by Elizabeth A. Bert on July 12th, 2013

As a sneak preview for my upcoming book Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact, here are the seven questions I argue leaders — or anyone who wants to communicate powerfully — need to ask themselves in order to stop leaving their communications to chance and to start communicating consciously.  The work that each of these questions suggests, and the research that backs them up, are the body of the book.

1.  How do you show up when you walk into a room?  Take control of your presence and change both your thinking and the messages you send to those around you.

2.  What emotions do you convey for important meetings, conversations, and presentations?  Share your focused emotions and control the emotional tenor of your tribe.

3.  What unconscious messages are you receiving from others?  Use your unconscious expertise to stay attuned to the hidden messages of everyone around you.

4.  Do you have a leadership voice?  Tune your voice to automatically lead your peers.

5.  What honest signals do you send out in key work and social situations?  Establish the right levels of energy and passion to win the contract, the negotiation, or the raise.

6.  Is your unconscious mind holding you back or propelling you forward?  Shed your unconscious mind of the blocks and impediments to success.

7.  Are you telling powerful stories?  Convey your message in ways that ensures that your listeners are aligned with you, down to their very brain waves.

I look forward to sharing the book with you early next year.  For now, I’m very excited to share the cover art.

Nick Morgan, Contributor

by Elizabeth A. Bert on June 27th, 2013

Who doesn’t love the alphabet?  Think about it – every book, blog post, memo, and any other document is simply a rearrangement of the same 26 little letters (mind = blown). 

So since the alphabet is so awesome, I figured I’d share 26 leadership thoughts and ideas related to each letter of the alphabet.  Enjoy and good luck getting the ABC song out of your head by the time you’re done!

Authenticity: it sounds like a challenging concept but it’s actually quite easy – simply be yourself.  No B.S.  No facades.  That authenticity builds trust between you and your team. 

Bench Strength: if you’re not thinking about and doing rigorous succession planning, you’re wrong.  Flat wrong.  Your job as a leader isn’t just managing today’s team – it’s also preparing tomorrow’s team and being ready for the inevitable turnover that comes with any organization.  Build your succession plan.  Now.

Courage: take a stand for your beliefs.  Don’t let people get thrown under the bus – instead jump between them and the bus and take the hit.  Have some intestinal fortitude to right the wrongs around you despite the cost and risk to you personally.

Delegation: you can’t do it all yourself (even if you know you’ll do it better than they will).  The hallmark of a great leader is being able to let go and let one’s people do things while the leader sets direction, procures resources, and provides motivation.  Let go.

Entrepreneurship: foster it.  Even huge companies were start-ups at one point in their growth.  Encourage your people to take risks, to build new things, and to challenge existing ways of doing business.  Your business will change.  Either you can change it or the world will change it for you.

Feedback: if you’re not delivering difficult messages to the members of your team when they need to hear those messages, you’re doing them a disservice.  Delivering tough feedback is one reason you get paid the big bucks.

Gratitude: demonstrate it.  Let people know you’re thankful for all they do to make you look good.  Your team needs to know you appreciate their hard work.  A simple thank you note can go a long way.

Humor: see the funny in the frustrating.  When you step back from the frustration and the seriousness, work is pretty absurd and silly.  If you can see the humor in it (and help others to do so as well), the stress level in your organization will be significantly lower than it is today.

Initiative: take it. Yes, this requires you to assume risk.  That’s the mantle of leadership.  Go out and make mistakes.  Who knows? You may actually get it right and have a huge positive impact.  And if you don’t you’ve certainly learned something new.

Justice: dish it out.  When you see unjust behavior, no matter how small, if you let it go unpunished, you’re implicitly condoning it.  Be fair, be fast, and be just.  No one said your job was easy and this will require you to deliver some tough messages.  That’s why they pay you the big bucks.

Knowledge: build your knowledge daily.  Read.  Do research.  Look up words or facts you don’t know.  Talk with experts outside your field.  If you constantly seek new sources of knowledge, you’ll be better at spotting risks and opportunities than your competitors.

Leadership: you manage things; you lead people.  Remember – leadership is the art of influencing, setting direction, and inspiring others to take action because they share your vision and goals.  Stop thinking the management tasks you’re performing are leadership.

Managing Up: a major part of your job is being a human crapshield for your team.  You need to protect them from distractions and stupidity so they can get their work done.  You’re their only buffer between them and corporate demands and stupidity.

Negativity: cut the crap.  When the team hears you complaining, not only does it destroy morale, concern them, and make you look immature, it also gives them the right to complain themselves.  Negativity is a cancer.  Prevent it starting with yourself.

Opportunities: are you creating opportunities for your people to grow, fail, learn, and succeed?  You have to create those stretch assignments and projects if you ever expect them to become more than they are today.

Philosophy: every leader should have and share their own personal leadership philosophy.  It’s a simple statement of your beliefs and it will help you set expectations and maintain standards.  If you’d like to craft a clear, compelling philosophy, I can’t think of a better resource than this book.

Quitting Time: we work to live, not live to work.  You set an example for balance for your team.  If you don’t know when to quit and go home, they’ll follow your bad example and you’ll burn them out.  Be reasonable about what you ask of yourself because implicitly you’re asking the same of them.

Responsibility: accountability is an external force holding you to a standard of performance.  Responsibility is holding yourself accountable to meeting the standard.  It’s intrinsic.  Make the leap from accountability to responsibility.

Strategy: Have one.  I don’t care how big or small your organization is – as a leader you need to articulate a clear destination, goals, and define the path to get there.  If you don’t, your people are wandering aimlessly.

Thinking Time: carve out at least 4 hours per month to do nothing but think.  Remove distractions and evaluate the major issues your organization faces.  Your job is to look out over the horizon – not to look down at the road you’re driving down.

Underpromise, Overdeliver: make commitments you know you can keep but always seek to surprise to the upside.  Too many people overpromise and underdeliver which is a recipe for disaster.  Manage expectations well but then give people more than they thought they’d ever get.

Vision: you need to look into the future and tell people what to expect.  Their job is to drive and maintain the bus.  Your job is to set the destination and keep your eyes on the horizon to look for unexpected bumps in the road.

Why?: ask this question a lot.  Ask why you do things the way you do and if there are new/better ways to do it.  Ask your people why they did something or why they feel a certain way.  You’ll understand them better and be better able to lead them.  Ask “why?” all the time.

Xenophobia: avoid it. We’re increasingly global and interconnected.  Celebrate the diversity of your team, your partners, and your customers.  Go to faraway lands to find new people, new opportunities, and new perspectives.  Stop being so insular.  (I’ll bet you thought I would do something dumb like “xylophone” or “x-ray” for this one, huh?)

Yelling: seriously?  Are you a cro-magnon man?  No yelling in the workplace unless you’re trying to get someone’s attention as a 1 ton anvil falls from the sky toward their head.  Yelling is crass not to mention ineffective.  Besides, speaking calmly and softly is much, much scarier.

Zebra Cakes: always have some on hand.  They’re good for boosting blood sugar during afternoon doldrums.  I mean, who doesn’t love Zebra Cakes?

There you go – 26 leadership tips, techniques, and ideas courtesy of your kindergarten teacher’s ABC’s.  Which letters are your favorites?  What would you add to this list?

- Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

by Elizabeth A. Bert on April 29th, 2013

As entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time honing our leadership style and working tirelessly to ensure our teams are motivated to work with us. There are countless resources to improve on various attributes you utilize both in and out of the office, but there’s less information readily available on pitfalls to avoid. You might think you’re doing a good job, but here’s a list of how you might be undermining yourself.

Violate trust. This goes beyond straightforward lying, which should be a fairly obvious point. You can lose all-important team members’ trust by not doing what you say. Don’t make promises you can’t keep – big or small.

Be selfish instead of a servant leader. Your goal is to elevate your team and celebrate each person’s victories, not your own. Put employees’ needs before your own and do everything in your power to help them help themselves. If you spend your day celebrating yourself, you’ll not only stall your team’s progress, but you’ll also become extremely unpopular – and fast.

Lack focus and flip-flop on priorities. Your mission should be simple and straightforward for your team to follow and accomplish. If you’re not clear on goals and a clear-cut, prioritized path to complete them, how should you expect anyone to achieve anything? Figure out a plan – for this week, this month, this quarter, and this year. For that plan, establish the key objectives and the mini-goals each person is responsible for realizing.

Be user “unfriendly.” I recently wrote a blog about user-friendly products and their leadership counterparts. If you’re not accessible or kindhearted, or if people have to jump through hoops to reach you for a brief moment, it’s inevitable that you’ll leave a bad taste with someone. When you’re a user-friendly leader, you’ll constantly surprise people and leave them with a positive impression, rather than a dogmatic, negative one.

Deal in fantasy instead of science. Don’t get me wrong: vision is crucial. You need to have an end goal and believe in it strongly. However, that vision requires execution to make it a reality. You need to track progress obsessively with metrics, so you’re able to make real-time adjustments and tweaks. Without this, you’re just a used-car salesman spinning the wheels of everyone you meet.

Lack passion and creativity. If you expect your team members to be evangelical about what you’ve set out to achieve, you need to be a beacon with your passion, bursting from every pore. If you want your team members to think outside the box, why are you coloring inside the lines? If you’re ho-hum, your team will generate equally ho-hum results. Allow them to unleash their own creativity by setting yours free.

Play checkers instead of chess. As a leader, you need to think a few moves down the board, just like a chess player. We all should be doing the jobs we want, not the jobs we have. Help your team members decipher a sales target’s strategy or what the board of directors will say at the next proposal. Continuously drive the group forward and do so yourself – otherwise you’re just playing checkers, which I’m sure you can do in your sleep.

Act as if it’s just about what you say. This is the easiest method of all in a downward spiral toward undermining yourself. This is a trap – by phrasing things nicely you might think it’s enough. However, in reality, it’s really about how you make other people feel. In ten years nobody will remember what you said day to day, but rather your overall impression you’ve left on someone. One of our Vice Presidents at DVP, Ted Serbinski, recently sent our administrative assistants a surprise, personalized gift boxes – one for the woman’s precious dog with treats and toys and a training manual, and to the other, gourmet food items for the woman herself with attention and care to her allergen-specific needs. Years from now, they won’t necessarily remember the meeting they scheduled for Ted or the calls they made on his behalf, but rather the fact that he went out of his way to do something kind, simply to show his appreciation for them.

What have you done today, this week, or this month to show your gratitude? The difference between being polite or pleasant and completely making someone’s day doesn’t require much more effort – but it makes all the difference. That gap is what will separate you as a great leader, versus the sea of good ones out there. What legacy will you leave?

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