Express Your Feelings in an Intelligent Way

ALLOWING FOR A FEW changes of detail, many executives will no doubt recall a formative experience like this.

Late one Friday afternoon an email arrives from someone high up in the organisation. The tone is uncompromising, and the content comes as a complete surprise. The message states that, by Monday morning, a financial analysis and marketing plan is needed for the possible launch of a new product, which another division has been working on.

As is usual on such occasions, the email is brief, open to interpretation, and includes no useful contact numbers or additional information about the product’s key specifications or likely manufacturing costs.

All plans for the weekend are cancelled, and the next two days are spent locked in the office with a few key members of your team. Though resenting the imposition and the short notice, professionalism prevails, and somehow the job gets done. By Sunday night, the report is ready and, after a final read-through on Monday morning, you send it off to the director concerned.

Then nothing happens, until you receive a short message on Friday morning asking you to “meet in my office at 2 pm”. You turn up armed with a copy of the report and any other data you could lay your hands on, expecting a word of thanks and perhaps a few constructive comments.

Instead, what follows over the next 25 minutes is a “roasting”. Apparently, the report lacked detail, included incorrect assumptions, omitted a roll-out plan for Asia, and miscalculated the costs for product development.

The boss is just getting into the supposed mistakes in your plans for third-party distribution, when you finally decide you have heard enough. At this point, emotions take over. Either you point out, with ill-disguised disdain, how hard your team worked throughout the weekend and what it took to meet the deadline, or you sit there dumbstruck, trying to suppress your anger and telling yourself that, if there are problems, they were all caused by the imprecise instructions and ridiculous deadline set in the original email.

Most people dream of taking the first course, but inevitably end up taking the second. They bottle up all the anger, frustration, discouragement and other emotions, nod their head, and maybe even spend the next weekend “fixing” the report to meet the new requirements. After all, the boss is always right, and having to accept that is just part of the job.

These two types of response represent different ends of the “fight or flight” spectrum. The terms essentially refer to how animals respond when faced with danger, but are applicable to the behaviour of humans battling to survive in the modern workplace.

Almost every day, there will be emotionally charged situations in any organisation. Therefore, it is vital to develop the skills to deal with these, since doing so has a direct impact on perceptions of ability and actual performance.

Remember that people who can communicate effectively about their emotions tend to be seen as genuine and trustworthy. Moreover, being open about your feelings on work-related issues can reduce misunderstanding and confusion. Achieving that leads to greater mutual trust, and is the basis for better understanding and stronger co-operation.

Unfortunately, many factors still stop us from expressing how we truly feel at work. There is the culture of the organisation, fear of what others will think, and the belief that nothing will change, no matter how you feel.

Besides that, most of us have been taught to hide our emotions and suppress the actions which would naturally result. The assumption behind this, of course, is that we hide our emotions well. But that is rarely the case.

The best solution is to learn to be emotionally intelligent. That doesn’t mean wearing your heart on your sleeve, bursting into tears when you lose a client, or running around the office giving high fives when the month-end accounts balance. Rather, the key is to express your emotions to the right person, at the right time, and to the right degree.

Clearly, if you want to express your emotions at work, this does not have to be done verbally. You can use body language – for example, crossing the arms to show disagreement – a facial expression, or recognised gestures, such as tapping your finger to show impatience. The other person may not comment directly on these actions, but they will get the message.

You also need to become adept at recognising your own emotional state and moods. Remember that every encounter with a board member, colleague or customer creates an impression. Therefore, if you want to make the right impression, assess each situation for what it is and try not to let extraneous feelings intrude.

In addition, you should let the people around you express their opinions and emotions. This improves teamwork and helps create a supportive work environment. There is no need to adopt a formal approach. Often, the best occasions for this to happen are casual lunches or after-work drinks, rather than in team meetings or individual appraisals.

As a leader, you should also make sure not to push your staff to one end or other of the “fight or flight” spectrum. A competent boss knows that a Friday afternoon email demanding a lengthy report by Monday morning will stir anger, resentment and much more. Someone with emotional intelligence would see that and take another more effective and considerate approach to achieve the desired result.

 

Are You Creating the Right Impression in the Workplace?

Understanding Perceptions
How others perceive us will affect how willing they are to work with us. If they see our behaviour and actions as unprofessional, they will hold back or look elsewhere for assistance. If, however, they see someone who appears reliable, hard working and sincere, they will assume that person is also competent, knowledgeable and worth listening to.

Perceptions don’t have to be right, but they do matter. When someone is forming an impression, it is usually based on five things: voice, facial expression, body language, dress and vocabulary. Consider these key factors and then ask yourself if you are creating the right impression.

Are They Right?
We’ve all heard about how much our body language tells other people. Leaning forward means we are interested in hearing more, while the degree of eye contact reveals our sincerity or lack of it. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the “messages” you are giving. The way you move gives an impression of your sense of urgency. Gestures can show nervousness or excitement. Your vocal delivery can show authority, while your words reveal your level of knowledge and experience.

Adapting Your Behaviour
Effectively expressing yourself in the workplace is an important skill. However, it involves adapting your behaviour when communicating with different people. In general, there are four types in the world of business – analytical, driver, expressive and amiable. When dealing with an analytical person, expansive gestures, excessive energy and overt expressions of emotion may put them off. So, be sure to maintain your composure. Drivers may appreciate a little confrontation, so it may be appropriate to be more direct and talk with more authority. Expressive people like to see someone who can convey enthusiasm. Amiable types want to avoid confrontation and tend to stop communicating when they feel pushed into a corner. The key is to recognise which kind of person you are dealing with and to adapt your behaviour accordingly.

 

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Branding Your Leadership Style

THERE ARE VARYING notions about what makes a great leader, but everyone agrees there is no one-size-fits-all formula.

Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Jack Welch are all examples of successful leaders, but as individuals they could hardly be more different.

All strong leaders have their unique style – a distinctive brand of leadership. Whether you are leading a country, company, team or project, it is important to develop a leadership style of your own which people will recognise and respond to.

Your leadership style does not need to be set in stone. In fact, it can and should change over time. You need a high degree of self-awareness and understanding of your surroundings, so that you can implement strategies which maximise your effectiveness as a leader and minimise behaviour that works against you.

Over the years, styles of business leadership have been classified into various categories. Three of the most significant are known as charismatic, transactional and transformational.

Consider the key features of each leadership style of identify the one closest to yours, or the one that you respond to best.

Charismatic
The idea of a charismatic leader dates back to the early 20th century and the writings of Max Weber (1864-1920) in Economy and Society. Since then, different perspectives have been developed, but most share the common belief that a charismatic leader can connect personally with his or her followers and motivate them to action.

A charismatic leader has the ability to articulate a vision that touches an emotional chord with an audience.

Most organisations have goals but it takes a leader with charisma to transform these objectives from something that looks good on paper, or sounds interesting in the boardroom, to a dynamic message that captures the hearts and minds of the workforce.

This vision does not have to be tied to a specific time frame, but it must be attainable, desirable and, most importantly, serve to inspire others.

This leadership style involves taking people on an emotional journey. It depends on achieving strong empathy, which is usually created by listening, discussing things openly, and using examples and anecdotes to bring the business to life.

A charismatic leader with the knack of communicating in this manner will be able to connect with each individual.

Transactional
A transactional leader is focused on the task at hand and not on outlining a vision as a way of motivating others. Of course, there must still be a strong bond with the team or the followers, but in this instance it is based on a transaction – if you do this, I will make that happen. In effect, a scale exists on which good performance will be rewarded positively and anything not up to the mark will be punished.

Such transactions often need a hands-on approach because only with close involvement can the leader monitor progress, measure output and enforce rules. Initially, that might seem a counterproductive approach, but it does not have to be.

On many occasions in business, transactional leadership is needed to focus the team on the immediate task. When there is a crisis, it is up to the leader to demand action and get the results. This is best done by being in touch with events, asking detailed questions and making on-the-spot decisions.

Project leaders tend to be more transactional in their approach. They manage timelines, negotiate resources and supervise deliverables.

The style was much in evidence during the dotcom era of the early 2000s. Decisions had to be make quickly to stay ahead of competition, though this was often done with limited information.

At the time, however, the business imperative was to move fast. That was the measure of performance and the basis of rewards.

When communicating with the team, a leader with a transactional style tends to take a very logical approach. The focus is generally on the process and the desired outcome.

They still find a way to connect with their audience, but it is on a rational rather than emotional level.

Transformational
The third major style of leadership probably works best in most situations. Organisations run by leaders who have mastered the relevant techniques tend to achieve consistently higher levels of performance.

In 1993, C.D. Pielstick set out a number of reasons to explain why. Firstly, the transformational leader is able to create a shared vision – not just communicate his or her vision effectively, as the charismatic leader does. In this way, it becomes something owned by the team – not just by the leader.

Secondly, success derives from the ability to build and sustain teams that repeatedly perform to a high standard. By developing an environment in which differences, diversity and individual thinking are accepted, the leader creates a team whose output is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Finally, leaders in this category tend to walk the talk. Their actions and personality are an example for the values and behaviour of the team.

By setting high standards and matching expectations, they can inspire others to strive for continuous improvement. By showing honesty, integrity, fairness and passion, a transformational leader is also able to create an atmosphere where success is achieved even in times of adversity.

When it comes to branding your leadership style, remember there is no right or wrong. It is more a matter of establishing what works for you, remaining flexible, and recognising there are many shades of grey.

The world’s most famous leaders are often considered transformational, but if you study their lives in greater detail, you will see they have also displayed many charismatic and transactional traits along the way.

As a leader, you should be ready to adopt the style that will work best in a given situation and remind yourself that the overriding objective is to get the results that you and your stakeholders desire.

Start exploring your own leadership style today. Read widely about famous and lesser-known leaders, and observe the people around you.

The way you lead will be a reflection of your personality, the circumstances and the people in your team.

 

TIPS TO WIN

Communication
The basic objective for any business leader is to direct individuals, teams or organisations to behave and perform in a way that supports corporate goals. This is achieved by communicating with team members so that desired outcomes can be influenced through personal interaction. Take a moment to think about some of the key elements. Influencing includes inspiring, challenging and persuading, whether as a coach, manager or mentor. The process involves give and take. It needs to get a clear, preferred, essential and owned outcome. Personal interaction is vital. Without that, the leader has little chance of getting a message across effectively or achieving business objectives. It can be a direct or indirect form of interaction. Whatever form it takes, communication is the number one skill that a leader needs to develop.

Strategic Leadership
The strategic style of leadership is about looking towards the future. Executives who adopt this approach leave the routine management tasks to trusted lieutenants and concentrate on studying the big picture. Their horizon is not two or three years ahead, but perhaps ten or more years down the road. They want to get the right people on board, develop them to their fullest potential and lead them towards new growth opportunities. Leaders who do things in this manner should be flexible. More importantly, they also have to be comfortable with contemplating the unknown. They are not just planning for the future, they are actively creating it.

Clear Vision
Leadership is about delivering a message that is aspirational. A core competency for any leader is to inspire and guide the behaviour of other people. When delivering any message in this vein, a number of key elements come into play. The leader should be able to articulate a clear vision about what the organisation can achieve. The company’s purpose and the overarching reason why people should feel enthusiastic about coming to the office every day should be explained. The stated purpose for global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, for example, might be to help leading companies become even more successful. This purpose must then be broken up into short-term objectives that are actionable. If organisations have several strategies to be implemented over the next three to five years, that usually results in a realisation of the long-term vision.

 

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Contemplate the Battle

IF THERE’S ONE THING most salesmen have, it’s a plausible excuse for not getting the business. “We lost out because of their internal politics”; “They stuck with the current supplier for price reasons”.

Chances are the people giving those reasons have great selling skills. So why do they achieve only limited success and never bag the really big clients?

Perhaps they lack the tactical thinking and persistence needed to go for the major prize and are under the impression that if you don’t get a quick result you’re wasting your time.

For large-scale success, however, it’s important to recognise that selling skills alone are not enough. You also need focus. Effort and energy must be fixed on the right people, at the right time, in the right manner.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written linking military strategies to success in the world of business. Lanchester, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz – all can now be found in the business library – and the list goes on. There’s even one called Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun (although I don’t recommend it).

The overuse of military analogies is a definite risk when talking about business, but a successful sales strategy is based on three battlefield concepts: concentration of firepower; attacking the competitor/enemy at their weakest point; and timely, comprehensive and accurate intelligence.

Concentration of firepower
In the early 20th century, Frederick Lanchester developed a principle of warfare which said that fighting strength equalled the efficiency of weapons times the square number of troops. In layman’s terms it meant that, with the right firepower, a smaller force could wipe out a larger one.

At the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Admiral Horatio Nelson knew his British fleet was smaller than the combined forces of the French and Spanish. As a result, his strategy was to sail at the enemy, cutting their fleet in two, and concentrate his firepower on one half at a time.

The “square” from Lanchester’s principle meant Nelson could defeat the first half, while maintaining enough ships to take on the second with the possibility of success.

In modern business, we use more user-friendly terms – niche marketing, market segmentation, laser-beam penetration – practices which have been used with great success in virtually every industry.

When Canon wanted to dominate the copier market in Britain, it was up against incumbent market leader Xerox.

Canon’s strategy was to concentrate all sales and marketing resources first on Scotland, where Xerox had a smaller presence.

Only after achieving a 40 per cent market share there did it set its sights on London.

For a provider of professional services, that means targeting 12 (not 120) prospects. Unless you have unlimited resources, prospects simply won’t become clients. A scattergun approach will spread resources too thinly and reduce the chances of winning any new business.

Attacking the weakest point
Sun Tzu was right when he said you could be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attacked places which were undefended. When Honda wanted to expand its presence outside Japan, it started with the lower end of the motorcycle market – a segment ignored by the competition. By the time Honda had developed a distribution network, a strong image and a loyal brand following, it was also ready to take a dominant position in cars.

Even if you’re not selling motorcycles or cars, the same strategy will work. Identify areas of weakness in what your competitor offers a client and focus all your efforts on doing better in that aspect. In other words, establish a bridgehead.

For an accountancy firm, don’t start with a potential client’s major domestic requirements, talk first about its smaller international needs. For an advertising agency, show you can run a digital ad campaign before asking to handle the brand. Whatever your industry, your initial sales efforts should target the client in areas where the competition is weak.

Timely, comprehensive and accurate intelligence
In any war, the most important commodity is intelligence. With superior information, you can almost always outwit the competition. I’m not advocating industrial espionage or the use of secret listening devices in boardrooms, but there are ways to gain good intelligence. It takes time, but makes the difference between success and failure.

You should read any published information that gives you insights into a target company. This might be interviews, press statements, annual reports or brochures.

Consider offering a Trojan horse – a service you offer, but don’t charge for. This will get you into the organisation and allow access to information and decision makers who would otherwise be out of reach.

Besides that, source information from inside your own firm. Some of your colleagues may have dealt with people in the target company before.

Talk to suppliers who have already won business from the prospect and find out how they did it. Put their experience to use. If you can, find a “white knight” – a friendly insider who will talk to you informally. Even if you are not a frontline salesperson, you still need a strategy. Invest time in thinking. Develop a structured approach to acquiring clients. Focus your energy, attack the competition where it is weak, and gather intelligence.

Planning is only one part of it – what counts is winning the business. Don’t wait until your strategy is 100 per cent ready before starting to sell. That will mean missed opportunities caused by “analysis paralysis”. The key to successful selling, and to a military victory, is knowing when to plan and when to act.

 

TIPS TO WIN

Careful with that Frontal Attack
Don’t go in with all guns blazing and try to knock out the competition by offering the best product, the cheapest price and a generous line of credit. We tend to use this approach when the prize is so tempting it blinds us to more considered options. Or maybe we just want a quick success and to get on with the next deal. Regardless of the reason, a frontal attack is a sign of poor strategy. If you have identified a genuine opportunity, plan your moves carefully, and realise the client may even be unimpressed by a supplier who seems prepared to promise everything at once.

The Trojan Horse
This strategy involves offering prospective clients a service that is of value to them – at no charge. For example, an accountancy firm might offer a couple of days’ training in new financial accounting regulations. Do not think of this as giving something away for free, but as an investment of time in building a relationship. It will give you the opportunity to penetrate the prospective client’s organisation and gather intelligence which will help you plan for and win future work. The key is to make sure the client sees the value, while not feeling there is a quid pro quo.

Who, What, How
A simple but effective way to open a meeting with someone you have not met before is to realise what is going through the other person’s mind. The person probably wonders who you are, what this is all about, and how long it will take. Before you walk into a meeting have a very specific plan as to how you are going to answer these unspoken, but very real, questions.

If You Go First
When we’re up against other vendors presenting for the same business, most of us prefer to go last. We think that being last will help us demonstrate real effectiveness and increase our chances of being remembered – not to mention giving us extra time to prepare. But what if we have to go first? Accept the challenge and turn it to your advantage. Think of two or three very difficult questions that you might be asked and have answers ready. If those questions are not asked, bring them up yourself by saying, “You may be wondering about … and this is what we would do.” The client is now likely to ask your competitors what they would do under the circumstances, and they will only have a couple of seconds to think of a good answer. In effect you’re creating a time-bomb for them. Remember, everyone is playing to win.

 

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Stay On Top of the Game

EVERY BUSINESS LEADER knows just how precious time can be. As responsibilities increase and technology advances, it can often seem that there are simply never enough hours in the day. Obligations pile up to chair meetings, join conference calls and attend client functions, and all the while there is that ceaseless inbound flood of emails, texts and phone messages expecting urgent attention.

Executives, of course, soon learn that having to deal with all these demands is just a function of the modern business world. As a result, they become used to logging on to inflight wifi, addicted to their smartphones, and are experts in the art of the short-term fix. And that can turn out to be a major problem because, in the midst of all the running around and chasing to hit this month’s sales figures or next quarter’s financial targets, it is very easy to take one’s eye off the ball.

Unwary leaders repeatedly make the mistake of getting too caught up in the day-to-day aspects of the business. Instead, they should remember one of the first principles of good management is to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Being able to see the broader context is a prerequisite for career progress and the long-term viability of a company. And, while it takes time and application to develop the necessary business acumen, a number of tools are available to help.

One of the best known is the SWOT model, which provides a basic framework for analysing a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and how to maximise or counteract them as appropriate.

Another is the Boston Consulting Group Matrix. It lets firms study different business units or product lines by placing them in one of four categories: cash cow, pets, question marks or stars. Such models should be used on a regular basis. However, there is an even better way of understanding a business, and that is by taking a detailed look at its competencies – actual and supposed – and determining how they measure up against the highest customer expectations and the best of the competition.

Competencies may relate to anything from production and customer service to investment or research and development, but should be relatively easy to identify. That is because, one way or another, they will provide a benefit for business contacts or consumers, may be hard for competitors to replicate and can be leveraged to drive the organisation forward.

But in a world that is continually shrinking, with new technology and access to information creating a more level playing field, it first makes sense to expand the concept of competencies. Instead of identifying just a few, astute managers should be classifying their companies’ competencies into three distinct groups and then devise ways to improve each of them. The three recommended categories are as follows:

Ground-level competencies
These concern in-house activities which a business must perform well if it is to survive and prosper. They will involve back-office operations, recruitment procedures and order fulfilment. Besides that, they will extend to having proper financial controls, user-friendly information technology systems and a strong sales force. That may seem obvious, but just consider how many major enterprises seem to neglect the ground-level competencies. Banks with no financial discipline and service companies that don’t answer a hotline are merely the top of a list that stretches a long way. Logically, you can regard getting these things right as the price of entry for competing in a certain market. It is not necessary to do them significantly better than your direct rivals, but failing to match the basic expected standards can soon damage a reputation and eat into profitability.

Core competencies
This category includes the features and key proficiencies which set your organisation apart. It is assumed that performing to a high level in these areas is a central plank of your corporate strategy, forming the basis for marketing campaigns, longer-term development and sustainable streams of revenue. Nothing says a core competency must be inventive or exclusive, but it should be a consistent priority. For example, companies such as GE denote training and leadership development as one of their core competencies. They realise it will allow them to drive profitable performance for years and that investment in learning is money well spent. Others, including the world’s leading hotel groups, have made a point of focusing on personalised service and anticipating guest needs. In their sector, willingness to go the extra mile marks out the very best and definitely translates into customer loyalty and repeat visits.

Distinctive competencies
A number of important factors help in identifying distinctive competencies. Firstly, the underlying activity should be valuable enough to allow your company to exploit new opportunities or minimise impending threats quickly. Secondly, it should not be generally available. Thirdly, it helps if the costs involved prevent others from adopting it easily. Of course, costs in this context reflect time, resources and ingenuity, and money. The true test, though, of a distinctive competency is whether there is no obvious substitute or immediately viable alternative.

If looking for examples, one way is to ask what, in particular, has allowed various Fortune 500 companies to achieve their eminence. In the case of Wal-Mart, it is probably its supply-chain management system. Competing retailers also have extensive store networks and similar standards of customer service. But it is Wal-Mart’s supply chain that has enabled it to achieve reduced costs, increased efficiency and tighter control of its business.

Another form of distinctive competency is seen in the collective management style or, perhaps more often, the person of a dominant leader. The words or actions of such an individual can seal deals and inspire markets, keeping a company well ahead of the pack. Every competency counts for something, but the distinctive ones have the greatest impact on customers, employees and shareholder value.

Managers, at any level, with responsibility for instilling competencies and ensuring future success can use the following four steps:

1. Identify the skills, technology and processes your company needs to compete more effectively.

2. Assess carefully and honestly what you must improve in order to enhance profitability and implement new strategies.

3. Decide which core competencies to support with further investment, resources and energy to separate the company from competitors.

4. Build on the distinctive competencies and develop a plan to ensure these elements allow the company to maintain an edge, whatever the overall scale of the business.

 

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When Feelings Count

THE FAMOUS AMERICAN banker J.P. Morgan once said that people make decisions for two reasons: the good reason and the real reason.

The truth of this observation is immediately obvious if you ask any business executive in New York, London, or Hong Kong to explain why they chose one course of action over another.

Nine times out of 10, they will frame their answer in terms of such measures as the return on investment, market share, profitability or increased shareholder value.

This is completely understandable, since businesspeople are conditioned to express themselves in a certain vocabulary and by means of well-defined concepts.

However, the question remains whether these are the real reasons for their decisions or just good reasons.

Factors other than those stated openly are nearly always at play, and they relate to the decision maker’s emotions while weighing up the situation and reaching a judgment.

In fact, research suggests that emotions are generally the driving force in any decision, rather than the objective standards or financial yardsticks usually mentioned.

Like anyone else, a leader can experience the full gamut of emotions in the workplace, ranging from greed and selfishness to joy, hate, pride and fear. This is all part of the human experience in the corporate world, and inevitably has a major impact on both day-to-day and longer-term decisions.

If we feel negatively about someone or something, this will have a direct bearing on our thoughts and subsequent actions.

For example, imagine working on a project and one person, perhaps from the finance department, clearly isn’t pulling his weight. The signs could be anything from being late for meetings to missing deadlines or failing to complete key assignments.

One year on, you might come across the same person on a different project designed to look into cost-cutting options. Despite the passage of time and the individual’s undoubted expertise in the area under investigation, you will have misgivings and not want him on the team.

If you make this known and senior management then asks why, you will probably fudge the issue and come up with a good reason, rather than the real one to justify your views.

Though reluctant to admit it, you will have been unable to set aside the negative impressions formed during the previous working encounter and to see things in a different light the second time around.

This phenomenon is called “mood congruence thought”. Fortunately, it applies to positive emotions as well as negative ones.

Even more than other employees, people who have leadership responsibilities must be aware of their feelings at work, for one simple reason: these feelings determine thoughts, which, in turn, affect every kind of decision and, thereby, the performance and deliverables of your team.

It is certainly not stretching a point to say that there is a direct connection between a leader’s emotional intelligence and the results of the business.

Many of us may think that there is no room for emotions in the workplace, but it is far better to accept that they are an integral part of what you and your colleagues do.

To understand this, it first helps to explore your own values, since they greatly influence attitudes and the intensity of various feelings.

For instance, if you value “achievement”, winning a new account will make you upbeat for at least the rest of the day. Conversely, losing out to a competitor will automatically inspire disappointment, or even anger, and affect your whole outlook until the mood finally passes.

To get to grips with this, you need to recognise not just your own values but also the corporate values that prevail in the workplace.

They may include competence, commitment, honesty and the aggressive pursuit of new business. Then, take a step back and consider how these different values influence your emotions and, consequently, your behaviour when at work.

To illustrate this, you may regard honesty as the most important value. One day, you ask a colleague when a vital report will be ready, and are told “by the end of the day”.

Next morning, there is no sign of it and, when digging deeper, you find the work is nowhere near complete.

By not being honest, your colleague may have been trying to save face. For you, though, that lack of honesty is an affront and may even be enough to spark a display of anger. Generally, that is unlikely to help anyone and may well serve to distract or demotivate other members of the team.

Therefore, it is important to realise how your values, emotions and actions interconnect, and not to expect other people to have precisely the same values as you. This will make it easier to control your emotions and, as a result, your actions and the outcomes for the business.

A good leader does not try to avoid emotions or rationalise them with spurious explanations about such things as employee competence, market conditions, or the need for change. They understand that emotions are part and parcel of corporate life and do not try to hide from them.

The first step to doing that is to become emotionally self-aware. Then, you will be in a better position to control yourself, understand others, and make decisions for all the right reasons.

 

MANAGING EMOTIONS

Emotional Management
We can all do a better job of managing our emotions. If things are starting to get on top of you, consider one or more of the following to help improve your mood. Practise yoga, deep breathing or meditation. Participate in a preferred sport or hobby. Regard relaxation as an activity, and make it part of your daily routine. Talk to someone about what’s on your mind. Put on your headphones and shut out the world for a while. Call up a couple of friends and go for a drink. Some of these suggestions are more active than others, but whichever you choose, allow enough time for them to have a positive effect.

Tactical Weapons
Emotions are on show in every team meeting, sales visit, or negotiation with a sub-contractor or vendor. They can range from the highs of solving a complex problem or landing a big deal, to the lows of missing the annual target or being undercut on price. When faced with these feelings, you choose how to behave and can be either co-operative or competitive. If you are co-operative, you are being open, honest, and prepared to share or compromise. If you are competitive, it might mean bluffing, obscuring, obstructing and delaying. Doing business involves both co-operative and competitive tactics. The important thing, therefore, is to understand what you want to accomplish and what the impact of your chosen course of behaviour will be. Remember that long-term success is more often built on a co-operative rather than a constantly competitive approach.

Three Steps
To develop greater emotional intelligence, the first step is to understand your objective. This can be done by reading or talking to others to get different insights. Then, like a golfer, you need to practise by reviewing your own values, paying attention to your emotional state, and thinking through how your feelings affect your behaviour. Finally, you should get feedback from others and regularly ask yourself three questions: what positive or negative emotions were present; if you handled the situation well; and what could be improved.

 

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True Signs of a Leader

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him find it within himself” – Galileo Galilei

THE IDEA OF self-discovery is as important today as it was around 2,500 years ago when Socrates said that each person’s aim should be to “know thyself”. For anyone looking to develop a successful style of leadership, knowing who you are is the first and most important step. Only when you fully understand the way you think, act and communicate, and recognise the impact of your behaviour on other people, you can bring about positive change and increase your overall effectiveness.

The process of self-discovery could be something as informal as listing down your strengths and weaknesses, or it could involve one of the more formal leadership-related questionnaires that are now readily available.

The best tools, though, generally include 360-degree feedback, which ensures that the analysis also comes from colleagues, subordinates and superiors. After all, effectiveness as a leader is not something you decide; it is determined by those around you.

One such tool is ACUMEN Leadership WorkStyles, which breaks down leadership behaviour into three categories:

Constructive
It is important for every leader to develop a constructive style which focuses on the task at hand and the people who will be involved. There are four elements at work here.

The first is achievement, which reflects the need for accomplishments and is about attaining high-quality results on challenging projects. Leaders high in achievement have the internal motivation to succeed and tend to inspire others by making them feel that they can make a difference.

Next is self-actualisation, characterised by an acceptance of one’s self. This allows leaders to meet their full potential and is evident in strong self-worth and a desire to learn and grow.

Third is humanistic encouraging, which measures our interest in others. A leader demonstrating this style will focus on the growth and development of the team by helping colleagues assume more responsibility and achieve their personal goals.

Finally, affiliation shows the degree to which we form meaningful and fulfilling relationships. Leaders strong in this area establish relationships built on mutual trust and respect.

Anyone aspiring to a senior position should be aware of these different dimensions and find practical ways to develop them further. Typically this would be by refusing to let roadblocks prevent a job from getting done, agreeing to coach a junior employee, or developing new interests outside of work.

Passive / Defensive
A leader should aim to minimise passive defensive traits, which cause people to protect their position and the status quo rather than attain new goals. Among these traits are low self-confidence and a desire to be popular, and they are behind the need for approval and acceptance. This is common enough, but can also be self-defeating if it becomes the primary way of interacting.

There is also conventionality. In many ways, it is necessary to conform, but always following the rules will limit creativity and effectiveness. There are times when it is vital to question authority and challenge conventional wisdom, which is part of a leader’s role.

Another common passive defensive trait is dependency and feeling one has insufficient control of events. A good leader, though, must be ready to take decisions and cannot always be turning to colleagues for support and recommendations.

Also, no leader can expect to operate in a comfort zone, avoidance of problems and potential threats. A fear of failure or of taking risks curtails innovation and progress and must be overcome. If you feel your own behaviour is too passive defensive, make a special effort to break your normal routine and try something new. Take the initiative more often and set targets for yourself.

Aggressive / Defensive
There are four major aggressive defensive characteristics and, to be an effective leader rather than a destructive one, you need to strike the right balance.

The first measures our tendency to agree or disagree with others and is known as “oppositional”. Leaders at one end of the spectrum can be too sceptical, always reluctant to accept new ideas; at the other end, they may give the green light to almost every new project. Recognise your own natural instincts and train yourself to weigh up different opinions fairly.

Secondly, there is the matter of power, which some people use to dictate rather than to guide. They are often rigid and not open to new ideas. However, a good leader should be able to judge the appropriate degree of power to exercise and direct people towards a common goal.

Thirdly, there is the trait of competitiveness. In most companies, a leader is expected and encouraged to show a competitive streak, but taking things too far can be detrimental for a team or an organisation. People often forget that winning in business does not necessarily mean that someone has to lose.

Finally, being a perfectionist is not necessarily a good thing. It can mean getting so caught up in the details that you lose sight of the big picture. Even though we are taught to get the details right, a leader should concentrate on making clear who is responsible for what and ensuring that the expectations are reasonable.

A successful leader needs to exhibit a degree of aggressive defensive behaviour but must also show self-restraint. Therefore, do not reject an idea before you understand it fully, spend more time listening than talking, and accept that you do not have to be the best at everything.

Leadership Workstyles is just one tool available to help you understand your own approach to leadership. Consider the major characteristics carefully and think about how you would score yourself. Then go back and try to assess how your team would rate you. Be honest when doing this, and compile a list of action points so that, in the future, you can behave in a way that maximises the constructive style of leadership, minimises the passive defensive, and maintains a balance in aggressive defensive traits. Everyone needs clear insights into the personalities before they can start to make positive changes elsewhere.

 

TIPS TO WIN

Know Your Actions
Your effectives as a leader is determined by the way you think and react in a given situation. This behaviour automatically has a direct impact on the people around you. By understanding that impact, you can start to identify what will enhance your leadership abilities and what is working against you. Although you cannot control every situation, you are able to control the way you think, deal with problems and behave towards others. The key is to remember that your actions create impressions which influence others. By behaving in a certain way, you help to determine the chain of events.

The Process Of Change
If you want to become a better leader, consider taking the following five steps. First, list down all your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest because the more accurate your list is, the better the results. Second, accept yourself as you are now. You may or may not like what you see, but accept it and realise you can change. Third, take time to consider how your methods and behaviour affect the people around you. Examine things from their point of view and do not avoid the hard facts. Next, make a conscious decision that you want to change and be better than you are today. Finally, commit to a plan of action geared to changing your behaviour. Do not try to do too much at once. It’s best to focus on three things only, improve on those, and then move on to others.

Reaction to Feedback
Making a decision to increase your leadership potential requires being open to feedback. In doing so, we do not always hear what we expect and there will inevitably be some surprises. Prepare yourself and recognise the stages that most people go through when they invite feedback. The first might be shock or disbelief that people see you in a certain way. When that wears off, denial might come into play. You may well tell yourself it does not matter what others think because you are good at the job and exceed expectations. At that point, though, you should be trying to change, not getting into self-justification. Therefore, ask yourself why people have formed such an impression and which part of their feedback you can agree with. The third stage usually involves a range of emotions – anger, depression or ambivalence. Take time to consider what you are feeling and why, since this will give you valuable insight. Finally, move towards acceptance. Eventually, you will gain perspective and be free to use what you have learned for self-improvement.

 

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Making of a Sales Expert

THE PHILOSOPHER Aristotle in the Art of Rhetoric captured the essence of what makes people great at selling when he highlighted the Greek concepts of logos, pathos and ethos.

With logos, we produce rational and logical arguments. Pathos is used to address emotions. But for success, we have to be believable and trustworthy – and that is where ethos comes in.

The point was first made more than 2,000 years ago and has been repeated time and again – we buy things from people we trust. Does this apply to every purchasing decision? Not necessarily. For transactional purchases, we may put more emphasis on convenience or price.

However, in most situations, clients are not looking for a transaction. They want a solution and a relationship built on trust.

Selling professional services is a process that takes time, and deals cannot be closed in one or two meetings. Use this time to your advantage and build a perception of credibility, competence and compatibility – the foundations of trust.

For some people this comes naturally, but for the others here are a few tips that should help.

For credibility:

Show confidence. If you appear in control, you will be more believable. Developing self-confidence is not easy. It is built on past success and a strong belief in who you are and what you’re doing.

Create a strong initial impact. We’ve all heard it said that first impressions are lasting. On a subconscious level, all of us are very sensitive during the first 15 seconds of a meeting. We judge others based on their dress, voice, gestures, body movements and choice of words. Control your own behaviour during these critical seconds and create the perception you want to project.

Demonstrate honesty. Tell the truth. Nothing destroys trust more quickly than dishonest behaviour.

Deliver as promised. This may be hard to demonstrate in the first meeting, but as your relationship with the client grows, there will be many opportunities to deliver. For example, if you say you’re going to call on Tuesday, do it.

To show competence:

Demonstrate your knowledge. Make it clear you know your product and industry as well as the client’s business and requirements. You may have picked up detailed knowledge from academic courses or work experience, but do extra research.

Highlight your track record. Most clients don’t want to be an experiment, particularly if they are paying for the privilege. You must demonstrate your organisation’s success in handling their type of business. Promoting your track record is fine, but bragging about your accomplishments may not be. Remember that the client is more concerned about what you can do for them than what you have previously done for others.

Demonstrate your expertise. People want to hear from experts. Clients want to be sure you have the knowledge, experience and ability to work with them. Expertise means applying all of this to create value.

Ask questions. It’s not the quantity but the quality of questions, and they should demonstrate you know your stuff. A well thought out question can often make a stronger impression than a statement. Ask searching questions that make the client consider things from a new angle.

To establish compatibility:

Take an interest. Spend time getting to know key players in the client’s organisation. There is no real substitute for this kind of quality time.

Listen actively. It is not easy, but a great salesperson should talk less and listen more. A rule of thumb says that selling should be 70 per cent listening and asking questions. Show you have heard and understood the client by using positive body language. Don’t interrupt, and find ways to share similar experiences and summarise key messages.

Adapt your behaviour. Advising someone to “be yourself” does not always help if he or she sells to a wide range of individuals.

Every client is different, so the key is to adapt your behaviour – particularly the choice of words and level of energy – to that of the client. This doesn’t mean changing who you are. Don’t put on an act or come across as fake. Recognise, though, that your interaction with the marketing director of a start-up will differ from your approach with the CEO of a multinational. The former may want to hear ideas, the latter may only be thinking of the bottom line. They will have different styles, so adapt.

Show you care. Go the extra mile. Introduce your client to a potential new customer. Send a copy of an interesting article or do something they don’t expect. Show that you think about their business even when you’re not working together.

Show vulnerability. No one wants to work with a know-it-all who cannot admit a mistake. As a professional, you’re paid to be right, but sometimes it’s okay to apologise, confess to ignorance, or ask for time to get back with an answer. It is possible for anyone to learn the techniques of selling. But knowing and applying even the best of them is not enough.

You must distance yourself from the competition and stand out in the mind of the client. You need the character, core values and beliefs that create the perception of ethos.

 

TIPS TO WIN

Perception vs Reality
When meeting a potential client, differentiate between their perceived and real needs. There may be some solutions or services the client thinks are needed. However, their logic may be flawed or based on incorrect information. It is your responsibility to help them uncover and accept their real needs.

Preparing the Ground
Don’t cold call. A potential client should not receive an unexpected phone call. Send a letter or email, or get someone to arrange an introduction – anything that prepares the ground. If the potential client replies that he is not interested, that’s OK. At least they have considered your approach and its timing. Write back and continue the exchange. It may not be what you wanted, but at least you’re communicating.

Two Types
There are two types of client: those you work with today and those you will work with in future. Regardless of which category the client falls into, treat them the same way. Those you are going to work with in future are already judging your technical expertise, sector knowledge, skills and genuine interest. Treat them as if they are a client.

Build In-House Trust
Your colleagues won’t recommend you to a client if they don’t trust your ability to deliver. They may even be reluctant to introduce you if they think it will backfire some day. Such a lack of trust could be based on something you or your department did (or didn’t do) in the past. It may be completely exaggerated or unfounded. Nevertheless, their perception is every bit as important as the facts of the case. Therefore, work as hard to build a level of trust with your colleagues as with your clients.

Know When to Sell
Business and social networking events can be great places to identify potential clients. Be careful, though, because you don’t want the prospective client to feel any “sales pressure” – this is no way to build rapport. Instead, confirm their level of interest, get contact details and offer to follow up with more information.

 

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Seeing the Bigger Picture

AT SOME POINT in every successful business career, a discernible change in personality and behaviour must take place. It is not a question of Jekyll and Hyde or Clark Kent to Superman, just that the time inevitably arrives when the approach and outlook appropriate for taking the first few steps on the corporate ladder will no longer do.

A sales director cannot think and act like a sales manager, nor a vice-president of finance like a compliance officer. So, anyone aiming to rise through the ranks must also be ready to undertake the steady self-transformation that will allow them to cross the invisible, but certainly not arbitrary, line that exists in every organisation.

On one side are the “workers”, the people primarily focused on the tactical implementation of company policy. They may have years of experience and all kinds of fine sounding titles, but essentially their role is to sell products, deliver services, execute operations and push paper in the time-honoured style.

On the other side are the “managers”. They, too, have learned the ropes in the approved fashion, but have then gone on to assume far greater responsibilities and, in particular, to oversee key aspects of strategic development.

What makes this transformation possible is an ability to see the big picture. It is not something that happens overnight or occurs by magic after a certain number of years. Rather, it is a distinct skill, developed through application, study and awareness. It comes from an in-depth understanding not just of the company, but of the industry as a whole, the competitive environment, and the dynamics at work in the broader economy.

Executives looking to reach the top must steadily develop this kind of insight. In doing so, they can apply various practical tools to let them analyse their firm’s strategic position and see how to take it forward. One of the best such tools is Porter’s Five Forces, created in 1979 by Michael Porter of Harvard Business School. It has the advantage of simplicity, while also providing a comprehensive framework for industry analysis. Understanding these forces can help anyone evaluate a company’s problems and prospects. And considering ways to contend with them will sharpen your business acumen and accelerate that transition from the micro to the macro environment. The five forces are:

Threat of new entrants
A change to the status quo generally obliges a company to rethink its approach, and that often happens when a new player enters an industry. The newcomer’s initial objective is to secure market share, which can result in pressure on the incumbents to do everything from lowering prices and boosting efficiency to improving customer service and making better products. If the new arrival is a start-up of limited size or scale, there may be little real threat.

However, if backed by a big name in another industry, with a known brand, customer base, ready cash and marketing expertise, the entire landscape can change. Just consider Apple’s move into the music industry, and later into mobile devices, or how Richard Branson’s empire shook things up in the airline business, financial services and even the soft drinks sector.

Where the entry barriers are comparatively low, such as for opening a chain of coffee shops, the existing players must keep innovating and investing just to survive. Otherwise, potential competitors will constantly be thinking they could do better. Where entry barriers are high, as for airlines, there may be less likelihood of direct rivals appearing. However, new “entrants”, or factors, can still threaten at any time in the form of changed regulations, soaring fuel prices, or slumping passenger demand. It is therefore best to never accept at face value the conventional wisdom about existing players, and to remember that every established model still has weaknesses.

Power of suppliers
In some sectors, a few major suppliers hold the whip hand. Whether providing labour, raw materials, goods or services, their dominant position gives a disproportionate ability to influence the market. This allows them to raise prices, squeeze customers and, in some cases, generate seemingly excessive profits. Normal rules pertaining to market forces and open competition seem to be suspended.

Examples include select countries’ ability to restrict or expand the supply of natural resources for political or other reasons. Other examples may involve highly specialized OEM parts in which the number of quality suppliers are few. One way or another, it is always possible to switch suppliers, but the cost may be prohibitive and the alternative inconvenient. Therefore, it is important to remain fully aware of the level of dependence on all your different suppliers. Switching travel agencies will have little impact on your business, but having to find a new third-party outsourcing company to handle your entire back-office operations could easily turn into a nightmare.

Power of buyers
In other instances, the balance of power tilts decidedly towards the purchaser. As a result, the customer can dictate terms and demand improvements in price, quality, service, or even in production processes and environmental practices.

Generally, the supplier will have to comply or face up to losing the business.

Obviously, buyers looking to use their leverage in this way must know the market and their own relative strength. For example, if a big retailer of toys has countless potential suppliers, there is scope to drive a hard bargain. Similarly, a large volume buyer of industrial chemicals has significant purchasing power, even if the potential suppliers are comparatively few.

In such cases, the seller’s tactic is often to make the best of the situation by stressing an ability to differentiate products or tailor-make services, but that can backfire if the customer then pushes for even more concessions. Indeed, advertising agencies know that scenario only too well, realising that every client is likely to be in regular contact with three or more other agencies all pitching for the account.

Threat of substitutes
It is quite easy for companies to be convinced their product or service is essential or has unlimited shelf life, until they get an abrupt wake-up call. Rapid developments in processing power and internet speed has made video conferencing a more than adequate substitute for international get-togethers, with all the expenses they entail. Elsewhere, software-as-a-service is disrupting IT, ride sharing is challenging traditional taxi services, and a larger portion of the workforce is now working from home or hot-desking, which reduces a company’s office footprint.

There are possible substitutes everywhere, though two main factors determine their viability: the price-performance ratio and costs for switching. Basically, if people believe similar quality is available at a better price, they will opt for the substitute, provided the time, money and effort involved in switching are not excessive. That is one reason VoIP has dominated at the expense of traditional telecom services.

Rivalry among existing competitors
This can take many forms, including price discounts, innovation and enhanced customer service. The intensity of the competition can vary depending on the size of the rivals, the scale of their ambitions and the personalities of those involved. Sometimes, too, market realties are disregarded and common sense goes out the window. Thus, Apple and Samsung battle it out with their latest smartphone and tablet releases. Coke and Pepsi, both determined to be number one, spend a fortune on out-advertising each other. And while Detroit’s vehicle industry competed to make cars with waning appeal, Toyota and Honda found their chance to grab market share. However, rivalry between players is not always a bad thing. It also leads to new products, better service standards, the application of technology and the development of new markets. Importantly, these features add value to an organisation and provide excellent examples of someone’s ability to think strategically about their industry.

 

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Juggling Emotions

WHEN TRYING TO identify what makes someone a great leader, one can look into everything from their upbringing and education to their work experience and contacts. In most cases, what really makes the difference gets overlooked. There is no mention of it in standard resumes and it’s usually skirted over in personal profiles.

However, closer investigation often reveals that what sets certain individuals apart is their emotional intelligence, or EI.

Systems, processes, business models and corporate strategies all come and go, but the people who consistently stand out from the crowd are those who can build strong personal relationships and realise that it is ultimately counterproductive to regard the workplace as an emotion-free zone. After all, if a leader wants to influence, motivate, inspire or instigate change, it can only be done by understanding and appealing to rational and emotional elements.

The concept of EI first came to prominence over twenty years ago with the publication in 1995 of Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Now translated into many languages and with millions of copies sold, it put forward the theory that people have differing emotional abilities, just as they have different IQs. However, by acknowledging and developing these various emotional attributes, it is possible to become more effective in any work environment, even to the extent of creating success from failure or harmony from dysfunction.

There are seven skills that form an effective emotional intelligence model. They are:

 

SELF-AWARENESS
People considered to have a high degree of emotional self-awareness are generally more in tune with their own moods and feelings. They know what is most likely to make them feel distressed, content, or anything in between, and understand how those feelings will affect their thought processes, decisions, behaviour and overall performance. In addition, they recognise how their own shifts in mood can have a direct impact on fellow team members or other colleagues and contacts.

Expression
However, simply being in tune with one’s emotions is not enough. It is also important to express these emotions appropriately. In many organisations, this is frowned upon, and leaders in particular are expected to disguise or dissimulate their true feelings. Of course, there is absolutely no need to discuss every concern, fear or aspiration with your team. However, if you’re having a bad day or wrestling with a major decision, there is nothing wrong with mentioning how you feel. When dealing with others, remember too that your body language and tone of voice are already likely to be showing how you feel. Therefore, if you happen to mention that something is going well or badly, it won’t cause any great surprise. Being more open may win extra support or sympathy.

Awareness of Others
The skill that directly complements expression is being able to read the non-verbal emotional cues of other people. Thus, a leader will know purely by observation that an employee is annoyed, frustrated, satisfied or upbeat. They will also detect when someone is getting bored with a specific role or distracted by external or family concerns. This degree of alertness and sensitivity makes it easier to address a problem or anticipate difficulties. It also helps in matters of timing so that, for example, if someone is having a tough day, the boss can give a word of thanks, rather than a misplaced reprimand.

Reasoning and Decision Making
What you know about yourself and others is known as emotional insight, and it is used when thinking through an issue or reaching decisions. It prevents us from being too impulsive, and prompts us to take account of personal feelings and the concerns of others before concluding anything or opting for a certain course of action. In business, for example, it is often best not to hire someone strictly based on their CV and performance in interviews. Instead, it helps to ask various interviewers how they “felt” about the candidate, and to balance these emotional factors with the more rational ones.

Self-Management
If you can regulate your own emotions, it becomes much easier to put behind you events that have caused stress, frustration or worry. Generally, there is no benefit to be gained from brooding on issues or running over them endlessly in your head. If a deadline is missed or an account lost, the best approach is to deal with the issue just once and then move on with a positive outlook. Anything else is a sign of poor self-management in a leader and does nothing to help other members of the team.

Management of Others
If employees feel optimistic and positive about their work environment and what they can accomplish, much more gets done. A leader at any level can create this kind of mood by communicating and interacting in a way that motivates and engages others. In part, that involves introducing new perspectives and getting others to think differently, especially if there are any persistent problems encountered in the workplace.

Control
At some point or other, everyone is likely to be pushed to the edge by certain circumstances at work. However, the person with a high level of EI can spot the warning signs or likely triggers, and will have the self-discipline not to fly off the handle. For example, they may have trained themselves to concentrate on one difficult task when they sense they are getting upset, or have realised that the best thing is simply to take a short break from the office.

Whatever the technique, it will be one that helps to avoid unnecessary conflict and contributes overall to achieving a positive outcome in a challenging situation.

Some people appear to be naturally gifted in matters of emotional intelligence. Others may see its importance, but are not applying the skills effectively in the workplace. However, the latter group now has every chance to put the seven facets of emotional intelligence into practice and thus improve their decision making, relationships, behaviour and general performance.

 

ALTERNATIVE INSIGHT

Not What, But How
Professor Albert Mehrabian, who began his career of teaching and research at the University of California, Los Angeles, was a pioneer in the understanding of interpersonal communication in the 1960s. He established the theory that in a normal conversation, 7 per cent of the meaning is conveyed in the words that are spoken, 38 per cent is described as being paralinguistic i.e. in the way the words are used, and 55 per cent of the meaning is from facial expression. When related to emotional intelligence, this theory is particularly useful in explaining the importance of meaning, as distinct from words. Other people don’t just pay attention to our words, but also to the tone of voice, level of energy, eye contact and physical posture. Remember, it’s not always what you say that counts, it’s how you say it.

Using EI to Lead
The emotionally intelligent leader consistently demonstrates three key attributes – awareness, adaptability and articulation. The first (awareness) relates to mood, needs, desires and aspirations, and knowing what’s important to you and others. The second (adaptability) allows for changing emotions, behaviour and actions. To be effective, though, it depends on having a genuine awareness of the people around you. The third (articulation) makes it possible to deliver a message relevant to a particular audience and connect with them on a rational and emotional level.

 

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Four Steps to Leadership Success

THERE IS NO shortage of books on leadership. It seems that hardly a week goes by without some senior business executive or management guru going into print with their thoughts and insights on how to get to the top and become a great corporate leader.

Visit any bookstore and you will find entire sections dedicated to weighty volumes on the secrets of leadership and management. There are television shows, websites, magazines and seminars focusing on the same topics. The reason is clear: businesses have to achieve better results in a highly competitive environment and must keep finding ways to do more with less.

Ultimate responsibility for making this happen lies with leaders, and that does not Simply mean CEOs. There may be hundreds of people in any organisation – department heads, functional managers, team supervisors and project coordinators – and each one of them is required to lead others effectively.

As a manager, you will be responsible for outcomes which may be measured in terms of profit, growth, revenue, efficiency and return on investment. These will always be based on what your team has achieved, and their performance is linked inextricably to the sum of how each person thinks, feels and acts.

Behaviour in the workplace is directly attributable to the culture of an organisation, which evolves from the way things are done, the accepted practices and routines, and the way people interact with their colleagues. That culture, in turn, is influenced predominantly by two major factors: management and leadership.

Hundreds of MBA programmes and “how to” books explain the skills needed to be a better manager, these cover planning and budgeting, accomplishing objectives, organizing things so as to maximise resources, problem solving and monitoring results against targets. In other words, management deals with the rational elements that drive a business.

Leadership, in contrast, is more people focused. It is about having vision, developing individual capabilities, motivating, energizing others to embrace change, and encouraging excellence.

Although the two always go hand in hand, leadership usually defines attempts at quantification or measurement. Nevertheless, it is fundamental to the success or failure of companies, business units, teams and initiatives. In fact, research suggests that the leadership style of a senior executive can be 70 per cent responsible for shaping corporate culture; management skills account for only 30 per cent of any impact made. Remember that when considering the direct line which runs between corporate culture, staff motivation, individual performance and business results.

So what does this mean for people in leadership roles? Firstly, they should recognise that broader objectives will not be achieved just by improving day-to-day management efficiency. They will probably have to change the way they act and behave, since leadership embraces so much. One International study found there are more than 800 different definitions of leadership, which touch on everything from integrity, trustworthiness and passion to being results-focused, energetic and inspirational. Whatever you look for from a leader, others will expect that and more of you.

You may not be at the top of the corporate ladder but your business unit, team or project is looking to you as a leader.

Regardless of the role you have in your organisation, as a manager you need a framework to establish and build your own leadership style. One framework is based on four As: awareness, aspiration, action and alignment.

Awareness is the first step in developing your leadership profile. In any given situation or event you go through, a conscious or subconscious thought process results in a response or behaviour. It is this behaviour that impacts your team. So, true awareness is not just an understanding of your thinking and behaviour, it is also an understanding of how your actions affect others. Find out how others perceive you; after all, it is your colleagues and team members who decide whether you are a good or great leader.

With awareness and insight, you can strive to maximise those traits that are working to your advantage and have a positive effect on the team, and minimise those traits which are self-defeating or working to your disadvantage.

Aspiration is your ability to communicate a vision. In the broadest context, the vision could be your team’s formal mission statement, strategic intent or business charter. Or it could simply be a message to increase sales, improve performance, drive quality or reduce expenses. Being aspirational is about communicating a way that helps your team create a relationship to the desired outcomes. To do this, your message needs to make a personal and intellectual connection with the audience. The challenge is to determine the amount and degree of each based on your audience, situation and objective.

Action is your ability to create a high-performance team where the sum of everyone’s input is greater than individual contributions.

For teams to be successful, there must be objectives which are clear and progressive; roles and responsibilities which are drawn from the skills and commitment of the team members; an environment which leverages diversity and differences; and processes for group planning and decision-making.

Teams need a structure and it is a leader’s responsibility to provide this framework.

Alignment is your ability to drive the behaviour and performance of individual team members.

Everyone you come in content with will have different skills and motivation

Motivation is a feeling within a person and not something that can be imposed on them. However as a leader you can create an environment that encourages people to want to do their best. By understanding what motivates a person and his or her skill level, you can coach, empower and delegate to ensure everyone’s actions are aligned with the business outcomes.

Being an effective leader is not a skill or attribute attained only by the few that have a natural gift. It is about using awareness, aspiration, action and alignment to build your leadership foundation.

As various respected academic studies have noted, 90 per cent of a leader’s role is communication.

The first step to becoming a great leader is understanding how your behaviour affects the people around you; the next step is taking concrete action to build the leadership presence you desire.

In the final analysis, it is about achieving business outcomes, and these outcomes are based directly on your leadership behaviour.

 

TIPS TO WIN

Management vs Leadership
These two words are often used interchangeably, probably because they can be used to describe or define the same person. However, there is a clear difference between management and leadership. Management is more task focused, related to efficiency and implementation. It is about solving problems and consistently producing results; it is about getting things done. Leadership on the other hand, is more people focused. It is not about what happened yesterday or is happening today; it is about looking into the future. It is not communicating to inform, but communicating to bring people along with you on a journey. Leadership is also about developing individual capabilities, motivating and energising the team to embrace change and encouraging them to be the best they can be. In the end, a successful manager needs to lead and a successful leader needs to manage.

Being a Perfectionist
A good leader should understand the difference between the act of perfecting something and the concept of perfectionism. Too often, leaders who are perfectionists are not satisfied with their own or the results achieved by others. Even if the outcome is high quality, the results may not meet expectations because the standards are unrealistic. The diligence and hard work might get noticed, but in the end this perfectionist behaviour may be self-defeating. Leaders then start micromanaging, doing it themselves or getting caught up in the details and losing sight of the big picture. This is not to say that the other extreme is acceptable, where leaders may be taking a more casual approach to completing a project or not pushing and testing the team enough to realise its potential. In such situations, results could be inferior or incomplete. For successful leadership, the key is to get the right balance.

Being the Coach
A leader could take many roles – each with a specific purpose and process. One could be that of a coach. Coaching is an interactive process to help an individual achieve a goal. A trait of a good coach is the ability to align a person’s individual goal with that of the team. No two coaching sessions are alike, since everyone in the team has a different motivation and skill level. Some may be great at their job, but lack the interest. Others may not have the technical skills but possess a big desire to succeed. The key in coaching is to understand the individual and then plan for a coaching session that helps the individual unlock his or her potential. It is important to remember that coaching is more about enabling and encouraging than telling and instructing. To be a great coach requires a genuine interest in the other person. The coaching process is not about self, it is about the team member. It is about helping others realise their full potential.

 

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