How can you improve your leadership skills with a few simple behavioral practices?
Yes, that’s right. There really are instances where a few simple drills make all the difference.
A friend of mine went for his first golf lesson. The pro watched him for about twenty minutes and then gave him this feedback.
“There is so much you are doing wrong with the way you hold and swing your clubs. However if you master just two things I will tell you to do and be willing to repeatedly practice them your game will improve significantly”
As a leadership coach and psychologist I am continually searching for a few simple practices that my executive clients can practice that will improve their performance.
Consider for a moment one practice of the legendary basketball coach John Wooden. At the beginning of each season with his team at UCLA he taught the players how to put their socks on. This seems like such a simple and pointless practice. However, if one puts socks on the wrong way the resultant blisters can sideline a player. Combining that practice with dozens of others that he drilled into his players resulted in one of the longest basketball winning streaks.
This drive towards simplicity, specificity, and repeated practice can be applied to so many areas of life.
Let’s examine drills you can practice that will develop leadership skills.
Want to become a better listener?
- Don’t interrupt (finish people’s sentences or think of what you want to say while you are trying to listen)
- Be fully present with each person
- Make periodic summaries and paraphrase what the other person is saying
Want to be more collaborative?
- Don’t try to “one up” others in a discussion. Let them express their ideas first and incorporate these in the final decision.
- Express your own point of view as a hypothesis to be tested rather than an idea to be “rubber stamped” by others.
- Always aim at making your partner look good by responding with yes-and and NOT yes-but.
Take any leadership or life skill you want to master and recognize that it takes 10,000 hours of to become proficient in that behavior. Then
- Make a thorough root cause analysis of why the behavior is not changing or is there in the first place e.g. passive aggressive handling of conflict is part of the organizational culture.
- Find the best examples of success for change in these areas (best practices)
- Define ways you will measure the change.
- Continually practice them until they become second nature to you or your group (practice success)
- Have trusted people observe you and give you feedback on your progress (hold yourself accountable).
And, bingo, you will begin to see the change you want.
So present me with the leadership problem that you feel that evidence based practice cannot change and I will show you two or three steps that will resolve much of the situation.
All you have to do is be willing to practice those behaviors until they become engrained in your muscle memory and become second nature to you.
What is your story in changing a particularly thorny leadership problem or behavior?
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