Build Your Team

There are several principles of team building a leader should keep in mind while building his/her team. Participants may volunteer or be assigned to a team. The implementation of these principles will ensure that the team stays focused and satisfies its intended purpose. A leader should consider following principles when building a team.

  • Promote a group goal to serve others.
  • Give its members an opportunity for personal growth and organizational effectiveness.
  • Promote, support, and cultivate team building activities.
  • Empower its members to act within the framework of the team’s mission.
  • Encourage its members to participate in exploring options and decision making.
  • Use member commitment to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Create an environment where people trust each other and work together.
  • Afford members the opportunity to participate in meaningful activities.
  • Create an environment the members can enjoy.
Initially, a team may be a group of strangers. The leader’s responsibility is to unite them, so they become a team that shares a common goal. Establishing a team takes time, and the members frequently go through identifiable stages of growth.  The stages of Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning are featured in Bruce Tuckman's model. Recognizing each of these stages can help a leader develop a more effective team. Let’s look at these five stages.


Forming - people first come together to accomplish a shared purpose. Their initial success will depend on their familiarity with each other's work style, their experience on prior teams, and the clarity of their assigned mission.

Storming - assign roles and help draw out and resolve disagreement about vision, mission, and ways to approach assignments.

Norming - team develops a working relationship and focus turns toward the task and what needs to be done.

Performing - team reaches an optimal level of performance. The real work of the team progresses with solid personal relationships and proven team processes.

Adjourning - team break-ups when the mission or purpose is completed. Time to move on.

Teams may or may not move through these stages sequentially.  When a new member is added to the team, the team may revert to an earlier stage. The time it takes to move from stage to stage depends on the member’s collective knowledge, experience, and skill.  These stages may apply to temporary or ongoing teams.

Coaching and Mentoring

If you have read my other works you know I’m big on coaching and mentoring. Throughout my career I felt this was one of my most important responsibilities. Coaching is the act of helping another develop or improve abilities, knowledge, and/or skills. Whenever I took on an assignment, one of my first actions was to begin to either select my possible successor or prepare others for equivalent positions. Coaching requires a set of skills that many may consider contrary to their survival instinct when leading or managing. If you are intent on protecting your own turf, coaching may not be for you. Coaching is simply helping others become all they can be. It helps if the person being coached is motivated to seek new knowledge, has a positive attitude, is willing to examine their values, and behaves in concert with those values.  

Coaches refrain from doing a task themselves (even though there is a high probability they can do it better, at least initially) or telling someone what to do and how to do it. Instead the coach focuses on how to support and encourage another to accomplish the task on their own. In some instances, modeling the expected behavior may be instructive. These tasks may focus on the organization or the individual needs. They may include short or long-term objectives. They may be strategic or tactical. In a business environment, the emphasis may be career development. Whatever the purpose, the process cycle is the same.

The intent of this pontification is to provide a primer on coaching and mentoring. There are many resources you can use to extend your knowledge on this subject. One to get you started is The Coaching Tools Company.

Lets cover a few of the skills an effective coach should practice.

Assess: Identify the knowledge and/or skills required to accomplish the intended task.

Set Goals: Plan specific manageable steps you and the person being coached need to follow to achieve the desired outcome.

Prepare: Identify the essential resources and people needed to obtain the knowledge and skills to implement your plan.

Implement: Review, and if necessary modify, the first three steps. Put your plan into action. Observe the process and collect any data that will help future decisions.

Reflect: Evaluate the effectiveness of your process and plan any next steps

Conflict

Have you ever experienced conflict?  Sure, you have!

We don't always have the same point of view as others, or we may have experienced uncomfortable changes in our life. You may even disagree with what I write here. I can only share my experiences over many decades of living and working with others.

Your perception of conflict may have been influenced by events that were unsettling or even painful. Perhaps you felt helpless or threatened and were incapable of acting rationally. You may have become defensive or angry. Well you are no alone.

For many years conflict and stress were negative companions and were part of my life style. I would get defensive and irritated. This, of course, was a very unhealthy way to deal with conflict. I trust over the years I now recognize those situations where I can exhibit positive control and/or influence and those where I can't.

If conflict is part of our everyday life, how can we use it to our advantage and the advantage of others? Can you think about conflict as different rather the difficult? Great! That is a good first step. It helps us begin to see the positive aspects of conflict rather than the negative ones.

When we respect the other person’s point of view we have an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with them. Your personal and professional interactions will become durable and nurturing. However, let’s be realistic, there are times when you should avoid a situation altogether.

There are many resources you can refer to learn the skills that can help you manage conflict. Here is my CliffsNote version.

  1. Visualize the situation as being different rather than difficult.

  2. Take time to refocus on your desired outcome.

  3. Ask more questions and make less declarative statements.

  4. Seek more information to understand the other point of view and clarify your own position.

  5. Examine your feelings and those of others involved.

  6. Seek convergence of ideas. Where can we agree?

  7. Consider using an impartial facilitator to help examine the issues.

  8. Be patient.

  9. Work toward a solution that is beneficial to all parties.

Easier said than done? You bet! Meaningful results take energy and learning new skills. I find it worthwhile to be content, and yes, even delighted at times.

As always, your comments are not only welcome but encouraged.

If you decide you want to shed an old habit and/or just create a new habit, then make it happen.

Culture Change

E. B. Tylor defined culture as, "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."

It helps to understand the culture in which you function. The beliefs, values, and principles within an organization are strong forces that influence what and how things are done.   “That’s the way we do things around here.” An organization’s culture encompasses the values and behaviors that determine how team members interact. Often, an organization’s culture is incidental, not specifically stated. Culture is at work in everything you do.  The force of culture may be disguised but can still be controlling. Culture is comparable to Truth.  Truth is always present. Versions of the Truth may vary with individuals. You may believe it or not, but it is there. 

Culture is a learned behavior. When one stays with an organization for a while they usually adapt, at least partially, to the surroundings of that culture. Pay attention to the attributes of the organization’s culture and evaluate the degree of comfort you have functioning within that culture.  You have at least four choices.

  1. You can accept the culture and learn to function effectively within it. You may or not be happy.

  2. You can fight the culture. This is rarely a satisfying option for either party.

  3. You can work to modify the culture by promoting and exhibiting alternate attitudes and behaviors. This takes fortitude.

  4. You can leave. If your livelihood is dependent on this organization, advanced planning will be helpful.
Change is inevitable. Past traditions should be valued and, in certain cases, preserved. However, you should also be willing to embrace new traditions when the circumstances call for it. In our interconnected world with diverse civilizations, you are bound to experience conflicts due to cultural differences. How well you lead in this changing environment will depend on your ability to stay true to your core values while leaving room to adapt to others.

Establish Trust

Trust is a relationship between people. People have a predictable tendency to trust unless we are deceived, betrayed, or disappointed. Trust is fundamental to gaining the support of others. If your organization is to grow, you must establish and sustain trust, so your team members will stay engaged, be productive and creative. Understanding the thoughts and feelings of others helps you gain information to achieve your desired outcome.

When there is mutual trust there is a higher probability that an outcome will be positive when information is timely and correct. The help and support of others will help build mutual trust. A strong foundation of trust can help ensure success. 

If you are a doubter, trusting others may be a challenge. Do some people need to prove they are worthy of your trust before you will let them in? Your team members will withhold their trust until you show them you trust them. One way to begin earning trust is to trust others. Trust is a two-way street, and you should consider giving it before you expect to receive it.

A leader with strong communication skills will gain a higher level of trust and encourage loyalty. When you share information with others your trust meter measures your level of trust. If you are like many of us, you make choices based on how much you trust others. Concluding whom you trust and to what degree is a sustaining part of life. How much of yourself are you willing to give to achieve a desired outcome? When there is a trusting relationship, the probability is greater that you will be able to share knowledge together. Sharing your ideas in a trusting setting can help you identify potential unintended consequences, so you can avoid them. Trust helps us move forward.

Applying the following skills creates a basis for trust and enables a leader to accept risks, identify and solve issues, and collaborate to achieve desired outcomes.

  • Help others understand the team’s purpose.

  • Use smart questions to encourage open communication.

  • Persuade rather than manipulate your team members.

  • Seek acceptance of your ideas.

  • Involve your team in your decision-making process.

  • Show your appreciation by saying “Thank you” for your team’s efforts.

  • Be aware of any disloyalty members reveal.

  • Maintain a calm perspective in the face of challenges.

  • Reflect confidence and trust rather than doubt or mistrust.

  • Pay attention to your body’s messages. Are they negative or positive?

  • Demonstrate behaviors that show you trust others.

  • Use your Interactive Leadership skills to establish and maintain trust and mend any damaged relationships.
As a leader you can inspire higher levels of performance and commitment to team and organizational success if you establish and sustain an atmosphere of trust.

Interactive Leadership

Interactive Leadership is the process of interacting with team members to achieve a desired outcome. A strong leader leads to achieve exceptional results, by using the resources and people using the best method possible. This pontification focuses on the leader’s interaction with team members.

Interaction leadership creates empowers team members, balances human energy, accentuates communication, and integrates physical and psychological characteristics of human behavior. Participants actively contribute to the development and execution of shared desired outcomes. Team members work together on an equal footing to address issues, consider options, and forge decisions. This level of collaborate and cooperate helps establish an environment with creative, energetic, and productive members.

An effective leader can discern the type of interaction needed to address a specific situation. The diagram above to covers some options a leader has available to interact with team members on a personal basis.

The four major categories and their elements are:

  • Control is the power to influence or direct a person’s behavior.
    • Enforce is imposing rules on another person
    • Convince Is persuading a person to act.

  • Commitment is the act of being loyal to an activity.
    • Develop is to grow and advance a cause
    • Explore is discussing an issue in detail:

  • Personal Acceptance is acquiescing to something someone offers.
    • Comply is acting in agreement with an individual.
    • Accommodate is acting in accordance with request:

  • Withdrawal is the act of refraining from involvement
    • Avoid is keeping away from someone
    • Abstain is restraining oneself from becoming involved
You’ll notice that model suggests that there are a range of communication options available to the leader. Each of these option is appropriate depending on the situation the leader confronts. The challenge is to select the option that best addresses the situation.

Interactive leaders encourage team members to challenge the status quo and trust each other to approach issues in new and different way People who enjoy what they do are self-motivated and produce forward-thinking results. As you review the elements and the definitions of Interactive Management Model, think about the various communication methods you have available to interaction with your team members. May your efforts produce extraordinary results.

Leader or Manager?

Are you a leader, manager or both? Managers are often mistaken for leaders.  Let’s look at the elements of leadership and management, and you decide where you fall within the management – leadership spectrum. The purpose of this pontification is to enhance your leadership abilities.



Leader Skills



Manager Skills

Focuses on People and their Emotions Focuses on Things
Listens Declares
Does the Right Things Does Things Right
Asks What and Why Asks How and When

Are you committed to be a leader?

So, what are some of the skills you need to enhance? You must have a clear vision and mission of what you want your team to accomplish and be able to communicate to them clearly. A vision is what want your team to become. A mission is what you will do to get there. Your decisions need to be in concert with the team’s vision and mission. Empower– not control your members. Focus on what and why questions; instead of how and when questions. Determine your unique qualities that come naturally and that you do well. Leverage your strengths and fix your weaknesses. Recognize what you don’t do well and work to improve. All leaders should go through a period of training, of increased responsibilities, and endless learning.

You need emotional intelligence. This self-awareness includes:
  • Self-regulation is the controlling of a process or activity by the people or organizations that are involved in it rather than by an outside organization.

  • Motivation is the general desire or willingness for someone to do something:

  • Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.



Leadership Communication Styles

Several communication style surveys can help us determine our dominant and recessive communication characteristics. Even if you have taken a survey previously, I urge you to take Carl Jung’s I-Speak Your Language Survey. It is simple and straightforward. It will give you a strong sense of your communication characteristics and offer insight on how to relate to others. Your style can change over time, especially if you work at it.

There is a dual purpose for taking the survey:

  • First, to give you a benchmark to evaluate your communication style.

  • Second, to give you a benchmark for evaluating the communication style of others.
 

This survey* has four main communication styles:

Sensers: Pragmatic and energetic people who take the necessary action to get things done. Must be careful to let others catch up.

Intuitors: Future oriented thinkers who solve conceptual issues. May need to come in for a landing occasionally.

Thinkers: Disciplined and deliberate decision makers who approach issues logically and systematically. May need to stop thinking and act.

Feelers: Perceptive and supportive people who enjoy personal relationships and respond to the needs of others. May be reluctant to confront a difficult people issue.

Everyone has recognizable and preferred communication styles. Even after a relatively short exposure to a person, you will be able to identify their communication style. People communicate most effectively with individuals whose styles are similar to their own and have greater difficulty communicating with people who exhibit dissimilar communication styles. The challenge for leaders is to modify their styles to ‘speak the language’ of others. To do this effectively, leaders should have a working grasp of the different communication styles.

The adjacent figure gives you a quick overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each style. Use your strengths to your advantage and work on your weaknesses so they can become strengths.


faith hope and love

You can take the survey online.

Meaningful Meetings

How much time do you waste in meetings? I know I’ve wasted lot of hours waiting for something to happen. People generally hate meetings because they seem to last forever, and nothing gets accomplished. I’m not concerned that we don’t get to decisions fast enough as much as I am that the process doesn’t move along. I am a great believer in team involvement and decision making. This can take time.  

Meetings are a way we make decisions, plan actions, and move goals forward. When you chair a meeting, you are responsible for the well-being of the group dynamics. You must know how to speak so others will follow.

Running a meaningful meeting is a learned skill that takes practice. A well-planned meeting will avoid time killers and keep the meeting meaningful. Avoid meetings that are boring and go nowhere. Meet for a purpose. No purpose, no meeting.

Team involvement can be managed if a few checklist items are enforced.

  • Know what is important and conduct any needed research before the meeting.

  • Decide who needs to be there (and who doesn’t).

  • Prepare, distribute, and follow an agenda. Gently refocus those who attempt to advance their own agenda.

  • Be aware of your dress and posture – look and act like a leader.

Four Stages of a Meeting
  • Planning: (Before the meeting)
    • What do you want to accomplish – be specific?
    • What sequential steps need to be followed?

  • Setup: (Just prior to the meeting)
    • What type of environment do you want?
    • What type of room will you need?
    • How do you want tables and chairs arranged?
    • What equipment and supplies will you need?

  • Running the meeting: (During the meeting)
    • Who will lead the meeting?
    • Who and how will the results be recorded?
    • Will you use a facilitator? Desirable for a meeting of 8 or more participants.

  • Follow-up (After the meeting is over)
    • Who will communicate key decision made during the meeting?
    • Who will follow up on any action items?

You may want to solicit feedback from the team members. Probe for suggestions how you and the team can make future meetings even more meaningful.

Meet and Move

Meet and Move is my philosophy and technique of persuasion and negotiation with others. Persuasion is the act of influencing another person's attitude and behavior. To accomplish this, it is important to understand the other person’s beliefs, intentions, and motivations. The purpose of negotiation to achieve a positive outcome between two or more people. Working toward a win-win solution is the desired outcome. While this may not always be possible, it should be the goal.

Before you can effectively persuade or negotiate with team members, you need to understand their aims and interests. Further, you need to consider their attitudes, knowledge, and level of interpersonal skills. Meeting others in their thought process helps you navigate through the communication maze. It helps if you can get the other them to agree to small requests that align with their interests before moving on to larger issues. Suggest ideas but be prepared for them to say “No”. Many times, “no” just means you haven’t communicated adequately to reach a shared level of understanding.

Don't take resistance personally. If team members resist your idea, they are not rejecting you personally. Resistance is an indirect expression of an underlying concern, perhaps loss of control or another obligation. Our job is to seek clarification by asking questions and making statements that will help bring the underlying concerns to the surface.

Be sure you communicate your desired outcome clearly and succinctly. Appeal to the other person’s logic, emotion, and/or authority, depending on their communication style. The greater your ability to apply the communication styles to ourselves and others, the higher the possibility is that you will persuade others to believe and act in concert with a joint purpose.

Be on the alert for potential communication barriers.  Be sure the timing is right. Always focus on the other people. What’s in it for them? Remove any physical barriers. Be sensitive to the person’s position and status.  Be aware of their feelings and prejudices. Listen and watch for their feedback. Don’t manipulate. Seek common ground.

Suggest alternative strategies and compromises. Compromises are often positive alternatives which can often achieve greater benefit for all concerned compared to holding to the original positions. The goal is still win-win.

Meeting Facilitation

If you have participated in meetings that were competently facilitated, you already know their value. If not, I urge you to consider using one. A meeting facilitator helps keep the meeting on target for both time and content. I recommend using a facilitator for meetings consisting of 8 or more participants.

I was fortunate to have Jim Kling as a business partner. Jim was an extremely skilled facilitator. Before attacking the agenda, he asked each participant to tell the group what was on his/her mind and what he/she wanted to accomplish. This helped the team members adapt physically and psychologically to the task at hand. This is like having sorbet to cleanse the palate before serving the next course.

Jim revised his approach depending on the needs of each team and meeting. He reviewed the agenda and desired outcomes. He ensured that the leader and members followed the agreed upon agenda and meeting process. His questioning skills were impeccable. Notice his posture, in the picture to the left, as he carefully listens. He was able to draw essential information from each participant. Meetings started on time and ended when the objectives were achieved - most of the time before the planned stop time.

Facilitation includes five fundamentals: interact, observe, interpret, expand, and review. Here is how to take advantage of these basics:
  • Interact: Listen to each team member thoughtfully and encourage his/her with eye contact and/or non-verbal responses. Pay attention to the people, situations, and events presented.

  • Observe: Actively listen to the actual words including timing, accent, volume, and pitch being said. Observe body language: facial expression, use of gestures, body position, and movement. Evaluate what you hear and see, but suspend judgement.

  • Interpret:  Empathetically summarize what the speaker said. Ask questions to clarify points.

  • Expand: Simplify or analyze information. Encourage others to express their views. Apply new knowledge to situations.

  • Review: Revisit ideas and confirm they were understood accurately.
A skilled facilitator supports the leader to stay on target and helps the team become more effective and efficient.

Power of Collaboration

When two or more people work together on a project, they are collaborating. It takes teamwork to collaborate. Now I don’t want you to think I don’t believe in the Power of One, because I do. It takes both, the power of one and collaboration with others, to be an effective leader. At one time when we collaborated we were usually face-to-face, on the telephone or using snail mail to communicate with one another. Now technology has given us notebooks, tablets and smartphones to collaborate over the world. Michael Piazza lives in Mississippi and I live in Florida. We collaborate on our writing and website projects. While we have common talents, we also have unique individual talents. We usually use a weekly telephone call to set priorities and encourage one another. We use email and Dropbox to transmit information to one another to keep us on track.

Employees in small and large organizations telecommute to work and use electronic tools to work with one another. Cloud collaboration allows people to work together on documents and other data types that are stored off-premises. Team members use a cloud-based platform to share, edit and work together on projects. Asynchronous collaboration is used when participants are not communicating and working together at the same time. Synchronous collaboration is used when participants work together simultaneously and communicate.in real time as they work.

Collaboration is used to make decisions, generate creative ideas, and develop strategies team members can incorporate in their projects. They work together to jointly produce a desired outcome.

The potential benefits of working with others to produce or create something include:

  • Builds awareness of interdependence.

  • Makes effective use of individual talents.

  • Members inspire each other to greater heights of accomplishment.

  • Reinforces recognition and mutual support -reduces jealousy.

  • Leads to commitment to achieve desired outcomes.

  • Raises individual and team effectiveness and efficiency.

  • Can improve listening and feedback skills.

  • Team members learn to respect each other’s capabilities.

  • Transforms relationships. 
It is the leader’s responsibility to work toward maximizing the potential benefits of collaboration.

Situational Leader

There is no one "best" style of leadership. Most successful leaders adapt their style to a given situation. Situational leadership consists of four general styles of management. A situational leader or manager who adjusts his/her style to fit the development level of the followers he/she is trying to influence. It is up to the leader to change his/her style, not the follower to adapt to the leader’s style. This sage advice was given to me as young first-time manager. I did my best to follow this guidance throughout my career.

Directing - takes command of a situation and applies specific knowledge.

Coaching - involves “hands-on" participation with the team in the decision process.

Delegating – places responsibility on the team members to act on their own.

Supporting - instills confidence in the members to become more self-sufficient and productive.


Let’s look at each of these styles:

Directing: There are times when a leader’s role is to direct activities. Once the team has accepted the team’s mission, the leader may find it more effective and efficient to direct the team to perform the various tasks. The leader makes the decisions and informs the other team members of the decision. This leadership style is also referred to as micro-management and uses a top-down approach.

Coaching: The leader stays immersed in the day-to-day activities. The decisions ultimately rest with the leader. However, suggestions and comments are sought from the team members before decisions are executed. Team members are coached rather than managed. The leader helps inexperienced team members learn new skills by giving direct praise to increase their confidence and self-esteem.

Delegation: The leader spends a modest amount time with the team members. The team members select the responsibilities and establish the direction the team takes. The leader may still give direction and feedback. Team members know their roles and accomplish them with minimal supervision.

Supporting: The leader passes more responsibility to the team members. While the leader gives some direction, the decisions ultimately remain with the team members. The leader offers feedback and encourages them with praise and reacts to the completed tasks. Team members usually have the requisite skills but may lack the confidence or motivation to achieve them.

The style of the leader is dictated by the level of knowledge and experience of the team members. Using Blanchard and Hersey’s matrix (shown above) leaders can decide the leadership style needed in various situations.  For members with significant needs and minimal experience, the directing style is appropriate. When members have low needs and extensive capability, the delegating style can be used.

So, You Want to Be a Leader

Let’s start with a few traits that will help you become an effective leader. Primarily, an effective leader is people centered. A people centered skill is critical in every situation in which two or more people come together in pursuit of a common goal. Leadership should be a positive force. True leaders prove the ability to put the needs of the group above his/her own. A leader must be willing to accept responsibility and accountability. It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure targets/aims are met.

You must be able to influence others to buy into your vision and together work toward a common goal. Naturally, you must have a vision for the team members to buy into. The buy-in is easier when the team helps fine tune the vision.

To lead you must ask for opinions, listen carefully, and gather information. Surprisingly, you don’t have all the answers; but you should have all the questions. The use of smart questions sets you apart from the run of the mill leader. A smart question elicits information that addresses the team’s needs and promotes cooperation.

Place the needs of others above your own. Leadership requires that you be consistent and willing to sacrifice for the greater goal. This is known as Servant Leadership and includes the following principles:
  • Listening: Leaders value their communication and decision-making skills. Servant leaders must reinforce these important skills by listening intently to others. Servant leaders seek to identify and clarify the will of a group. They seek to listen receptively to what is being said (and not said). Listening includes getting in touch with your inner voice and understanding what your body, spirit, and mind are communicating.

  • Persuasion: Servant leaders rely on persuasion, rather than positional authority, in making decisions. Servant leaders try to convince others rather than coerce compliance. This principle offers one of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model and that of servant leadership. The servant leader is effective at building group consensus.

  • Conceptualize: Servant leaders nurture the team’s abilities to "dream great dreams." The skill to conceptualize an issue means that one must think beyond day‐to‐day realities.
Future blogs will cover more of these principles for you to consider.

Team Roles

Since you are reading this I’m going to bet you want to improve your team leadership skills. It helps if you are a good follower. A person who contributes knowledge and talent to a team as a member is preparing to become a team leader someday.  While participating as a team player, more than likely you studied what other leaders did to move a team toward achievement. You paid attention to what worked and what didn’t. Here are some thought starters for you. Take a moment and think of your experience on two or three teams. Indicate (Yes or No) whether the role existed or was nonexistent. Then use that information to develop your own leadership model. Download form.

Role of the Leader

Team

Team

Team

Strive for high quality communication
Bring talent to the team
Play your position
Turn diversity to the team’s advantage
Support those needing help

Roles of the Team Members

Team

Team

Team

Be prepared to sacrifice for the team
Welcome new team members
Encourage others to contribute
Spend time with your team members
Help maintain group discipline

Roles of the Leader and Team Members

Team

Team

Team

Stay focused on the desired outcomes
Give attention to group process
Help create a climate of trust
Clarify expectations
Be sure you make a difference (Be a good sport)
I enjoyed being a part of this team. (Yes or No)


Visionary Leader

In a previous pontification we contrasted the skills of a leader and manager. Now I want to focus on the attributes of a visionary leader. I have a long list but will mention just a few.  Dr. Edwin Land, inventor of instant photography; Dr. Martin Luther, a believer in social equality; Oprah Winfrey, a renowned business personality; Mother Teresa, a minister to the poor, sick and needy; Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, electronic information pioneers. Your turn. Who are some of the visionary leaders that come to mind?

A visionary leader sees things as they can be, not as they are. A vision is meaningless if it isn’t reflected in action. You must have knowledge, imagination, passion, and resolve to achieve long-term goals. As a visionary leader, you focus on inspiring your team to attain desired outcomes. You solicit and encourage others to join you on your journey. You realize that the imagination of others is an important as your imagination. When Jim Kling and I facilitated vision-creating sessions with top executives of firms, there was an abundance of ideas from the participants. Using brainstorming and force-field analysis techniques the group was able to synthesize those varying ideas into a pithy vision statement embracing the key points.

What do we look for in a visionary leader? Here are some characteristics:

Excellent Communicator: Articulate your dreams and desired outcomes. Clarify them to your team. Then listen to their feedback. Use your team to leverage ideas and concepts. Set and reach milestones with their involvement.  Establish rapport to help your team members meet their personal goals.

Strategic Planner: Practice imagining how things could be. You plan to make the best decisions. Develop a realistic action plan that reflects your strategic vision.  Your decisions should be designed to move you toward your ultimate vision. Think innovations rather than status quo.

Charismatic Leader: Not everyone is naturally charismatic; however, you can develop charisma.  It helps to be recognized as someone with that “personal magic” that encourages loyalty from others.

Primary Organizer: It is up to you to shape your organization to support your vision. Initially, you will want to establish a framework for directing and conducting meetings.

Risk-taker: Make it a habit to ask, “why not”? It’s your job to overcome obstacles. You must be willing to take measured intelligent risks if you believe in your vision.  Don’t accept things as they are – turn the world upside down.

Visionaries are creative people that take the initiative with the appropriate action. A visionary leader steps out of the shadows into the light. Shine your light today.

Watch Your Body Language

When we communicate, we exchange ideas. The two primary methods of sending and receiving communication are verbal and non-verbal.

1) Verbal, what we say or write. Oral is a subset of verbal.

2) Nonverbal, how we act, body language, and what our body says to others.

As a youth, and during my school years, there were several times I heard “Watch Your Tongue”, meaning pay attention to my words. I don’t recall hearing “Watch Your Body Language”.

Body language is the process of communicating through non-verbal gestures and movements. Let’s spend a little time on body language, also known as Kinesics, the power of the silent command.

Nonverbal communication is the expression, conscious or unconscious, of intentions, thoughts, and feelings by our physical behaviors. These behaviors include our facial expressions, eye movement, body posture and movements, and our closeness to the listener. Further, our voice’s pitch, speed, tone, and volume also convey meaning.

Here are some hints on reading body language.
  • Read the person's eyes and keep your eyes on the face(s) of your team members. Dilated pupils are an indicator the person is interested in what is happening. Slanted eye contact is a possible indicator that a person is lying. When a person looks up and to the right during a conversation, it usually means they're bored and have already tuned you out.

  • Look at the person's posture. Do the sender’s body movements show they are mentally and emotionally open to listen or are they resistant to your ideas?  Hint: use their ideas to grab their attention.

  • Check out the person’s facial expressions including eye movement, position of lips, the title of the head, sitting or standing position (open is engaging; closed, disagreeable), voice volume and tone, arm and leg gestures (crossed closed; uncrossed open).  Look at the mouth for smiles, or frowns.

These are possible, but not absolute, indicators of the way a person is thinking or feeling. With careful study of the individual’s movements under varying conditions, you should be able to fine tune your assessment of the person’s behavioral characteristics and determine whether they are congruent with their spoken words. The more effective you are in interpreting someone else’s body language the more likely you are to understand the other person’s intent. A person’s gestures telegraph true intentions.  Being able to correctly interpret a person’s body language provides a greater understanding of the message being sent.

Likewise, when you have a conversation, focus on what your body language is saying.  Does it reflect the words you’re expressing? If not, you are sending mixed signals. You are implanting cognitive dissonance in your listener.  This is not a good tactic, if you are attempting to convince them to buy into your desired outcome.  Take a moment and reflect on what your body language communicates to others.  It can have either a positive or negative effect on your relationship with that individual. Choose positive.

Want some encouragement to achieve your dream? Follow the Soar Without Limits Process. Send us an email and tell us how we can help. This no charge peer-to-peer interaction provides valuable feedback to help you on your journey.

Please download a Summary of the Six Steps of my book “SOAR Without Limits”.


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