“Tricks of the trade” for being an effective leader in 2020 are coming at us fast and furious. The past six months have demanded that effective leaders become curious, stay calm and flexible. As a leader you are likely dealing with intense fluctuations in information, business models, people, technology and data – not to mention your own emotions. Some of us are weathering the storms more easily than others and some of us need ways to improve our leadership mindset.

None of us can do everything, that’s for sure. So how are you going to focus on the things that will make your leadership authentic, clear and impactful? I’ve made lists and lists of my top 3 based on articles I’ve read, conversations with clients, colleagues and friends, and observations of leaders who keep impressing me. 

My conclusion: the foundation for effective leadership revolves around state of mind – your flexible mindset. Consider your strengths in the following areas to see where you shake out and what feels accessible to consider practicing.

Expect the Unexpected

How do you know if you are ready? Do you wake up mid-sleep wondering what could be thrown at you next? The beating heart, moon gazing, or maybe exhaustion are all signs that “not knowing” is playing tricks on your mind (a.k.a. causing you anxiety).  

Acknowledging how quickly the world is changing and flinging new kinds of decision making your way is your accessible starting point. Simply acknowledging how stressful everything is step one in coming to terms with your feelings. Say it out loud: “This is insane” (word choice up to you!). Remember, there is information available, relevant skills you’ve acquired, strategies to consider, allies you can rely on.  

Can you trust your head and your heart? The ability to take advantage of insights from people who think differently from you will leapfrog your decision making forward.  And sometimes, you have to be able to make decisions quickly. 

Your challenge: pay close attention to your decision making and see what works best for you.

Keep your Ego in Check

This is easy to say and hard to do sometimes. Ready to hear the hard stuff?  At the end of the day the decision making is up to you! But, of course, you may or may not have the right answer. 

We are all being told information we don’t want to hear – the stuff that is contrary to our existing beliefs, instincts and plans. Those who are most successful tend to look for just that kind of information to challenge their own thinking. How are you going to be vulnerable enough to accept that there are things you just don’t have answers to, and still stay productive?

You have resources all around you. Lean into the reliable sources while seeking new experts. Get a fresh perspective you need from someone who isn’t your go-to person. What would it feel like to turn to the one who stays quiet, is new on the team or always confuses you?  Ask what their take is on things? What if they bring the solution you need to hear when your vision is clouded? Keep your ego in check by looking for new information to challenge your own thinking and seeking fresh perspectives!

Respond, Don’t React

With the pace of decision making amping up, it is easy to react instead of respond. This distinction was lost on me before I became a coach. What I have found is that in the moment a reaction typically feels like it “comes out of nowhere” and the message the reaction conveys can be confusing, frightening, or just wrong. When you are striving for efficiency and clear communication a response is likely to lead to a more productive next step. Let’s explore an example:

Your team informs you that a widget critical to the development of a new product is going to be delayed by a week. This sets off a potential chain of events that has a significant impact on delivery dates to new clients. Yikes!

A reaction might look like yelling or blaming. It may feel like overwhelming anger, fear or giving up. All of these take up tons of space and distract you and your team from constructive consideration of next steps.  

A response is a little different. Take a breath, walk away for a minute, decide to think about how to manage your emotions – even a little bit. Then decide what is next, how you are going to navigate, what resources you need, etc. Nine times out of ten a response feels better and yields better results. Remember, practice the pause helps improve your leadership mindset.

Other Leadership Tips

These are my Top 3 tips to improve your leadership mindset! Here are a couple other tips to mull over from my awesome colleagues at Ama La Vida:

Foram Sheth:  

  1. Clear Communication: people need to know what’s going on especially  because they can’t see it in a virtual environment
  2. Inspiration/Vision: given the environment and the amount of uncertainty, teams need to know what they’re working towards and feel inspired to push through the tough stuff
  3. Trust: leaders need to trust that teams are doing the work and verify that it’s getting done. Without it, we see lack of accountability or micromanagement which leads to frustration and poor performance.   

Jennifer Maynard:  

  1. Active Listening
  2. Showing up as a coach and asking deep questions
  3. Providing effective feedback

Shari Santorella:

  1. Empathy/Compassion: it’s important for people to feel that they are working with/for someone who is willing to feel.   It humanizes and convinces teams about solid give and take. 
  2. Listening: #1 thing that good leaders and productive team members demonstrate. Effective listening allows the speaker to feel understood and the listener to understand and respond appropriately to what is actually being said, not what they “think” they hear.
  3. Communications/transparency:  People often assume the worst or create inaccurate scenarios if not given the proper information or feel that they are not being given the proper information. Clear communication reduces confusion and keeps the team focused.

If you need help to improve your leadership mindset, a leadership coach can provide a mirror to help you see opportunities to be a more effective leader. If you are ready to become the leader you want to be, schedule your free coaching consult today. We look forward to connecting with you!

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Betsy Westhoff

Betsy Westhoff

Hi, my name is Betsy Westhoff. I am a Leadership Coach with Ama La Vida, a life- long Chicagoan, a marketer, a connector, and an ideator. I am also a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, aunt and dog lover! I have learned that each and every step along our journey shapes who we are and informs us about who we are becoming and I believe that leadership is first and foremost a dedication to oneself.
Betsy Westhoff

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