want to overcome, there are some key steps to moving forward.
Stop Worrying and Start Trusting
You have to stop caring what others think. Your ideas are just as valid as the next person’s, and you need to start trusting your own voice. When you’re too wrapped up in worrying about what the group will think or if someone will judge you, you lose your power. Trust your skill. Trust your knowledge. Trust your voice.
Get Comfortable with Self-Promotion
Women traditionally find self-promotion to be a challenge. For most of us, it is much easier to celebrate and promote the people around us than it is to stand up for ourselves. The more comfortable you can get putting your ideas out there, the more people will listen. Be willing to stand up for your idea if it is questioned. Defend your position when it makes sense. Put yourself out there with confidence, even when it’s not your natural instinct.
Call Out Double Standards
The next time a male colleague cuts you off or starts to speak over you, calmly and confidently say, “Hold on. I’m not done speaking,” and resume the point you were making. If you find yourself the victim of “bro-propriating,” say something about it. You can use your sense of humor or be direct (find the style that works for you) but call it out. Remind everyone that you brought that idea to the table just a few moments ago and reassert out the value or appeal of your original suggestion. Even though you may feel angry or frustrated, you will be more effective if you can point out these inconsistencies and biases confidently, without resorting to yelling or arguing.
Communicating well in a male-dominated group is much easier and effective when you truly believe in your own voice. Start with acknowledging that most women in leadership face this same challenge – it’s not just you! – and then take the steps outlined to overcome this challenge and make a place for your voice at the table.
And if you need some support in implementing these action items or building your own belief in your value, you may consider working with a leadership expert who can help you improve your skills and sharpen your self-confidence. I offer one-on-one leadership coaching for executive and senior leaders, as well as new or high-potential leaders. I would love to help you identify your own unique leadership challenges - often the most common challenges for women in leadership - and work together to find solutions and help you show up as the leader you want to be.
"It will get done faster (and better) if I just do it myself!"
“Even when I explain in detail how to do it, it isn’t done right.”
I don’t want someone to think I’m dumping something I just don’t want to do on them!”
If you’re a woman in business leadership, you’ve likely made a statement like one of these recently.
Delegating is a skill that does not come easily to most leaders. We struggle with giving up control of the outcomes and worry others will see us “avoiding” work if we ask them to handle it.
But learning how to delegate with intention is one of the key leadership skills you need to master if you want to be a truly effective leader. Delegating with intention elevates your leadership and helps you empower and develop the people you lead. Done well, delegating might just become your new favorite task.
In practice, delegating with intention helps us combat our discomfort and unease with the practice of asking others to take on work for us. It’s important to remember that sharing the right work with the right people means that each person – you included – can focus on those things that add the most value.
When it comes to delegating with intention, you have two areas of focus:
So let’s see this at work...
You have a data set that needs to be sorted before you can use the data to make a recommendation to a committee about the next steps for a specific project. You also have a few memos to write, an employee review to complete, and some admin tasks. If you decide to do all of this work yourself, you know it will be done correctly, but it’s going to take you an entire day to work through everything.
The kind of delegating you’re used to (that feels uncomfortable) would include you calling up someone “beneath” you and tossing the work that you don’t have time for at them. No wonder that doesn’t feel great!
But you’re a woman in business leadership who leads – and delegates – with intention. So you think about the conversations you’ve been having with your team lately to see who might be a good fit for a few of the tasks you have on hand.
Samantha mentioned that she wanted to deepen her analytics skills in your last one-on-one, so you ask her if she can step in and support the team (and develop a skill she’s interested in) by sorting the data set. She’s thrilled to be trusted with a side project in her area of interest, and you’ve freed up some of your time.
You’ve noticed that Greg is an excellent writer, so you let him know you appreciate his writing skills and could use his help crafting a few key memos for the team. He completes the memos in a fraction of the time it would have taken you, and they are clearly written and easy to understand.
Because you’ve learned how to delegate with intention, you now have plenty of time to sort through the data Samantha aggregated for you and make a well-informed, insightful recommendation to the committee. You don’t have an endless to-do list dangling over your head, so you’re able to be more focused and intentional in the employee review.
Sure, the above scenario sounds great, but how do you start delegating with intention in your own role?
There are some key questions you can ask to help start putting this important leadership skill into practice. A skill important to develop for women in business leadership.
Learning how to effectively and intentionally delegate helps:
Delegating with intention is essentially a win-win.
“When you get the best from your employees, the company gets the best results."
– LEAD WITH HEART AND LEAVE A LEGACY
Asking employees to manage certain tasks will help them develop new and existing skills. They’ll also feel empowered and appreciate being needed. People want to feel valued – and delegating with intention is one of the best ways to help them contribute to the team.
When you give yourself space to focus on the things you are best at, your work will be even better. You can pour your time and energy into focused tasks, improve your own skills, and deliver excellent results.
Your organization will benefit in a number of ways when you start delegating with intention. First, everyone is involved in delivering better work – which improves the quality of the organization across the board. You’re also helping improve employee quality and satisfaction, which leads to better organization-wide results. In fact, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability (Gallup).
You see the benefits and you’re ready to sharpen your delegating skills. I’m excited to see how this benefits you and your team! And to start dividing up tasks based on urgency and importance, I highly recommend using Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle.
You can click here to download a free guide to help you get started delegating with intention and improving outcomes. You’ll be delegating like a pro in no time!
“I would like to be less productive”, said no one ever! Often, my coaching clients are faced with overwhelming demands to increase the speed of decision making & delivery and caught up in that always-on / always-connected feeling – trying to keep pace by doing more, multi-tasking, context switching. While not intended, this approach can actually cause them to be less productive in the end.
It is so important to be present and mindful about what we are adding to our plate – prioritization is critical to helping us stay focused on high-value activities (the critical few things!) that drive successful outcomes.
Even more than that, a prioritization mindset is what will help us achieve our personal and professional best! When adopted, a prioritization mindset will create the space and energy to focus on the things that really matter.
So what can you do to adopt a prioritization mindset and how do you know when you get there?
As a leader, you hold true to the vision for the organization, you set the agenda and you make the rules. You establish boundaries and hold your team accountable to certain standards of performance. But are you giving yourself permission to set boundaries that protect your own happiness at work?
Boundaries set the tone for the emotional climate of the organization and reflect the behaviors you will allow and the culture you desire. When you set boundaries, you are making space for your personal goals and your best work as your best self.
If saying no is difficult for you, you may be drowning in a sea of Yes’s. Your to-do list is long and filled with tasks that weren’t originally on your radar and aren’t in support of the goals you set for yourself.
Know what matters to YOU – ask yourself these questions… does this request align to strategy or delight a customer? Does it play to my strengths, develop a blind spot, provides an opportunity?
When you say No, you are saying Yes to those things that excite you, advance your development, move you toward your goal.
It is easier to develop a complex solution than a simple one. Simplicity is hard but when it comes into focus, it creates abundance – in energy, time, meaningful work, health. It enables you to move away from complex, chaotic choices and begin thinking about your work and life in a different way.
Be intentional in looking for the simple solution, start planning ahead, stop watching so much tv, spend less time on social media. When you embrace simplicity, you embrace possibilities and become even more focused, confident, and committed to your direction in your career and your life.
When you feel depleted, you have nothing to give. It is easy to fill your time with the needs and priorities of others and activities you “should” do. Often personal priorities, self-care, “you time”, falls to the bottom of the list. If you are kind to yourself and consider your own needs, you will be able to show up fully for those around you.
When you commit to self-care, you are able to engage and contribute graciously so everyone benefits.
If you are stressed out, overwhelmed, or overcommitted, try some of these strategies. Developing and sustaining a prioritization mindset is one of the best ways to achieve more. More time and more energy to focus on activities that will help you reach your goals and achieve your personal and professional best.
Consider a professional business coach to help you narrow your focus, energy, resource so you can dedicate more of yourself to the few things that are going to make the biggest difference in your life!