Leaders face many challenges; challenges from team members, bosses, local conditions, national and international activities. Although it’s true there is nothing really new about the core challenges you face as a leader, that probably doesn’t make you feel any better or make the challenges go away. So, I’ll save the platitudes and get to the meat of the issue. Here are two common challenges leaders face and suggested approaches you can take to deal with them.
The Challenge: Open Communication
This may be one of the biggest issues leaders face – and I think it’s getting worse. As teams get more international we begin to encounter new language problems. But it isn’t just foreign languages that challenge us. Sometimes we don’t even understand our own language. Think about a team member from New York City and another from southern Louisiana. They speak the same language but they don’t really understand each other. I’m sure you have examples of similar situations in your own experience.
In general we humans tend to be unaccomplished at interpersonal communication. The leader who can master it is much more likely to succeed.
1. Know how you communicate and how you expect others to communicate. We use the My HardWired™ Leadership Styles Assessment to help leaders become more aware of how they approach others and want to be approached. The assessment has many other benefits, but this is one of the most important. Remember that your goal is not to change other people but better understand where communication problems can occur.
2. Make sure you are communicating what you mean to communicate. Ask for and pay attention to feedback. Make sure the message you heard is the one the other person meant for you to hear. It’s very common to be sure we delivered a particular message when in fact; a completely different message was received.
3. Make the effort and be patient. Remember communication is more than just you talking. It’s also listening and making the effort to understand.
The Challenge: Misinformation
There sure is a lot of information out there and leaders are often barraged by it from all sides. Some is even accurate. Much isn’t. Sometimes it’s provided with good intentions, sometimes it isn’t. Of course you have to make decisions based on the best information you can acquire and sometimes there isn’t a lot of time for that. Acting on bad information damages the trust with your team and will destroy your reputation. So what’s a leader to do?
1. Make it clear you want to know what other people think. Gathering various viewpoints is essential to good decision making.
2. Ask questions. One of the best is simply “Why?”
3. See for yourself. Make sure you understand what others tell you in the correct context. Whenever someone cites a rule, I look it up myself to make sure I’m seeing it in context. Remember we all see things from our own points of view.
4. Over time you will develop a personal list of those you can trust and those you often disagree with. Don’t let that be an unchanging view of the people around you. If you find a particular team member is completely untrustworthy, a consummate liar, they probably shouldn’t be on your team. But it you just disagree most of the time, don’t just discount their input out-of-hand. They might surprise you.