Many leaders are trying to figure out how to stay focused and positive when their teams and personal life are far from calm. This past week I received a very upsetting phone call from a person within a non-profit I am working with. She poured her heart out to me about some of her challenges and then shared ways the non-profit wasn’t meeting her needs. I listened carefully to understand her “hot buttons”, even though it took some time to unpack them. When she was finished, we talked about possible alternatives for her as well as why she remained connected to the non-profit.
During the conversation, it became clear that first and foremost, I needed to hear her out completely and not assume I knew what she was going to say. Jumping in with a quick response or even worse, “reaction” would have put her on the defensive. I also had to figure out a way for her to see the value in staying a part of the non-profit. Ultimately what was needed was a half-full, not half-empty leadership approach.
What does a half-full leadership strategy look like?
1. A Positive Attitude
A half-full leadership strategy begins with a commitment to look at challenges through a positive lens. Instead of assuming that a conflict is not going to end well, approach it with solution-oriented eyes. In fact, view a difficult situation as a game to play using all the tools and experience you have. If leaders can commit to mutually resolving issues with respect, there will always be achievable options.
2. Push Aside Any Fears
Fear can derail any leader’s good intentions if they allow the fear to guide their decisions. Have you ever felt so paralyzed because you were afraid to confront someone about a frustrating issue? When we lead from a place of fear we will never arrive at the best end place. To push aside any fears:
- Acknowledge the fear and think about where it is coming from.
- Take the fear and write it down on a piece of paper. Then put that paper on a shelf.
- Speak to yourself with kindness: “I am not going to allow that fear to be present.”
3. Listen To Completely Understand
With any challenging situation, a leader uses their ears way more than their mouth. As I shared initially, in order for me to understand the person’s most important concerns, I needed to listen completely. A half-full leadership strategy involves asking empowering questions rather than judgy ones. For example, instead of asking “Why are you the only one on the team that won’t follow this process?”, try asking, “What is it about the process that you find most difficult?” Then pose, “How can I help you be more successful with this process?”
4. Respond, Not React
It is never a good idea to react without thinking through a response when someone challenges us. It is true that not everyone is able to share their thoughts in a constructive way but that doesn’t mean we have to “jab” back a reaction. Team members can definitely blindside us. In place of shooting back a quick comment, leaders can respond by:
- Reminding themselves that they are there to help others thrive.
- Sharing responses with respectful and clear language.
- Taking the time to process what is being shared. No need to jump back with a quick reaction.
- Looking for a way to collaborate.
5. Model A Half-Full Leader
Once you create your half-full leadership strategy make sure to practice using it. When colleagues and bosses see your approach in tackling challenges they may just hop aboard and try out some of the techniques. A positive attitude is contagious and will no doubt catch on quickly. A culture of half-full will rule.
How do you model a half-full leadership strategy? What additional elements have worked for you?