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May 15, 2011

How to Improve Your Leadership

A lot of management competencies have been developed through excellent research over the years. They provide a good solid foundation for developing management skills and improving performance. However they sometimes feel intangible or abstract so when I'm working with managers I try to ground those theories in a bit of reality. For example, I sometimes use a very simple exercise to help clarify to the managers which are the most important skills and behaviours they need in their organisations. Answer the questions as they pertain to your company, your team and your experiences:


Think about the best managers you have ever worked for and ask yourself these questions. What made them the best? Why? What did they say? What did they do? What did they not do? How did they make you feel?
Write down a list of all the things you thought of. Describe the things you saw, felt and heard. Be specific, focus on behaviours and events. Why do these things stand out in your mind?
Now think about your own management style when you are working with your employees. How many of these things are a reflection of you? What would your employees say about you? How would they answer the questions above? How do you make them feel?
Would they say the same things about you? If yes, then you're probably on the right track. If they say something different or unexpected, then these things may be opportunities to develop your skills.

There are a couple of important caveats to remember though,


Each of your employees is different. The things they value in the way they want to be treated and managed will vary. So spending time getting to know your team is equally important. The most successful managers know their people and they understand what their people will respond to best.
You can't be everything to everyone, if you have to choose one or two areas to focus on, what would those be?
Organisations have personalities, cultures and values. Think about the things that you do, that your organisation values in you. How does that translate to your team?
Key in your toolbox is your ability to flex and adapt your style as needed

By using these simple questions, you can quite quickly recognise the things that matter most to yourself, your team and your organisation. Armed with this information you can now make informed choices about the areas you might want to focus on for development. Use a mentor or a coach to soundboard and challenge your thinking and behaviours. Before you realise it, you will be on your way to being the best!