What can you do to be like the best leaders you know? Some things are lessons to be reviewed everyday (like these), other must be experienced time to time. Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie, from McKinsey, share some exercises in their new book, “Centered Leadership: Leading with Purpose, Clarity, and Impact” that I suggest you here. They will help you become more aware of your mind-sets. “Armed with this knowledge, you can start making deliberate choices about the mind-sets that best serve you in a given moment and learn through practice to shift into them without missing a beat”, they write. Following this, you will improve your ability to lead at your best to emerge naturally.
1. Find your strengths
Find a comfortable spot without distraction. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. When you’re ready, put yourself back in these three moments, in turn:
a. As a small child. What form of imaginary play do you like most? What characters or roles do you choose? What games attract you most, and who do you get to be in them?
b. As a young adult. What activities draw you in so entirely that you lose track of time? What boosts your energy, and what does that say about you?
c. As a working adult. Look back to a high point that occurred over the past 18 months. What are you doing? What is the nature of the impact you are having on yourself, others, and the organization?
Looking across these moments, what do you value most about yourself? What would you be pride to hear from your colleagues and loved ones at a celebration for you? Those are your strengths. Everyone has weaknesses to improve. But shifting to a focus on strengths is a far more inspiring approach.
2. Practice the pause
Work always has challenges: deadlines, missed budgets, angry customers, discussions. However, instead of fight or freeze, what if you could reflect and manage creatively what you’re experiencing? Put yourself back: keep in mind the metaphor of an iceberg, where little is visible above the surface.
a. In this moment, notice the impact on yourself. What are you doing or not doing? What are you saying or not saying? How are you acting? What effect are your words and actions having?
b. Below the waterline. What are you thinking and feeling but not expressing? What negative outcomes are you most worried about?
c. Deeper still, look at your values and beliefs. What is most important to you? What belief do you hold about this situation, about yourself, and about others?
d. Even deeper, examine your underlying needs. What is at stake for you here? Are you aware of any deeper desires and needs?
Ask yourself: “What did I really want for—and of—myself in that moment?” By noticing when our attention is focused on needs that we want to protect, we open up access to a greater range of behavior.
3. Choose your questions wisely
What’s the difference between these sets of questions?
a. What’s the problem? / What are the root causes? / Who is to blame? / What have you tried that hasn’t worked? / Why haven’t you been able to fix the problem yet?
b. What would you like to see (and make) happen? / Can you recall a time when the solution was present, at least in part? What made that possible? / What are the smallest steps you could take that would make the biggest difference? / What are you learning in this conversation so far?
The first set is great for solving technical problems, but prompts defensive reactions and leaves participants feeling drained. In the secondo, participants report feeling animated, curious, and engaged. As we move up the ranks as leaders, the challenges become more complex. When we develop solution-focused instincts, we empower and engage others, deliberately infusing hope.
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