With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility, and great responsibility calls for regular reflection upon who you are as a leader and how you are growing.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that we are heading in the right direction regarding empowering our people, making progress towards our vision, and creating a sustainable legacy over the long term.

Asking meaningful questions that bring you discomfort and get to the heart of what it means to be a leader can show you how well you measure up and highlight areas where your attention is needed.

Is the ‘Why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?

Change is inevitable. Processes, plans, priorities, and even those on your team will change or evolve. Your Why/Purpose is what drives you to emotionally do what you do. It’s the rock upon which everything is built, and it drives every decision you make in the organization, which is why it’s important to consistently reflect on it.

Start by asking, “Is the ‘why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?” If your ‘why’ has shifted, then you may have strayed from your values or mission. If that’s the case, ask yourself what strategies you can create to ensure a successful re-alignment, so your purpose continues to drive your organization. If you want to inspire people to get behind your purpose and vision, they need to believe in what you believe in.

How am I developing as a leader?

There are no perfect leaders, so if you think you have it all figured out and that you’re at the pinnacle level of leadership, then it’s time to reflect on how you’re developing. Leaders who remain agile and curious and who value continuous development are best able to adapt to the most significant and most unexpected challenges.

Reflect on how you’re developing. If your list is limited, contemplate how you can seek opportunities to grow and develop your skills as a leader in your organization.

Am I as accessible as I can be?

Take a moment to reflect on this question.

Did you think of physical availability? For example, perhaps, you considered yourself accessible because you have an “open-door policy” or a “virtual communication policy” if you’re remote. If so, it’s essential to differentiate physical availability and accessibility.

Accessibility goes beyond physical availability because it’s everything that happens the moment someone walks in your door and your accountability that follows. Now reflect on this question again and ask yourself:

  • Have I created an environment that encourages people to come to me in need?
  • Am I providing enough support?
  • Do I demonstrate genuine appreciation and gratitude for my team members?
  • Am I actively listening to others’ input? 
  • Do I consistently follow up with people?

For example, if you’re going to encourage your team to share their input and ideas because you one time read in an article that you should, ask yourself if you’re genuine. Especially in the case of leadership, actions speak louder than your words.

Have I been seeking enough feedback?

There are copious amounts of people who don’t seek feedback because it could bruise the ego or harm our self-confidence, but as the saying goes – no pain, no gain. One of the most courageous acts you can perform is to seek honest and constructive feedback on your performance as a leader. You can do this during team performance reviews or one-to-one employee check-ins.

Actively seek out suggestions on how you can improve and support your team. It’s critical to follow through and integrate feedback for it to make a meaningful impact. Take this feedback, reflect on it some more, and embrace how you can grow as a leader.

Self-reflection makes the best leaders

Just as leaders expect certain standards from their people, their position as a leader holds them to greater standards.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that you’re holding yourself to this standard and that you’re heading in the right direction.

Regardless of whether you’re in a leadership position or not, these questions can help you bolster your strengths and make any necessary improvements that will enhance your ability to be of greater service and benefit to yourself as well as others.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by delcreations

Three Steps to Honing Your Message

Developing powerful messaging can be one of the toughest challenges businesses face in marketing and branding. You do so much, and you know it all, but how do you convey your organization’s value to your audience? How do you tell them the 1,000 reasons to work with you in under 50 words?

Many businesses focus on the wrong things to try and connect with their audience, leaving them no closer to their goal and with a whole lot of wasted time and effort on their hands. Gone are the days of people caring how old your business is; gone are the days of long stuffy bios and dense, technical language.

Effective messaging doesn’t have to be a mystery. It simply takes the right approach to get to the message you’re looking for.

Where to start

When hiring someone outside your organization to help with marketing, a common tactic is to research your top three competitors and base your messaging on what they learned. They’re hoping to find out what you’re up against, what is successful for others in your industry niche, and where the bar is set.

But this strategy is deeply flawed. It starts on the premise that your competitors know what they’re doing, which very often they don’t. (They probably looked at competitors’ websites, too!)

The second problem with this approach is that it only reflects what has already been done and will only work to ensure your messaging becomes a copycat of theirs, undermining your unique perspective and value. Essentially, it puts another company’s words in your mouth—and your competitor’s at that!

So, instead of looking back at the lagging indicator created by what other organizations have done in the past, start by looking to the future. Your future. Ask yourself where your organization is now and envision where you want to go. Your message should reflect where you are now and project the future with you and your client in it.

Define your audience

Before you write anything, start by defining your audience. Identify who your ideal customer is and what brings them to you. What are their worries, challenges, and pain points, and why are you the organization to help them overcome those things?

Once you’ve identified the face of your audience and you’ve identified their challenges, envision their future. Envision how their future will be improved through what you can offer them. Create a message that allows them to see a better version of their future selves. Work to reflect their pain points back to them in the form of their aspirations, enabled by you.

Simplify

One of the quickest ways to lose someone’s attention is to overload them with information. Read through your message from the perspective of your ideal customer. Are you providing them with information they don’t need at the moment? Are you getting wordy about your excellent organization and all the fantastic things you do?

While it may make you feel good, it only makes it harder for your ideal customer to get what they need. People are busy. They have a lot to do and little time to do it, and they want the easiest, most transparent, most obvious solution. They shouldn’t have to expend effort to understand what you do or know the obvious next step. If they do, they’ll leave and probably never come back.

Your message should only give people precisely what they need at that moment. No more, no less.

Keep working at it

As your business develops and grows, so should your messaging. Consider it a living, breathing part of your organization that needs to be fed and allowed to evolve.

Don’t hold your messaging hostage to old, stuffy language just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Keep coming back to it, evaluating its effectiveness, and giving it room to change. It takes serious effort, but with every inch of messaging effort you put in, your customers receive a mile in value.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by gstockstudio

Are You an Imperfect Leader?

Today’s employers are expected to be perfect and do everything right—from seeking innovative solutions to complex problems to having the charismatic presence necessary to rally a team around a shared vision of the future. But if leaders were perfect, then why is there a need for followers?

 

You cannot be all things to all people, especially in a world that’s constantly changing. Leadership is not about command and control anymore; it’s about collaboration and cultivating the actions of those in your organization. It’s time to take the rose-tinted glasses off and recognize your weaknesses as an opportunity for personal and organizational development.

 

So, what can you do? Embrace imperfection by identifying your leadership capabilities and building a team that complements one another’s strengths and offsets another’s weaknesses.

 

Embrace imperfection

 

Rapidly changing economic, social, environmental, technological, and political forces make life difficult for employers as new decisions need to be made and executed. Still, no single person can stay on top of everything. If you try to be this perfect leader, you’ll instead be an exhausted one while damaging the organization in the process. The imperfect leader knows when to let go and delegate. They know their capabilities and have good judgment about working with others to build on their strengths and offset their limitations.

 

Identify your leadership capabilities

 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses by reflecting on the four leadership capabilities – sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing. Rarely, if ever, will someone be equally skilled in each capability because they span the intellectual and interpersonal, the rationale and intuitive, and the conceptual and creative capacities required in today’s business environment.

 

Sensemaking involves understanding and mapping the context in which a company and its people operate. A leader skilled in this area can quickly identify the complexities of a given situation and explain them to others.

 

Relating is the ability to build trusting relationships with others through inquiring (listening with intention and holding back judgment), acquiring (explaining how one reached their interpretations and conclusion without aggression or defensiveness), and connecting (establishing a network of allies who can help a leader accomplish goals).

 

Visioning is creating a compelling image of the future. It is a collaborative process that articulates what organizational members want to create together. Those strong in visioning will realize if other people aren’t buying into the vision. But they are persistent. They engage in dialogue about the reality they desire, inspire and motivate others, and use stories and metaphors to paint a vivid picture of what the vision will accomplish.

 

Inventing involves developing new ways to bring that vision to life. The most compelling ideas can lose their momentum if there is no inventing; however, inventors are creative executioners. They conceive, design, and use creativity to help people figure out new ways of working together on the shared vision.

 

Finding a leader who encapsulates each capability equally is rare, but these capabilities are interdependent. Therefore, it is critical to find others who can offset your weaknesses and complement your strengths.

 

Build a complementary environment

 

After identifying your unique leadership capabilities, search for others who can fill in the gaps and build a complementary environment. For example, if you’re a solid visionary but cannot turn your ideas into reality, find someone strong in inventing. Remember, if you get people that mirror yourself, you’ll experience Groupthink and a “bubble,” which is why it is crucial to foster a team with diverse capabilities, experience, values, and attitudes.

 

Embracing imperfection as a leader is not about strengthening your weaknesses; it’s about cultivating a diverse, collaborative, and complimentary organization. Have the confidence and humility to recognize unique talents and perspectives throughout the organization and help others flourish as they build on these strengths. 

 

It’s time to celebrate the imperfect, that is, the human—leader.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Worachai Yosthamrong 

Formidable Traits to Cultivate for Remote Teams

Learning new things is always a challenge. And they’re even more challenging when everyone has to learn them all at once. Imagine working for a company where everyone was hired within a week. No one would have any support or experience. It would be chaos!

That’s the way most companies felt when they made the switch to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone was scrambling, very few were prepared, and there were many mistakes, followed by halted projects, increased frustration, and uncertainty.

As with many things, it helps to model yourself after those who have been successful in doing what you’re attempting to do. And while you may have worked out the major kinks in the first year of working remotely, it pays off to delve deeper and take a look at the foundation of how you’re running your remote team. Especially if you’re planning on keeping remote positions available long-term as 76% of employees say they want to keep their flexible working arrangements after the pandemic.

To generate a powerful remote team that drives results, focus on cultivating these four traits.

1. Independence and empowerment

For remote employees to be their most effective, they need to have a fair amount of freedom to take the lead on their work. Allowing team members the leeway they need to find the answers to their questions, create direction for themselves, and take the initiative whenever they can helps them in more ways than one. Having the ability to take the initiative will:

  • Encourage employees to take more ownership over their tasks
  • Motivate employees to become self-sufficient, creating room for professional development
  • Urge team members to reach out to one another (instead of the boss) for direction and help, increasing collaboration and team involvement
  • Create a more efficient team that only brings challenges to the boss once they’ve run out of ideas and solutions, freeing up time for the team leader to focus on their work

2. Value space for casual connection

Like any on-site team, your remote workers need time to relax in a social environment with each other. Hosting a virtual happy hour, end-of-week check-in meeting, or virtual games can help your team feel more connected and engaged with one another.

People who say they struggle with working remotely often point to feeling isolated and disconnected. Successful remote teams take this seriously and make efforts to create time for employees to connect. Even if you don’t have a weekly happy hour on your calendar, consider encouraging your team to take a minute or two to chat about non-work-related things before a meeting begins, just like you would do in person. This practice creates a critical moment of social connection and mental break from an otherwise quiet and focused day.

3. Developed and powerful values

One of the most effective ways to help your team stay aligned and engaged with your company is to develop your team around a set of core values that your company holds. Integrating your company values into your onboarding process, your communication, your goals, and your employee (and customer) experience is a wonderful way of creating a mental foundation for your employees to work off of.

When your employees are familiar with your company’s core values, they can make informed decisions about approaching challenges, meeting their own goals, and setting expectations around how they should be working on their team. Strong core values create a roadmap for employees to follow that provides clarity and a sense of understanding around their function within your organization. This is particularly important for remote employees who need a strong connection with your company to feel connected in their roles while working from home.

4. Respect and clear boundaries for employees’ time

While working from home can lead to increased productivity and engagement, it can also mean that employees struggle with creating boundaries between work and their personal lives. Without the physical distance between home and office, there is a literal lack of separation between work and life that remote workers experience daily. Employees who can’t step away from their work while at home may start to burn out.

Set very clear boundaries around when employees should be available. Encourage your team leaders not to answer or send emails after 5:00 pm and to discourage their team members from doing so. Make a healthy work-life balance part of your core values and set the expectation that your employees don’t work on their days off or in their free time. Boundaries will help employees feel more comfortable stepping away from their work and allow them to take the time they need to lead a healthy life.

Stay open to feedback

As you continue down the road of remote work, check in frequently with your team to find out what is, and isn’t, working. Keep a running list of the challenges your employees come across and check back with them about their progress. Keep tabs on what other companies are doing and look for new solutions and ideas to keep your team fresh, engaged, and happy. Like anything, it takes practice, patience, and perseverance. Keep working at it, keep talking to your team, and keep trying new things. Eventually, you’ll find your swing.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Vadym Pastukh

Fast Doesn't Mean Better

Getting stuff done is great, right? Checking those little boxes feels productive and validating. You’re happy because you’re cooking through your To-Do list, and your boss will be really happy because surprise! You’re done already!

Except that you could be making more work for everybody on the team.

Don’t believe the myth

Many of us have been trained to think that it’s the volume and pace of our work that matters most. But in the frantic frenzy to finish first, we can miss many things along the way.

There once was an intern who was super competitive and fixated on completing her work as quickly as possible. Popping her head into someone’s office to say, “I’m done! Got anything else for me?” was her favorite thing to do. Impressing people with her speed and productivity was how she demonstrated her value.

The thing is, she was so busy flying through her task list that she was skimping on processes and details. More often than not, the jobs she considered done needed to be fixed or redone. But because she would also speed through those processes, she was often asked to fix things multiple times.

At this point, staff members would get frustrated and take their tasks back. Over time, it became apparent this was more efficient than continuing to:

  • Explain the assignments over and over
  • Issue warnings about the consequences of mistakes
  • Coach her on how to slow down and work more deliberately

Eventually, most people stopped giving her anything of substance because it was easier and less risky to just do those things themselves. Her focus on speed and multitasking kept her from gaining more advanced skills and experience.

Quality results take time

Our society places a huge value on working quickly, doing multiple things at once, and being constantly accessible. But all of these things can cause your work to suffer.

If your team operates at a frenetic pace all the time, you could be holding your business back. People will become frustrated, mistakes will increase, and accidents will be more likely to happen. More importantly, goals that could be achieved through thoughtful intention, detailed planning, and diligent follow-through will remain unmet. And that’s no good for anybody.

So how do we retrain our brains (and our teams!) to work more carefully, thoughtfully, and efficiently?

One thing at a time

While it’s somewhat popular to boast of being a great multitasker, it’s not as great as one might think. There are lots of articles and studies about the myth of multitasking:

  • Research has shown that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than focusing on one task at a time — more for complex tasks.
  • One study revealed that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were actually worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details.
  • Still not convinced? Try this little exercise.

Get in the habit of focusing on a single task. Schedule time on your calendar or even set a timer if you need to. Commit to working on one thing in that time period and one thing only.

Don’t start before you’re ready

Is your mind starting to work on an assignment even before the person explaining it to you is finished? This is your first mistake. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Make sure you fully understand the project, the process, and the purpose.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during the process. Clarity is your friend. Taking five minutes to discuss details as you go can save you tons of time in the long run. Many speedy employees have had to go back and rework things they thought were “finished” because they either jumped in too fast or didn’t slow down long enough to get the facts.

Prioritize

Yes, you have a million things to do. So does everybody else. But working in a scattershot manner won’t help you get the right things done at the right time. For that, you need a plan.

Work with your team to determine which items are the most important and the most time-sensitive. Rank your daily or weekly tasks so that you know which ones to funnel your time, efforts, and energy into. Choose one thing that you will get done, no matter what. If you find yourself getting sidetracked or distracted, refocus on your priority item of the moment.

Reduce distractions

Even with the best intentions, we all get distracted. But some of us are better than others at letting those distractions in— or keeping them out. Are you constantly checking your phone, texts, and email? If so, you’re using up valuable time and brain space switching back and forth between your inputs and outputs.

Questions, phone calls, and emails take a huge toll on your focus.

  • According to one research study, it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to a task after an in-person interruption, 15 minutes for a phone call interruption, and 64 seconds after an email interruption.
  • The same study found that workers were dealing with email interruptions about every five minutes.
  • This means we are wasting one out of every six minutes per day— not counting phone calls and in-person questions!

Want to focus on a task? Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Turn off your email alerts. Hide your Slack. The world won’t end if you’re offline for 15 or 20 minutes. And you’re much more likely to make real progress.

Take your time

If you’re having brain surgery, do you want it to go quickly or well? There’s a big difference here. If you care about the quality of your work, don’t skimp out on the time it takes to do it well.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Dima Sobko