March 23, 2016

How Would You Do It Differently?

A recent article, 4 Traits of Exceptional Leaders, references Gallup research showing that just 10% of people have the talent to be good leaders and 82% of the time organizations put the wrong person in a leadership job. 
Those are not good odds. If you’re working, you’re far more likely working for a bad leader than a good one.
Then there people like me who are doing our best to lead our teams day to day while our boss (or boss’s boss) happens to be on the “not so good” end of the leadership spectrum. I expect many of you have been there...
I guarantee that someday - maybe even today - a leadership “no-no” will happen which impacts you and your team. You can’t protect your team from the fall out and you shouldn’t even necessarily try. To grow and develop into leaders in their own right, your team needs to see and experience “less than good” leadership in action so they can recognize and learn from it.
Your team, like mine, will easily recognize when "not good” leadership behavior happens so it’s not likely you need to point it out. Your job, as an exceptional leader, is to help your team to constructively process their feelings about what happened, and then move forward.
It’s important to be able to quickly address a bad situation and then focus them on moving forward. HBR’s article, “You Can Deliver Bad News to Your Team Without Crushing Them” shares research showing that when people came to solutions they could implement themselves to address something negative, it increased productivity 20%.
In addition, I like to ask my team members to reflect on the situation and think of a future time, when they will be leading teams, departments, organizations or companies and ask them, “When you're leading a team someday, how would you do it differently?”
A question like this requires them to think through both the business need and the role a leader's communication plays in creating buy-in and motivating/influencing others to take a desired action. It helps them to recognize the role empathy plays in the workplace and helps them build the required awareness that (I hope) will make them exceptional leaders when that day comes.

Focus on the future and ask "how would you do it differently" -- two ways to turn a bad situation into a productive, coachable moment.