Many leaders I meet have mixed feelings when they get to the top. Initially they feel excited, energized and confident about the challenges ahead. However, within weeks or months they end up feeling isolated, lonely and anxious in their new role. These feelings are sometimes compounded by what psychologists call the “imposter syndrome” which arises when people experience self-doubt and feelings of not being up to the demands of the job.
Leaders need to acknowledge and tackle these feelings before they undermine their effectiveness, but many don’t know where to start. Here are 4 steps leaders can take to combat doubts and fears arising from a move into a more senior role.
The biggest mistake leaders make is to think they’re the only ones who feel self-doubt or that it is associated with a flawed or weak character. This causes leaders to clam up and keep it a secret, hoping it will go away. However, openly discussing these feelings with others is the first step in combatting its effects on you and winning back control over these negative emotions. Although it is typically unwise to generalize behaviours across genders, my experience suggests that men are often less likely to open up easily about feelings they associate with weakness or vulnerability as this runs contrary to the “tough guy” mental model they’ve learned during their formative years.
The most effective leaders seek out assistance from a coach, mentor, trusted colleague and/or family member they can open up and be honest with. A good development partner will listen and provide non-judgemental support and advice, enabling you to boost your inner voice of possibility and silence your voices of self-doubt and criticism. It makes sense to have several of these champions and partners as they often play different and complementary roles and can contribute different insights and skills to help you.
One of the biggest pitfalls of leaders is to try to do everything themselves and to overlook the talents and ideas of their team and broader workforce. Many leaders become highly controlling and rarely delegate genuine responsibility to others. This overstretches them and results in heightened anxiety and self-doubt, creating a vicious spiral of declining mental capacity, wellbeing and confidence.
While leaders can often get away with using an autocratic style for a while, it is a poor choice to deal with most of today’s complex challenges as these benefit from open, honest conversations and participative problem-solving involving the full range of team members’ skills, ideas and experience.
The words that you use and beliefs you hold will influence the way you view the world and how you choose to interact with it. So, the more positive your beliefs and internal narrative, the more likely it is you will interact with people and problems more positively.
To build a more positive mindset, it is crucial you leverage your strengths, values and goals, as well as deliberately seeking out and highlighting what’s working well in your company and team.
By leveraging and accentuating these positive, enabling forces, you will be able to combat and silence some of the ‘gaps’ and negative forces, providing you with a greater sense of control and confidence over your environment. However, it is important to remember that there is no quick fix. By remaining focused and patient, you will begin to see the smaller changes snowball into bigger achievements and your feelings of confidence and strength will grow.
TalentPredix offers leadership transition and onboarding coaching solutions to help newly appointed executives adjust to the new role and responsibilities quickly so they can ramp up productivity and achieve excellent results. Contact us for more at email@example.com or visit our website.
Major changes like Covid, digital transformation and the growing environmental emergency are disrupting traditional business models and creating huge impetus for transformation and innovation. To succeed, today’s organizations need to be highly adaptive and constantly innovate to keep pace with disruptive forces and changing customer preferences.
Yet too many companies still stifle the ideas and creativity of their employees. They straitjacket people with directive leadership and rigid policies, processes, and procedures, smothering the voice and imagination of their people. The results are predictable. Motivation, teamwork, and innovation nosedive, followed by declines in customer loyalty and financial results.
To succeed and compete in this new era of disruption and innovation, organizations need to learn how to harness employees’ incredible creative potential, as innovation is a distinctly human endeavour. The world’s most innovative companies systematically devise ways to promote a culture of collaboration, creativity, and innovation. Here’s how you can do the same by putting these principles at the heart of your organization’s people strategy:
Creative and imaginative thinking involves intentionally expanding our thinking to find new and useful ideas and solutions to overcome problems, accelerate innovation and enable the organization to achieve its goals. Studies show that it is one of the most important competencies for leaders and teams to possess to be effective. In future, it is likely to become even more important because of growing rates of change and disruptive innovation. Just like emotional intelligence, it is also extremely difficult for AI and intelligent machines to perform creative problem-solving as effectively as humans.
But creative thinking is not natural for most employees, as it is not taught at school or even by most universities. Organizations seeking higher rates of innovation should therefore invest in training their staff in creative and collaborative thinking methods, ensuring people have the skills, tools, and techniques to unlock the power of cognitive diversity and people’s collective ideas. Through developing creative thinking skills like learner mindset, powerful questioning, reframing, divergent thinking and cognitive diversity, organizations will promote a culture that encourages curiosity, experimentation, and innovation.
At innovative companies like Google, LVMH, Apple, Unilever and Salesforce, employees are encouraged to express their individuality and apply their unique strengths, imagination, and know-how to achieve their own goals and those of the wider business. Employees in these companies are not expected to be well-rounded. They are empowered to optimize their strengths and work with diverse team members that complement them. By building highly inclusive and cognitively diverse teams, these companies unlock ideas, creative problem-solving and improved rates of innovation. They also become ‘talent magnets’ for the most talented people who seek organizations that provide opportunities for them to shape decisions and the future of the business.
Innovative organizations create opportunities for people from different parts of the business to connect and work together in mixed teams that span diverse functions and business areas. A growing number of innovative and dynamic businesses are organized into natural teams that assemble to deliver specific projects or products then disband once the project outcome or product is delivered. This way of organizing work is a natural evolution of the popular matrix structures found in many innovative organizations.
However, the big difference is that functional lines of reporting are looser or even non-existent. Work is organised by team leaders and highly empowered teams and people are assigned to teams based on their experience, performance track record, and strengths. Innovative organizations also promote informal and frequent connections among employees by enabling people to socialise and have fun together, both in physical and online environments. Enabling employees to spend such time together builds trust, improves collaboration, and accelerates knowledge flows. This provides more opportunities for employees to discuss and refine ideas, as well as a chance to share insights, and better practices.
Many organizations are now promoting psychological safety as a fundamental pillar or their people strategy. This is crucial as people need to feel they are in a safe and supportive environment that appreciates them and values their input and contribution.
However, there is another compelling business reason to pursue a culture where psychological safety becomes the norm. To succeed in today’s ever-changing environment, organizations are going to need to accelerate creative thinking and innovation. The only way to do this is to ensure everyone feels they can openly and honestly voice their ideas and opinions, no matter how controversial or challenging these are.
Employers often unintentionally cultivate risk averse and conservative cultures through centralising decision-making and stifling the creativity of people at lower levels in the organization. They create a fear culture by discouraging risk-taking, initiative, and direct challenge of top management. In innovative organizations like Gore, Meta and 3M, employees are actively encouraged to engage in creative problem-solving, hackathons and experiments to improve products, processes, and practices. Leaders in these companies recognise that tolerating mistakes is required to accelerate progress and achieve breakthrough innovation. They encourage and reward employees for coming up with great ideas to improve the business and its products, creating greater value for customers and other stakeholders. They also empower people to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone and embrace curiosity, agility, and continuous learning.
Today’s organizations need to be able to adapt quickly and innovate in the face of fast-changing conditions. Leaders and teams who can anticipate, innovate, and adapt faster will enable the business to gain a clear competitive advantage over rivals. They will also be able to attract and retain the best talent, as the most talented people look for employers that value and leverage their ideas and full potential. By implementing these five principles organizations can accelerate creative thinking and unlock the extraordinary creative potential of their people.
Disengaged employees can be detrimental to productivity, employee engagement and overall output. Our previous blog covered signs managers should look out for in employees to help nip this problem in the bud.
Spot and prevent low motivation and engagement
Of course, the best way to ward off quiet quitting is for managers to check in on the motivation of their people on a regular basis. There are different ways of doing this, including careful observation of behaviour, emotions and energy shifts, engagement surveys and asking questions that uncover people’s motivation during regular check-ins and quarterly performance review meetings. Some of the questions managers can consider asking are as follows:
Once managers identify a disengaged employees they can explore the root cause of their low engagement in a one-on-one conversation.
Amplify strengths, successes and progress
Managers, like most of us, are conditioned to focus more on the negatives we see rather than the positives. This is what psychologists call the “negativity bias”. It is therefore important for managers to consciously learn to spot and magnify strengths, successes and progress, even small wins and shifts in effort.
By giving positive feedback and praise, managers will promote progress, excellence, and employee engagement. When people feel they are valued and their progress and achievements are recognized regularly by their manager, they are more likely to feel motivated and exert higher levels of discretionary effort (i.e., effort over and above the required level).
Conduct retention/stay interviews
Retention interviews are a powerful tool to improve employee experience, build trust, and nip problems in the bud. RotaCloud recommends that retention interviews should be kept relatively informal, held in private, and be consistent as much as possible across different team members. Keeping consistency might be difficult, as everyone has their own sentiments and feelings, but managers can keep a set of key questions or discussion points handy and let the conversation flow from there. This can be done in both in-person and remote or hybrid workplaces. Responses should be collated and kept on record somewhere in order to refer to eventually.
It is important that managers self-reflect and be empathetic above all else. Try to picture themselves in the position of their employees and see their realities to understand where they are coming from. Reflect on how they would react if they were put in their employees’ position? Additionally, consider the employees themselves and the value they have brought to the team, and their strengths and their talents and how these can be further supported to allow them to thrive.
Act on employee feedback
Taking this into consideration, it is now time for the manager to act on the feedback given from their employees. It may be revealed that employees are frustrated with a lack of progression and/or development opportunities available to them, then the manager should explore options in upskilling and/or career development for their people. In virtual teams, managers may find that some employees feel disconnected from the broader workforce. This last one might be common among the younger workforce, who are likely dealing with proportionately more “Zoom fatigue” from the pandemic. If this is the case, the leader should find more creative ways to foster connectivity or, if possible, try to organize in-person events to enable the employees to connect with each other more.
Lastly, it should be ensured that this feedback loop is not a one-off occurrence. A communication line has been opened, and it should be kept this way. The manager should devise a plan to regularly collect feedback, comments, and suggestions from their team, and be flexible enough and willing to find ways to act on suggestions being made. Data can be collected either through formal measures like sending out employee engagement surveys or more informal measures such as sitting down and having a conversation or booking regular one-on-one meetings. Gallup finds that the best practice is for managers to have meaningful 15–30-minute conversations once a week with each employee.
By actively listening to the needs and wants of their people, managers foster a work environment that is inclusive and supportive, which can help their team members feel valued, motivate them to perform at their best and thus address the issue of employee disengagement.
TalentPredix has the strengths-based tools, resources, and skills to engage employees to help you build a thriving place to work so your people can reach their full potential. Contact us today to learn more.
The attraction and retention of top senior talent have never been more important than in our current culture. Speaking at a Harvard Business Review Event, Michael D Watkins, said “Today we are in a world of transition – there is so much change going on… well-structured and delivered transition support halves the time required for leaders to become fully effective in their new roles.” This transient zeitgeist has only been reinforced by the Covid-19 global pandemic which gave many the opportunity to pause and re-assess the trajectory of their lives and careers, leading to ‘The Great Resignation’ peaking in the summer of 2021. With many people quitting their job – statistics from 2022 show that of a global sample surveyed, 40% of workers were considering leaving their jobs…[Download full version to read more]
Improve the effectiveness of your team leadership with this high-impact 12-week challenge. The challenge is designed specifically for team leaders and managers to deliver better results, motivation and teamwork.
Is it important to you to attract, retain and develop the talent in your organization? Are you spending this time and energy efficiently? This checklist will help you find out where the gaps may be for your organization in terms of talent management.
How does the checklist work?
Answer yes or no to all 24 questions divided over 2 different sections. Once you’ve checked all the boxes you can check your score by counting all “yeses” per category.
If you have a few too many “noes” you might want to pay some extra attention to our recommendations.
In today’s hyper-competitive, complex, and fast-changing environment, leaders can’t be superheroes or all-rounders. Rather, they need to be people energizers, unlocking and multiplying the strengths, energy, and ideas of others through supportive, empowering, and inspiring leadership.
Based on decades of experience with leaders and research into helping leaders build more energized and peak-performing organizations, I have outlined below 6 steps leaders can take to become better people energizers and multipliers:
1. Unlock the strengths, motivations, and skills of your people
Great leaders know how to identify and unlock the natural strengths, motivations, and skills of their people. They encourage employees to discover and optimize their strengths by doing more of the work they are most passionate about. This doesn’t mean ignoring weaker areas that are less energizing. As well as highlighting and building on people’s strengths, leaders need to provide feedback to employees about behaviours that are limiting performance and help them identify strengths-based development strategies, hacks and workarounds to tackle weaker areas, so performance doesn’t suffer. However, leaders who are workplace energizers don’t expect people to be well-rounded. Rather, they challenge them to excel in areas of strength and encourage them to work with colleagues in areas where they are weaker, giving rise to strong teamwork and support networks.
2. Align people’s energy with the purpose of the organization
Organizations with a clear, compelling, and well-communicated purpose that is inspiring and exciting will find it easier to attract, hire and retain people. The organization’s purpose should describe the company’s reason for being and the value the business promises to deliver to customers and other stakeholders. A purpose is not a financial or numerical goal, it clarifies how the company strives to positively impact those it serves.
Below are some examples of compelling and ambitious purpose statements:
|“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”|
|Intel||“To revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.”|
|SpaceX||“To create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on earth”|
|Coca-Cola||“Refresh the world. Make a difference.”|
By clarifying and regularly reinforcing their purpose and communicating how people’s roles contribute to this, leaders are more likely to ignite the energy and motivation of people who believe in what the organization is aspiring to achieve.
3. Become a genius maker
Leadership adviser and researcher, Liz Wiseman, pointed out in her bestselling book Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter, that the best leaders are “genius makers” who invest in coaching, delegating, supporting, and inspiring people so they can bring the best of themselves to their role. They take time to recognize both progress and achievements, personalizing this to motivate people and reinforce cycles of success. They are generous in giving credit to others for successes but quick to absorb any backlash or blame when mistakes or setbacks occur.
4. Remove energy blockers and demotivators
A crucial role of any leader is to identify and remove bottlenecks and blockers to effective performance and motivation. Some of these barriers are internal and arise from psychological barriers like poor self-confidence or imposter syndrome (i.e., where people doubt their competence and past successes and live in fear of being exposed as a fraud). Author and performance coach, Tim Gallway, explains the origins of these limiting assumptions and beliefs using the metaphor of an “inner game” playing out in people’s minds. He maintains that for people to perform effectively, they need to learn to silence their inner critic and channel it productively into non-judgemental awareness and learning. By offering support, coaching and encouragement, leaders can help people reduce these stubborn sources of interference and empower them to achieve more than they ever thought was possible.
The second group of blockers are work environment factors and include things like lack of flexibility, excessive working hours, unclear roles and responsibilities, autocratic top management, inadequate budget, and resources to do the job to a high standard, and low wages. Leaders need to work with top management, HR, and their peers to expose and find solutions to these blockers and put plans in place to minimize them insofar as possible.
5. Amplify connections and shared learning
Effective leaders embrace the power of social networks within and outside the organization to amplify collaboration, learning and positive energy. They encourage and facilitate in-person and virtual networking, sharing of learning, and collaboration throughout the organization, not just within their team or business area. They also promote regular and candid dialogue and feedback mechanisms with customers, suppliers, and other key stakeholders. This paves the way for creative problem-solving, innovation and solutions-based thinking, leading to better business results and sustainable growth.
6. Regulate energy
Too many leaders today are pushing their people to breaking point. This is exacerbated by the “always-on” work culture which is increasingly commonplace throughout the economy. Stress-related physical and psychological illnesses, including languishing, burnout and other work-related mental health problems are on the rise.
Effective leaders understand the need to regulate energy and provide people with opportunities to rest, recover and reflect. They encourage people to establish clear boundaries between their work and home life, disconnect and take their full holiday entitlement to relax and recover. They organize work to ensure people are not working at full pace continuously and prioritize opportunities to reflect, plan and review work using social forums such as virtual or in-person team builds, volunteering projects, engaging social events, and “lunch and learns”.
Just like a winning Olympic sports team, high-performing workplaces are dependent on the optimization of people’s energy, potential, and ideas. For leaders to be performance multipliers, they need to be workplace energizers. This involves identifying and developing people’s strengths, skills and potential, ensuring alignment with the company’s purpose, maximizing energy through effective removal of energy sappers and continuously regulating energy to maintain well-being and focus. In an increasingly competitive and fast-changing environment, energizing leadership is crucial to the sustained growth and success of any organization.
The value of inquiry, or powerful questioning, is well established and becoming even more relevant in today’s hyper-competitive, fast-changing, and unpredictable business environment.
The advantages are numerous and include:
However, studies show that leaders still use far more advocacy (i.e., putting forward arguments and imposing their own views), rather than engaging in questioning. This is frequently reinforced by the culture of the organization which encourages top-down ‘tell’ approaches to getting things done rather than listening, exploration and questioning. Leaders commonly fall into the “trap or illusion of expertise”. This happens when they feel they possess superior expertise and should have all the answers by virtue of their position and/or experience.
In his book “Humble Inquiry”, leading business author and psychologist, Edgar Schein, defines inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” This definition underscores the importance of being curious and asking open-ended questions to help improve the quality of problem-solving, overcome challenges and unlock a growth mindset.
In my coaching and leadership development work over several decades, I have observed many leaders make huge strides in the way they lead and influence others through focusing more time and effort on questioning rather than advocacy in regular 1-1 check-ins with employees, team and project meetings, coaching conversations, negotiations, customer interactions and other common interpersonal situations.
Asking powerful questions is natural to all of us, it’s something young children discover early on to facilitate learning and growth. However, adults (including leaders) often neglect this skill when they move beyond childhood. The good news is that it can be re-learned if practiced consciously and regularly.
To master the art of powerful questioning, you first need to build up your arsenal of powerful questions. In doing so, the following principles are important to keep in mind:
To help improve your questioning skill and behaviours, we have listed below examples of powerful questions you can ask in different situations.
Planning a new strategy
Onboarding a new hire
Developing your leadership effectiveness
The art of powerful questioning is at the heart of effective leadership. It enables leaders to unlock the ideas, perspectives, and talents of those they are seeking to lead. It also helps leaders build strong relationships of trust, candour, and openness. So, if you want to be a great rather than a mediocre leader, start asking more powerful questions today.
Challenge yourself to improve your questioning skills and behaviours in a week with our 7-Day Powerful Questioning Challenge. You can access it here.