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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

How a Simple Mantra Can Improve Your Leadership

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One of the things I love about leading our Next Level Leadership® group coaching program is hearing leaders’ stories about how they’re following through on their most important development opportunities. As I’ve written here before, when they’re mapping out how to follow through, I always encourage them to look for repeatable actions that are relatively easy to do and likely to make a difference. Taking that approach has the benefit of jump starting the leader’s momentum and creating a positive impact through their behaviors.

In one of our current group coaching cohorts, I have several participants who have landed on simple mantras that are changing their leadership for the better. Here are a couple of examples of what they’re saying and the difference it’s making for them and their organizations.

One super high capacity leader in the program learned through her opening 360 degree assessment that she could do a better job of listening and not dominating conversations. That’s an opportunity that a lot of really bright, “get a lot of stuff done” leaders have. Their brain and problem solving process run so fast that they have a tendency to roll over people in conversations. In doing so, they inadvertently shut down ideas and input from their colleagues. When leaders score low on the listening without dominating behavior, I almost always encourage them to take it on because the impact of getting better at it is so great. This particular leader took my advice and decided to work on it.

Her primary action step is so simple it’s brilliant. When she’s in conversation and feels the urge to jump in with an opinion or answer, she now stops herself and says to the other person, “No, no you go first.” By going second instead of first in the conversation, she’s creating space for others to contribute, giving herself more of an opportunity to see the bigger picture and learning that she doesn’t have to always provide the answer. As a result of all that, she’s getting even more done through and with other people rather than pushing things through on her own. All of that from repeating the simple mantra of, “No, no you go first.”

Another leader in the program is working on the Next Level 360 behavior of spending less time using her functional skills and more time encouraging others to use theirs. She’s another super bright, high capacity leader who has developed a reputation over the years of being an expert in her domain. That’s one of those things that’s a great thing to be until it’s no longer a great thing to be. It’s great because it can establish you as a vital resource in the organization. It’s no longer great when it becomes limiting to growth and development—yours and everyone else’s.

Recognizing the importance of changing the expert dynamic, this leader has also adopted a simple mantra that’s making a big difference in raising everyone’s game. When a member of her team asks her to dive deep on helping them solve a problem, she now asks them, “Who else have you asked for help?” The impact of her mantra-like question is broad. It keeps her from getting sidetracked with issues that aren’t her biggest priorities. It encourages her team members to broaden their networks and collaborate with each other. It also helps them realize that they already possess a lot of the knowledge and resources needed to solve the problems themselves. When she asks, “Who else have you asked for help?,” everyone wins.

Could a simple leadership mantra work for you? I’m pretty sure it would. To get started, identify a leadership behavior that, if you moved the needle in a positive direction, would make a difference for you and your organization. Then, ask a few colleagues for their best ideas on what anyone working on that behavior could do to be better. From that list of ideas, pick your favorite and then develop a simple mantra (a.k.a. catch phrase or question) that will help you remember to follow through on changing the behavior.

Let me know how it goes for you. Email me and let me know what leadership mantra you’ve come up with and the difference it’s making for you and your organization.

 

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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