Leadership Effectiveness: Five Key Practices

How do you use choice? The setting of life is such that any one situation can be responded to in many different ways. To what degree do your habits narrow down the possible outplays of the wide spectrum of your qualities and natural talents? If, by analogy, you are well capable to respond to an event from within the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet of you and any combination therein, do your habits govern you down to one-track reactions of various forms of blue with a bit of yellow? Eventually becoming known as the ‘blue with a bit of yellow’ person..?

The key to personal effectiveness is self-tasking. The wisdom is in the uptake of a few practices that enable you to leverage your vast inner resources to the highest degree, thereby making multiple returns in the short and longer term.

The following five key practices are mostly known and obvious. When did you last make conscious and deliberate practice of any one or all? Read through the following and give yourself points on a scale of 0 to 10 for your current deployment of each of the five.

1. Conversation Arts & Skills
Our perception faculty – in terms of depth, range and scope – is at peak when we are in a relaxed state of mind.

The ability to hold an inspiring conversation is one of the most important and also most overlooked leadership skills. Conversation dynamics are arguably the most readily available opportunity for a person’s personal theatre and ‘personal magic’ to come to life. This includes key practices that can take many years to mature: Feeling-listening; asking incisive, triggering questions; patience; the willingness to learn from other people’s experience; inter-personal warmth which is a most powerful mover-catalyst in human affairs; sensitivity to other people’s sensitivities; cultural awareness; gender awareness and much more. A relaxed conversation in informal settings goes a long way in moving things on.

2. The Art of Story-telling 
If you watch a CT brain scan of a person listening to someone telling a gripping story, you may be amazed by the degree of activation of neural pathways and entire brain regions that normally may not activate in the same span of time.

CNN recently interviewed in the Las Vegas CES event Microsoft’s Chief Story Teller – yes, that’s right – who conveyed in a way true to his title the story of a new exciting technology. In recent years story-telling has come into the fore-front in many of Fortune’s largest companies as a major, highly effective media for sharing experiences, learning, teaching, communicating and leadership development. Practice story telling – tell yourself the story of what is happening to you, around you, to others, in the world – to expand your consciousness, develop self and situational awareness and become aware of those little clues and details that otherwise get missed out. Story telling is a point of convergence for many faculties, arts and skills: The way the right and left brains team up; spoken language; body language; analogies; metaphors; using ‘neutron’ – high impact – references… Story-telling is a means to deliver powerful messages in a way that generates lasting impact, making the point abundantly clear. “As a bird is known by its song, so is a leader by their story-telling capabilities”. Practice this ancient art to develop your personal theatre, personal impact and influencing skills.

3. Mastering the Feedback Challenge
Feedback mechanisms are a vital aspect of the central nervous system, without which the body cannot function. The same can be said about any real learning process that we engage in.

Giving and receiving feedback is arguably a top candidate for the most challenging practice in any situation that accommodates a hierarchy and in truth, possibly to all situations that concern inter-personal dealing. The big question: Why is it that one of the most empowering practices is so challenging to bring to safe deployment? There are many reasons for this, one of them being: The Ego. There are actually two egos, not one, existing in each and every one of us: A higher and a lower ego. While the main focus of the higher ego is away from self and into profound purposes and true service, the main focus of the lower ego revolves around our self view. The greater the personal attachment to a self-view and to the dogma that it gives birth to, the more challenging is the task of giving feedback even at times that it is critically needed. In extreme cases giving anything other than the ‘accepted and required’ feedback is outright perilous. In other situations it may mean losing one’s job or position. But in most cases in the free world mastering the arts of giving and receiving feedback is a hugely rewarding skill. Here is one key: Always start with, focus on and seek to encourage and empower the positive, the constructive and what works.

4. Growing a Quality
It is said that true qualities are unseen crystals made of stardust. Each person has a unique core quality that they are recognized by, that defines their way and attitude.

Consider your current circumstance and what it demands from you: What do you need to demonstrate? What do you need to overcome? Where are the stretch and the challenge? What is the nature of demand, especially where it concerns pressure and stress factors? What does it squeeze out of you? Qualities such as patience, wisdom, courage, persistence, creativity, serenity, forgiveness, finesse, warmth, kindness, astuteness, sensitivity, reliability and cognisance are powerful allies in our endeavour to grow, lead and achieve. Which is the one quality-catalyst that if you develop will generate the greatest leap factor in your life? Be thorough in developing one quality to discover that it is a gateway to a whole universe of new possibilities, where many other ‘quality relatives’ join the ‘party’, thus, “much in little”. Every day presents us with short-lived opportunities to practice a quality. Learning to seize those moments is 50% of the work involved. And here is a curious question: If you were to change your name into a quality, which would it be?

5. Focusing On What Works
Knowing what works for you and when you lead, what works for others, is a short-cut catalyst to being in your element and to getting the job done.

Don’t waste time focusing on what isn’t working: Know what does not work, focus and think about what works. It’s easy to slip into thinking, criticizing, judging and having a go at what is not working. Focusing on what works, especially where it concerns people is one of life’s great leadership arts. Think how easy it is to skip into the ‘what is not working’ mindset, where you have so much to say about someone’s or a system’s weaknesses and shortfalls. Your challenge is: What would you do different, what would you put in its place? One of the biggest management traps is in the amount of time that managers spend in dealing with the weak links in the human chain of an organization (statistics say at least 60% of their time). Of course this does not mean ignore what is not working. What it does say is: Become a master of dealing with what is not working through the detection and empowerment of what is working and what can work. True leaders are people that possess the gift of enhanced will power and powered thinking: How and what you think affects those around you in more ways than you and they may conceive. When you insist on focusing on people’s best features, qualities and potential, the results will show in the most unexpected, surprising ways. At the core of this mindset is the belief that it can be done – whatever it is that you want to achieve. It’s a core mindset.

Make the 0-10 point system part of your second nature practices. Use it in every opportunity that calls for performance. Strive to deliver a consistent average of 7 out of 10. Make it clear to yourself why you just gave yourself a specific mark and what you need to do next time to improve. In this way you will always create in yourself a projected imagery – an inner self-instruction – of what to change when the next opportunity presents itself. Repeat, repeat and repeat – to the point of ‘practice makes perfect’. Although in the human development business, life being an unfinished symphony, there is no such thing as perfect but rather the fascination of new self-discovery and self-realisation, won, bit by bit, from your limitless potential.

David Gommé
World Copyright 2011 © David Gommé

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