A servant leadership podcast!
Episode 32 - The Bold and The Atypical
We often hear that effective leadership requires bold decisions and behavior. However, servant leadership principles tend to illustrate a very different type of leader from what most people are accustomed to. While we don’t disagree with the premise that leaders need to be bold, we want to look at the term through a different lens in this episode.
One definition illustrates the word “bold” as showing the ability to take risks; to be confident and courageous. Here, again, we wouldn’t disagree with that interpretation. However, it’s our belief that some leaders apply a narrow perspective to risk taking and courage.
Being bold does not always imply blatant action or outrageous thinking. Sometimes being bold comes in the form of simply opting not to act how the world expects us to or pausing to reflect on our thoughts instead of constantly forcing others to agree with our thinking.
As servant leaders, we view listening as bold in a world where many leaders love to hear themselves talk or repeatedly show you how smart they are. Boldness may come in the form of slowing down at times and re-assessing when others have established a breakneck approach at a breakneck pace. And bold leadership may actually be equipping and empowering others to lead in tandem instead of always assuming a fixed position at the front of the line.
You may say, how will I stay relevant, competitive and innovative with this quieter, slower approach? Well, as they say, sometimes the answer lies in the question.
Slower doesn’t mean stop. Quieter does not imply total and lasting silence.
We love how one author referred to bold behavior. To them, they equated being bold with that of a predator’s stealth. The predator is not so loud as to startle its prey to where it might run off. It isn’t so quick that it can be seen approaching from feet or even yards away. The predator’s boldness is evident in how it acutely views its environment, slowly and steadily; and how it listens for clues which may or may not provide additional insight.
Sometimes the bold leader isn’t always the loudest person in the room or the most animated. If you pay close attention, the bold leader may just be the person who is watching and waiting for the right time to strike.
Episode 31 - Getting Around to Dealing with Conflict
Why are we still so afraid of conflict? Why do we assume the mere presence of conflict is always negative?
When it comes to addressing conflict, there is an immediate assumption that the conversation/interaction will go poorly and possibly lead to something much worse.
Years ago, we used to rate a successful marriage by how little a couple fought. It wasn’t uncommon to hear a story about a husband and wife who had been married for forty years and how they “never had a fight.” The statement may or may not have been entirely accurate, but it gave the impression that for a marriage to be effective that conflict couldn’t or shouldn’t be a part of it.
Recent research paints a different story. Today, couples who learn how to have productive conflict are more likely to stay married longer than those who don’t. Organizations and leaders should take a similar page from the playbook.
It isn’t that conflict in and of itself is bad, it’s the negative messaging and reactive behavior that drives this misguided narrative. The more that leaders express their frustration over conflict and subsequently choose to avoid it, the louder the message they send to the attentive eyes and ears of employees. In the end, any attempt to view the conflict in a different light is destroyed.
Additionally, because so many leaders tend to avoid conflict until things essentially “blow up” and force them to address it, they typically do so in a heightened emotional state. This approach to resolution can lead to accusatory or judgmental statements, as well as the need to immediately defend oneself.
Yet, when leaders portray conflict as healthy and normal, the culture begins to change. Remaining calm in the face of conflict can show employees that it is possible for a rational discussion to take place despite the circumstances. Furthermore, leaders who keep the focus on the conflict itself as opposed to assigning blame or behavior to others, are more likely keep the experience positive and not ignite emotional defensiveness.
While much of conflict resolution is essentially reactionary, we submit that there are opportunities to be proactive. One way is to set a healthy tone early and to prepare your team for inevitable conflict. Striving for a culture which is completely free of conflict simply isn’t feasible.
Another way is to establish guidelines for how the team will approach a conflict when one occurs. This could be agreeing to enter into discussion with an open or curious mind. It could be ensuring that all parties will do their best to remain calm, not become defensive, and not talk over one another. The more you discuss what you’ll do if conflict happens, the better prepared you’ll be when it does.
Conflict doesn’t have to be something that generates fear, anxiety and anger. It can be something that leads to better discussion, increased emotional intelligence, and enhanced problem solving. The process will not be absent of emotion, but it is possible to pause, process through those emotions, and engage others with positive intent and results.
Episode 30 - The Air You Can Wear
Nothing describes a late summer day in Central Pennsylvania better than the three H’s…hazy, hot and humid. But what do the three H’s have to do with leadership?
While you can’t necessarily see the humidity outside simply by looking through your office window, you most certainly feel its presence the second you venture outdoors. When we think of those of who have influenced us over time, most likely it’s not their physical appearance or blatant actions we recall. As Maya Angelou once opined “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Oftentimes when leaders think of their ability to influence others, they think of the continual need to convince others to do something or to force compliance through constant communication, action and decision making. While these things are certainly important, we submit that leaders can actually exert greater influence through helping others become more cognizant of their own behavior and how it affects others.
We argue that leaders who show genuine interest in others, exhibit good listening skills, and display active curiosity can actually be more influential compared to their overly aggressive counterparts. The goal here is to allow influence to take place over time naturally instead of forcing it onto others through the use of power and position.
Similar to business or executive coaches, leaders can use questions to provoke thought and to allow an employee to come to more impactful conclusions on their own. In fact, sometimes a person has to physically say words out loud for something to really hit home. (Did I just say that? I wasn’t even aware I felt that way.) We like to refer to these instances as lightbulb moments.
Leaders who can ignite more lightbulb moments will leave a longer lasting impact compared to those who simply and constantly force their thoughts and opinions on others. Effective leaders don’t necessarily set out to be influential. Yet, when they display and emphasize the value in others, they end up leaving a mark that may not be visible, but is certainly felt.
Episode 29 - Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation
Today’s workforce is one of the most diverse in history. Workers fall into one of five (yes five) different generations. While diversity and inclusion continue to garner a great deal of attention, organizations and leaders are struggling to address tension and conflict when it comes to many different people working together and interacting with one another.
Perception is not always reality. We like to say that our perceptions may be our reality, but are they truly reality?
One of the greatest challenges to multi-generational cohesion rests with perception. From perception of values, to work ethic, to tech savvy; many find themselves in poor relationships with co-workers because they’ve allowed their perceptions to become their reality.
Furthermore, many individuals gravitate to others in the same generation or those who simply share the same perspectives. There is comfort in aligning ourselves with those who agree with us.
While this gravitational pull to other like-minded individuals gives off the impression of cohesion, the opposite is actually true. In fact, when people can’t be around others who share their perspectives, many opt to isolate themselves or even avoid other workers outright.
In this episode, we’ll break down these and other challenges associated with leading a multi-generational team. We’ll also uncover some often-overlooked similarities that ring true across all people; regardless of generation. Finally, we’ll tell you what recent research says is the ticket to bridging the gap and bringing your multi-generational team together.
Finding the Big Impact in the Little Things
When is the last time you paused and gave thanks for the things in your life that you know to be true and good?
There is growing research on the multitude of benefits associated with gratitude. From physical benefits such as the ability to lower stress and create better sleep habits, to psychological benefits like increased satisfaction and resilience; implementing a regular practice of gratitude can have a significant impact on our lives.
Taking time each day to be grateful can actually play a role in how our brains are wired. A concept known as neuroplasticity explains how through changes in our thinking, we can actually create new connections and pathways to happiness. In essence, we can train our brains to better focus on the positive of a situation instead of immediately going to the negative.
Keep in mind that such a dramatic shift in thinking doesn’t happen overnight and requires a great deal of practice. Like any change in behavior, it starts with creating new habits. Gratitude will not necessarily change or eliminate the challenges we face in our lives, but it can be a powerful tool in how we perceive and ultimately address them.
While the impact of gratitude can be so strong that its effects have been compared to that of medication, it can also help in improving leadership effectiveness. Research has linked gratitude to higher levels of empathy, compassion, and overall likability. Leaders who show and practice gratitude are shown to build healthier, more trusting relationships.
Start making gratitude not only a regular part of your leadership, but also your life. For additional background and thoughts on this topic, click the links below.
High Expectations or High Adherence
“We have found that by reaching for what appears to be the impossible, we often actually do the impossible; and even when we don’t quite make it, we inevitably wind up doing much better than we would have done.” -Jack Welch
Oftentimes, leaders set high expectations for their organizations and their employees in order to maintain relevance and maximize potential. However, many leaders wind up expressing disappointment and frustration when those expectations aren’t met. Why do so many well-intentioned leaders have employees who consistently fall short of or fail to adhere to expectations?
In our experience, leaders need to first look at the priority they place on accountability. All too often, there is a great deal of effort placed on setting expectations and very little follow through. Once an employee sees that expectations are simply words on a piece of paper, that’s exactly how they treat them.
The desire to adhere to expectations is low because the willingness or priority that leadership places on enforcing expectations is equally low. We’ve seen a similar parallel with an organization’s core values. Typically, an employee can recite at least one or two of the organization’s values. Yet, when pressed for more insight as to how those core values are lived out within the organization, or essentially the behaviors that illustrate those values; employees struggle to respond. Conversely, when an organization places a higher priority on their values, it is immediately apparent in every aspect of their operations.
In addition to making both the setting and enforcing of expectations a priority, there are several other things a leader can do to ensure not only high expectations, but high adherence.
Ensure the expectations are clear. Leaders cannot assume employees understand an expectation. They should find ways for employees to show they understand.
Communicate early and often. Adherence cannot be accomplished with a set it and forget it approach. Making the enforcement of expectations a priority means introducing, explaining, and reiterating expectations; as often as necessary.
Gain employee consensus. Don’t misunderstand this one. This is not the employee approving or endorsing the expectation. Rather, consensus means they understand the expectation and agree to adhere to it. This is also not to say they won’t encounter challenges. When they do, leaders should discuss those challenges and develop a plan for how to overcome them. Blatant refusal or ignorance is a different issue, but one that needs to be addressed immediately as well.
We submit that the problem of low adherence to expectations isn’t necessarily with the type of expectations set, but whether or not communication, reiteration and accountability are important enough to remain at the forefront of one’s leadership.
Give it a listen, you’ll be glad you did.