Align Your Leadership Spine

leadership alignmentRemember the 55-38-7 communication rule? Even though its specifics have been disputed, there is truth to the idea that the messages you send are muddled when your words don’t match your behaviors. The same confusion can occur between your company’s strategy, initiatives, and daily work. To avoid confusion, align this leadership “spine” by adjusting your intention, attention, and actions. When you do, strategy and initiatives inform daily work and flow together. When you align these leadership activities, you bolster your capacity to lead. Here’s how:

Clarify Your Intentions

Intentions set the course for what you want. Your intentions seem obvious to you, but they aren’t necessarily obvious to everyone else. Without the benefit of knowing exactly what is in YOUR head, others interpret your messages based on what’s in THEIR heads. For example, from your perspective, if you’re hesitant to move forward on something, you might be concerned about identified risks. However, others might interpret your slow decision-making as a lack of know-how or of confidence or interest in moving forward with an initiative.

Your intentions are unclear, when:
1) your decision and resulting action plans are disconnected from your company’s vision, mission, values, and strategy and/or
2) you haven’t communicated your decision and proposed action plan in a way that explicitly ties them to the company’s broader strategy.

To clarify your intentions, create a clear line of connection between company vision, mission, values, and strategic priorities/goals by highlighting the decisions you made and actions taken. Communicate these connection to direct reports and others before you start moving your decisions forward.

Move From Distraction to Focused Attention

With clear intentions, your employees will follow your lead regarding where to put THEIR focus. Thus, you must limit distractions and model an ability to focus your attention on the things that will help your company stay the course.

To determine your level of distraction versus focus, look at how much time and effort you give to people and tasks related to what you say are the company’s most important priorities. The 80/20 rule serves as a general guideline. That is, strive to spend approximately 20% of your weekly working time performing tasks that are appropriate to your role and that relate to your team or company’s important initiatives.

Check yourself by looking back at how you’ve been using your time over the past couple of weeks. If you’ve been distracted from the company’s most important priorities, look at what’s getting in your way (e.g., allowing unnecessary interruptions, unclear work processes for direct reports that create dependency on you, failing to take time to analyze data or to plan next steps, etc.).

Take Deliberate Action

With clear intentions and focused attention on important priorities, you’re ready to “walk the talk” and to take action, appropriate for your role, to move things forward. You could . . .

  • spend time following up with direct reports on progress in their respective roles,
  • communicate with a broader group of employees about what’s happening and how progress is being made,
  • spend time fostering internal and external relationships that will further those initiatives, and/or
  • ensure direct reports develop new competencies that support the initiatives.

The bottom line is to do the tasks and strengthen the relationships that will further the original intention of the strategic and tactical plans.

It seems so simple to make sure your words and actions are reflecting company priorities. Yet, if you don’t consciously maintain that aligned focus each day, you can easily become reactive and find yourself distracted by events that aren’t worth your time and attention. In the end, you will see how powerful it is to align the leadership “vertebrae” of intention, attention, and action.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders to increase employee engagement and retention by aligning strategy and tactics during rapid growth and change. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

3 Payoffs of “No-Excuses” Leadership

Know Align InfluenceToo many leaders are quick to make excuses for why their companies aren’t performing to expectations by blaming others or circumstances outside themselves when things don’t go as planned.  However, if you are a true leader, you make no excuses and accept the responsibility for the results you get. By honing your own ability to lead, you will experience three payoffs that lead to success:

Payoff #1: You Know Yourself. As a leader, you have a life-sized laboratory or playground for exploring who you are, what you really want in life, and what you do to get what you want. As you become a more intentional leader, you shift to more deliberate, conscious choices and see more alignment between your intentions and impact. With this level of intentionality, you get the results you intended and don’t make excuses for the results you get.

Feedback is a primary way to get you to a place where you know yourself better, whether this feedback comes from assessments, other people, or the results you get from your actions. The trick is to be able to reflect on this feedback and to integrate it with your experiences. This allows you to know yourself better, which puts you well on your way to becoming a no-excuses leader.

Payoff #2: Align Your Business. Once you are more deliberate in the personal impact you intend, it follows that you would create that same alignment in your business. This alignment is about using your company’s intention (its mission, vision, goals, and values) to craft plans, procedures, processes, and systems that guide your employees to “walk the talk” regularly.

Creating and using a living, breathing strategic plan and current company goals, you and your leadership team ensure that daily work aligns with the company’s most important priorities. Every action taken, every promise made and acted upon reflects what you intended and wrote in the mission statement, your vision statement, and the strategic plan. You cultivate this same alignment with individual employees and teams throughout the company. With the business aligned, you decrease the need to make excuses for the outcomes you get.

Payoff #3: Express Yourself Clearly and Powerfully. The final payoff as a no-excuses leader is clear and powerful communication.  To achieve this, you see communication as a powerful, unifying process throughout your company. You check your own actions and words as well as your company’s systems to ensure the important communications employees need to hear are sent without mixed messages.

As a no-excuses leader you use a mix of stories, facts, and images to engage employees’ hearts and minds. You also learn to use influence more often than coercion to get stakeholders to join with you to accomplish you most important goals.

Socrates is attributed with saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Are you ready to examine your leadership to become a no-excuses leader?

 
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?
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Beth Strathman works with leaders who are willing and courageous enough to shake up business as usual by understanding themselves, aligning their businesses, and expressing ideas clearly. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

6 Behaviors That Move You from “Pretender” to “Leader”

It’s very easy to go along, get along, with the fear that if you really showed others who you are and what you really believed about your company’s current strategy and tactics, others would question your loyalty or competence. To be grounded and sure of yourself, however, you need to be authentic about who you are. Here are six behaviors that will move you from being an inauthentic “pretender” to a true leader:

Know Your Motives for Leading. There are many reasons for taking on a leadership position. What are yours? Reflect on the underlying fears and/or aspirations that drove you to accept a leadership role. Look at how these underlying (and even hidden) motivations have shaped the difference you strive to make as a leader. Being aware of your personal leadership “why” will serve as a compass to guide you when the going gets tough.

Give Constructive Feedback. Without being a jerk, a true leader is expected to give feedback that serves the good of the company by providing opportunities to improve. At times, however, you might find yourself withholding constructive feedback from a colleague or direct report simply to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Remember: there is no movement without friction. Go back to your leadership “why” and see whether remaining silent serves the company and everyone else involved.

Engage in Disagreement. As with giving feedback, you may be able to help resolve an issue but are avoiding it. If you find yourself avoiding a situation, examine your reasons for steering clear of the potential conflict. If you determine the avoidance isn’t serving you or the company in the long run, determine the most appropriate and respectful way to address it. Also help co-workers and team members who don’t work well together move through past issues or conflicts.

Share an Alternate Opinion. A true leader speaks up when concerned about the direction the company is going. When you think it’s heading in the wrong direction, you must express your point of view as effectively as possible. Whether or not, the company alters its path based on your opinion is not the point. It’s the fact that you didn’t act like a sheep and spoke up when you believed it was warranted.

Bolster Professional Relationships with Authenticity. The higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more important building and maintaining relationships becomes. Often relationships are weak because you have not been open and honest about the way the relationship is working (more conflict avoidance). Find ways to strengthen those relationships by revealing your real assumptions and beliefs about important issues that come up.

Amplify Misaligned Mission and Company Action. When your company doesn’t walk its collective talk about its mission and values, weigh the cost of going along, rather than highlighting the disconnects. Determine what you can do to encourage your company to bring its “walk” and “talk” into alignment.

You’re a “leader” not an “avoider”. Stop pretending to agree and step forward into the uncomfortable space where motives, thoughts, and opinions differ. Lead out to acknowledge and resolve issues for the good of your company.


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?


You can, as long as you include this information with it:

Beth Strathman works with leaders who are willing and courageous enough to shake up business as usual by understanding themselves, aligning their businesses, and expressing ideas clearly. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.