Effective Leaders - what are the key competencies?

We all talk about the importance of leadership and identifying good leaders. But how do we develop or find them? What are the key competencies that are fundamental to effective leaders?

The American Management Association, together with OnPoint Consulting, collected data on the effectiveness of more than 600 leaders across a range of industries and business types. The study identified 46 competencies with three that differentiated an effective leader:

Building trust and demonstrating personal accountability
(honouring commitments, keeping promises, communicating honestly and accepting responsibility for one’s actions)

Action orientation
(maintaining a sense of urgency, acting decisively to implement solutions and resolve crises)

Flexibility and agility
(adjusting one’s behaviour to changing circumstances, remaining open to new ways of doing things, working effectively in an unstructured or dynamic environment)

These competencies reinforce the importance of both execution and soft (relational) skills in an effective leader. Below are some key questions to help you in developing these competencies?

Does your training and development program support skill development in these three areas?

What competencies do you look for when recruiting leaders?

How do you build trust with your team? Do they trust you?

Do you deliver the vision you promote to others?

Are you and your team consistently role modelling the changes you are seeking?

Finally, what could you do to improve your performance and approach in these three areas?

How Resilient Are You?

So what is resilience? Well the Resiliency Center defines resilience as ‘a human ability to recover quickly from disruptive change, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways’.
Take a moment to reflect on recent changes that were imposed upon you (as we are often quite comfortable with the changes we determine) and how resilient you were.

Do you think you could enhance your resilience? If the answer is yes, why not try the following activities?

Core values – what are your core values? What do you care most about? This activity is about looking within yourself.

Helping Others – What do others value in you and how can you help them to be successful? This activity helps you to look at yourself from the outside in.

Life Defining Moments – What are the 3-5 most important moments in your life that developed you into the person you are today? What was it about each moment that shaped you as a person?

Future Vision – Imagine ten years into the future. What impact have you had on the lives of yourself and others (work, home and community)? This activity helps you identify what is likely to be very important to you today.

Admiration – think of a couple of people that you truly admire. What is it about this person(s) that you really admire? How can you emulate these skills/behaviours?

Key stakeholders – Who are the most important people in your life (at home, work and in the community). What does each of these important people expect of you? Then ask yourself what do I expect from them?
What did you identify? Were there any tensions or conflicts in expectations?

Talk to Your Inner Circle – spend some face-to-face time with your most important people and ask them what they expect from you. This reality check often identifies new considerations and often suggests they expect less than we imagine.

Talk about your experience in considering resilience – Create a dialogue about what you discovered with others. Learn from these important conversations.

Increasing and Decreasing – Based on all the information you have discovered what is truly important to you? Experiment with increasing the things you value most and decreasing the parts of your life you don’t value.

By completing these activities you will increase your self awareness, reduce your pressure and stress and ensure that when change occurs you are at your strongest and know what is really important to you.

Mentors - How Can They Benefit You?

Mentors can play a pivotal role in our lives and in particular helping us to evolve our career path. They are with us for varying periods of time – sometimes years, sometimes decades. Often the relationship with a mentor changes over time from teacher/student into a close friendship. Some appear to assist us in a time of crisis and others are with us over longer periods helping to shape our career and life. Similarly we may have a number of different mentors, even at the same time.

Mentors fulfil four key roles as described by Ken Robinson in his book ‘The Element’ http://www.theelementbook. com/:

Recognition – through identifying our skills, talents and aptitudes (things that we might not recognise even in ourselves) they forsee what we could be or do. They observe the spark of interest or excitement we show, when we light up about a topic or experience.

Encouragement – they help us to believe that we can achieve our goals and that our dreams and visions are achievable. When we feel something is impossible or unlikely they respond to the self doubt and boost our confidence. They are a physical reminder of our skills and abilities and what we can achieve.

Facilitating – they help us find our path and possibly even our ‘element’ by asking questions, offering advice from their experience and suggesting techniques that might assist. A mentor may even allow us to drift off track or falter; but are there to help us regain our path as they know the benefits of learning from our own experiences and sometimes mistakes.

Stretching – a mentor will challenge us and push us past our normal limits; stretching us to overcome roadblocks and go beyond our natural boundaries. They don’t harbour the self-doubt we might experience and at the same time, know our abilities. With this knowledge they can push us to achievements we may not have experienced on our own.

As you can see the benefits of a mentor are significant and likely to be life changing. Do you have a mentor helping you to find your ‘element’ or passion? Someone to guide your career or life? If the answer is no, then maybe there is an opportunity to find someone to support you? Or maybe they do exist and you haven’t realised they’ve been mentoring you all along (but very subtly)?

The Importance of Urgency

Finding or generating a sense of urgency is critical to successfully embarking upon any type of change. In a world where the rate of change is increasing there is a constant pressure on all of us to change - be it keeping up with technology or trying to be a leader in all areas of our lives.

So what is urgency? It's a combination of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours that create a pressure, a drive and an insistence on us to move forward.

So how do we generate urgency?

- Obtain compelling data that reinforces the need for change.
- Bring in someone else, an expert, to reinforce the importance (often why consultants are engaged).
- Put up symbols and decoration to reinforce the message.
- Set some timelines and targets to keep the pressure up.

What are the other ways to generate urgency that you use?

A great way to maintain the urgency - share your commitments and the timing with a trusted friend or colleague. This keeps pressure on us. Just the thought that we might not deliver on a commitment known by someone we respect can keep our motivation high.

Finally, don't forget that even the smallest of successes along the way can reduce the feeling of urgency and our motivation. So be aware that success, paradoxically, can squash our chances of future successes.

Is there a sense of urgency around a change you are embarking upon now?

Could greater urgency help you to be more successful in your efforts to change?

How Are You Ensuring Your Own Happiness?

Our routines and daily tasks and work can overshadow what is really important to us. We can lose focus on what we truly value and ultimately what really makes us happy. For some of us we think happiness happens to us (or in other words, it's a natural phenomenon). Others believe that we can create our own happiness (often referred to as synthetic happiness).
What are your views? And what are you doing to ensure you are happy each and every day?

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, in a stimulating videocast on TED 'Dan_Gilbert_asks_why_are_ we_happy' uses research and statistics to prove that synthetic happiness is very much as real and enduring as natural happiness. Dan also suggests that happiness can be enhanced when our choices are irreversible.

So what makes you happy? Here are a few ideas on what you can do to increase your own happiness:

- Keep a record of what makes you happy. And not just the momentous occasions - it can also be the smallest moments or activities like drinking a cup of coffee or listening to music on the way to work. Try and do this activity on a daily basis for two weeks to identify what makes you happy and include the feelings you experience in those moments.

- Think of all the things that make you feel unhappy. Be as specific as possible. What is it exactly that you don't like and how does it make you feel?

- Prepare a list in two columns with one outlining what makes you happy and the other about what makes you unhappy. Beside each happy moment identify which happy moments you would like to increase - i.e. the ones you would benefit from experiencing more often.

- For each happy moment you want to increase list some ways in which you could increase the frequency and duration of these moments.

- For each unhappy moment list the ways in which you could decrease the frequency and duration. Try and be creative in your thinking. For example do you have to be involved at all in the things that make you unhappy, i.e. could someone else undertake this task?

- Start to make these changes and record what happens to how you feel each day.

Research suggests that your overall happiness increases just by knowing what makes you happy. Imagine what the impact will be if you knowingly start to increase these pleasurable moments.

How To Combat Negative Thoughts

When having negative thoughts why not try the ABCDE Model by Seligman. Here's a quick summary of the five steps:

Step 1 (A) What has happened? What is the 'adversity' you just experienced?

Step 2 (B) What were the 'beliefs' you experienced when the situation occurred. What was your inner voice saying to you?

Step 3 (C) What are the 'consequences' of these beliefs? So what happened to you after A and B? How did you feel, act, and react?

Step 4 (D) Now try and 'dispute' each of the 'beliefs'. Were the beliefs realistic? fair? Are there extenuating circumstances? Is there a pattern or are this situation and the beliefs unrelated?

Step 5 (E) is for 'energisation'. If you have been successful in disputing your beliefs that occurred after the 'adversity' you can change your reaction from feeling down to feeling good about it. You are probably starting to feel better. You may express your feelings to others and see the lighter side of the situation. Hopefully things are more in perspective and you have the next steps in mind.

So next time you feel a strong negative reaction, give the ABCDE model a try. It can truly turn around your thinking and help you to shift to a positive place where learning and self growth can occur.

What's on Your Plate?

Are you interested in drawing all of the competing pressures in your life into a quick visual? Why would you use this technique I hear you say? Well, 'what's on your plate' is a very effective way of visually drawing together all of the important issues and pressures in your life on one page. For some people, the exercise can diminish the feeling overwhelmed. For others they find perspective and an ability to prioritise what is most important. You may even feel a greater sense of control at a time when you feel out of control.

So how do you use the technique?

Well first take a large piece of paper - preferably A3 so you have plenty of space.

Draw a large circle on the page that covers most of the page.

Within the circle record all of the things that are currently 'on your plate'. What things are on your mind, what are you required to act upon; what is important to you at present? Try and place each comment, including feelings, around the edge of the plate. Don't cover the middle of the plate.

Draw on moments of silence to stretch your mind. Are there other things on my plate? Try not to rush the exercise as sometimes the most significant pressures can be how we're feeling rather than issues.

Once you have recorded 'what's on your plate' into the circle or plate highlight those that that you can influence and indicate which are the most important (using different colours).

Then draw a person in the middle. Who is this?

Yes it's you! What are the feelings you're experiencing looking at the picture? What is happening to you? Record your thoughts.

Then draw some arrows from the outer edge of the circle in towards the image of you in the centre. This exercise reminds us of how many pressures and activities are affecting us.

For each of the issues/actions/challenges that you can influence or control draw an arrow out from the person to that issue. Do this for each one.

Now you can see that you can change the direction and the pressure.

You also know which aspects you can influence. Draw a dotted line in the shape of a small circle around you. This is what you are trying to achieve to create some safety around you and reduce any overwhelming feelings.

Now select up to four of the most important aspects for you and those within your control and start to explore some options. What options exist for each that could improve your current situation? Record these outside the circle. Don't forget to stretch yourself. For example, what is the most extreme option you could take? What would you advise another person if they were in this situation?

Don't try and respond to every issue at once. Keep the plate with you and invest time at responding to each when you are ready. Set a date and target for each action you will take. Record it on the sheet.

Make time to reflect on your progress and how you're feeling as you work your way around all of the aspects on your plate.

Hopefully this technique will help you to regain a feeling of control over your current situation, identify priorities and what's important, recognise what aspects you can influence and allow you to review the situation visually whenever you need.