Most people or coaches are interested in moving to the next level. They want to accept higher levels of responsibilities and create more value. That’s great because the world needs more ambitious and passionate leaders. But then the conversation quickly turns to promotion; getting to the next level.
There are many parts to this answer. But here are some of the most important and simplest part:
You get promoted by demonstrating performance at the next level. Let’s say you are a Director. You want to make it to the Vice President. You should demonstrate through your actions, results, and your personal branding that you are already growing as a VP.
In fact, the demonstration of your performance should be so strong that people should be already assuming you to be the next Vice President. Before that, there are a couple of things that need to happen.
First is that you should already be doing a great job at your current level. Next is for you to understand what the expectations of that next level are. Once you understand what those expectations are, it becomes clear what you need to do in order to achieve that promotion.
Demonstrate performance at the next level with your action, with your results, and with your branding.
Empathy is critical for any leader. It is a skill that helps you better understand customers, stakeholders, and team dynamics. The insights you receive from having empathy enable you to solve problems efficiently, allowing you, as a leader, to deliver great results.
Empathetic leadership is the most appreciated leadership style today, simply because an empathetic leader has more than his own perspective. This empowers him with flexibility compared with the rigidity tough leaders display. Leaders like Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, are shining examples of how well empathetic leadership works.
Empathy is not a skill that can be developed overnight. If it were, it would have been so easy, and slightly not so special. For most of us, it takes a lot of work. Here are five ways you can develop your empathy muscle:
Develop curiosity about the people and the organizations that you’re involved with, even if you are looking at a process or customer experience or a strategy. Have genuine interest in what is going on around you. When you’re curious about how others solve a particular problem or what approaches someone else takes, you begin to understand their point of view. And once you understand that, developing empathy is not so far away.
Remove Your Biases
Every one of us has biases. We might be influenced or conditioned to think in a certain manner or have a certain opinion by the environment we’ve been in for so many years. And if you think you don’t have any biases, it is more than likely that you’re wrong. It is often good to think more deeply about something – think once, twice or more – to ensure that your bias isn’t at work when you make a major decision. Make this a practice and slowly, you will learn to think objectively. The more you distance yourself from your biases, the better you become in developing empathy.
Walk in Their Shoes
If you’re interacting with your customer, partner, or your employee, make sure you walk in their shoes for some time to understand them and their perspectives. It helps you understand what they’re going through. What kinds of problems are they facing? What causes these problems? What are their pain points?
The more you understand them, the more you want to help them solve their problems, and the more you develop empathy towards them.
Listen to Understand
Communication these days, unfortunately, is a one-way street. It is yet largely unknown that listening is also a major part of communication. But when you listen, don’t listen to respond. Listen to understand. And always listen with the assumption that you’re wrong. This ensures that your existing understanding or bias doesn’t get in the way while you listen to understand. The person who is talking to you deserves your undivided attention, so focus and listen.
Develop a Strong Imagination
Developing a strong imagination is also quintessential to developing empathy. Good imagination helps you visualize problems others face and their possible solutions.
The biggest impediment to an active imagination is boundaries. We set rules and limits, and confine our thinking to a box. Once limits are set, imagination itself becomes limited. You can develop a strong imagination by removing these constraints. The more constraints you remove, the more vivid your imagination becomes. Having a strong imagination enables you to solve problems without constraints.
So by working on these five points, we can build a strong empathy muscle that helps us solve problems efficiently for customers and stakeholders. It is an essential leadership skill that will enable you to become a better leader who is more empathetic and delivers great results.
You must be enjoying it if you’re working remotely. You have more flexibility, no commute, and can use your time more effectively. At the same time though, you do miss out on the hallway conversations – on the general chit chat which is so important in developing interpersonal relationships as well as to build your professional network over a period of time.
Here are some hacks that can help you develop a great network even if you work remotely.
Establish Informal Chat Channels
The first thing is to make sure you establish informal chat channels. Make sure you have your one-on-ones. Or at least make sure you’re touching base with people on instant messenger or on Slack.
Use Slack to be Part of Informal Communities
If you don’t have informal communities in your company’s Slack, then you must create one. This can be an informal community based on certain common topics of interest.
Go to the Office
I know, this is precisely what you’ve been trying to avoid. But make sure you go to the office from time to time. And especially if you can time it for around specific events, you will meet more people. This increases your chance of being kept in the loop.
Meet Other Professionals
Another hack is to get into coworking spaces or coffee shops where you can potentially meet other professionals. Outside of work you can attend local meetups or attend local industry events. This will keep you updated about the current trends in the industry and help you broaden your professional network.
Finally, you could volunteer for a really good cause where you will meet like-minded people. This is another great way to build your network.
These steps will help you connect and engage with your peers, your colleagues, and of course with people who share your values. And it will help you build your professional network even though you might be working remotely. You could really have the best of both worlds.
Sometimes, status meetings are a necessary evil of corporate life. They could be dull and boring, and some of us even consider them a waste of time – time that could be better invested into actually getting things done. In short, status meetings could be a drag.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. There is great value in these meetings. It’s just that we don’t usually see it because of the way they’re done.
Here’s how you can hack your status meetings and turn them into meaningful conversations to make them worth every one’s time.
Restate the Purpose
The first hack is to make sure you restate the purpose of your project. This helps participants who are basically running from meetings to meetings to get grounded into the objective. It also helps them understand the mission of what your team is truly trying to achieve.
The second hack is to provide value. You can make this happen by making sure that the content of your status update has something of value to the audience. Does it offer solutions to a particular problem? Does it give much-needed updates on a long-standing issue? Make sure you include these things in your meetings.
Consider ‘So What?’
Make sure you address the ‘so what?’. If you’re providing status updates, make sure that as you write that status report, you consider your ‘so what?’. And if it doesn’t answer the question clearly, then it doesn’t belong in the status update.
Keep Them Alert
The next hack is about asking and telling about where the audience needs to pay attention. For example, when you’re starting out your status update, you can say, “Hey Rick, make sure that we converge on topic number three when we get there,” so that you’re keeping Rick alert throughout the status meeting.
Finally, the status meeting is a great opportunity for you to ask for help from others. This will make your project more successful and you will draw out engagement from your stakeholders.
Status updates don’t have to be boring. They don’t have to be a necessary evil. Turn them around to make them meaningful conversations and make the best use of everyone’s time.
We carry our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs with us 24/7. These thoughts, ideas, and beliefs help us interact with the world around us. That world includes the environment around us, our family, friends, colleagues, boss, peers, leaders, and customers. Our interaction with them has an impact on our lives as well as theirs. And these interactions shape our destiny. These interactions shape our relationships, our careers, our compensation, our trajectory, and our future. We should choose to do the right thing in these moments.
Sometimes these situations may be straightforward and easy, but sometimes, not so much. And doing the right thing all the time can be quite challenging. Sometimes there are moments and interactions that build up over a period of time. Or sometimes there are those very critical moments – the most pivotal moments.
We can make all these moments – whether they’re small or large moments – and interactions matter by choosing to do the right thing. Most of the time we know what the right thing is, but we just don’t choose to do it.
What is the Opportunity Zone?
Here is a technique that will not only make those moments matter but also will help you gain some muscle to do the right thing every time. There is a gap between an event (or a stimulus from the environment) and your response. That gap is your opportunity zone. Within this gap lies the secret – the opportunity for you to do the right thing. So, when you’re in the opportunity zone, you pause – to gather your thoughts, to think about the risks and opportunities, and to think about the gift that you can give others.
Provide your response only after that. As you practice being in the opportunity zone, your responses will create more value for others as well as for yourself.
Now, you will be able to answer all those difficult questions. Be present in the moment to make sure that you can take advantage of the opportunity zones. This will create a better you, a better leader. You will have a higher emotional quotient and a great intellectual capability to make sure that every moment, whether it’s small or critical, matter to you.
Leaders drive change. They are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve, to create, and to build – improve the situation, to create new ideas, and to build new solutions.
In other words, leaders like you, are never satisfied with the status quo. And they just want to make things better. In the process of driving this change, it is important to think about how to communicate this change effectively so that you can recruit your colleagues to be part of this change. Because if you want to go further, you have to go together as a team.
In order to communicate this effectively, we must win others’ hearts as well as their minds. Zig Ziglar once said, “Logic makes people think and emotions make people act.” Neuroscience has proven that human beings respond to emotions first while intellect and logic come second. So your argument should be able to strike a chord emotionally first. It must appeal to what your audience cares about. They should be able to see some of their own values in the mission that you’re sharing.
Once you’ve shared that heart-based engagement, follow that up with the mind-based argument. This is where you share the business case. Share the strong data points for your case and then intellectually show how (and why) this is the right thing to do.
This is how leaders can communicate and drive the change – by connecting with the heart and convincing with the mind.
The common question we use to break the ice, when you are at a networking event or just meeting people, is something like “So, what do you do?” And that question, for the most part, is awkward for people to answer.
Because many people might just not be ready or they might be plain uncomfortable sharing it. Or they might find it challenging to articulate it. And so, this sets us up for an extremely difficult icebreaker.
Is there any alternative question?
Ice-breaking questions are supposed to make the other person comfortable and not awkward. A better question could be something like, “Tell me about yourself” or “What’s new and exciting in your world?” These types of questions are more uplifting, and they give the other person an opportunity to respond in a way that makes the most sense to them. So, they could share a work update or a personal story or a recent vacation story.
The point is that this establishes a much warmer engagement and a great way to break the ice.
You are a leader. You are climbing the corporate ladder, taking advantage of all the opportunities that are coming your way, and are making the most of those opportunities. You’re moving onto juicy roles within your company or in different companies.
That’s phenomenal. Good for you. Great job. Keep going.
As you are on this journey, it never hurts to pause and reflect on the corporate ladder that you’re climbing. Where does it lead? What’s going to be the ultimate destination? Here are some things that you may want to think about as you climb this ladder.
1. What are you learning on this journey?
2. What is the nature of the professional network that you are building?
3. Are your personal values aligned with this corporate ladder and the destination of this ladder?
If the answers to these questions are satisfactory to you, go right ahead. Continue on your path to world domination.
But if for some reason, these answers are not satisfactory to you, it might be time to take your ladder and put it on a different wall, a wall that is more aligned to your values. It helps you to learn and grow in the areas that you want to grow in. It’s time to take your ladder to a different wall.
Leaders not only have great leadership capabilities but also are knowledgeable in areas where they have domain expertise. This expertise provides leaders a bedrock, a foundation for more capabilities. And it provides differentiation for them from a personal branding standpoint.
Here is a way to develop that expertise. Figure out what is the language (the terminology) that’s being used in your industry (the domain area). Every industry has a unique language, a unique set of terms. Understand that language deeply, make it your own and make sure you’re applying that language every day, so that you can establish fluency on that topic.
Be Fluent in the Language of Your Industry
For Tech, for example, it could be things like multitenant, customer acquisition costs, customer lifetime value, churn rate, etc. In a healthcare setting, it could be different. It could be about HL7, peer provider, and benefits management, among others.
These are just some of the basic terms. You must understand the terminology in a way that you become fluent in it. The richer your language becomes, the better you can communicate, the better you can establish your expertise, and the more influential you become from an industry standpoint.
Learn the language and the terminology in your industry to establish yourself as a leader, that not only has great leadership capabilities but also has domain expertise.
Effective leadership requires many different skills. The way to organize these skills and be effective is to have a T-shaped skill set.
A T-shaped skill set basically consists of a broad understanding of different functions and depth in a particular area. The way the T-shaped skill set works is you need both – you need a broader understanding of the business and the depth in a particular area.
Just having a broad understanding is not really effective. There might be people out there who might have just a broad understanding of a couple of areas, but that doesn’t provide enough traction. And there might be people on the other end of the spectrum who have a lot of depth in a particular area, but they may not have a broad view or understanding of all the broad areas of business or technology.
This is a very siloed skill set. It is also a siloed approach to work, thinking, and design. This is how leaders can be effective. They can keep the big picture in mind while focusing on the work that acquires their expertise.