One Simple Way to Recognize Strengths in Others

Working with others is easier when you understand their strengths and motivations.

Knowing the natural strengths that team members and colleagues bring to the table will allow you to appreciate and engage them in a way that will lead to more collaborative success. But, it isn’t common practice for people to announce their strengths in a meeting or project group and even if we had time to ask, would we get an accurate answer?

Unless someone has spent time intentionally identifying his or her own strengths, motivations, and thought processes, they may not recognize them as easily as someone else could see them. Why? These characteristics come so naturally to us that we rarely think they are anything special. We often think that’s just how everyone would approach the same work.

Therefore, it is a valued colleague who can identify the strengths in others and later engage them in a way that makes them shine. But how? How can we, as leaders, see the strengths in others that they may not even see in themselves?

There is one practice that will give you clues into the strengths of others quickly and succinctly. It will just take a little bit of intentionality on your part.

If you want to discern someone’s natural strengths, pay attention to their initial reactions to questions and issues. Notice what they think about first and, specifically, the type of language they use to describe their answers.
* Note: Ideally it is best to pay attention to reactions surrounding questions/issues that don’t trigger an emotional response as that won’t be a true representation of strengths. This approach assumes a logical, non-emotional, state of mind.

Here are five general categories you may hear when listening for clues into the natural strengths of others. These will help you to identify and engage team members and colleagues according to their strengths.  Continue reading “One Simple Way to Recognize Strengths in Others”

How to Use Your Problems to Set Yourself Apart as a Leader

It’s reality. Problems will continue to come your way at work. Do you respond like a leader?

There is one commonality we all share regardless of role, industry, or career. It is the existence of seemingly continual problems.

Problems are those circumstances that make your work world less than smooth. They are the issues and challenges that put a hiccup in your day. They may create extra work or demand you shift your focus and they are everywhere. It can seem as if they pop up so often that moving forward with your well-organized plans and goals is impossible.

Problems aren’t going away. As long as humans remain imperfect, as long as complexity exists, and as long as change continues in the world around us (big or small), we will encounter problems, challenges, and issues.

We can’t change the existence and emergence of problems at work, but we can change how we respond. 

In fact, the way you respond to that continual stream of problems has the potential to set you apart. Problems provide a platform that defines effective leadership more than many other characteristics. Leaders respond to problems in a manner that is both effective and empowering.

Continue reading “How to Use Your Problems to Set Yourself Apart as a Leader”

Don’t Aim for the Top

There is good reason to live in the middle of the pack.

Being on top, at the front, ahead of the pack is best, right? Don’t we want to be first?

Maybe not. It turns out there is good reason to aim for the middle of the pack when it comes to leading well.

Leadership isn’t an individual sport. In this instance, we will learn more and accomplish more together than alone. In addition, leadership is complex and multi-faceted. There are a vast amount of writings available to us at any time and yet, one of our best resources remains what we can learn from each other.

Which is precisely why all of us should continuously aim for the middle. We all need high-quality leaders both ahead of us and behind us. This middle ground is where the best mentoring occurs. Mentoring that will help us all to learn, grow, and push forward.  Continue reading “Don’t Aim for the Top”

The Secret to Releasing Frustration’s Grip

Define these three items to ease frustration and regain your focus.

Have you ever had a week when frustration seemed to hold you captive? A time when you can’t quite make sense of the situation, figure out the “fix,” or be confident in your abilities?

Fill in the blank on what makes you frustrated to the point where you cannot concentrate on anything else. The issue just keeps replaying in your mind as you search for an answer.

These are the moments when frustration is in charge. Convincing this powerful emotion to loosen its grip can be a challenge in itself.

I have found that defining three key items can help in releasing the tension that comes with frustration. Taking the time to identify these allows me to regain focus and operate calmly. Perhaps they will help you as well. Continue reading “The Secret to Releasing Frustration’s Grip”

The Secret to Leaving Chaos Behind

Asking this specific type of question will move you outside the chaos and into the clear.

In October, I shared “Three Steps to Move from Chaos to Clarity.” The post discussed removing yourself from the stress that chaos brings. Specifically, by stopping, defining questions, and remembering the goal.

What I didn’t share is that although defining your questions will help to clarify the situation, you will be most successful if you ask a certain type of question.

Continue reading “The Secret to Leaving Chaos Behind”

What Educators Teach Us About Great Leadership

How to harness the secrets that teachers already know about leading others.

We grow up going to schools across the country and the world. For many of us the adults we first admire, outside of our own family, are those who stand in front of classrooms. From a young age, we have a chance to see these professional adults in action as teachers and leaders.

Effective teachers are also great leaders. Think about the influence teachers had in your life. Chances are there is at least one who stands out as someone who made a difference, who pushed you to go further than you thought you could and encouraged you without letting you off the hook.

We can learn a lot about leadership by studying the teachers and educators around us. If you want to increase your leadership capacity, work on improving these five skills that teachers have used for decades. Continue reading “What Educators Teach Us About Great Leadership”

How to Solve the Toughest Challenges

6 techniques to use when the best solution isn’t clear or easy.

There are situations we face in a day where the solutions come easily. We give a quick answer, send an email or stop by someone’s desk and, “Boom!” Problem solved and we are on to the next project.

But then there are those situations that torment the brain. The answer isn’t clear, multiple directions seem viable, or a path to the desired outcome just won’t emerge. These tough challenges can be overwhelming and frustrating. Where do you go next for an answer?

After all, it’s likely the solution is something that has never been done before. It requires creative thinking and newly formed options. It may even be a bit risky since multiple possibilities all make sense. How will you know which one is best?

When faced with these tough challenges, the following six techniques will help you to narrow down the solutions and move in the best direction.  Continue reading “How to Solve the Toughest Challenges”

4 Signs You Need to Exercise Leadership Restraint

These are the times when holding back is the best strategy to move forward.

Leaders who exercise appropriate restraint are often more effective and more well-respected than those who charge ahead. They know that holding back at the right times is actually the best strategy for moving forward.

As someone in a leadership role, your job is no longer about you. Instead, your days are about getting work done through others. Your focus is on sharing vision, motivating team members, helping them grow, keeping the bigger picture in mind, and empowering individuals to succeed.

This isn’t to say that leaders don’t still have the urge to jump in and push things forward themselves, but they know when this will hurt more than help. They recognize the signs that their own instincts and best intentions may need to be restrained. They take note and hold back.

Here are four signs that your best intentions may need to be restrained. Continue reading “4 Signs You Need to Exercise Leadership Restraint”

The One Focus That Can Advance Your Career

This way of thinking most often defines leaders, but it’s rare and difficult to keep up. Do you have it? 

There is a rare focus that almost always advances careers. It defines leaders and changes perspectives. There is also a gravitational-like pull away from this focus, making it difficult to maintain. Those who continually fight to keep it are the ones who move forward, help organizations solve tough problems, and easily engage the right collaborative partners.

This focus can be developed and used by anyone in the organization with intention and effort. It doesn’t require a certain title or role to get started. It can be used by those at any level, from any seat.

Continue reading “The One Focus That Can Advance Your Career”

Are YOU The Reason Progress Has Stalled?

5 signs you may be unintentionally causing problems.

We’ve all been there. That time when progress on an initiative or project has suddenly become excruciatingly slow or even halted altogether. Blockers seem to be in every corner and momentum no longer exists. But you can’t quite put your finger on why. As you rack your brain for the answer, you search through every possible reason for the slowdown and frustration. At least you think it’s every reason…

What if YOU are the reason the progress has stalled? What if, unknowingly, your actions and responses are sending an unintentional message causing momentum to cease?

Much of how we operate on a daily basis is simply automatic. It would take too much work for every move and thought to be intentional. Over time we have created habits of personal behavior that we no longer notice. The mindless nature of such habits can be helpful for productivity, but they can also get us into trouble. Because habits become instinctive, we don’t realize when they are the reason others are shutting down. We don’t hear the regular internal dialogue that is actually running the show.

Here are five signs that you (and your unconscious habits) may be contributing to the problem more than the solution.  Continue reading “Are YOU The Reason Progress Has Stalled?”