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Leading by Attraction

Sell your vision, not your soul. How leaders can use the power of attraction at work

For clients who want or need to really improve their leadership game, I sometimes work with the approach of two main groups of leadership styles. This is a great way of introducing people to the idea that there is actually more than one way of doing things. You’ll want to have this flexibility in the way that you lead people because it offers so much possibility.

Think of it this way – which of these approaches describes your typical way of leading others?

  1. Are you typically behind people, exhorting, encouraging or even pushing them to do stuff? Or
  2. Are you typically in front of people, enticing, attracting or even pulling them to where they need to be?

Both of these approaches are useful at times. The kind of positional authority that comes with being the boss might tend to make some leaders adopt the first way – the ‘push’ approach to leadership – slightly too much. I want to balance that by exploring one aspect of the other style – the pull style of leadership. In particular, I want to look at the ways you can entice and attract people forwards.

This is the important question to consider about your own leadership – can you attract and entice people into putting their efforts towards a common goal?

When you can do this, as well as ‘push’ people towards things, it just seems to make your working life a little bit sweeter and a little bit easier. The pull approach to leadership can be a welcome change from the ‘selling your soul’ effort of feeling that you always need to be pushing things along!

I’ve just sketched out a few notes here; things to explore and experiment with yourself if you want to try broadening your range of leadership styles in this way.


You want to get a sense that you’re drawing people into a brighter future of some kind. Somewhere either where the current problems that you’re working on together have been solved, or where you’ve created something important together.


You can learn a lot about the ‘pull’ method from great salespeople. The ones who do this well, are the opposite to what you’d describe as a ‘pushy’ salesperson. Here are some of the things to explore that you can learn from really good salespeople:

First, they’ve got the credibility – a track record of doing what they said they would do, of keeping their promises. Leaders might refer to this as walking their talk.

Second, they’ve got a picture of the future – a description of how things will be once that problem has been solved or that achievement has been created. Leaders might call this a vision. Great leaders are really clear about what the core of their vision is, the part that absolutely must happen. Everything else, including the part about exactly how you will get there, is secondary.

Third, they’ve got a way of letting people hear their message. For a salesperson, this is about how they do their promotion, and there are lots of possible channels. For leaders, just what that method is doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a way for people to find out about your vision. Write about it, vlog about it, tour your business, chat about it over coffee whenever possible, put it on a t-shirt, have it tattooed on your forehead – just get the message out.

Those three areas are good places to start your exploration if you’d like to do more enticing and attracting – to be more like a great salesperson in your leadership. And they are really a start; if you were a salesperson, you could think of those three as being like the stuff that would get you in the door. Once you’re in the door, then the real work can start…

Go back to that ‘push’ approach of leadership for a second, just because the contrast will help us to understand the ‘pull’ approach more. A really good push approach to leading others is about making it uncomfortable not to do what is needed. In my jargon, you’ve trying to:

‘Deepen the pain of staying unchanged’

so that other people find it easier to do what you need than to not do it.

And this ‘deepen the pain’ approach is also something that good salespeople do. It’s often the thing that closes a deal, where they’ll ask something like “What will happen if you don’t do something about Problem X?”

In contrast, when you’re doing a ‘pull’ leadership approach, you’re trying to:

‘Feed the desire to reach even higher’

so that other people will be drawn to do what you need them to do, because they want to.

There are three more interesting areas to consider then, if you’d like to get into this pull approach. They’re about using your Vision of the future to appeal to some of the unconscious ways that people respond to their experiences: Logically, Emotionally via their Senses and through Relationships with others.

Logically

Can you set out the Logic of how your Vision makes sense as something that people would naturally want to do? Does it have diagrams and pictures to appeal to people who process logic visually? Can you tell the story of it, so that people who think in words can get on board? Can you do the numbers – do the figures really stack-up, so that people who think in abstract terms will be attracted by it?

Emotionally and Sensually

As my teenager might put it, can you share the ‘feels’?

My coaching friend Andy Denne describes this approach as selling a peach. You can talk about the great smell of a ripe peach, or its sweet juicy taste, or its lovely bright colour. You can even hand out samples, so people can experience for themselves what it’s like to eat a peach. I’m trying to sell you the idea of using metaphor to entice people into your vision. What will it be like for people to put their efforts towards your common goal – what will the sights, sounds and experiences be like?

Relationship

Can you ‘sell’ your vision by building Relationship with the people around you? How well do you know them and what’s important to them? What keeps them awake at night? What do they long for? Can you listen more than you talk, so that you learn and understand people better? Relationships are the platform from which you can adapt, improvise and overcome on the way towards achieving your vision.

“If you want people to build a ship, don’t just drum up people to collect wood, and don’t just assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.”
Antoine de St Exupery


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Behavioural Choice and Change (1/2)

The most flexible person usually wins – how to generate choice and change in behaviours at work (1/2)

One of the things you’ll often hear me banging on about is the principle (in my kind of coaching) that:

the person with the most flexibility is the one most likely to succeed.

That is, if you can adapt your approach, change your behaviour, in a way that remains authentic, then you’ll be more likely to overcome obstacles and influence people positively.

In a leadership sense, you might hear people talking about whether or not somebody has “leadership range”, and this is the same thing. Can you adapt your leadership behaviours, the way you do leadership, to best suit the people around you, the circumstances you find yourselves in and the things you want to achieve?

When it comes to dealing with other people, it’s almost always easier to change yourself than to change others. Actually, in my view, getting others to change very often requires us to change ourselves in some way, even if its only to find a better way of communicating with them.


When you see this principle of flexibility in action, it’s a very powerful thing. People sometimes come here to my coaching studio feeling totally stuck. What they’ve got to do is create enough wiggle-room in their circumstances to get unstuck – like they need to spray some WD40 on a bolt that hasn’t been turned in a while.

And the best way to create that wiggle-room, that all-important flexibility, is to work on behavioural choices . On having different ways of going about things.


It seems to me to go a bit like this:

  1. If you’ve only got one way of doing things, then sooner or later you’re going to get stuck.
  2. If you’ve only got two ways of going about things, then sooner or later you’ll face a dilemma.
  3. When you’ve got three or more options, then you’ve got the ability to select what to do and how to do it, in a way most likely to suit the circumstances. Now you have choice.

I’m going to split the rest of this article into two, so I can tackle it with a bit of depth.

Carry on reading below to find out just what it is we’re talking about when we ask people to create choices in their behaviours. What is behaviour? What needs to be going on on the inside (mostly in our heads) and on the outside, when we’re looking for behavioural choice and change?

And then I’ll give some easy ways to actually generate more behavioural choices in a second article next month (check this space for the link when that’s been written).

What Behaviour Is

In my very simplistic definition, behaviour has got two important dimensions.

First, the dimension of behaviour that most people consider (because it’s ultimately the only part that you’ll ever experience of somebody else’s behaviour) is what happens on the outside, and it’s this:

what you say and what you do.

This first, outside dimension, of behaviour is the one that most people start with when they’re looking for change. And it’s the kind of thing that’ll get reported to you in a 360 feedback or an appraisal. It’s also almost always the wrong place to start when you’re wanting to generate choice and change.

Where you should be starting, is with the second, far more interesting part of behaviour:

what happens on the inside, to generate what you say and what you do.

From a behavioural point of view, what happens on the inside to determine what you say and do on the outside has got four key factors. I’m summarising like crazy here, just to give you some useful headlines about this stuff. In a coaching session we’d dive into these and have a fun time exploring around each of them quite a bit. And I also know from experience that if you’re reading this because you might want to help yourself or others to create more behavioural choices and to see some kind of positive change in your outcomes, then even just working with this at a headline level can create a great deal of new wiggle-room for you. The four factors of behaviour on the inside to consider are these:

1. Why you do it (what’s your MOTIVATION?)

2. What Outcome you want to achieve (what’s your INTENTION?)

3. The Sequence of words and actions you might take to carry this out (Your STRATEGY)

4. What Evidence will you need to see, hear or feel to know that it’s working (what CRITERIA need to be satisfied?)

Just asking some basic questions and having a few moments reflection on each of those four factors can often be enough to generate new choices and the flexibility to succeed.


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Leadership Quickies

Four leadership mistakes you probably don’t even know you’re making

1. Not giving one-to-one attention to each of your team members
Leaders should act as a mentor or coach and listen to each person’s concerns, needs and ambitions, giving empathy and support, keeping communications open and setting challenges. This fulfills a deep need for respect and celebrates the individual contribution that people can make to the team. You’ll very quickly lose the right people and bring out the worst in the wrong people if you don’t do this.

2. Being safe and boring
A steady pace is all very well, but people and organisations sometimes need a leader to challenge assumptions, take risks and ask other people for their ideas. This helps stimulate creativity and develop independent thinking. When times become hard, you’ll wish you’d fixed this particular roof when the sun was shining.

3. Not having a Vision
Being able to talk about an inspiring and attractive view of the future position of your team, department or organisation is perhaps the key factor that sets great leaders apart. It isn’t difficult and it doesn’t have to be grand or world-changing (unless it is); but you do need to do it.

4. Forgetting that You’re a 24/7 Role-model
I get that it’s a tough thing to be an always-on role-model. Everybody looking to what you say and do, all the time. It is wearing. And it also just comes with the territory. People will adopt their way of doing things from watching you. Please remember that you need to be a role model for the right behavior, so that this instills pride and gains respect and trust. You don’t need to always be perfect – that isn’t possible for anyone – but you do need to visibly put it right when you haven’t been.


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Flexible Authentic Leadership (with full handout)

Click the picture above to access the full handout and then right-click and select ‘save as’ to download your copy.

12 Easy ways to adapt your leadership style and still be authentic – full handout

I’m often telling the leaders I coach with that they need to flex or adapt their way of leading to suit the people and situations they find themselves in. But this is easier said then done, so I thought it’d be helpful to show you how.

One of the things that makes it tough for people to adapt their leadership style is the (legitimate) concern that if they do things in a different way, it will be inauthentic, or just not the ‘real them’.

The way to overcome this, and reap the benefits of being a more flexible leader but without having to become someone else entirely, is to lead from your Values. Values are the ideas, beliefs and ways of being that are intrinsically part of and important to you. Stay true to these and you stay true to yourself.

In the handout (see the picture, above), I’ve set out 3 of the top Values that people often express at work: Excellence, Harmony and Creativity, I’ve also put four of the most common Leadership Styles and when they are best to use.

Then, I’ve given examples of how you might use each of those Leadership Styles to express each of those Values

Now it’s over to you. Can you adapt your style to suit the situation and still be ‘real’?

Click the picture above to access the full handout and then right-click and select ‘save as’ to download your copy.

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Leadership Modes and Trekking

Why leadership, and the styles you use, are a lot like going on a tough hike

We had an amazing family break this summer, as part of a group camping and trekking in the US national parks in Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Being part of a group of strangers thrown together in relatively tough conditions like that is, for me at least, a great chance to see how we lead and behave together. Although there’s a guide, different people take-on different leadership roles during the trek as situations change and this one was over enough time to see how the dynamics worked.

I noted lots of different kinds of leadership modes in operation on the trek. And I know from my coaching that the same opportunities to lead like this come-up again and again at work.

So, as I write this at the end of the calendar year, I’m curious to know which of these leadership modes have been part of your kitbag at work over the last year?
Which is the one that tends to predominate for you?
And which is the mode you hardly ever use?

At the head of the group on a walk
Usually the fittest person, or the one keenest to get us to the campsite before sundown! Says stuff like: “Come on, if we step-up the pace a little, we’ll be there in no time”

Standing up and holding a map
Full of enthusiasm for what’s possible to go and see that day. Says stuff like: “Did you guys know that there’s a hidden valley right over this bluff? The views down to the river at sunrise will be spectacular”

In the team van at a crossroads
Wants everybody to have the best experience, for them. Says stuff like: “Looks like we’ve got two choices of destinations, and/or an early lunch. What do you guys feel like doing together?”

Being clear at the campfire
Managing a bunch of tired, hungry and mixed-experience campers. Says stuff like: “You go get some water, you get the campfire going and you two get the grill set-up; I’ll show you how”

Keeping us together during a trek
At the back, in the middle, at the front; starting conversations; checking people are ok. Says stuff like: “Would you mind keeping an eye on Steve and checking that his knee isn’t playing-up later on?”

At the start of a trail
Wants each person to experience all that they’re capable of. Says stuff like: “If you want to, you’ll be able to get right to the end of this canyon today. How much water do you think you’ll take?”

Let me know how your own leadership modes changed with circumstances during the year?
 

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Some Dogs Look Like Their Owners

What leadership is and why your business reflects your leadership style whether you want it to or not

I discovered the other day that there’s an entire online sub-culture dedicated to sharing candid snaps of dogs who look like their owners.

As a coach, speaker & business owner, I’ve met lots of organisational leaders and I think the same can be said for them.

Whether you like it or not, if you are a leader, your organisation will tend to represent your leadership style.

Unless you’re pretty senior and in a fairly big organisation that has structured training programmes, there’s a good chance you don’t even think about yourself as a ‘leader’.

So, if you are a leader (even if it is without knowing it), perhaps you should take a moment to think about what impression you are leaving on your followers – even if not deliberately.

It’s not about woolly jumpers and TV shows

Within small and medium-sized businesses, the term ‘leader’ actually seems a label that people are quite reluctant to use, which is hardly surprising. The glossy magazines have been pushing the ‘leader-as-celebrity’ for years.

We see pictures of Sir Richard Branson, or Donald Trump or Sheryl Sandberg on the covers of business magazines, and we feel that a true leader is an ego-driven, revolutionary, caricature.

And while there’s a lot to learn from (and aspire to) about those leaders, we’re perhaps more likely to think “I’m running a business with a 150 people in it, not Virgin or Facebook”, and the term leadership is left for those who are happier to be in the public spotlight.

The downside is this: If you don’t accept that you’re actually a leader, and actively shape and sculpt your leadership style, your organisation is likely to represent you – whether you like it, or not.

You see, there are a few fundamental truths about leadership:

  • Even without the label of leadership to describe whatever this thing is, businesses will still take on their leaders’ personality and all the good (and not so good) things that involves
  • People will still follow the person who provides them with leadership; Whether that’s who you want it to be, or somebody else who does this stuff better
  • Customers will still be attracted to those businesses that have a clear focus and can get things done well, and on time.

In other words, the success of any organisation rests firmly on the quality of its leadership – so we might as well give a little thought to what leadership is.

What is a Leader?

One of my favourite academic books (Organizational Behavior, Robbins & Judge) has this definition:

Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or a set of goals.

I see where that’s coming from and it’s certainly useful, but it feels a little abstract. Perhaps one of the issues with an academic’s definition, is that they are probably the one group of people who don’t ever really need to do that much leading!

Business gurus also have lots to say about leadership, and tend to focus on comparisons between leadership and management, or between good and bad leadership. So you get this kind of thing, which is from John C. Maxwell, one of the writers I’ve found most useful:

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.

Again, it makes some sense, but what if you’re in a job where you’re not the person in charge of deciding when to adjust the sails – does that say you’re not a leader? And if so, does that make you just a passenger on the boat?

My own definition of leadership is as flawed as all the others, and comes from years of just wanting to get stuff done, in big organisations, as well as really small ones, and from wanting to help other people who are also trying to make their business successful:

A leader is anybody who wants to do important stuff and needs other people to help

Decide for yourself how useful or otherwise you’d find my definition of leadership in running your own business or organisation. I’m going to leave the last word to somebody much wiser than me:

If you want to go fast,
Go alone.

If you want to go far,
Go together.

African proverb


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