"KLR Consulting were true pros and partnered with our team members to understand our company and organization's needs. KLR facilitated goal setting exercises that made it easy for each employee to scope out a plan to help achieve our company objectives. For the past 10 years, I have turned to KLR and counted on them to not only meet, but exceed my every "people" need. Kristi and KLR have saved our organization thousand of dollars with their support and training services. Thanks KLR."

Lee C. Scheuer, CEO
ProInsurance Services

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Leaders: Find Your Voice

(posted: June 21st, 2012)

You have to know yourself before you can effectively lead others. Many leadership experts call this "finding your voice", and it is the best starting point when you decide to make improving your leadership skills a priority.

Over the past two decades, my work in executive coaching and leadership development programs always begins with assessing and focusing on an individual's strengths and weaknesses.

I have met many leaders who have learned how to do everything smarter - they are focused, passionate and committed to their life and work, understanding the importance of self-reflection.

I offer up the following questions which were developed based on my experience coaching these successful leaders and are meant to help you create more opportunities in your life.

Ask yourself these questions:

Value of Self

  • Do I clearly see my dream?

If your core values and vision are not clear, no strategy will work and it will be impossible to prioritize correctly. It is vital for today's leader to bring others along on the journey, but you first have to know where you are going.

Clarity of values will give you the confidence to make tough decisions, to act with determination, and to take charge of your life.

  • How do I spend my time?

After setting your priorities evaluate how you spend your time.

"Nothing separates successful people from unsuccessful people more than how they use their time."

John Maxwell

  • Are you clear on what you bring to the table?

You need to truly understand your strengths and weaknesses, be comfortable with them, and help everyone around you understand their assets. Using a tool like the DiSC assessment can help you and your team better understand one another.

The leader has to take the lead on this self-evaluation. Focus on exploring and enhancing what you do well and reap the benefits of simplicity, standardization, and deep experience.

People: Your Most Valuable Asset

  • Do you have the right people on the bus, the right people off the bus and the right people in the right seats?

Determine the knowledge, skills and abilities each job requires to support the business strategy and culture, and design an interview process to find the "right" people.

"The toughest decisions in organizations are people decisions – hiring, firing, promotions, etc. These are the decisions that receive the least attention and are the hardest to unmake"

Peter Drucker, management expert

  • Do I invest in training and employee development?

Your employees must have the tools to do their best work and this investment also strengthens their commitment to the company. According to John Maxwell, developing people means:

  • I value them
  • I commit time to them
  • I mentor them
  • I equip them
  • I empower them
  • Are you willing to listen?

This is the most powerful tool you have to get your organization to accomplish more. Do you know what it takes to be a good listener?

Listening is the act of receiving, attending to, interpreting, and responding to verbal and non-verbal messages in ways appropriate to a situation.

Real listening takes time and patience, and the payoff is definitely worth the effort. The flow of communication within an organization can improve greatly just by making people aware of how important it is to listen.

Business Practices and Process Improvements

  • Do you set and clearly articulate your goals?

Unless you write your goals down they are often lost in the shuffle and excitement of new problems, challenges, and decisions.

The function of goals is to get you into action - they will give you a way to measure your effectiveness.Setting and then reconnecting with your goals on a regular basis is a powerful success discipline.

  • Do you cultivate good managers?

It is widely known in the HR consulting world that the biggest reason for an employee's departure is a poor manager. Managers are the grassroots implementers of the company culture.

Successful leaders provide training and coaching to help their managers. Many leaders have abandoned management development for fear that the investment will be lost if they leave.

My question to those leaders is,

"What if you don't invest in your management and they stay?"

  • Do you encourage productive conflict?

If harmony comes only as a result of people holding back their opinions and honest concerns, then it's a bad thing. Many believe that it is better for people to agree and get along than disagree and conflict with one another.

I'd trade that false kind of harmony any day for a team's willingness to argue effectively about an issue and then walk away with an action plan and no collateral damage.

There needs to be constructive conflict and a leader must be willing to start a difficult dialogue and show vulnerability to encourage others to join the discussion.

  • Are you willing to make the hard decisions?

The willingness to go against the majority, to do what's right and make the tough calls is an important leadership trait that takes discipline and courage. This is not a character trait, it is a learned practice that can be developed and help separate you from the pack.

To become a great leader, one must first become a great person. You cannot lead others until you have learned to lead yourself.

"Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom."

Jim Rohm

Challenge Yourself
  • What can you do to become a better leader?
  • Who can you effectively listen to today?
  • Are you truly really ready to make those hard decisions?

This blog post was originally published at www.linked2leadership.com.


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