Friday, 23 January 2015

Practice improving your relationships to become a better leader

"If we want to introduce new leadership behaviors in our lives, it’s necessary to practice.” Richard Strozzi-Heckler, The Leadership Dojo

Leading others has everything to do with the relationships you form with them. And when you lead others well, your success – and that of your organization, has the best chance of occurring.
When you discover through feedback you’ve received that your relationships have room to improve, it can be discouraging. However, this feedback is simply a reminder that things can be better. It’s a good thing to know because as your relationships with your manager, your peers, your direct reports, or your customers/clients improve, so does your ability to achieve results.
What you might not know is that leadership is something that needs to be “practiced” in the same way the best basketball players, ballerinas, or virtuoso pianists do. More to the point, the relationship behaviors you need to have as a leader that are capable of connecting, growing, inspiring, and influencing others must be practiced.
You have been born with some of those relationship behaviors. Others must be learned and practiced in order to become embodied. If you are observant, you may notice that as soon as one behavioral habit becomes ingrained in your psyche, another one appears that needs to be practiced and worked on. Some examples of relationship behaviors that are commonly “practiced” by leaders who are intentional about improving their relationships include the “how to” of:
  • having “small talk” conversations
  • listening better
  • getting along with their manager
  • dealing with high performers and/or poor performers
  • forming better relationships with their peers
  • learning to coach others
Start practicing today to improve your leadership relationships by:
Getting feedback on relationship behaviors that may need some “tweaking”. Almost any leadership 360 will have questions relating to your relationships (in the form of how well you communicate, collaborate, work in teams, etc.) that when answered, can help you to understand your gaps. You can also ask for feedback or hire an executive coach to do targeted interviews of your stakeholders around your relationship strengths and gaps.
Creating a plan to close the gaps in your relationships. Create a written action or development plan and find someone to hold you accountable to your action steps. Make sure that your steps include the specifics of the behaviors you need to incorporate, for example, what will you be doing when you listen better?
Trying on new behaviors that will strengthen your relationships. Be willing to do some things that aren’t in your comfort zone. For instance, having small talk can be uncomfortable (but it is necessary to connect with others). Try the new behavior, and observe how others act differently in the workplace and toward you; adjust as needed.
Ongoing “practice” until new, more effective behaviors become “habits”. When you’re diligent in and reflective in your practice, your new behaviors can become “second nature”. This usually means they’ll feel more natural, automatic, or habitual. It may take months for this to happen (so patience is key).
Improving the relationships with your stakeholders requires dedicated practice and a dose of courage. Your improved rapport with others will be rewarded with improved leadership and a successful organization.

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