Leadership is one big conversation, and I am not a fan of repeating myself. However, I often discuss the same things with the many leaders that I am guiding.
If you want to be a highly effective leader, here are the three types of conversations that you’ll need to master:
Appreciation: Keep in mind that just because you are leader does not mean that you are any different than the people you are leading. I know, this may be tough to hear. It means that you, just like the people you serve, will naturally put your attention on the things that aren’t going well; we are all prone to this negativity bias.
We are always looking for the next threat that is lurking around the corner. That threat could be the quarterly projections coming in lower than anticipated, or someone on your team asking to speak to you privately.
But we must overcome this urge to focus on what’s going wrong. We must pay attention to those things that are going well and then express appreciation for them. We must notice the strengths of our team members and those things that they do well rather than spending all of our time perfecting those things that they don’t do as well. And we must do this because positive emotion has an overwhelming impact on our ability to thrive at work.
Developmental Feedback: This will seem counterintuitive given the above section. Nevertheless, as a leader you must become a master at offering feedback to your direct reports if you want to support their growth and development. This means not waiting until there is a problem to address it. Or worse, seeing that a behavior needs to be addressed and avoiding it due to your own discomfort.
While it isn’t in the best interest of your team (or you) to spend time focusing on overall “weaknesses,” it is worthy of your time to give very specific feedback on areas that could become career-stallers for an individual. For example, giving feedback on what would make a presentation more impactful at the next round table discussion is something that could support the elevation of one of your direct reports.
Delegation and Making Clear Agreements: This conversation is probably the one that stalls teams more than any other. Also, it can create difficult conversations later.
As a leader, you must know how to delegate tasks effectively and how to enter into clear agreements with others. At a minimum, a clear agreement includes who will do what by when — I have watched many leaders struggle with frustration when tasks aren’t managed well and upon further investigation discover that neither person was on the same page to begin with.
Remember, delegating tasks supports the development of those who report to you and allows them to use their strengths. (See point #1 and #2 above.)
Becoming a master at delegating effectively and following up on agreements will save you a great deal of time, keep difficult conversations to a minimum, and allow you to put your attention on all of the things that are going well.